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Apply for postgraduate research

How to apply for a research degree
A degree in research is also called a ‘higher degree by research’ (HDR) and can include the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Master's by research/Master of Philosophy (MPhil).

Follow these steps to apply for a research degree as a domestic or international research student.

  1. Choose your course
  2. Check the entry requirements
  3. Develop your research proposal
  4. Find a supervisor
  5. Reviews fees and search for scholarships
  6. Gather required documentation
  7. Submit your application online

1. Choose your course

Go to the University course search and find a research course that suits your interests. We encourage you to apply well ahead of time; even before completion of your current qualifying degree. In these circumstances, referee reports are essential as part of the application for admission.

2. Check the entry requirements

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 the equivalent of an Australian honours degree, or a master’s by research degree, or a master’s by coursework with a thesis component (dissertation). You will need to pass health and security checks if your research involves fieldwork in the New South Wales hospital and education systems. The course page details explain what admission criteria you need to satisfy to get into the course. 

You may also need to apply for approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee.

In most cases, to apply for a master’s by research or a Master of Philosophy, you need to have one of the following:

  • a bachelor’s degree with first or second-class honours from the University of Sydney or another approved institution
  • an equivalent qualification that demonstrates sufficient research experience and capability.

To apply for a PhD, you need to demonstrate sufficient prior research experience and capability. In most cases, you will have either:

  • a bachelor's degree with first or upper second class honours or
  • a master's degree performed at a high academic standard, and which includes a substantial component of research
  • an equivalent qualification that demonstrates research experience, excellence and capability.

These are the minimum requirements for eligibility but they do not guarantee admission. That remains at the discretion of the Associate Dean (Higher Degree by Research) for the faculty.

Please refer to the University's HDR Rule (pdf, 951.02KB) for full policy details.

Professional Doctorates are offered in certain faculties at the University of Sydney. In most cases, to be eligible for admission to a Professional Doctorate you must have either:

  • completed a master's degree or a bachelor’s degree with first or upper second class honours, or
  • passed a qualifying examination at a standard equivalent to the bachelor’s degree, with first or upper second class honours.

You must demonstrate recent, full-time employment or professional experience in a relevant field. Finally, you need to provide evidence to show that:

  • your planned research is appropriate and acceptable
  • you have the necessary training and ability to pursue your preferred course of study and research
  • you have secured a suitable supervisor for your project, and have access to appropriate resources and facilities to be able to complete your proposed research.

3. Review the fees and search for scholarships

The course details page should provide information about the fees you will need to pay. Check these carefully and also read our general information on fees and financial support.

We have one of the largest research scholarships schemes in Australia. Scholarships can be a big help in funding your research or helping you with living costs while you do your research. Some scholarships are specific to a research project or discipline, and many are assessed on academic merit and research potential. Search for a scholarship.

4. Develop your research proposal

Carefully consider the subject of your research and find out if your interests align with any academic members of staff. At this point you need to develop an initial research proposal. While this initial proposal will probably not fully capture all the details of your final project, it is important to think seriously about it, clearly explaining your ideas about your research. It should not be 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.

Check out these guidelines on how to write a research proposal for a strong PhD application.

5. Find a supervisor

Before you can make a formal application to the University, you’ll usually need a staff member who has agreed to act as your supervisor for the duration of your degree.

To help you in your search, our faculty and research centre websites are good places to start. You can also explore our Research and Innovation website where you can search for supervisors and projects by discipline, keywords, and research themes.

To support your enquiry, send an email describing your academic background and research experience, the topic you'd like to research and how your research project aligns with the work of your proposed supervisor. You should also include your resume/CV, academic transcripts for all degrees and your initial research proposal (see step 4 above).

For law you will need to submit an Expression of Interest directly to the school, while for research degrees in the Business School you’ll need to follow a slightly different application process.  

Refer to your course at University course search for full details.

6. Gather required documentation

When you have secured a supervisor, you will discuss and refine the project together. Once your research proposal is finalised, gather all the essential documents that you will need to submit with your application:

  • Final research proposal. In conjunction with your supervisor you’ll finalise your research proposal of up to 2000 words, covering the objectives and significance of your research. Refer to our Research Proposal Guidelines (pdf, 68.77KB).
  • Academic transcripts in the original language and English translation.
  • English language qualifications if English is not your first language.
  • Curriculum Vitae or resume.
  • Evidence that a primary supervisor has agreed to supervise you. This could be a copy of the email correspondence showing the staff member’s agreement to supervise you. The Sydney Law School requires your EOI as evidence. The Business School does not require potential students to identify a supervisor before submitting an application. Sydney College of the Arts doesn’t require evidence of supervision, however, you must submit a portfolio with your application. The Sydney Conservatorium of Music may require you to attend an interview.
  • Domestic students will need a passport or birth certificate or citizenship certificate.
  • Part-time statement if applying for part-time study (domestic). This needs to show that:
    • you’ll have sufficient time available to carry out the research under the supervision of the University, and complete the course within the maximum period allowed for a part-time PhD enrolment
    • a declaration from your employer (if relevant) confirming that you will be permitted to take the time required to effectively pursue your studies.
  • Two referee report (pdf, 113.97KB)
  • Any other documents, such as a portfolio of work or audition, specified in the course listing for your degree.

International students  

If you are an international student, you will also need:

  • A student visa
  • To pay a deposit before you accept your offer. A non-refundable application processing fee of A$125 is charged for new prospective students. This fee is waived if you’re a sponsored student, or if you are granted an exemption by a University staff member during an office interview or recruitment event. If you would like to apply through a University approved agent, we have partnered with a range of agents and representatives who can apply to the University and make arrangements on your behalf.

7. Submit your application online

Application and commencement dates

You can submit a direct online application to the University of Sydney through the University course search. You can save and return to your application, upload documentation, and formally accept an offer if your application is successful.

Many faculties accept applications all year round and multiple research periods each year when you can start study with us.

We recommend that you apply at least six to eight weeks prior to the start date to allow adequate time for processing and, if necessary, your visa application. You can start your study in any of the research periods as long as your faculty offers it. Check the course details page to find the starting research period for your degree. 

If you don’t know the results of your first degree, you should still submit your application, and supply the results as soon as you receive them.

Research period 1

1 January - 28 February. Enrol between mid November and 31 January. Commence no later than the census date: 31 January. 

Research period 2

1 March - 30 June. Enrol between 1 February and 31 March. Commence no later than the census date: 31 March.

Research period 3

1 July - 30 September. Enrol between 1 April - 31 August. Commence no later than the census date: 31 August. 

Research period 4

1 October - 31 December. Enrol between 1 September - 31 October. Commence no later than the census date: 31 October. 

Start your application from the Course details page by clicking 'Apply' on the top right of the page.