University of Melbourne: the pros and cons

Melbourne uni quadrangle reduced

Oozing prestige: Is studying at University of Melbourne worth the extra time and fees?

There’s no question about it: as universities go, the University of Melbourne has a darn good reputation. It’s over 160 years old, it’s the number one ranked university in the country and some of our most successful people went there. But before you go putting University of Melbourne at the top of your university preferences, there are a few things you should know.

A #1 ranking doesn’t mean the teaching quality is the best. In fact, the University of Melbourne is consistently rated as having worse teaching than less prestigious universities. Read this post to find out more.

The University of Melbourne has a different degree structure to most universities. It’s called the Melbourne Model. In the next section I explain how the Melbourne Model works. If you already know this, scroll down to the pros and cons of studying at the University of Melbourne.


How the Melbourne Model works

Specialist fields like nursing, law, teaching, engineering and medicine are postgraduate degrees under the Melbourne Model. You have to complete a generalist undergraduate degree before you can get into those courses.

The university offers only a handful of undergraduate generalist degrees, including: Arts, Commerce, Science, Agriculture, Environments. Have a look on their site for the full list. Specialist fields like nursing, medicine, law, engineering or teaching are not offered at undergraduate level.

There is a compulsory requirement to study subjects from a different faculty. For example: if you are studying Arts, you would need to take a few subjects from the Science or Commerce Faculty – an economics subject or two, for example. These are called ‘breadth’ subjects.

Postgraduate degrees aren’t always much different to equivalent undergraduate degrees. The University of Melbourne’s postgraduate degrees are called fancy names like ‘Juris Doctor’, or ‘Masters of Engineering’, but these names are largely window dressing. For example, the content of a Master of Engineering is similar to a Bachelor of Engineering. While many student report positive experiences at the University of Melbourne, don’t assume assume there are always huge advantages to studying a postgraduate degree.


The pros of studying at University of Melbourne

The Melbourne Model is great if you aren’t 100% sure what you want to do. Under the Melbourne model you will first do a generalist degree which means you can try a few different things before you lock yourself into a choice of specialisation. This is particularly good for people who aren’t sure what they want to specialise in, or perhaps have interests in multiple subject fields. In that case, going to Melbourne makes sense. It is worth noting that the University of Melbourne is not the only uni that gives you this option. All unis offer generalist undergraduate and specialist postgraduate degrees. Read this post to find out more.

University of Melbourne’s main campus is a very beautiful and vibrant place. Personally, I think it’s the most beautiful in Victoria – we’re talking sandstone buildings and lawned courtyards. There are the newer areas too which have a more modern, corporate feel to them… but make no mistake: this place is brimming with history. It’s a great environment to bury your nose in books and be inspired by over 100 years worth of academic history.

You get two degrees. In some people’s eyes, having a specialist postgraduate degree can look better than a mere undergraduate degree. For example, a ‘masters of engineering’ certainly sounds a lot better than a ‘bachelor of engineering’. However, as said, it’s VERY important to look beyond the name of the degree and look at look at the nuts and bolts of the course.

Melbourne Uni has a great international reputation, it’s well connected and it’s the most prestigious university in Australia. The name looks good on a resumé… but a word of caution: prestige ain’t everything. Read this post for more info.


The cons of studying at University of Melbourne

Not all postgraduate degrees are commonwealth supported. (If you don’t know what a commonwealth supported place is, read this post. In summary, commonwealth supported places are subsidised by the government. Non-commonwealth supported places are MUCH more expensive because you are paying full fees – although FEE-HELP loans are available. There are some commonwealth supported placed is certain University of Melbourne postgraduate courses. See the University of Melbourne website for more details.

The Melbourne Model takes longer than alternative pathways. This is because it usually takes longer to do a generalist undergraduate degree followed by a masters, compared to a specialist undergraduate degree or double degree.

Here is a comparison of costs and length of time. Say you want to study engineering–you have at least three options:

  1. a single bachelor degree (i.e. Bachelor of Engineering);
  2. a double bachelor degree (eg. Engineering / Commerce); and
  3. a Bachelor of Commerce followed by a Masters of Engineering (i.e. the University of Melbourne option).

Option one will take you around four and a half years and cost approximately $42,355.

Option two will take around five years and cost $52,470.

Option three (i.e. the University of Melbourne) will take up to six years and cost you around $56,357.

Studying longer means a potential loss of income. For example, the average wage for a civil engineer is around $92,000 according to Payscale. This means you could be around $70,000 out of pocket after you factor in the in part time wages you may earn as a student (approximately $20,000).

Entry into postgraduate courses is not guaranteed at University of Melbourne. In other words, even if you finish a generalist undergraduate degree, you still have to apply for a place in a postgraduate program–and you might not succeed. For example, with medicine, this means you will be assessed on your academic achievements and performance in the GAMSAT. If you perform well enough you will be interviewed and they’ll make a decision on whether you will get in. Entrance into the juris doctor (i.e. postgraduate law degree) is similarly competitive, but other courses have less stringent entrance requirements.

High achieving year 12 students might be offered guaranteed entry into a postgraduate degree, on the condition that they complete their chosen undergraduate degree. Contact the uni for further info on guaranteed entry and the application process for postgraduate degrees.


The verdict

So… is it all worth it? Is the cost and length of time associated with studying at Melbourne justified? That depends on who you speak to. Read this newspaper article – it features the opinions of people who graduated under the Melbourne Model.



A word of caution

The figures used in the article are estimates only. Cost comparisons and timescales vary depending on the university and your choice of subjects.

It’s also worth noting that the University of Western Australia and Macquarie University are employing similar degree structures.


Want to ask a question?

Simply write it in the comments section below. You’ll get a friendly and helpful response.