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Beginning a research degree

Before embarking on what is likely to be the most rewarding and challenging period of your study career, you are certain to have questions.  Below you'll find answers to some of those questions.

What degrees are on offer?

What do I have to do to finish?

  • You will submit a substantial piece of work based on research that represents a significant new contribution to your discipline. 
  • This work may take the form of a traditional thesis, a thesis incorporating creative production or a portfolio of published works.
  • A PhD thesis is typically 80 000 to 100 000 words in length.
  • Professional Doctorate and Masters by Research theses are usually shorter - please refer to your course description for details.
  • For more information, refer to the HDR Academic Milestones.

How long will it take?

  • A PhD or Professional Doctorate student is expected to submit their thesis for examination within 3 years of commencing the doctoral program. 
  • A Masters by Research student is expected to submit their thesis for examination within 20 months of commencing the course.

What form will my supervision take?

You will undertake your research under the supervision of a panel of at least 2 academics who have expertise in an area relevant to your project.

Each student should have a chair of their supervisory panel (the primary supervisor) as well as a secondary supervisor. The Chair of the panel will help you with:

  • guidance about the nature of research and research integrity
  • the requirements of the degree
  • standards expected for the thesis submission
  • your choice of research topic
  • planning of the project timeline and requirements for candidature milestones.

If we don't answer your questions on research admission here, please get in touch with our HDR Support team.

What are the prerequisites?

  • Usually, people who start a higher degree by research with us will have an Australian Bachelor's degree with Honours, or a Research Master's degree. 
  • Other acceptable qualifications include a postgraduate qualification of at least one year of full-time equivalent study with a significant research component, or relevant research experience.

What should I include in my research proposal?

At the point of application your research proposal should be no more than two pages long. It should set out the research question or hypothesis that you will examine, the research methodologies or approaches that you will apply, and the anticipated resources required for the project to be viable.

What should I include in my academic CV?

An academic CV should include information regarding the following:

  • Personal details - Include your full name and contact details. 
  • Educational qualifications and professional affiliations.  Include the full title of the qualification, the institution attended, and the year awarded.
  • Employment history - In chronological order, starting with your current position and specifying dates of employment; include the title of each position, name of employer, main duties or accountabilities, and achievements that are relevant to your proposed field of research.
  • Research publications - Include articles published or accepted for publication (with the 3 most significant marked with an asterisk).  Please specify the publication details, your contribution as an author to multi-authored publications, plus the standing of the journal or conference.
  • The name and complete contact details of two academic referees. If possible, please include a senior person closely associated with your current or most recent study or research, if any.

What documents do I need?

Domestic students are supported by the government through the Research Training Scheme, which covers your tuition fees.  We will need to see proof of citizenship, usually your birth certificate, to verify you meet the guidelines.

You can get your documents validated by:

  • an official of an Australian overseas diplomatic mission or Australian education centre
  • a Justice of the Peace with a registration number
  • a solicitor, a practising accountant or a bank manager
  • a police officer in charge of a police station of the rank of sergeant or above
  • a postal manager
  • a principal of an Australian secondary college, high school or primary school; or
  • an international officer through which an applicant is applying.

What will it cost?

If you are a domestic research student you will be automatically awarded a Research Training Program (RTP) Fee Offset Scholarship which will offset the tuition fees you otherwise would have been liable for. The RTP Fee Offset Scholarship will cover your fees for a period of four years (equivalent full-time load).

There are fees for international research students

Can I study part time?

Domestic students may enrol part time, but there are some conditions for international students and domestic students who hold a stipend scholarship (refer to your scholarship conditions of award for more information).

International students who hold a student visa are not eligible for part-time enrolment.  Only international students who are studying off shore, or who hold an alternative visa, may be eligible to enrol part time.

Can I defer my offer?

To defer your offer from the start date up until 6 months, you will need to contact the HDR Support team and state your deferral date.

How do I accept my offer?

Domestic applicants will need to complete and sign Acceptance Advice Form (page 3) of your offer and submit this to Graduate Research. If you have lost your offer please contact Graduate Research for this to be re-issued via email.

International applicants will need to pay the amount owing as stated on their offer letter and sign and return their Acceptance Advice Form and Payment Form to Graduate Research. Once we have confirmed your payment we will then issue you a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) letter that you will need to apply for your student visa.

I have accepted, now what do I do?

Domestic students – complete the Unit Registration Form that was sent with your offer letter and return it to Graduate Research. We will process it and then email you and your supervisors to advise them. We will then advise you to obtain you student id card and computer password from the Student Centre.

International students – Please visit the Accept Your Offer page for information on steps you need to complete once you have accepted your offer. Once you receive your visa you need to contact us at hdrsupport@canberra.edu.au to advise of your arrival date in Canberra. If you cannot arrive in Australia on the date specified on your CoE, please inform our office. Once you have arrived in Australia, you are then asked to attend our office so we can assist you with your enrolment requirements. Failure to advise our office (either via email or in person) of your arrival or a late arrival will lead to a cancellation of your student visa.

Can I change my course?

You will need to contact the HDR Support team with the details of what you have applied for and what you wish to change to.  You will need to submit a new Research Degree Admission Application Form and research proposal to reflect the new area of research that you wish to undertake.

Can I transfer universities?

To transfer to the University of Canberra, you will need to submit a full application and supply information relating to your current candidature.  This is especially important for domestic candidates as we need to calculate your remaining Research Training Program (RTP) entitlement for the purposes of tuition fee offset.

What are the English requirements?

For English language proficiency requirements of Higher Degrees by research please refer to the entry requirements.

Can I conduct research in my home country?

You will need to contact the faculty in which you intend to study before submitting an application.The faculty will need to determine if they have the required resources to supervise you while overseas.It is a general rule that students who are offshore must attend on campus for at least six months (not necessarily continuously) throughout the degree.

A Higher Degree by Research (HDR) is a term that collectively refers to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Professional Doctorate and Masters by Research degrees. Despite the terminology, HDRs do not necessarily focus on philosophy, with research routinely undertaken in areas as diverse as ecology, law, governance, health and rehabilitation, creative writing, midwifery, education, as well as many other fields. An HDR student produces new knowledge and expertise to their chosen field that is innovative, relevant and progressive. HDR students are ground breaking with their research in whatever discipline they choose.

The most common qualifications for entry into an HDR are an Australian bachelor’s degree with honours, or a research master’s degree. Other acceptable qualifications include a postgraduate qualification of at least one year of full-time equivalent study with a significant research component, or relevant research experience.

You may only apply and commence a Higher Degree by Research once you have successfully completed your current degree. It is advised to apply only if you are in the last year of study. Anytime before this and you are not eligible for a scholarship.

If you require course advice or information, you should contact the HDR Convener in the Faculty that offers the course, as they have the requisite vocational knowledge to assist you with your queries. Contact a Faculty Representative.

Research students need to complete each of the HDR Academic Milestones throughout their candidature.

Students will need to produce a substantial piece of work based on research that represents a significant new contribution to their discipline.

This work may take the form of a traditional thesis, or a portfolio of published works or a thesis incorporating creative production.

For a PhD, a thesis is normally 80,000 to 100,000 words in length. Professional doctorate  and masters by research theses are usually shorter.

For published or creative work, the scope and quality must be commensurate with the contribution to knowledge expected of a doctorate or masters by research candidate.

A thesis is a document that presents an HDR student’s research, findings and conclusions. The traditional thesis format is a long prose document where the arguments are presented over a number of chapters bookended by an introduction and conclusion. 

A thesis by published works usually comprised of scholarly papers that are either published or ready for submission with an introduction/literature review chapter at the beginning and a conclusions/recommendations chapter at the end. 

A thesis incorporating creative production integrates a creative component with a scholarly exegesis.

A panel of external examiners assesses the student’s thesis once it has been submitted and provides recommendations as to the examination outcomes.

HDR students undertake their research under the supervision of a panel of at least two academics who have expertise in an area relevant to the project.

Each student should have a chair of their supervisory panel (the primary supervisor) as well as a secondary supervisor. 

The chair of the panel is responsible for providing appropriate academic support and intellectual input throughout the candidature, including:

  • giving guidance about the nature of research and research integrity
  • the requirements of the degree
  • standards expected for the thesis submission
  • choice of research topic
  • planning of the project timeline and requirements for candidature milestones.

A PhD or professional doctorate student is expected to submit their thesis for examination within 3 years of commencing the doctoral program. A masters by research student is expected to submit their thesis for examination within 20 months of commencing the course.

Full time students are expected to study for at least the equivalent of a standard five-day working week for 48 weeks of the year. A part time student is expected to study for 50 percent of that quota.

The University of Canberra offers some stipend scholarships to enable suitably qualified students to undertake full-time study towards a research higher degree. Selection is based on academic merit and research potential. These scholarships are tenable for up to three years for a doctorate by research or up to two years for a masters by research. Applicants must indicate they wish to study full time to ensure they are assessed as eligible.

Please be aware that the number of HDR scholarships that are offered through the university are limited and unfortunately UC cannot advise as to the likelihood of a student being awarded a scholarship prior to their application. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to source other means of funding their study and are advised to contact their Faculties/UCRC regarding this.

Read more about scholarships

Yes, as a domestic student you are supported by the government through the Research Training Scheme which covers your tuition fees, consequently we must see proof of citizenship to verify that you meet these guidelines.