Finding a good university, program, and supervisor

Finding a good university, program, and supervisor

 
Friends who are interested to study in Australia, or to apply for a scholarship to Australia, frequently ask me how to find a suitable university, program, or supervisor. Below I describe several steps in that direction.

First step: questions to ask yourself

 
Well, the first thing to ask yourself is, what subject do you want to study in Australia? Do you prefer to live in a particular city? Or probably you have been reading journal articles and you know exactly with which professors you want to work with?

If you have made your mind about what subject you want to study in Australia, especially for master courses, you can search for suitable programs on this website:

Course Guide

If you prefer to live in a particular city, you can search universities by location in the link below, and then browse each of the universities in that city to see if they have courses or programs that match you study interest.

University search based on location

Or, if you want to choose a university based on their rankings, you can check the link below, and then browse the home page of the top universities to see if their programs or research topics match your interest.The link below provides information on Australian university rankings. However, you may also browse international rankings such as the QS World University Rankings and THS World University Rankings.

Ranking of Australian universities

Second step: do your research

 
After you have browsed universities as above, you might have found several universities that interest you. Do your research about these universities especially about programs and research topics they are offering. Look up for departments that are pertinent to your interest and for institutions within the university that might conduct research or programs of your interest. Once you have found the programs, look at eligibility requirements, required IELTS scores etc. for your future reference. From this information, you can make a target about your IELTS scores and about obtaining the documents that might be required from you.

If you are planning to do a PhD in the future, and currently looking for a masters program, make sure that the master program that you are planning to apply to is eligible for further PhD studies. Some, but not all, master by coursework programs, especially those with none or less than 50% research component, are not eligible for a PhD. So it is advisable to check if the master program you are applying to is suitable for continuing to a PhD.

If you are a Muslim, you might want to know if there is a Muslim Student Association in that university and if there is a praying facility for Muslim students to pray in or around the university. As an Indonesian, you might also want to know how to contact and get information from the Indonesia Student Association in the university. If you come from other countries, you might want to check and contact the student association of your respective countries in your prospective universities. Sometimes they have their own website, or at least a Facebook Page or a Facebook Group. This contact is especially useful when you start looking for accommodation.

If you feel like it, you can contact the graduate school or the program convener of the program you are interested in to inquire further information via E-Mail.

Third step: contacting potential  supervisors

 
For those of you who are planning to apply for masters by research or for a PhD, it is important to contact potential supervisors before applying for scholarships. This is important to discuss potential research projects and probably to develop a research proposal together for scholarship applications. Don’t contact only one, contact several potential supervisors, but preferably from different departments or universities. If you are not sure how to contact one person or if you are not sure which supervisor to choose, you can contact a student convener or graduate admission officer of the department or institution you are interested in. Tell them about the field of your interest and inquire if there are projects or researchers on that field in the department or institution. Most likely you would be given the contact address of relevant persons or your E-Mail would be circulated on the mailing list of the department or institution. If you are lucky you will get several responses.

It would be very tactful to have a research proposal draft, a CV, and probably the copy of your transcript sent as attachments of your introductory E-Mail. This can be helpful to draw the attention of the potential supervisor to you. If they are interested, they might inform you what projects they have in their labs, send you sample papers to read and suggest changes or additional sections in your research proposal.  Or if the research you suggest is not suitable to their labs, they might suggest to you whom you can contact and who is more expert in the field you are interested in. It is also good if you can ask them about this contact information on your E-mail. Don’t loose hope if there is no reply to your introductory E-Mail. Contact other potential supervisors and hopefully, there will be someone who will give you the awaited response.

In choosing a supervisor, it is also important to note whether the potential supervisor is a young academic, or is quite high up in the ranks. Both have their advantages and disadvantages as potential supervisors. For supervisors in their early or mid-term career, they might have less experience than a more senior supervisor, but they would have more time in supervising you, advising you, and critiquing your written work. They would also be able to transfer their knowledge and skills in more detail to you. A more senior academic might have the connections, experience, and expertise, but due to the high demand of their job either administratively or otherwise, they might not have enough time to supervise you and you could be most of the time left to ponder what to do next, how to overcome obstacles in your research, etc. by yourself. It would be sensible to figure out which supervision style fits you best.

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So these are some of the pointers for you who are interested in pursuing postgraduate education. I hope they are useful, and let me know how it turns out with your hunting and applications!

16 Comments


  1. Very useful advice as I know many students struggle with the big choice not only in your country but in other countries too. It’s an important decision as it contributes to the foundation of your studies.

    Reply

  2. This information could be used when deciding on a university in the UK too. Thanks for sharing, I’ll be sure to pass it on to anyone who needs it.

    Reply

  3. These are some really good tips and applicable for those looking for universities in other countries too!

    Reply

  4. This is very useful info, especially now, since the final school year exams are happening. Alhamdulillah I have something useful to share with my cousins that are at the point of choosing their universities to study further. Thank you!

    Reply

    1. These are actually tips for postgraduate studies, but I am delighted to know they can be used for undergrad studies as well 🙂

      Reply

  5. Quite an informative post. I think this article just come at the right time. Especially, with exams round the corner and then to give a serious thought about what next. Well, these tips indeed guide those who wish to pursue study abroad. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    1. Actually I did not realise exam is around the corner lolz. Alhamdulillaah for good timing 🙂

      Reply

  6. Cool. I have a cousin there… I would definitely visit and find out more about the country. But studying in an actual university and all that, I’m so graduated already from that matter. Online studies is another thing, though, especially because it’s a good option for a work-at-home-mom. I would definitely recommend this post to my students who are younger and more keen to study.

    Reply

    1. Thanks, it would be lovely to recommend this post to those who need these tips because that’s exactly why I wrote them lolz 🙂

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  7. Such good advice. Its a very daunting task looking for university places, i think this will help many students make the big decision.

    Reply

  8. I am glad I saw your post as this is exactly what we were researching at home since few days. My brother in law is eager to go to Australia to pursue his studies and I am going to share this post with him now. Thank you for the links as well.

    Reply

  9. Since I have already started uni, I’ll keep these points in mind when I transfer out. Thanks so much for the tips =)

    Reply

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