Postgraduate Research

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences supports and pursues the University's goal of excellence in research, encouraging research of national and international standing, and identifying and enhancing fields of basic, strategic and applied research. Many of the Faculty's distinguished academic staff have recognised international standing and include Federation Fellows and Fellows of Learned Academies and Societies.

Postgraduate Research Subject Areas

Postgraduate Research Courses

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences offers the following postgraduate courses by research:

Professional Doctorates

Detailed information about the degree, thesis submission, the role of the Supervisor and the examination for the award of the degree can be found in the Arts and Social Sciences Postgraduate Handbook. Applicants interested in pursuing a higher degree by research should consult the Faculty office for advice about their study options.

Master of Arts (Research)

One to two years full-time
Two to four years part-time


The Master of Arts (Research) is designed to meet the needs of students who wish to extend their studies beyond their undergraduate degree primarily by thesis but do not have an undergraduate Honours degree or other qualification that would allow entry into a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The satisfactory completion of the MA (Research) degree is a qualification for admission to higher degree research candidature.

The MA (Research) can be undertaken in a range of subject areas by research and thesis only, or a combination of thesis and coursework, as outlined below. It is not possible to upgrade from an incomplete Master of Arts (Research) degree to higher degree research candidature. The MA (Research) has different admission requirements from both the Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

The MA (Research) may be undertaken in the following ways;

  • Two postgraduate units of study ( 12 credit points) and a thesis of 26,000 – 28,000 words; or
  • One postgraduate unit of study (6 credit points) and a thesis of 28,000 – 30,000 words; or
  • A thesis of 30,000 – 35,000 words.

A thesis on an approved topic is researched and written under the supervision of a member of the academic staff.

Admission Requirements

(1) To be eligible to be admitted to candidature by the Dean or Associate Dean, an applicant must hold or have completed the requirements for a bachelor's degree from the University of Sydney or equivalent institution, with a major in a relevant subject area, completed with a distinction average.

(2) The Dean or Associate Dean may admit to candidature an applicant who does not meet the requirements of sub-clause (1), provided that the applicant holds a qualification or qualifications that, in the opinion of the Dean or Associate Dean, are equivalent to those prescribed in sub-clause (1).

(3) Applicants must provide two academic referees who are familiar with their studies and are qualified to comment on previous academic achievements and their capacity to undertake a research degree.

Master of Philosophy

One to two years full-time
Two to four years part-time


Candidates for the degree of Master of Philosophy (MPhil) research and write a thesis of 40,000 - 60,000 words on an approved topic under the supervision of a member of the academic staff.

Admission Requirements

(1) To be eligible to be admitted to candidature by the Dean or Associate Dean, an applicant must hold or have completed the requirements for:

(a) a bachelor's degree from the University of Sydney or equivalent institution, with a minimum Honours Second Class, Division 1 in the subject area in which the applicant wishes to proceed; or

(b) a master's degree from the University of Sydney or equivalent institution, completed by coursework, in a relevant subject area, with a Distinction average for the coursework component and which contained an independent research component that comprised 25% of the requirements for the award of the degree and for which the applicant achieved a result of Distinction or above; or

(c) a master's degree from the University of Sydney or equivalent institution, in a relevant subject area, completed by research.

(2) The Dean or Associate Dean may admit to candidature an applicant who does not meet the requirements of sub-clause (1), provided
that the applicant holds a qualification or qualifications that, in the opinion of the Dean or Associate Dean, are equivalent to those prescribed in sub-clause (1).

(3) Applicants must provide two academic referees who are familiar with their studies and are qualified to comment on previous academic achievements and their capacity to undertake a research degree.

Policy on upgrade from MPhil to PhD

Upgrade from MPhil to PhD is not “automatic” and may not be used to gain extra candidature time. It is recommended that:

  1. MPhil candidates seeking to upgrade should demonstrate an
    ability to conduct research at PhD level by:
    (i) providing a detailed thesis outline satisfactory to the department
    (ii) providing satisfactory chapter drafts of not less than a total of 35,000 words or equivalent (completed during the MPhil candidature)
  2. Normally application to upgrade from MPhil to PhD should be made prior to the fourth semester (full-time equivalent) of MPhil candidature.

Doctor of Philosophy

Three to four years full-time
Six to eight years part-time


Candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) research and write a thesis of 70,000 - 100,000 words on an approved topic under the supervision of a member of the academic staff.

Admissions Requirements

a Bachelor degree with Honours Class I from the University of Sydney in a relevant field of study; or an undergraduate degree deemed to be equivalent; or

a Bachelor degree from the University of Sydney (or equivalent) in a relevant field of study together with a substantial portfolio of published work (for example, journal articles, books, published creative work, etc); or

Master degree by research from the University of Sydney (or equivalent).

Applicants must provide two academic referees who are familiar with their studies and are qualified to comment on previous academic achievements and their capacity to undertake a research degree.

Doctor of Arts and Doctor of Social Sciences

Three to four years full-time
Six to eight years part-time


The Doctor of Arts (DArts) and Doctor of Social Sciences (DSocSci) are professional doctorates which allow candidates to pursue a higher degree of rigorous scholarship as well as advance their professional practice. The professional doctorate is designed to respond to the rapid changes taking place in the professional workplace which create demands on professionals such as journalists, creative writers, anthropologists, linguists, policy advisers, managers, and others to upgrade their qualifications.

Leading employees are increasingly expected to be more aware of the changing environment of their professional practice, more focused on the specific developments of their field, and more skilled in research and analytical techniques. Further training at the upper levels of the discipline such as that offered to professional doctorate candidates can develop the sophisticated intellectual and applied knowledge and skills that are increasingly in high demand.

The professional doctorate comprises two postgraduate research methods units of study and research leading to a thesis of 60,000-80,000 words for candidates not also submitting a significant creative project, or a thesis of 20,000-30,000 words for candidates also submitting a significant creative project under the supervision of a member of the academic staff. You may complete research in various areas within this discipline such as gender and cultural studies, government and international relations, museum studies, peace and conflict studies, political economy or sociology and social policy.

The exact nature of the significant creative project will be determined by the disciplinary norms of the department through which a student is enrolled. Applicants must discuss their proposed significant creative projects with the department to ensure that the department has the relevant expertise to supervise the projects. Examples of significant creative projects include novels, biographies and memoirs, sets of short stories, poetic works, plays and other performance scripts, performed pieces, audio and/or video works, documentaries, collections of feature articles, and documented interventions in public debates, such as submissions, reports and major essays.

Admission Requirements

(1) To be eligible to be admitted to candidature by the Dean or Associate Dean, an applicant must:
(a) hold or have completed the requirements for:

(i) a bachelor's degree from the University of Sydney or equivalent institution, with first or second class honours, in a relevant subject area; or

(ii) a bachelor's degree from the University of Sydney or equivalent institution, in a relevant subject area, with a substantial portfolio of published/professional work (such as books, films, TV programs, creative work and/or government reports) equivalent to or greater than an undergraduate honours thesis; or

(iii) a master's degree from the University of Sydney or equivalent institution, in a relevant subject area; and

(b) have a minimum of five years' recent, full-time employment or professional experience in a relevant field.

(2) The Dean or Associate Dean may admit to candidature an applicant who does not meet the requirements of sub-clause (1), provided
that the applicant holds a qualification or qualifications that, in the opinion of the Dean or Associate Dean, are equivalent to those prescribed in sub-clause (1).