Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The Doctor of Philosophy is the University of Sydney's premier research award, and may be undertaken in all faculties and divisions of the University, or as a research project across disciplines. The Sydney PhD requires a minimum period of full-time candidature of six semesters and comprises independent research and writing on an approved topic toward a thesis for examination. Thesis investigation, preparation and writing are supervised by academic staff members with current active interest and expertise in the subject area of a candidate's research. The University of Sydney is one of Australia's leading research academies and offers both outstanding resources on campus for research candidates in all disciplines and collaborative research links with government, industry and international organisations.

PhD by subject area

Essential details


Commencing semesters

Research periods commence in January, March, July and October.

Study mode

On-campus day

Progression and Completion

Progression rules

A candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy will have an annual review of progress, in which the candidate will be required to provide evidence of progress in their research and towards the completion of their thesis. On the basis of the evidence provided, the faculty will recommend the conditions of candidature to apply in the following year, and may request a further review at the end of a semester.

If a candidate is not progressing satisfactorily towards the completion of the degree, they may be asked by the faculty to explain why their candidature should not be terminated.

Annual progress review

The Academic Board has determined that all research candidates are required to undertake an annual progress review (APR). The APR comprises a written report and a mandatory interview. The report requires written statements from the candidate, the supervisory panel, the staff member responsible for coordinating or directing research within the department, and the Chair of the review panel. The interview is conducted by the review panel, which should include the participation of an academic staff member or members from outside the department. Members of the candidate's supervisory panel may be present for part of the interview, but the interview must provide the candidate with the opportunity to speak freely to the review panel without the presence of supervisors. On the basis of evidence provided and the interview, the head of the department recommends the conditions of candidature to apply for the following year.

Completion requirements

To qualify for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy a candidate will submit a thesis for oral and/or written examination. The required word-length of the thesis may vary between faculties. Three examiners appointed by the University are asked to assess the thesis according to whether: 1. the thesis is a substantially original contribution to the knowledge of the subject concerned; 2. the thesis affords evidence of originality by the discovery of new facts; 3. the thesis affords evidence of originality by the exercising of independent critical ability; 4. the thesis is satisfactory as regards literary presentation; 5. a substantial amount of material in the thesis is suitable for publication. A thesis must satisfy these criteria to meet requirements for the award of the degree.

Thesis submission requirements and examination procedure as set out in the Academic Board resolutions for this course and the University of Sydney (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)) Rule 2004 (as amended)

Research at Sydney

Your research at Sydney

Research at The University of Sydney is dynamic and always evolving; inspiring the active mind and providing new tools and ways of thinking that lead to innovation. A postgraduate research degree is a training exercise in which the candidate acquires knowledge of research methods and experience in planning, performing and publishing research under the guidance of a supervisor. The success of that training is assessed through a thesis, which in the case of a PhD is expected to provide some evidence of originality and thereby make some significant contribution to knowledge, at least some of which is publishable. A successful research master’s thesis will likewise demonstrate a grasp of training in research methodology but may make a less original contribution than a doctoral thesis. Over the years, The University of Sydney has consistently outperformed other Australian universities in the measure of research performance used by the Australian Government to allocate funding. The numbers are impressive, but what really matters is the research this funding supports. This exceptional outcome is testament to the breadth, depth and scale of Sydney’s research enterprise and demonstrates the superior quality of Sydney researchers in the eyes of their research peers


The supervisor is that member of the academic or, as appropriate, senior research staff, appointed to take primary responsibility for the conduct of a student's research candidature. The supervisor must be available at all stages of the candidature for advice, assistance and direction and is responsible for the progress of the candidature to the head of department/school and the faculty or college. At least one associate supervisor is also appointed. The role of the supervisory team will change over the course of the candidature but will generally always comprise: ensuring sufficient resources are available to support the candidate; providing advice about an initial research plan; ensuring that the candidate is aware of the particular research skills to be acquired and that appropriate techniques are established for gathering and analysing data; monitoring progress made within the context of the research plan; agreeing on a timetable for frequent and regular contact and acknowledging the need for periodic review of these arrangements; establishing agreed indicators of progress; providing regular and constructive feedback on written analysis and drafts; and providing sound advice about relevant administrative matters.


The University of Sydney offers a number of research scholarships to outstanding domestic and international students. Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and citizens of New Zealand are domestic applicants. Scholarships information for domestic applicants Overseas nationals (citizens of all other countries) are international applicants. Scholarships information for international applicants

About RTS

The Research Training Scheme (RTS), administered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), provides course fee exemptions for Commonwealth-funded higher degree by research (HDR) students for the duration of an accredited HDR course, up to a maximum of four years full-time equivalent study for a doctorate by research (including a professional doctorate which meets the research program criteria), and two years’ full-time equivalent study for a master's by research. RTS students may be enrolled full-time or part-time.

How to apply

Admission requirements

Applicants for admission to Doctor of Philosophy candidature should normally hold a master's degree with research or a bachelor's degree with first or upper second class honours of the University of Sydney, or an equivalent qualification from another university or institution. Alternatively, an applicant may be admitted having passed a qualifying examination at a standard equivalent to the bachelor’s degree with first or upper second class honours.

In addition to these academic requirements the head of department must certify to the faculty that your proposed course of advanced study and research is appropriate and acceptable; that you have in addition to the academic qualifications the necessary training and ability to pursue the proposed course of study and research; and that there are sufficient supervisory and other resources and facilities available to enable your candidature to be completed successfully.

Applying for admission

Applications for entry into a research degree will be accepted all year round.

Applying for entry is a process that requires some time and preparation.

You need to take these steps to apply:
1. Check that you are academically qualified (see Admission requirements above)
2. Use our Research Supervisor Connect tool to identify research opportunities and potential supervisor(s)
3. Secure a supervisor
4. Prepare a research proposal
5. Submit your application online.

Research Supervisor Connect
Research Supervisor Connect is an online tool that enables you to match your research interest to available PhD and Masters research opportunities and supervisors at the University of Sydney.

Securing a supervisor
Contact the potential supervisor(s) you have identified using RSC to discuss your research interest. Once you have secured a supervisor for your proposed research, you are ready to progress your application.

Prepare a research proposal
The Writing a Thesis Proposal. guidelines are a good starting point for preparing to write your research proposal.

Submit your application
Once you have secured a supervisor and prepared your research proposal, you’re ready to submit your application. All applications for higher degrees by research should be lodged online. You need to:
• Click on the PhD by subject area above
• Select the degree you wish to apply for
• Then click on the apply button on the right hand panel to begin your application. Applications are accepted all year round.

Tracking your application
After submitting your application, you should receive a confirmation email along with your personal application number. (If you haven't received this, you should first check your email junk folder.)

Once you have your personal application ID number and your password, you can access and track your application online.

If you are a domestic student and have any queries about the application process, please call (02) 8627 8666 (9am-5pm AEST) or email

If you are an international applicant, please call 61 2 86278300 (9am-5pm AEST) or email

If you experience any technical issues, please contact the Student Systems Support on 1300 362 006

Additional Information for International Applicants
1. Direct application to the International Student Office at the University
To make a direct application to the University of Sydney you should:

1. download and print either the international postgraduate research application form.

2. fill out the application form by following the instructions on the making an application page

3. attach all necessary documents (including original or certified copies of academic transcripts, English language tests results and any other supporting documents), and

4. forward all documents to:
International Student Office
Jane Foss Russell Building G02
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006

Please use the menu on the left to check information about application dates, entry requirements and what happens next.

2. Application through a University representative (agent)
You may make your application through one of our University of Sydney representatives, either in Australia or in another country.

This may be helpful to you if:
• you need advice about living in Australia
• you need assistance with completing documentation required by the University or the Australian Department of Immigration, or
• you need a reliable point of contact for communication with the University.
The University of Sydney has a global network of agent representatives.

Please note that some representatives may charge a fee for their services.