Scholarship options in Australia

There is a huge number of scholarships available to students at tertiary level, with students in all courses and institutions eligible for additional funding. There are currently more than 4200 scholarships available to Australian students, across both the higher education and vocational sectors.

Scholarships come in many shapes and sizes, some of which cover tuition fees (in part or full), some of which cover living and accommodation expenses, and some of which cover the whole lot or provide a stipend that students may use as they see fit. Similarly, some may cover students for the duration of their course, while others only cover students for a year or require them to reapply.

Many are offered automatically to students who meet specified requirements (for example, some education provider scholarships are awarded automatically to school leavers who achieve a certain ATAR or OP), while others require students to complete an application and possibly additional tasks such as an interview. 

The most important thing to remember is that competition is often strong. It’s best not to rest all your hopes on obtaining a scholarship, and it’s worth considering back-up options just in case your applications aren’t successful. This includes applying for government allowances and investigating scholarships that will be available in the next application period. Many scholarships are available to students in their second and subsequent years of study, so keep an eye out for such alternatives.

There are three types of scholarships:

  • Federal government scholarships
  • Education provider scholarships
  • Private organisation scholarships

Given the number of organisations offering scholarships, it can be very difficult to find all the information yourself. Your secondary school or institution scholarship office may be able to offer assistance. You can also use our Scholarships search tool.

Federal government scholarships

One of the main sources for scholarships for commencing students is the Commonwealth Scholarships Program, which is a federal government program designed to make university accessible to students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly Indigenous students and those from regional and remote areas. These scholarships are awarded automatically to eligible students and do not require them to apply for consideration.

Student Start-up Loans

Student Start-up Loans replaced Student Start-up Scholarships as of July 2017. Student Start-up Loans are available to students receiving income support through Youth Allowance, Austudy and ABSTUDY (see Government allowances ) who are studying full time in an approved higher education course. They are not available to students completing VET courses. In 2017, the scholarship amount is $1,035 for each six months of eligible study, and this is received in two half-yearly payments.

Relocation Scholarships

Relocation Scholarships are paid to eligible dependent Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY Living Allowance students who need to live away from home to undertake full-time higher education study. In 2017, the scholarship provides students from a regional or remote area with $4,376 for the first year of study, $2,189 for the second and third years of study and $1,094 for the fourth and any subsequent years. For students whose family home isn't in a regional r remote area but their family home is, they are eligible for a payment of $4,376 in their first year of study and $1,094 in any subsequent years. For more information about this scholarship, see the Department of Human Services website.

Education provider scholarships

Most education providers — especially universities — fund a variety of scholarships. Many of these are awarded purely on academic merit, while others are awarded on an equity basis, taking into account financial disadvantage, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, or secondary schooling in remote or disadvantaged areas. Some scholarships also provide additional benefits such as an internship with an organisation, access to advanced studies or time with an academic or industry mentor.

While many are available to first-year students, there are also a large number of scholarships that are reserved for students in later years to provide additional financial support or fund additional opportunities such as overseas travel.

You can find details about institution scholarships on their websites or by getting in touch with a scholarships coordinator. Some may be awarded automatically, while others require you to apply directly to the institution or the local tertiary admissions centre.

Academic scholarships

These scholarships are awarded to students based on academic excellence as demonstrated by their ATAR, OP or results from previous tertiary study. Many institutions have scholarships that are available on an ‘institution-wide’ basis, as well as some that are reserved for specific faculties or courses (such as a scholarship specific to a bachelor of information technology). Academic scholarships are generally available to both commencing and continuing students.

Equity scholarships

Many scholarships are awarded to students on an equity basis, meaning that they are available to students who belong to groups that are recognised for experiencing difficulty accessing education. Equity schemes officially recognise these six groups: people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent; people with disabilities; people from non-English-speaking backgrounds (NESB); people from rural and isolated areas; people from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds; and women in non-traditional fields of study (fields where women make up less than 40 per cent of the course enrolment). Equity scholarships may also take academic merit into consideration, depending on the individual scholarship and scholarship provider.

Other education provider scholarships

In addition to academic merit and equity, institutions and individual faculties award additional scholarships to a wide range of students for many reasons. Some may be awarded to students in particular fields of study, some may be reserved for those who reside in the local area, some may be awarded for sporting achievement or a high level of community involvement — the list goes on. These other scholarship categories may have an additional academic or equity requirement, so check with institutions for details.

Not all scholarships cover tuition fees. Some institutions and colleges provide assistance to students living on campus to assist with living expenses. You will also find that there are bursaries that are automatically given to eligible students (such as laptop and textbook bursaries), as well as grants for extra opportunities such as study abroad and student exchange.

Private organisation scholarships

Many private organisations also choose to offer scholarships. These are offered on a similar basis to institution scholarships: some for academic merit, some for students in need of financial assistance and some that target particular fields of study or social groups. For example, some foreign governments offer funds for foreign language study and exchange programs, while some larger retail organisations may offer scholarships for staff and their relatives to further their education. It is worth contacting professional associations, prominent companies and relevant government departments regarding scholarships in your field of study.

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