Deputy Vice-Chancellor & Vice-President, Research and Innovation
In developing this policy the University had regard to the provisions of section 40B(1)(b) of the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT).
Admission to Higher Degree by Research Courses Policy
This policy provides information about the admission requirements to Higher Degree by Research (HDR) courses.
This document is designed for use by University of Canberra staff.
The policy applies to Higher Degree by Research courses only.
In approving an offer of a place, the Faculty or Research Institute commits to provide each candidate with a quality research education and training experience for the duration of their candidature.
The Delegations & Authorisations Register - Student Academic Matters outlines the delegations of authority relating to decisions on HDR academic matters in order to align responsibility and accountability of decision making in a manner that facilitates efficiency, effectiveness and equity.
Where there is a conflict of interest, and it is not appropriate for the Approving Authority to make an academic decision regarding a Higher Degree by Research candidate, a delegate with equivalent or higher authority must be nominated.
Where indicated below, exceptions to normal policy and practice may be approved by the Academic Director, Graduate Research.
An offer for a place in a Higher Degree by Research course will be made only when availability of appropriate supervision and adequate resources to support the proposed research has been confirmed by the Faculty or Research Institute. This is recorded and confirmed through completion of the Assessment of research degree applicants by Faculty/Research Institute including the Allocation of Supervisors form.
Admission to any Higher Degree by Research course of the University requires prior completion of an award in a suitable area of study that, in the opinion of Academic Board, has provided an appropriate volume of learning to be used as a pathway to research training at the University.
Admission can also be considered on the basis of learning acquired through means other than formal study, through recognition of prior learning (RPL).
Applications from countries in which sanctions are in force will be assessed for compliance against the United Nations Security Council and Australia's Autonomous Sanctions regulations, before an offer of admission will be made.
Admission Requirements to a PhD Course
An applicant to a Doctor of Philosophy course at the University of Canberra will:
have evidence of advanced knowledge in an area relevant to the PhD topic;
have a minimum of four years tertiary study in a relevant field of study, at an Australian university or other recognised higher education institution (e.g. four year bachelor degree or bachelor degree plus coursework masters);
have evidence of the capability to undertake complex thinking and problem solving; and
provide evidence of significant aptitude for research.
An applicant seeking admission to the PhD course with advanced standing for the 12 credit point coursework component will either:
have a degree of bachelor with first or upper second class honours awarded by an Australian university or other recognised higher education institution and provide evidence of research training and aptitude for research; or
hold an award or have completed work that has first or upper second class honours equivalence in accordance with the Honours Equivalency Guidelines and provide evidence of significant research ability and/or professional performance.
Admission Requirements to a Professional Doctorate Course
An applicant to a Professional Doctorate course will have:
a Master degree or a bachelor degree with honours (first or upper second class) or equivalent; and
demonstrated capacity to undertake significant research in the proposed doctoral field.
For the purposes of the admission to the Professional Doctorate based on recognised prior learning, equivalence to a master or honours degree would be established by:
a degree of bachelor in the relevant professional field;
at least five years professional practice in a relevant field; and
submission of a resume demonstrating relevant professional experience of high professional standing and an appropriate level of research expertise.
Admission Requirements to a Masters by Research Course
An applicant to a Masters by Research course at the University of Canberra will have completed;
a three-year bachelor degree (or an award deemed to be its equivalent) with above average performance in an appropriate field of study;
a four-year bachelor degree in an appropriate field of study;
a bachelor degree with honours at any level, an appropriate field of study;
a three-year degree in any field of study followed by a graduate diploma in the same field as the Masters by Research course; or
had such practical or work experience as is specified for admission to a particular course in the Determination of Course Particulars and published on the University of Canberra website; and
provided evidence of capacity and/or aptitude for research.
Admission for Students (Domestic or International) Holding Overseas Qualifications
To be admitted to Higher Degree by Research courses, applicants must have appropriate educational qualifications, deemed by the University to be equivalent to an undergraduate or graduate degree awarded by an Australian university.
All Higher Degree by Research applicants who provide qualification documentation that is not presented in English, must also provide a full translation of the documents. The qualification document and English translation must be either original or certified.
Special categories of applicants
Special categories of applicants including University of Canberra staff, research candidates who have commenced research training at another institution, and applicants who apply to undertake their candidature offshore can also be admitted.
University of Canberra staff
Members of academic and professional staff at the University of Canberra are encouraged to undertake Higher Degrees by Research. University staff members who apply to the University are subject to normal University admission requirements and procedures for Higher Degree by Research courses.
Applicants transferring research from other institutions
Applicants who have commenced a Higher Degree by Research course at another institution and apply to transfer their research to the University of Canberra are subject to normal University admission requirements and procedures for Higher Degree by Research courses.
An application for admission must be submitted to the University, and must include:
evidence of satisfactory progress at their current institution (through referees’ reports and/or copies of progress reports);
a full research proposal;
an outline of expected resources and conditions required to complete the research (e.g. field trips, specialised computer software etc.) in consultation with their proposed University of Canberra supervisor; and
an estimated submission date for the thesis.
Domestic candidates who were previously enrolled in a research course at an Australian institution will be required to provide an academic transcript or letter from their current institution detailing their Higher Degree by Research enrolment load at the date of application (full-time equivalent) or Research Training Program (RTP) funding consumed to date. This information will be used to calculate their University of Canberra course dates, and the remaining Research Training Program funding available.
All applicants who request an exception to the standard attendance requirements to undertake their course as an offshore candidate are subject to normal University admission requirements and procedures for Higher Degree by Research courses.
Information on assessment of requests for offshore candidature is provided in the Offshore Candidature Guidelines.
Proficiency in English
All Higher Degree by Research (HDR) applicants are expected to be proficient in English expression and comprehension. An applicant must meet the HDR English language requirements of the University to be eligible for admission, or complete an approved pathway program as detailed in this policy (clause 3.36).
The English language requirements of each course are set out in the Determination of Course Particulars. Some Higher Degree by Research courses of the University have been approved with higher English proficiency requirements than the University’s minimum standards.
There are three categories in which applicants may demonstrate English language proficiency to a level that meets admission requirements, as detailed below;
Applicants are deemed to meet the English language requirements if they achieve the requisite recognised English language test results. The University accepts the following English language tests to the minimum standards detailed below:
Minimum scores in IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic and CAE tests required to meet HDR English language requirements are outlined in the table below. Evidence of English proficiency is valid for a period of two years from the date of the test, except for TOEFL results which are valid for a period of 18 months from the date of the test.
Minimum standards for English language tests
TOEFL internet based test (iBT)
Pearson Academic (PTE)
Cambridge English: Academic (CAE)
General minimum entry requirement
Overall ≥ 6.5
No band below 6.0
Overall ≥ 79
Each band ≥ 21
Overall ≥ 58
Each band ≥ 50
Overall ≥ 58
PhD Clinical Psychology
Overall ≥ 7.0
Overall ≥ 94
Overall ≥ 65
Overall ≥ 67
Applicants may be deemed to meet English language requirements if they:
were born in Australia, Botswana, Canada, Fiji, Ghana, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tobago, Tonga, Trinidad, United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland), United States of America, Western Samoa, Zambia or Zimbabwe; and
have at least one tertiary qualification from one of the countries listed above; and
the language of instruction and assessment of the qualification was English.
Applicants may be deemed to meet English language requirements if they:
have completed two years (full time equivalent) study at Bachelor level in one of the countries listed in Category Two, where the language of instruction and assessment was English; or
have completed a postgraduate qualification equivalent to an Australian Master degree in one of the countries listed in Category Two, where the language of instruction and assessment was English.
This previous study is valid as evidence of English proficiency for a period of two years from the date of completion of the qualification.
The University reserves the right to request that the applicant undertakes an English test in addition to any other evidence of English proficiency provided.
In exceptional circumstances a case for English language equivalency may be made to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation).
Non-standard admissions requirements
Within the parameters of the admission requirements, a Faculty or Research Institute may, in relation to a particular course, seek approval from the Academic Board for admission requirements in addition to those set out above. This request can be made at the time a new course is submitted for approval or by requesting a change to an existing course.
Offers of admission
Once the admission requirements are deemed to have been met, an offer of admission can be made.
Approval to offer a place in a course rests with the Dean of the Faculty or Director of the Research Institute, on advice from Associate Dean and/or Higher Degree by Research Convenor.
Conditional offers of admission can be made if an applicant meets the academic admission requirements for an HDR course, but English language requirements have not yet been met, or relevant documentation has not yet been provided.
Conditional Offers can be made under the following circumstances:
the applicant’s demonstrated English language proficiency fails to meet the minimum standards to a specified level (see clause 3.26 for further details);
the applicant is awaiting undergraduate or graduate degree results (e.g. Honours results, or Masters thesis result);
the applicant is yet to provide verified documents (e.g. transcripts, passport, birth certificate, citizenship certificate) which are available only after a Letter of Offer has been provided (provided that unverified copies have been submitted in the interim);
the applicant needs to provide further information upon entry into Australia (e.g. copy of entry visa, confirmation of contact details);
Offers of admission will not be made conditional on an applicant being awarded a tuition fee or living expenses scholarship, or any other financial support.
Applicants must meet any and all conditions outlined in their Letter of Offer before the University will accept them into the course.
An offer of admission will be considered to have lapsed if not accepted within a period of six months.
Offers conditional on English language
Applicants who have met the academic entry requirements for a course but have provided an English language proficiency test that does not meet minimum standards required for entry can be made an offer of admission conditional on English, or a packaged offer, as set out below:
An applicant who has provided an English language test with IELTS 5.5 overall and no less than 5.0 in any band (or equivalent) can be made a packaged offer for English for Academic Purposes Plus (20 week program) and the HDR course.
An applicant who has provided an English language test with IELTS 6.0 overall and no less than 5.5 in any band (or equivalent) can be made a packaged offer for English for Academic Purposes (10 week program) and the HDR course.
An applicant who has provided an English language test with IELTS 5.5 overall and no less than 5.0 in any band (or equivalent) can be made an offer of admission for the HDR course conditional on providing an English language test that meets the minimum requirements for entry, within the following six month period.
Applicants who provide an English language test with results lower that IELTS 5.5 overall or 5.0 in any band (or equivalent) will not be considered for admission to an HDR course at the University.
An applicant may seek deferment of acceptance of an offer. The applicant’s intention to defer should be communicated before the date given for accepting the offer of place in the course.
Offers may be deferred for a maximum of six months from the course commencement date on the letter of offer. An offer can only be deferred once.
If an offer is deferred, the Faculty or Research Institute may require the applicant to revise their research plan at the time of enrolment into the course.
International applicants with a deferred status are guaranteed enrolment subject to the following conditions:
the applicant’s eligibility for admission does not change;
the deferment period is no longer than six months from the course commencement date on the original letter of offer;
the University still offers the course to which the applicant was originally admitted. Where the University no longer offers the course or no longer has the capacity to supervise the student in the original area of research, the applicant may be offered a place in another comparable course of their choice provided they would have been eligible for admission to the course when the initial offer of place was made;
the fee type status of the applicant remains unchanged;
the applicant has deferred only once; and
the applicant will revise and update their research plan at the time of commencing their higher degree by research course, as directed by the appointed supervisory panel.
A person who has a deferred offer of place but who wishes to obtain admission to a different course must complete a new application for admission to the alternative course and will be considered with other applicants.
Readmission of excluded candidates
A student who has been excluded from the University must not again be admitted to a course of study for a period of five years. An application for admission following a period of exclusion will be in accordance with the Admission to Higher Degree by Research Courses Policy and the application processes applicable at the time of application.
An applicant who wishes to challenge an admission decision may submit a request in writing to the Admissions Review Officer (Academic Director, Graduate Research) within 60 days of receiving a notification regarding admission from the University.
If an application for appeal has been reviewed and rejected by the Admissions Review Officer no further appeal can be made within the University.
 A different supervisory panel may be assigned to the student depending on available resources when the student starts their Higher Degree by Research course following a period of deferment.
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