Postgraduate Research Degrees in the Department of History

The Department of History at the University of Sydney hosts one of the largest postgraduate research programs in New South Wales.

The department has expertise in a wide range of fields, and is especially strong in American history, Australian history, and the history of Europe from the Middle Ages to the present. Members of the department practise a diverse range of approaches to the past, with particular strengths in cultural history, gender history, and transnational history.

Postgraduate Research Coordinator

The History Department Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator in 2013 is Professor Robert Aldrich.

You may approach Robert for advice or information on enrolment, supervision, submission and examination of theses, to obtain necessary signatures, and other relevant matters.

In most cases, e-mail is the most efficient and effective way of making your initial inquiry:

Professor Robert Aldrich
Room 836, Brennan MacCallum Building A18
+61 2 9036 5479


Departmental Postgraduate Representatives
James Dunk
Chris Holdridge

Types of postgraduate degrees in History

Master of Arts - Research (MA (Research))

Requirements
A Bachelor degree with a major in a relevant subject area with a Distinction average from The University of Sydney, or an undergraduate degree deemed to be equivalent.

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 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.

NB: It is not possible to upgrade from a Master of Arts (Research) degree to higher degree research candidature. The MA (Research) has different admission requirements to both the Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

Structure
The MA (Research) can be undertaken in the following ways:

  • Two postgraduate units of study (12 credit points) and a thesis of 26,000 - 28,000 words in length.
  • One postgraduate unit of study (6 credit points) and a thesis of 28,000 - 30,000 words.
  • A thesis of 30,000 - 35,000 words.
    The research and writing of the thesis component are carried out under the supervision of a member of staff on an approved topic.
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Full-time: 1 - 2 years
Part-time: 2 - 4 years

Requirements
A Bachelor degree with Honours Class I or II.1 in History.

Candidates are required to have a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in History. Before the application form will be signed by the Chair of Department, candidates must have either an interview with the Chair, the Chair of the Postgraduate Committee and one other member of staff or, if this is impossible, a phone interview with the Chair of the Department.

All Master of Philosophy students are required to present a thesis of between 40,000 - 60,000 words on an approved topic, research for which is supervised by a member of staff.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)

Requirements
A Bachelor degree with Honours Class I in History

Candidates are required to have a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in History.

Before the application form will be signed by the Head of Department, candidates must have either an interview with the Chair of Department, Chair of the Postgraduate Committee and one other member of staff or, if this is impossible, a phone interview with the Chair of the Department.

Students are required to submit a thesis of between 70,000 and 100,000 words in length on a topic approved by the Department and embodying original research.

Enroling in Postgraduate Research

For information on enrolment and application closing dates, please see the Faculty's information on enrolment in Postgraduate Research degrees in the Department of History.

Alternative modes of entry

Diploma of Arts

A candidate who has no prerequisites in the Discipline may seek entry to postgraduate study in History by way of the Diploma of Arts. This is administered by the undergraduate section of Faculty.

The Diploma of Arts consists of units in one subject area, and all units are available to the student.

The Diploma consists of 44 credit points. At the discretion of the History Department credit may be granted for units already taken or which are deemed equivalent.

The Diploma can be completed in one year (this is unusual); the maximum permissible time is 5 years.

Project proposal

You should make contact directly with a staff member in your area to discuss the possibility of that person's becoming your supervisor. At the same time, you should inform the Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator of your interest. Ideally, you will have drafted a brief (1000-word) proposal describing your research project, which you can send both to the potential supervisor and to the Co-ordinator.

Your discussions with the potential supervisor will establish whether your project is suitable, and whether the staff member is able to act as supervisor. If the project and the supervisory arrangements are satisfactory, the formal the application to enrol may then proceed.


You should write a research proposal of approximately 1000 words. It is advisable (though not compulsory) to do this before you contact a potential supervisor.

  • Description of the project
    What do you intend to study? What are the parameters of the project? What is its scope? What are its limits?
  • A statement justifying the project
    You should explain what your project will contribute to existing knowledge, and in what ways it is innovative and original. This statement will probably include some consideration of existing work in the field or in related fields.
  • A description of the sources on which you will base the project
    In nearly every case, a postgraduate research project in History will be based on primary-source materials that (a) have not been systematically studied before or (b) have not been exploited in the way you intend to use them.
  • You should identify the sources on which your project depends, commenting on practical matters such as their accessibility, the language in which they are written and any other factors that may affect your ability to use them.
  • Conclusion
    Even though this is a proposal for a research project that has yet to be carried out, you should attempt a general statement of the contribution that you think the project will make.
Working out a topic with a potential supervisor

It is possible that you are interested in an area but have not decided firmly what you wish to study. The History Department advises very strongly that the candidate decide and be responsible for the project that he or she undertakes.

Having said this, there are circumstances that can make it difficult for a prospective candidate to decide on a precise area (one is that the candidate may wish to study sources that are not available in Australia, and that simply be consulted in advance).

In such circumstances, you should approach the Postgraduate Research Coordinator and a possible supervisor, who will be happy to discuss this with you. All members of the History Department are experts in their field of study and can offer advice about the feasibility of a topic or, conversely, suggest why in their opinion it is not advisable to study a particular area.

Choosing an Associate Supervisor

When you enrol, you should also arrange for a member of the History Department staff to be your Associate Supervisor. This person may be a scholar who works in your field, or someone whose specialisation means that they have an interest in your field, or in your project. In normal circumstances your supervisor will be able to recommend an Associate Supervisor. If there is no suitable person in the Department, a staff member from a related discipline within the University may fill this role.

The Associate Supervisor provides additional feedback as you progress with your thesis. If your primary supervisor is absent, the Associate Supervisor will take his or her place.

Postgraduate (Research) Discussion Group

In the first year of their candidature, newly enrolled students are required to attend and participate in a discussion group on theory and method which will meet weekly throughout the March and June semesters.

Postgraduate Arts Research Centre - PG ARC

The Postgraduate Arts Research Centres (PGARCs) provide physical resources and a stimulating research environment for research students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. There are three postgraduate centres associated with the Faculty: PGARC Fisher, PGARC Old Teachers College and PGARC Woolley. PGARC Fisher and PGARC OTC offers shared facilities to postgraduate research students in the early years of their candidature; PGARC Woolley offers dedicated desks to students in the final stages of their research degrees.

Information about the facilities and details of the eligibility requirements and the application process can be found here.

Change of address

This is very important. If you change address you must complete a Change of Address form at the Student Centre, Carslaw Building, or via MyUni online so that you receive information about enrolments, results, graduation etc.

NB: Advising your department is not sufficient.