Doctor of Philosophy

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Doctor of Philosophy


Program summary

Student profile

Become an expert in your field.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is an advanced research program that fosters the development of independent research skills, scholarly analysis and an ability to communicate research findings.

The University of the Sunshine Coast has a team of enthusiastic and experienced academics able to provide supervision across a broad range of research areas.

Admission requirements

To be eligible for admission to Doctor of Philosophy candidature, applicants are normally required to hold:

(a) a Bachelor Honours degree (AQF Level 8) with a significant research component with a minimum of Class IIA from a recognised higher education institution; or

(b) a Masters degree (AQF Level 9) with a significant research component equivalent to Honours degree research component from a recognised higher education institution; or

(c) a Bachelor degree (AQF Level 7) from a recognised higher education institution, and shall have achieved by subsequent work and study a standard equivalent to at least Class IIA Honours as may be approved by the Research Degrees Committee; or

(d) a record of research or professional qualifications deemed by the Research Degrees Committee to be of a standard equivalent to at least Bachelors Honours degree Class IIA and providing a suitable background for the doctoral research the candidate is proposing to undertake.

Refer also to the University’s English language requirements.

Admission is subject to availability of appropriate supervision and facilities.

Research areas

Research areas include communication and media studies, creative arts, mental health and wellbeing, society and culture, environment and sustainability, management and business, law, and a broad range of health-related disciplines. For more information on USC's key research areas go to

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What will I study

Program structure

The Doctor of Philosophy is the main Doctoral degree offered by this University.

It is awarded solely on the basis of a thesis produced under supervision that makes an original, significant and extensive contribution to knowledge in the relevant field of study, as judged by independent experts applying accepted contemporary international standards.

As a candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy, you may be required to undertake study, such as a research methodology course or other specified courses, seminars or reading activities, in addition to and as a support for your research.

Where such activities are required, they shall be specified as a condition of candidature by the Committee and undertaken under the direction of the relevant Associate Dean (Research) or nominee.

Alternative thesis presentation

Doctoral candidates may be permitted to present a collection of thematically linked research articles in lieu of a thesis.

This approach may only be pursued with the advance permission of the Committee at the time of confirmation.

The research articles must be based wholly on research undertaken by the candidate during their candidature for the Doctoral degree.

The number and type of research articles and the form in which they are to be presented for examination will be specified.

Program requirements and notes
  1. Prospective applicants wishing to undertake a PhD will need to find a suitable supervisor by contacting the relevant School or via the research supervisor search.
  2. For further information, refer to the Higher Degrees by Research - Academic Policy.
  3. Refer to related policies, rules, plans and procedures.
  4. Refer to the research areas for the School.
Enrolment and fees
  1. Domestic candidates: Australian and New Zealand citizens and permanent residents are not required to pay tuition fees for the standard duration of their HDR program. The Australian Government's Research Training Scheme (RTS) covers the cost of HDR tuition fees for these candidates. Research Master candidates are entitled to a maximum of two years full-time equivalent study. Candidates who do not complete their degree within the maximum RTS allowable completion times may be required to pay fees for any additional periods of enrolment. Please refer to Higher Degree by Research fees.
  2. International candidates: tuition fees apply. Refer to International HDR tuition fees.
  3. In any semester, full-time enrolment comprises 0.500 EFTSL.*
  4. In any semester, part-time enrolment comprises 0.250 EFTSL.*
  5. The census date for withdrawal without financial penalty or academic penalty is the Semester 1 or 2 census date.

* EFTSL - Equivalent Full-Time Student Load. One year of full-time study equates to 1.000 EFTSL.

How to apply

Applicants are required to complete the following four steps. Please also refer to additional information.

Step 1: Consider entry requirements

There are two sets of requirements to consider, the general HDR entry requirements laid out in the Higher Degrees by Research Candidature – Procedures and additional specific program requirements which can be found here.

Entry is highly competitive and depends on:

  • your academic background
  • your English language proficiency (if English is not your first language, see step 4)
  • the submission of a suitable research proposal
  • the availability of a registered supervisor
  • the availability of resources to support your proposed research topic

Step 2: Find a supervisor

Use the Research Supervisor Search to find a potential supervisor in your area of research. Contact the researcher to discuss your proposal and their availability to supervise you.

Step 3: Prepare supporting documentation

  • Research Proposal. Download the Research proposal template (Word 13KB)
  • Evidence of academic background  
    • Academic transcripts and completion certificates (transcripts must include a Key to Grading) - Please note, for studies completed outside of Australia you must provide certified copies of documents in the original language and an official English translation.
    • Formal notification from the qualifying university stating the allocation of marks to research component of a degree where not evident on the transcript
    • If transferring from another Australian university, a statement from your current/former university stating HDR candidature consumed to date, probationary or confirmed status, and tuition fee type
  • Evidence of research publications/experience
    • For example - Abstract (in English), details of publication, copy of the front page of the article/paper, link to article's location
  • Evidence of citizenship or Australian Permanent Residency
    • Birth certificate, passport, citizenship certificate, or visa
  • Evidence of English language proficiency (required for applicants who are not from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America)

Step 4: Complete and submit an application form

Domestic applicants (Australian and New Zealand Citizens and Australian permanent residents)

  • Domestic applicants apply online. You will be asked to upload your supporting documents to this system. If you need to provide the original or certified copies of documents, you can provide a copy via the online system in the first instance, however, you must also provide hard-copies to the below mailing address.

International applicants

Graduate Research Office
ML 26
Locked Bag 4
Maroochydore DC Qld 4558 Australia

Additional information

HDR Program admission deadlines to be eligible to be considered in the Current Research Training Program Scholarship round can be found under Additional information for HDR Applicants. Only complete applications will be considered (including original or certified copies of supporting documents for international applicants).

Complete applications take approximately 6-8 weeks to be processed (this may vary during peak periods). Applications can be accepted at any time, however applications must be submitted at least 8 weeks prior to the nominated commencement date. International applicants should be mindful of extra time required to organise a visa when nominating a commencement date, and should allow an additional 3 months).

  • Submit your Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship application by the scholarship closing date.

    * One of the eligibility criteria is that applicants must have been accepted to enrol in a HDR program at USC. Therefore, below are recommended deadlines for submitting Admissions Applications:

    • International applicants - To be confirmed for the 2020 round
    • Domestic applicants - To be confirmed for the 2020 round

      If you do not submit your Admission Application by the above date and you do not receive an Offer for Admission before 13 October, you will be ineligible for the RTP Scholarship and your application will not be considered.

  • Additional information is available for International students.
  • Only complete applications will be considered (including original or certified copies of supporting documents for international applicants).
  • Complete applications take approximately 6-8 weeks to be processed (this may vary during peak periods).
  • Applications can be accepted at any time, however applications must be submitted at least 8 weeks prior to the nominated commencement date. International applicants should be mindful of extra time required to organise a visa when nominating a commencement date.
Admission process
  •  The Graduate Research Office receives the complete application:
    • Domestic applications
      1. Are sent to the enrolling School for their assessment and admission decision
      2. The School returns their admission decision to the Office of Research which advises the student if they have been accepted for admission(by issuing a Letter of Offer and a Description of Candidature), or if they have been unsuccessful
      3. Successful applicants provide the Graduate Research Office with their Acceptance of Offer
      4. The Graduate Research Office advises Student Services and Engagement to enrol the student
      5. Student Services and Engagement provides the student with their enrolment and system access details
    • International applications
      1. Are sent to USC International for assessment of international qualifications and English language proficiency
      2. Forwarded to the enrolling School for an assessment and admission decision.
      3. The School returns their admission decision to the Graduate Research Office, which then liaises with USC International to issue an offer to successful applicants, or
      4. the Graduate Research Office advises unsuccessful applicants.
      5. Successful applicants advise USC International if they accept the offer
      6. The Graduate Research Office enrols the student through Student Services and Engagement
      7. Student Services and Engagement advises the student of their enrolment and provides system access details

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