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Overseas university spotlight: Griffith University (Australia)

Griffith University has only been around for about 50 years, but it introduced Australia's first degrees in a number of important areas, such as Asian studies, environmental science, dental technology and forensic science.

With five physical campuses in the southeast of Queensland and one digital campus serving the rest of the world, Griffith teaches about 50,000 students in total.

The two largest sites are the Nathan campus in Brisbane and the Gold Coast campus.

I visited the Gold Coast campus in October 2022, and here are some of the highlights from that trip!

Griffith University building


Most of Griffith's degrees are taught at all of the campuses, which means as a student, you just have to choose the location you prefer.

Map of the campuses in Queensland

The Gold Coast campus is Griffith's largest campus.

It has around 19,000 students, so it's considered medium-size by Australian standards.

I arrived at the campus from Surfer's Paradise (the main beach area) via the new tram line, and it was an easy, comfortable, half-hour journey.

Rail stop in front of campus

Typically, students live on-campus in the first year, and after that, many choose to live at the beach and commute.

Griffith's housing, however, has been highly rated, and it even comes with a pool!

Griffith Student Village
Griffith University Village
Common area in student housing
Griffith University Village

For those commuting, there are a number of places to buy food or more importantly, get caffeinated.

I had a coffee at The Junction and then had lunch in the Uni Bar.

Common area on campus
The Junction coffee shop
Campus coffee
Food court
Food court
Uni Bar
Uni Bar

Student services are really strong here, and it's not uncommon to see farm animals and puppies around campus during stressful times (exam periods) to help students decompress.

Griffith Mates therapy animals

In the Griffith Mates program, there are Australian and international students from 30 countries who welcome and support international students in their transition to the university.

Griffith Mates

In fact, while many universities offer a 1-stop shop to support all students regardless of country of origin, Griffith actually has dedicated international student support in recognition that the issues international students face are unique.

Griffith International
Griffith International Office
Student welfare services
Student Services
Student Centre

If you're into sport, one thing that's really cool is that in 2018, Gold Coast hosted the Commonwealth Games, which are basically the Olympics for Commonwealth countries and take place every four years.

Griffith hosted many of the events and saw its sporting facilities upgraded, many of which continue to be used by high-achieving local athletes as well.

And perhaps more exciting is the fact that Brisbane will host the actual Olympic games in 2032!

Outdoor basketball courts
View of the sporting facilities
Sand volleyball court
Outdoor swimming pool

The Learning Common is where you'll find the main library, which has various spaces for studying quietly, studying in a group--and hanging out and playing video games!

Learning Commons (library)

The university also houses Liveworm, the Work Integrated Learning design studio of the Queensland College of Art.

The idea is to prepare design students for industry by giving them real projects in a real studio environment, funded by various organizations.


There are also some pretty fancy and expensive medical grade metal 3D printers, which are used regularly by industry, for prototyping and for research and development.

3D printer workshop
Very expensive machinery!
More expensive machinery

The campus has seen quite a bit of development in the last decade though, particularly with the opening of the Gold Coast University Hospital across the road, which also serves as the main teaching hospital for medical students.

Griffith University Hospital
The hospital, facing the skyline of high rises on the beach
The hospital, facing the skyline of high rises on the beach

And don't worry; there's a campus shop, too!

Griffith Uni merch shop


Griffith is one of the few universities in Australia operating on a trimester system.

With three 12-week teaching periods, students don't necessarily need to study in all three.

But this setup allows for increased study load flexibility, opportunities to intern and also the option of potentially accelerating their degrees to graduate sooner.

Griffith Uni koala

When it comes to teaching and research, Griffith prioritizes innovation and social impact.

It's also been recognized globally for its commitment to sustainable development (ranked in the top 100 universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, 2022).

Arts & Education building

Whilst a comprehensive university, Griffith attracts a large number of North American students for its health-related programs, such as dentistry, medicine and clinical sciences.

The dental facilities are particularly impressive, with each student having their own chair to hone their skills before working on real patients in the public clinic located in the same building.

Dental School facilities
Dental student labs

There is even a vending machine to buy various types of teeth!

Vending machine selling cavities and various teeth!
Tooth with pulp in the vending machine
Clincial science labs
Gym for sports science students to run labs, etc.
Gym for sports science students to run labs, etc.

Gold Coast

I would potentially compare the Gold Coast to being Australia's version of Orlando -- but with a beach.

View from my hotel in Surfer's Paradise
View from my hotel in Surfer's Paradise

It's a tourist hotspot for both Australians and foreign visitors alike.

It's also the theme park capital of Australia.

The Gold Coast is home to Dreamworld (the largest park), WhiteWater World (waterpark), Wet'n'Wild (the largest waterpark), Warner Bros. Movie World and Sea World.

For those who like spending time outdoors, the whole region is basically one large outdoor adventure park.

For example:

  • You can walk the treetops at Mount Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk

  • Go on a whale-watching cruise

  • Take an elevator 77 floors to the SkyPoint Observation Deck

  • Chase waterfalls at Lamington National Park

  • Swim with the turtles and rays at Cook Island

  • Cuddle a koala at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Take an Aquaduck (a bus/boat combo) tour of the city of Gold Coast

And so much more!

Surfer's Paradise is the liveliest part of town where most of the nightlife and shopping takes place.

Surfer's Paradise main sign

Nestled equidistant (about an hour's drive) from the capital city of Queensland, Brisbane, and another popular tourist city of Byron Bay, the Gold Coast offers students so many options when it comes to getting out and exploring the region.

Best coffee in Surfer's = Castaway Coffee Bar
Best coffee in Surfer's = Castaway Coffee Bar

Griffith University: Summary

Griffith University offers students the choice of a variety of academic programs at five different campuses throughout the southeast of Queensland, but North American students tend to choose between either the Gold Coast or the Nathan campus in Brisbane.

Undergraduate degrees are typically three years in duration but can be accelerated due to the flexible trimester system.

At the Gold Coast campus, students love the new tram line linking campus to the beach -- which, I might add, is perfect for both swimming and surfing alike.

Nightlife is vibrant, but going out to bars and restaurants is not the only thing to do in the region, which also tends to attract lots of family visitors, too.

It's a great choice for someone wanting an American-style campus experience set in a tropical environment and not far from the beautiful Australian beach scene.


Interested in applying for college or grad school overseas?

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G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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