How to Apply & Enrol for a Research Degree

Graduate Research School


The following steps will assist you through the application process for admission and scholarship.

Step 1: Determine eligibility & find a research area

Eligibility for Higher Research Degrees

The following pages contain details on the minimum eligibility requirements for admission to research degrees offered at UNSW:

Minimum eligibility requirements for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Minimum eligibility requirements for Masters by Research (MRes)

Minimum eligibility requirements for Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

 The University's Admissions Policy can be accessed here.

 If you are applying for a UNSW Scholarship, Scholarships are only available to applicants who hold a four year bachelor’s degree with Honours Class 1 from an Australian institution, or an equivalent research qualification/experience. This qualification must be in a field relevant to your area of research. Further clarification on the equivalent experience can be found here in the UNSW Scholarship Guidelines (please see Related Documents).

 Developing your Research Area

Before applying for a higher research degree you will need to match your area of interest to one of our Faculties or Schools. The Faculty and School websites provide detailed information on their program offerings.

 Full list of UNSW Faculties and Schools

In addition to the online application process, a number of Schools and Faculties have specific admission requirements. Please read this information carefully prior to finding a supervisor or submitting your online application:

UNSW Business School

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Faculty of the Built Environment

UNSW Art & Design

Faculty of Engineering

Faculty of Law

Faculty of Medicine

Faculty of Science

UNSW Canberra

Step 2: Find a Supervisor & Develop a Research Proposal

Finding a Supervisor

Most Schools require students to contact a researcher and secure their agreement to supervise you prior to submitting a formal application for admission.  Please check your School website to determine whether this is required (Faculty links below). For students who are required to contact a Supervisor, this person needs to be within the same school as the program you are applying to. 

Choosing your Supervisor is an important decision, therefore please consider the following when contacting a researcher:

  • How knowledgeable/experienced is the researcher on your planned research topic?
  • Do you and the researcher have compatible work and communication styles?
  • Do you and your researcher have the same expectations of your long-term working relationship?

 Find a Researcher

Once you have found a researcher that you want to work with, it is important that you meet, skype and/or email them before submitting an admission application. Proof of correspondence with a potential supervisor is required for your application. This proof can be a copy of the email correspondence you have had, and must include the researcher's agreement to supervise you.

Trouble finding a supervisor?

If you are having difficulties finding a supervisor, you may want to contact your school of choice directly for assistance. The best person to contact within your school is the Postgraduate Coordinator. Be sure to include your full contact details, research interests, qualifications and research experience in your correspondence with the Postgraduate Coordinator.

Postgraduate Coordinators in UNSW Faculties and Schools


Developing a Research Proposal

All applications must be sufficiently detailed so the University can determine if adequate supervision and resources to support your research can be provided. Your research proposal helps make that determination. A Research Proposal is required for your application.

In general, research proposals should be around one page in length*, and should include the following:

  • The Title of Your Research Proposal (this must be included in your document)
  • A Statement of the research problem and its significance
  • An Outline of the method to be used to analyse the problem
  • Details of previous publications and/or research undertaken in your nominated area of interest

*You must check with your Faculty or School to see if they have more specific length requirements for research proposals:

Step 3: Prepare Supporting Documentation

Applicants submit supporting documentation as part of the online application. Therefore it is important to prepare your documents before starting the application. All documents must be in English or include a certified English translation (see below). If you are unable to include some of your documentation with your online application you can submit them once they are available through the myUNSW Application Tracking system. More information will be included with your application receipt letter after you apply.

Scanned copies of documents are sufficient for the application process.  All applicants will need to be prepared to present original documents (including English translations) to UNSW for inspection after enrolment as requested. UNSW will verify documents via back-to-source (BTS) checks with applicants’ home institutions. Where we are unable to verify documents with your home institution, applicants will be required to bring their originals to the Graduate Research School for verification.  If documents are found to be misleading, consequences may include withdrawal of any offer or enrolment, loss of fees already paid, and reporting to Police, Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and Immigration.

Below is a short description of documents required by every applicant. Those marked with an asterix (*) are required in order for your application to be assessed.  Those without can be sent at a later date.  Further documentation specific to your case may be required beyond the below.  We will contact you in the event these are required.

  • Electronic transcripts*: Applicants need to provide a scanned or electronic copy of transcripts for all tertiary degrees of which they have completed or attempted, including current degrees.  For those students undertaking a research degree which does not have specific scores, an enrolment summary will be required to show which semesters the applicant was enrolled.  BTS checking may be undertaken at any time.
  • Grading systems*: These are explanations of what specific scores/grades mean at a specific University/Institution. These must be provided for each University the applicant has attended.
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)*: This must include details of previous research, such as a summary of all research outputs and experience, including publications, conference presentations, etc.  Work samples such as abstracts may be attached as appendices to the CV.
  • Research Proposal*: Please see Step 2
  • Supervisor contact*: Please see Step 2 for full information.  Some Faculties have specific requirements for this:

Students from Built Environment or Law Faculties are not required to submit proof of contact. UNSW Business School applicants need to submit their successful EOI outcome as proof. Please note that agreement from an academic does not guarantee admission, as your application will still be required to meet the UNSW Higher Degree Research Supervision Policy.

  • Testamurs: These are certificates of completion for prior degrees.  If you are currently studying, the testamur for this degree can be submitted at a later date. Your application can be provisionally assessed without these. BTS checking may be undertaken at any time.
  • Referee reports: required for UNSW Scholarship applications only (available from the Forms, Procedures and Policies page).  Students are required to supply a copy of this form to Referees, and have the Referees email the completed form to the GRS. If the applicant is not applying for a scholarship, references are not required, and not all referees will be contacted by the University. Referees should match the following criteria as close as possible: a senior academic conversant with your most recent studies. At least one of your referees should be an academic supervisor with independent knowledge of your research degree and ability to undertake research. Candidates who completed their degree more than five years ago should provide an academic referee who can comment on their degree, and a referee who is familiar with their current research work. BTS checking may be undertaken at any time. 
  • Proof of Australian/New Zealand citizenship, or Australian Permanent Residency (PR): For Australian/New Zealand citizens or Australian PRs only.  BTS checking may be undertaken at any time.
  • Proof of English: All applicants, domestic and international, must meet the English language entry requirements for the University before they can be offered unconditional admission. Applicants do not need to have met the English requirements before applying for admission, however satisfactory English proof is required in order to be considered for a scholarship (please see Key Dates for the deadline).  BTS checking may be undertaken at any time.
  • Current semester results: This is only required for any students still undertaking a tertiary degree.  These are not required until you have completed all requirements of your current degree.  Once you have completed, you will need to submit your final transcript and any examiners reports (if applicable).

Translation of Documents:
Documents that are in a language other than English must be translated by an accredited translator before they are submitted to UNSW.

  • Translations performed in Australia - These should be performed by a translator accredited by NAATI (the National Standards and Accreditation body for Translators and Interpreters) .
  • Translations performed outside of Australia – These can be performed by
    • a translator accredited by NAATI (the National Standards and Accreditation body for Translators and Interpreters) who is based outside of Australia, or
    • an acceptable registered translator in the overseas country.  You should contact the Australian mission in the country in which the translation will be conducted for advice on acceptable registered translators.

Each translation must be accompanied by a statement which states “The translated text in this document is an accurate and complete translation of the original document” and should then also contain the translator’s signature, printed name, membership of the relevant accredited translation body (and membership number if applicable) and the date the statement is made.


Step 4: The Application

For application deadlines, click here

*Late applications may be accepted for admission only. Please allow enough time for your application to be assessed (around 6-8 weeks), and - for international students - visa processing and travel times.

Once you have secured a supervisor, developed a research proposal, and prepared your supporting documents, you are ready to lodge your application. Your program needs to be within the same school as your supervisor. You can confirm the correct program code with your supervisor, Postgraduate Coordinator or by referring to the UNSW handbook. Please only submit one application.

Students will apply for our main scholarship rounds within the online application, on the "Research/HDR Scholarship" page.  Only open rounds are available. Please choose the appropriate scholarship round and/or MOU. Students who are applying for the main scholarship rounds will be considered for all available scholarships within that round. Applicants need to meet the University English Requirements Policy in order to be considered for a scholarship. Please ensure you check the scholarship deadlines - click here.

All applicants must apply online here. Applications, once submitted, cannot be changed. Please only submit one application. 

Students who have previously applied for admission and wish to be considered for a scholarship will be required to apply separately for the appropriate scholarship round. You will need to contact the Graduate Research School for instructions on how to apply.

Step 5: After the application

Application Tracking Service and Acknowledgement

Upon submitting your online application, you will be presented with an application number beginning with ‘W’ – this indicates that your application has been successfully lodged.  The application will take 2-3 working days to be processed in the system, after which time you will then be emailed a confirmation receipt with your UNSW Student ID and a list of any outstanding documentation. This will be an ID specific to you, and you should quote the ID in all future correspondence with the University.

Once you have your ID, an online application tracking service is available for prospective students through myUNSW. Within this tracking system you will be able to view an up to date document checklist. Once you submit documents either through the online application or the application tracking, the Graduate Research School will check these and update the document status in the tracking system. Please ensure you check application tracking to ensure you have correctly submitted all relevant documentation for the application to be processed. 

For an introduction to this service and for more information about logging on, please click here

It is usual for all admission applications to take 6-8 weeks to be processed. We will contact Schools and Faculties on your behalf if the assessment process is longer than this.

If you have applied for a scholarship, the scholarship outcome will be released separately. For scholarship offer release dates please click here.

Step 6: Accept your Offer

Successful applicants will be sent an offer of admission. 

Successful applicants may receive 2 types of offers:

  • If students have not yet fulfilled all requirements of admission, a conditional offer may be sent to them. Students who receive these are not able to accept, or receive a Confirmation of Enrolment (International students only), however can defer or decline their offer by emailing the Admissions and Scholarships team.
  • Students with unconditional offers can accept, defer or decline their offer online through myUNSW.*

The offer letter will answer most questions that might arise. Please ensure that you read the offer letter in its entirety, before accepting the offer.

*For International Students:

  • If you are being sponsored by an external party, complete the reply form in your offer of admission letter, complete the International Sponsored Student Agreement form, and return them along with the Financial Guarantee electronically to the Graduate Research School. Please note, if you have applied for UNSW scholarship, you are not considered sponsored.
  • If you have applied for a UNSW scholarship, you may wait for the scholarship outcome before accepting the admission offer. You must complete the reply form of both the admission and scholarship offers to accept – do not complete the online acceptance.
  • Once you have accepted the offer and either paid the deposit or submitted your sponsorship/scholarship information, it will take up to 5 working days to create and release your Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE). Once you receive this, you can apply for your visa.

Step 7: Enrolling

All candidates who have accepted their offer of admission into a research program at UNSW need to enrol before commencing study. After accepting your offer, you will be emailed further information on the enrolment procedure. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are enrolled at the start of every semester and that your enrolment is correct.

Full-time enrolment in a higher degree research program is on the basis of at least 35-40 hours per week, 48 weeks per year (candidates can take up to 4 weeks holiday)

Part-time enrolment in a higher degree research program is on the basis of at least 15-20 hours per week, 48 weeks per year (candidates can take up to 4 weeks holiday)

To successfully enrol as a Higher Degree Research Candidate at UNSW you will need to:

  • Follow enrolment instructions (see Related Documents) 
  • Collect your enrolment form from your School Office on the specified day/time
  • Complete your enrolment form and have it approved by your School.  UNSW Scholarship recipients should have their Commencement of Study form (last page of the scholarship offer) signed by their supervisor at the same time.
  • Return your enrolment and Commencement of Study forms to the Graduate Research School.  Art & Design students should submit the enrolment form to the Paddington Campus.
  • Login to your student profile at myUNSW to view your statement
  • Pay any fees owed – failure to do this will result in the cancellation of your enrolment. International students in receipt of a UNSW scholarship which covers tuition will have their fees paid just before census date.
  • Regularly check your student email for important information

Postgraduate Research Students are unable to enrol online


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