Empower Your Practice

The Design PhD is a program for architects and designers seeking to be at the forefront of their field and are driven by a commitment to expand the frontiers of their practice.

The Design PhD thesis consists of an experimental design project to develop new knowledge or understanding of the possibilities of the built environment and design and a written work of 30,000 to 50,000 words. The thesis is supported by research methods training, one to one supervision and a collegial research studio with other candidates and Faculty members.

Part of the program may be taken at another approved research university or institution in Australia or overseas. Similarly some work may be undertaken embedded in government architectural offices, architectural practices, or major environmental consultancies.

The program is demanding and immersive. True discovery is hard in a field in which innovation is the norm. The tests of ‘discovery’ are new knowledge, new understandings, new capabilities built on acknowledgement of what has been previously established. We are seeking candidates who are ready to challenge both themselves and their discipline or profession.

Your choice of topic may start from a desire to respond to new and emergent human needs, technologies, systems, materiality or design methods.

One of the benefits to you as an architect or designer will be to give your practice the capabilities and the project exemplar which demonstrates your capacity to be at the innovation edge of your area. You will become an authority and leader in your field. It is a program for the brightest and the best who are driven by a passion to advance what architecture and design do and what they provide for humanity.


There are a number of scholarships available to research students. For the Design PhD, the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning offers the EM Chettel award which entitles the annual recipient to receive $30,000pa for the three years of their full time candidature. Applications for this award must be made directly to the Faculty.

Visit sydney.edu.au/architecture/current_students/scholarships.shtml to start your application.


Applicants are sought from first class and second class honours Master of Architecture graduates and professionally equivalent four year degree in design. Applicants with other qualifications may commence in a qualifying program such as the Master of Philosophy. It is preferred that applicants have met the requirements for professional registration (if applicable) and will in any case be required to demonstrate a high level of attainment in design through a folio.

The Design PhD is expected to become operational during 2015.

How to apply

The first step of the application is lodging an expression of interest with the Design PhD Program Committee. This can be in the form of a developed research topic or a general expression of interest. The Program Committee will suggest a supervisor or in certain cases, potential projects.

From this point, a statement of the research topic should be developed in conjunction with the nominated academic staff member of the Faculty.

After this, a formal application should be submitted to sydney.edu.au/courses/Doctor-of-Philosophy-Architecture