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Postgraduate research

Why choose a PhD or research master's at Sydney?

Whether you’re an aspiring academic, seeking a competitive edge in your career or want to explore your passion, a PhD or master's by research at Sydney can make the difference.

Where will postgraduate research study lead you?

Our students in Science, Engineering and Technology share their stories about the opportunities that postgraduate research study opened up for them.

Consistently ranked among the best research universities in the world, the University of Sydney is home to leading researchers and secures significant funding in support of our research projects.

As a researcher at Sydney, you'll work alongside some of the world's brightest and most accomplished academics and have access to high-calibre facilities and unique international partnerships with top ranked institutions, including Harvard University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Our cross-disciplinary approach means that students are part of a community of scholars that unites experts in fields as diverse as medicine, arts, social sciences, engineering, information technologies and science, with the shared goal of pioneering solutions to global challenges.

View all of our postgraduate research courses.

Types of research degrees

  • A master's degree by research is the second-highest qualification on the Australian Qualifications Framework
  • It is a gateway to study at PhD level
  • A master's degree by research is usually one to two years full-time or two to four years part-time (part-time is available to domestic students only)
  • It is awarded on the basis of a supervised thesis, which makes a substantial contribution to knowledge of the subject concerned.
  • A PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is our premier research award and the highest qualification on the Australian Qualifications Framework
  • It comprises independent research and writing on an approved topic toward a thesis for examination
  • It may be undertaken in all faculties and divisions, or across disciplines
  • A PhD is usually three years full time or six years of part-time study (part time is available to domestic students only).
  • A professional doctorate allows candidates to pursue rigorous scholarship alongside advancing their practice in many fields
  • A professional doctorate is usually three to four years full-time or six to eight years of part-time study (part time is available to domestic students only).

How to apply for your PhD or master's by research degree

Admission to a PhD or a research master's degree is highly competitive. This means you need to plan your application carefully and allow plenty of time for assessment.

The steps below will guide you in preparing your application for a research master's or PhD degree at the University of Sydney.

There are two major parts to this process:

  1. The first is checking your eligibility and finding a supervisor
  2. The second is preparing your application for admission.

Both parts of this process are equally important when seeking to submit an application and secure admission.

Please note: you must secure the support of a supervisor before you can proceed to the application stage. This is an important step and you should think carefully about your research proposal and how it aligns with the work of your potential supervisor. This is your opportunity to showcase your previous experience and the strength of your research experience.

Part one: check your eligibility and find a supervisor

First, you will need to choose a degree and check your eligibility. Research degrees vary by duration, level of research undertaken, and eligibility requirements. 

Admission to a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) is highly competitive. Generally speaking, to be eligible for admission to a postgraduate research degree, you need to have undertaken a significant research project or thesis in your previous university-level studies. 

This could be, for example, the equivalent of an Australian honours degree; a master's degree by research; or a master's degree by coursework with a significant thesis or dissertation component. 

Find out more about the admission criteria for postgraduate research degrees and how to apply

Get an idea of what has already been published in your area and consider how you might approach your research topic. 

At this point you need to develop an initial research proposal. 

Follow our guidelines on 'How to write a research proposal' and use our template to help you develop a strong submission. 

While this initial proposal will not fully capture all the details of your final project, it is important to seriously think about it - clearly explaining your ideas about your proposed research. You should not submit a generic or vague proposal but should actively seek to show why your research is noteworthy and how it aligns with your proposed supervisor's own work. 

Finding the right supervisor is just as critical as selecting a research topic. It is also an integral part of the application process to a research degree at the University of Sydney.

It is worth considering the following points:

  • Professional recognition: What have they published? Have they won any awards or grants? Are they considered a thought leader in their field? 
  • Personal reputation: Talk to previous students or tutors within the faculty who have worked with them. 
  • Compatibility and rapport: Being able to talk openly with your supervisor is key. Do they share your interest in the topic? Do you feel they will respect your research methods and challenge you to do your very best?
  • Networking: Find out what kinds of opportunities they offer to students, such as the chance to travel to conferences or co-author papers. 
  • Support: Make sure they can see you regularly to discuss your research project and help you identify roadblocks and issues. 

You can use our 'Research Supervisor Connect' database to search for current research supervisors and projects that align with your interest. In your enquiry to your potential supervisor, you will need to include your initial research proposal. 

Part two: preparing your application

Once you have secured the support of a supervisor, you will discuss and refine the project together. When your research proposal is finalised, you can submit a direct online application to the University of Sydney through our website. 

For complete step-by-step application insturctions, visit our how to apply page.

Your research at Sydney

We want you to enjoy your time here and complete your degree feeling like you've achieved what you set out to do and more.

There are a number of ways that we will support you throughout your degree. From communication and project management skills to career development opportunities, we will give you what you need to thrive while enjoying the freedom offered by a research degree. 

The University of Sydney is an academic partner of the Australian Postgraduate Research (APR) Intern program - Australia's only all-sector, all-discipline internship program placing students into Australian businesses. This program (supported by the Australian Government) gives our students the opportunity to undertake industry placements during the course of their research degrees.

Visit our student website for more information on how we will support you during your research degree:

Funding your postgraduate research

Over the next five years the University of Sydney will increase its investment in research scholarships for students by $50 million. This is just one way we are ensuring our continued commitment to supporting our future research students.

It also means we have one of the largest research scholarships schemes in Australia, and we’ve been able to double the number of international research scholarships offered in 2017. These new scholarships will help more of the best people complete their PhD studies with us.

Find out what's on offer and how to apply.

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