Postgraduate Research - Current Students

Postgraduate Studies Handbook

All the formal requirements regarding your candidature may be found in the Postgraduate Studies Handbook.

This booklet summarizes formal requirements PhD, HECS, fees, part-time studies, time away, suspensions, examination, supervision etc.

Graduate Studies Office (GSO)

The Graduate Studies Office serves as a focus for all postgraduate research and coursework activities across the University. The GSO office works closely with Deans, Associate Deans (Postgraduate Studies), Heads of Schools/Departments, Postgraduate Coordinators, Supervisors, SUPRA and Postgraduate Students.

Information on Induction Sessions run by the University can be found at the GSO website.


All forms regarding scholarships or any aspect of your candidature that ask for a Head of School/Department signature should be sent to Joanna Malyon (located in Carslaw, F07) to be approved by the Head of School.

Forms that cannot be completed in Sydney Student and require signoff by the Postgraduate Coordinator, Peter Banks - email or send to Joanna Malyon.

Candidates should keep in touch with the School about matters related to their candidature through the School of Biological Sciences Postgraduate & Honours Student Services Coordinator, Joanna Malyon.

Resources Provided by the School of Biology

Postgraduates have free access to the following facilities for research purposes:

Badham Library
Swipe card access to School 24 hrs day (subject to obeying Safety Regulations)
Common room with hot water, microwave and general facilities (building A08 or A12)
Lockable drawers
Email account on School server
Internet access (research only – usage monitored)
Laboratory space
Workstations, office space as appropriate


In the Faculty of Science, candidates are given a maximum of 16 research periods (4 years) to complete a PhD and 8 research periods (2 years) to complete an MSc degree. Submission of a PhD thesis is possible after 12 research periods (or earlier with permission). A large number of students in recent years have submitted within 3.5 years.

The School is not funded after 4 years and postgraduate places and funds are allocated on the basis of completions within 4 years. There is a University-wide effort to ensure that all postgraduate degrees are complete within 4 years.


Most scholarships provide funding for 3 years for PhD (with potential for a 6 month extension) and 2 years for a MSc.

Please note conditions associated with your scholarship regarding full-time study, sick-leave, suspensions, working away from the University of Sydney. If you are unsure how a change in circumstance may affect your scholarship, please check directly with the Research Training Office.

Check our scholarship page for currently available scholarships.


Appointment of a supervisor and an auxiliary supervisor for all candidatures is compulsory in the Faculty of Science. The roles of these people will vary according to the project, supervisors' backgrounds and expertise and the needs of the student and full details of the time commitments and responsibilities of these people may be found in the Postgraduate Studies Handbook.

Principal Supervisor: takes responsibility for your candidature, oversees the direction and progress of the research, signs Annual Progress Form and is the point of contact with the Faculty of Science.

Auxiliary Supervisor: recommended as someone other than the supervisor that the candidate can turn to for advice, can act as supervisor when your principal supervisor is away, read reports and independently advise you whether your progress is at the appropriate rate.

Additional Auxiliary Supervisors are possible and may be useful for interdisciplinary or collaborative projects. It is recommended that occasional meetings include the candidate and all supervisors.

A mutually agreeable arrangement for ongoing assessment and feedback on your progress by supervisor/auxiliary supervisor is essential and needs to be documented at the start of candidature.

Formal Requirements for all Students

All postgraduates should maintain regular contact with their supervisors.

Induction Day

New Postgraduate Students should attend the School of Biological Sciences Induction Day held early in semester 1, or be in touch with Joanna Malyon in the School Office for the arrangements for induction information for the mid-year (semester 2) intake.

New students must complete the 'School of Biological Sciences Registration Form' within two months of commencement of candidature, and include the arrangements made with your Supervisor and Auxiliary Supervisor for supervision of your candidature.

A guide to the required tasks and other milestones for the PhD candidature is available hereAdobe pdf document and discussed during the Postgraduate Induction Day.

Research Plan

Please read the guidelines available here.

The purpose of the Research Plan is to provide an overview of the intended PhD topic and the agreed plans for how the research objectives will be achieved. The content of the document should reflect substantial reading, preliminary trials of methods (if appropriate) and in-depth discussions with the supervisory team. The task of producing a plan is a defined goal that is designed to provide an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate that they are capable of producing a substantial body of new knowledge in the field of investigation that will be the basis of the PhD thesis.

The only requirement is that the written document should be 10 pages of polished text that represents the achievements and understanding of the topic and effectively communicates the activities and timeframes for how the research will be achieved. The specific format and content should reflect the most useful approach, as agreed to by the student and their supervisory team.

Assessment of Progress on Candidature

All First Year Candidates are on probation for 2 semesters and are required to attend a Probation Review interview towards the end of their second semester.

Annual Postgraduate Progress Forms must be completed in either round 1 or 2 each year.

It is important to document any problems (medical, personal or equipment failure or problems of any kind that have prevented you from carrying out your research)

Annual Progress Forms are kept by the Faculty of Science as a record of your candidature and will be consulted when any requests are made to change candidature details.

Postgraduate Research Showcase

All new students are required to present an introductory seminar during the School of Biological Sciences Postgraduate Research Showcase. The showcase will be held during study week.

Date: Thursday 11 June 2015
Venue: DT Anderson lecture theatre
All second year postgraduate students are required to present a research poster at the Postgraduate Research Showcase. Posters you may have already prepared for your conferences in your discipline are ideal.

Assessment of Progress on Candidature

Progress in the candidature is assessed by self-evaluation, input from the supervisory team and by reporting to the Postgraduate Studies Committee and the Faculty of Science.

All First Year PhD Candidates are on probation for 2 semesters. To assist in early detection of issues candidates will attend a progress interview at the end of their first semester..

The Postgraduate Studies Committee will be using the Research Plan, together with the seminar given at the Postgraduate Research Showcase and the mid-year interview, to evaluate whether the progress of the candidate is on track to meet the probation conditions by the end of the second semester of enrollment.

Following the mid-year interview (or after one semester for mid-year starts), each candidate will be given feedback of the following form:

  1. Progress is satisfactory and on track.
  2. Progress is good but the following issues could be improved:
    Examples of areas that may be issues: background conceptual framework is weak, methods need further justification, scientific writing and communication skills need to improve.
  3. Unsatisfactory progress. The candidate will need to meet the following conditions and if there is no improvement, it is unlikely that they will meet the conditions of probation.

Candidates in the B or C categories, and their supervisor will be asked to meet with the Postgraduate Studies Committee to develop a plan of action that will address the issues.

Annual Postgraduate Progress Forms must be completed each year in October. The forms generated from the Faculty of Science will be sent to you. Some questions have to be answered in writing on the form. You may use electronic attachments to provide more information on your research progress. For instance, the research plan you prepared at the end of your first semester will be an ideal place to start and may only need updating for this purpose.

It is important to document any problems (medical, personal or equipment failure or problems of any kind that have prevented you from carrying out your research)

Annual Progress Forms are kept by the Faculty of Science as a record of your candidature and will be consulted when any requests are made to change candidature details.

Formal and compulsory interviews are held for all candidates in late October/early November (or mid-year for mid-year starts). Please keep in touch with the School Office if you have travel planned over that time.

Upgrading from MSc to PhD

Plans should be discussed early with your supervisor and at your first interview with the Postgraduate Studies Committee. For information on the latest procedures, students currently enrolled in the School should contact the Postgraduate & Honours student services coordinator, Joanna Malyon.

Postgraduate Research Support Scheme (PRSS)

The PRSS is a scheme introduced by the University in 2001 to provide direct support for currently enrolled postgraduate research students. Under the scheme, funds are allocated to Schools or Departments (in some cases Faculties) based on their higher degree research enrolment figures in the previous year. The funds are not allocated directly to the students but are awarded by Schools or Departments to eligible applicants on a competitive basis according to the University’s general guidelines. Selection committees will consider:

  1. quality of the applicant and track record relative to opportunity and stage of candidature,
  2. demonstrated need for funding, and
  3. priorities, if any, placed on the different expenditure categories by
    the School of Department.

PRSS information is available on the Scholarships Office Website.

Download PRSS Information Guidelines PDF

Download PRSS Application Form Microsoft Word Document.