Hell No! Take PhD program in University of Queensland(UQ) for example, $7,500 a quarter for tuition fee alone is way too expensive to pay out of your pocket. Most international students have their tuition fees waived through scholarship program and have roughly $22,000 a year for living allowance (some elite program could pay up to $30,000). Basically, you get paid to do your research, even though the pay is low and you still live like a poor graduate student.
During my 4.5 years PhD in Australia, only one international student I knew paid the first year of tuition fee in the condition that he was certain that he could get scholarship for the following years. That was a bit nerve-wracking for him waiting for the scholarship result.
Another way to have free tuition fee for PhD program is to become a permanent resident in Australia, but the visa process in general is a lot more difficult than student visa application. A few friends obtained their permanent residencies in Australia first and started their PhD studies afterwards. For student visas holders, there is a limit of how many years you could do your PhD and it has to be full-time commitment; but for permanent residents or citizens, you can spend as many years as you want in your PhD, even doing it part-time.
In my opinion, if you couldn’t successfully get a PhD scholarship to cover your tuition and living expenses, don’t do it (unless you’re from a very rich family)! The financial burden is high and you couldn’t focus on your research. Generally, there are a few rounds of scholarship applications per year; if you couldn’t get it in the first time, try the second one.
Yanzi Chrissie Xiao, PhD on Environmental Engineering