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Commencing a degree - Frequently Asked Questions

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 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is designed to equip students with advanced research training in their chosen discipline and to promote research which makes an original and significant contribution to the discipline.
  • The PhD consists of the production of a PhD thesis, which should be an original and significant contribution to knowledge in the particular discipline/s chosen by the candidate. It will consist of an account of the candidate's own research / data collection and consist of work not previously submitted for a university degree.
  • Information and FAQ's on the coursework integrated PhD.

A professional doctorate is a rigorous program of advanced study and research, designed specifically to meet the needs of industry and professional groups. Professional doctorates consist of a blend of coursework and research. The coursework component is designed to build on candidates' professional expertise by exposing them to leading and challenging ideas in their fields. Research undertaken as part of the professional doctorate is geared to directing and informing change, and to making a difference in the workplace and/or professional context.

A course where a minimum of two-thirds of its assessable content is by research. Students undertake an original investigation. In comparison to a doctorate however, this investigation is generally more limited in scope and degree of originality. The work is closely supervised in the early problem formulation stages and whenever a new technique is being used. The program requires the submission of a thesis embodying the results of an original investigation or design.

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.

Read more about entry requirements.

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.

  • All HDR students are able to defer an offer to a Higher Degree by Research. The maximum deferral date is 6 months from the start date on the initial offer letter issued. You will receive a new offer letter with the deferment date.
  • If you wish to defer for longer than 6 months you will need to reapply and list the new start date on the application form.
  • To defer your offer from the start date up until 6 months, you will need to contact Graduate Research at and state your deferral date. You will then receive a new “Deferred Offer Letter”.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • You will need to contact Graduate Research at 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.

You will need to supply information relating to your current candidature on your application so we can work out your remaining RTP Fees Offset entitlement (previously referred to as RTS).

You will need to contact Graduate Research 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.

Yes, 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

If you require course advice or information, you should contact the HDR Convener in the Faculty or Research Institute 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.

Domestic students may enrol part time, but there are some conditions for international students.

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.

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.

For funding purposes, a domestic student is defined as someone who is a citizen of Australia, who is a permanent resident of Australia or who is a citizen of New Zealand.

For English language proficiency requirements of Higher Degrees by Research please refer to the Entry Requirements.

You will need to contact the Faculty/Research Institute in which you intend to study in before submitting an application. The Faculty/Research Institute 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 6 months (not necessarily continuously) throughout the degree.

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

Your academic CV helps the Faculty or Research Institute you are applying to in determining your readiness to commence a PhD by Research. You must include an academic CV with your application for admission.

An academic CV should include information under 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 three 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.

Academic referees

  • Include the name and contact details; address, telephone, fax and email details of two academic referees. If possible, please include a senior person closely associated with your current or most recent study or research.

If you are at an early stage of your career as a researcher and do not yet have any research publications and/or research grants, please include the heading and write "none to date"

Your research proposal at point of application should be no more than 2 pages in length and should set out the research question or hypothesis that you will examine, the research methodologies or approaches that you will apply to the question and the anticipated resources required for the research project to be viable.

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.

An officer of the official records department of the institution that originally issued the documents;

  • An official of an Australian overseas diplomatic mission or Australian education centre
  • Justice of the Peace with registration number
  • 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. 

Our fees page provides a current schedule of tuition fee rates for HDR course.

There are fees for International Research Students

If you are a domestic student, you will be exempt from paying fees. You are provided for under the Australian Government’s Research Training Program (RTP) funding model, whereby no fees are charged to you while you are still within the maximum duration of your course.