William Gourlay graduated with BA from University of Melbourne in 1990. He has since worked as a teacher in Turkey, as a freelance journalist and, from 2001 until 2013, as commissioning editor for Lonely Planet in Melbourne and London.
He graduated with Master of Islamic Studies at Monash in 2011, with a thesis examining the legacy of the reform movement in the Islamic Republic in Iran from 1995 until 2008.
From 2013 until 2016, he undertook doctoral studies at Monash University, researching ideas of identity and citizenship amongst the Kurds of Diyarbakir, in southeastern Turkey. This involved several periods of fieldwork in Diyarbakir, and a period as a visiting scholar at the Centre for Modern Turkish Studies at Istanbul Şehir University. His PhD was conferred in May 2017.