Postgraduate research degrees

Apply your theory-driven research to the real world
Work alongside some of the world's brightest and most accomplished academics, access high-calibre facilities, and discover our new curriculum.

Our research is driven by the big picture. The University of Sydney is home to leading researchers who are finding solutions to the world's most pressing issues by changing the way they look at them. 

We are home to 90 world‑renowned multidisciplinary research and teaching centres that tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges, such as health, climate change and food security. These centres include the Charles Perkins Centre, the Brain and Mind CentreThe University of Sydney Nano Institute, the Sydney Policy Lab, the Sydney Environment Institute, and the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre.

Our interdisciplinary 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. 

As a researcher at Sydney, you'll work alongside some of the world's brightest and most accomplished academics. You can access high-calibre facilities and unique international partnerships with top-ranked institutions, including Stanford, UCLA, the University of Edinburgh, Utrecht University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and the University of Hong Kong.

Types of research degrees

A master's degree by research at Sydney:

  • is the second-highest qualification on the Australian Qualifications Framework
  • can be a gateway to study at a PhD level
  • is usually one to two years full-time or two to four years part-time (part-time is available to domestic students only)
  • is awarded based on a supervised thesis, which makes a substantial contribution to the knowledge of the subject concerned.

A PhD at Sydney:

  • is our premier research award and the highest qualification on the Australian Qualifications Framework
  • comprises of independent research and writing on an approved topic toward a thesis for examination
  • may be undertaken in all faculties and divisions, or across disciplines
  • is usually three years full time or six years of part-time study (part-time is available to domestic students only).

If you’re interested in a Joint PhD program, you need to follow the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) application steps 1-3. In addition, your proposed supervisor will need to complete a proposal to negotiate a student agreement form. If accepted, you will also be required to sign an individual student agreement. After your student agreement is finalised, you will then be sent an application form for the Joint PhD program.

Please refer to the University's Dual and Joint Degree Policy for full policy details.

Download our Joint PhD programs factsheet (pdf, 116KB) to learn more.

A professional doctorate at Sydney:

  • allows candidates to pursue rigorous scholarship alongside advancing their practice in many fields
  • 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).

Internship opportunities

Grow professionally and academically through a paid 3-6 month internship with an industry partner as you complete your degree.

The University of Sydney has partnered with Australian Postgraduate Research Intern (APR.Intern) to provide domestic and international HDR students with internship opportunities in a range of sectors and disciplines.

A paid internship will allow you to:

  • Develop competencies that will contribute to your research
  • Gain industry experience, develop skills and build networks
  • Enhance your employability
  • Develop competencies that will contribute to your research
  • Earn additional income

New coursework curriculum 

To support the research capabilities and success of HDR students, and in response to a changing world, we are introducing a new coursework component to our PhD degrees and broadening the coursework options for our other postgraduate research degrees.

You will have the opportunity to create a distinct research pathway by selecting from 270+ units from any faculty – a first of its kind in Australia – with study areas ranging from specialist analytical methods and professional engagement courses, to discipline-specific subjects.

This flexibility allows you to:

  • Choose a unique combination of units that will best equip you to succeed in your research.
  • Build your network and enhance your multidisciplinary knowledge while working with students and researchers from a broad range of backgrounds.
  • Graduate with a robust set of skills sought-after by employers, for a career in academia or industry. 

How will this affect my postgraduate research degree?

You will be able to enrol in any of the units available at no extra cost, subject to unit capacity and your research background, as some units vary in levels of capability. Browse all available units.

Your faculty may elect to define certain units of study as mandatory for a given degree pathway.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need prior research experience?

Yes, all HDR courses require prior research experience. This is because HDR courses are largely self-driven, requiring pre-requisite research, time and project management skills.

If I have no prior research experience how can I get started?

If you do not have any previous research experience, there are ways to gain what you need. Both the one-year Honours and Masters by coursework degrees containing substantial research components are great pathways into research. These courses will allow you to gain the research skills necessary to apply for the PhD.

What is the difference between a Master of Philosophy/Research and a PhD?

The PhD is our premier research award and the highest qualification on the Australian Qualifications Framework. The PhD is usually three years full-time or six years part-time.

The Master of Philosophy/Research is usually one to two years full-time or four years part-time (part-time is available to domestic students only). A PhD thesis is generally around 80,000 words while a master’s thesis is 50,000 words.

How do I find a supervisor?

To browse through the profiles of our researchers and learn about their current and past research, please refer to Find a Researcher. Here, you will also be able to access the publications lists and contact details of our researchers. 

My research idea crosses two disciplines – is this a problem?

No! Interdisciplinary research is actually highly regarded in the world of academia and working across disciplines can be very beneficial in developing and demonstrating different analytical skills. Working on research from two perspectives can also offer insight which you would not be able to achieve from one discipline perspective.

What are the English language requirements for a PhD?

Please check your course page on Sydney Courses for the requirements of each course. Generally, the English requirements are between 6.0 to 7.0 IELTS overall or a minimum result of 565 overall for TOEFL – PBT score.

How much do HDR courses cost?

There are no course fees for domestic students, as fees are covered by the government Research Training Program fee off-set. However, fees apply to international students. Please refer to your course page on Sydney Courses for fee details.

What scholarships are available?

We have one of the largest research schemes in Australia. Opportunities include the Australian government-funded Research Training Program (RTP) stipend scholarships, and the University of Sydney and faculty-specific awards. Explore your options.

Do I have to complete the new HDR coursework?

Yes, if you are commencing your HDR study from 2021 you must complete the mandatory HDR coursework for any HDR course. Generally, this is 12 credit points for the PhD and 6 credit points for the Master of Philosophy/Research.

Can I transfer from the Master of Philosophy into a PhD?

It is possible for students enrolled in the Master of Philosophy to move to the PhD after the first year of study, if you have made satisfactory progress and if the transfer is approved by your Faculty. It is important to inform your supervisor of your plans early so that you can work on a timeline together to achieve this goal.

Am I able to work while studying my HDR course full-time?

Yes, you can work during your PhD. How many hours you take on is at your own discretion, and you must ensure that you still allow time for the completion of your research. International HDR students can generally work more hours than coursework students. Please check your individual visa for specific restrictions.

Will the university employ me during my PhD?

There are sometimes opportunities for PhD candidates to engage in paid employment at the University, but this is not guaranteed and is dependent on the Faculty/Department. If opportunities do arise, they may be in the form of teaching, marking, acting as a research assistant, or other roles.

What support services are available to research students?

There is extensive support for research students at Sydney, including 100+ multidisciplinary research and teaching centres. Other services include library workshops for research skills; dedicated Research Librarians and Research Support Officers; the Careers Centre; access to the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association; and the Learning Centre.

Find a supervisor

Search by keyword, location, topic or supervisor name

Contact us

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