How to apply

Are you academically qualified to apply for a higher degree by research?

In general, to be eligible for admission to a higher degree by research, you need to have undertaken a significant research project or thesis in your previous university level studies. Examples include the equivalent of an Australian honours degree, a masters by research degree, or a masters by coursework degree with a thesis component.

Our specific entry requirements vary from course to course. If you are not appropriately qualified, we invite you to consider applying for a postgraduate coursework program.

Find out about our research

For most research programs, you will need to submit a research proposal with your application, so you will need to carefully consider the subject of your research, and find out whether your interests align with any academic members of staff. To find out more about the available research projects and supervisors at the University of Sydney, Research Supervisor Connect matches your research interests to available PhD and master’s research opportunities, or contact us to discuss your research interests.

How to apply for a higher degree by research

Applying for entry into a research degree requires some time and preparation. You need to take the following steps to apply.

1. Identify and establish an academic contact/potential supervisor

Firstly you need to contact a suitable member of the academic staff of the University and present them with an initial proposal outlining your proposed topic of research. If you need help, use our Research Supervisor Connect tool.

When you contact a member of the academic staff, you should provide them with some initial details to help them advise you on your study plans. For example, you could outline your educational background, relevant work experience and the research area you are interested in pursuing.

2. Develop and submit an initial research proposal

Once you have initiated discussions with an academic contact, you should prepare an initial research proposal.

In general, your proposal should be around 500 words in length. However, some faculties, such as the Sydney Law School and the Business School, prefer a more detailed written proposal.

Your initial proposal should include the following information:

  • title: Working title for the project.
  • academic staff contact: Name(s) of the academic staff with whom you have discussed your proposal and, if relevant a potential supervisor.
  • objectives: What aims does the work have?
  • synopsis: Briefly describe the key aspects of what you will be investigating.
  • background: Describe what research has already been done in relation to your topic.
  • significance: Why is the topic important?
  • methodology: Approach or methodology to be used in the research.
  • resources: Provide details of the resources required for you to carry out your research project.
  • work plan: An initial plan for completion with annual milestones.

3. Revise and finalise your research proposal

In conjunction with your academic contact(s), refine your research proposal ready for submission of your formal application.

4. Identify and contact two academic referees

To support your application, we will need to receive references from two academic referees who are familiar with your previous academic qualifications/achievements. Ensure they are available and willing to complete a reference for you, and acquire their correct and current contact details.

They will need to complete the academic referee report and submit it to the University. Instructions are provided within your online application in Find a course.

5. Complete the application form

All research applications are made online through the Find a course database.

  • For PhD applications, go to the Postgraduate research courses page and pick your degree and faculty, eg. Doctor of Philosophy (Arts & Soc Sci). Click the 'apply now' button and follow the instructions.
  • For all other research applications, go to Find a course, and search for your research course. Click the 'apply now' button and follow the instructions.

To ensure that your application is complete and can be processed as quickly as possible, please ensure you have included all of the required supporting documentation.

If you are sending a copy of an official document (such as an academic transcript), the copy must be correctly certified by an appropriate authority.

Please note:

To complete your application you may be required to provide supporting documentation. All documents submitted need to be either original or certified according to the University's Certification of Documents Guidelines (PDF 40KB).

Incomplete or ill-prepared applications will take longer to process and may be rejected by the relevant faculty or school. If you have any questions about preparing your application, please call our Helpline on 1800 SYD UNI (1800 793 864) or ask a question online.

6. Submit your application

Once you have completed the proposal and had it reviewed by your supervisor, you’re ready to submit your application.

If you have a question about entry requirements or the application process for a higher degree by research please ask us.