Candidature Variation

The Variation of Candidature Procedure, the University policy document which governs this process, is available in the Related Links section of this page.

  • If a candidate wishes to apply for one or more of the variations shown below they should use the Variation to Candidature form available in the related links on the right hand side of this page (See Variation to Candidature form in Related Links)
  • Information on use of the form is available in the Related Documents link on this page (see Related Documents)
  • Scholarship holder should be aware that some variations to candidature may affect their scholarship. Scholarship holders should check their scholarship conditions before lodging an application (see the Scholarships link in the Related Links section)
  • International students should be aware that some candidature variations may affect their visa status. International students should check their visa conditions before lodging an application (see the Department of Immigration and Citizenship link in the Related Links section)

Note - all variations must be approved and processed by the census date each semester in order to be effective for that semester (March 31 for semester 1, August 31 for semester 2)


To access the Variation to Candidature form and lodge a request via the Graduate Research Information System (GRIS) go to:

Variation to Candidature form

Changes to Supervision

Supervisor, secondary supervisor or joint supervisor change

  • During a candidature it may become necessary to change the supervisory arrangements
  • All changes to supervision can only be approved on the recommendation of the School
  • If you are requesting a change involving the supervisor responsible for performing administrative tasks on University systems, you will not be able to lodge further requests until the supervision change request is resolved
  • Such candidatures will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the candidate is not disadvantaged
  • If you cannot locate the supervisor's name from the drop down list when you start typing the new supervisor's name in, please contact the Graduate Research School for assistance
  • Any changes to supervision must be discussed with the candidate and the new supervisor must meet the eligibility requirements for supervisors as defined the Higher Degree Research Supervision Policy see Related Links

Note: if new supervisory arrangements do not meet the requirements of this Policy, compelling reasons must be provided for consideration by the Dean of Graduate Research.

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Research Area change

  • On occasions candidates may need to change the definition of their research area. This may be approved on the recommendation of the School where a change to a different program code is not required. This is usually due to a change in the focus of the research.
  • The University is required to record all changes to a candidate’s research area. Under the terms of the University’s obligations relating to the Government’s Autonomous Sanctions, UNSW is required to monitor the research area of candidates from some countries.

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Transfer between programs

  • A transfer between programs is a major change and may be required due to a large change in the nature of the research, changes to supervisory arrangements or changes within the academic structure of the University
  • All such changes can only be made on the recommendation of the Higher Degree Committee of the Faculty to whom the candidate is transferring. As part of their consideration for such requests the Committee will need to see a request from the student, statements of support from the previous School and the new School, and, if there is also a change of supervision required, statements of support from both the outgoing and incoming Supervisors
  • For international candidates on a student visa, a new e-COE will be issued once the transfer is approved. It is your responsibility to check with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on the requirements for your visa once this is issued (see Related Links)

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Program Leave

Program Leave (less than 2 semesters during candidature)

  • Candidature is recorded in whole semesters.  You may request a period of leave for one semester or, in exceptional circumstances, for two semesters
  • Leave cannot be taken in the first semester of study.If you are unable to enrol and commence your first semester of enrolment you will need to request a deferral of study to the next semester
  • International students who hold a student visa are required to undertake full-time candidature under the terms of their visa. If you are an international student and applying for leave you must provide the reason you are applying for leave and include supporting documentation e.g. medical certificate. If your leave is granted, this will be reported to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Under the conditions of your student visa you may be required to leave Australia for the period of leave from your candidature (see Related Links)

Program Leave (greater than two semesters during candidature)

  • Under the Conditions for Award for all higher degree research degrees at UNSW, candidates are entitled to a maximum of two semesters leave during their candidature. Requests for leave beyond two semesters may only be made in exceptional circumstances and must be recommended by the Higher Degree Committee. Such requests would usually require documentation confirming the exceptional circumstances (e.g. medical certificates).

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Working away from the University


  • During your candidature it may become necessary to undertake fieldwork at locations external to UNSW. All such requests must be supported by the School prior to commencing the fieldwork. The School must ensure that the arrangements meet the University’s Occupational Health and Safety Policy and Facilities & Resources to Support Higher Degree Research Students Guideline (see Related Links)
  • International candidates should check their visa conditions (See Related Links)

Working away from UNSW (less than 1 year)

  • Under the terms of the Conditions of Award candidates must undertake research at an approved UNSW location. Requests to spend time working at locations away from UNSW or a UNSW affiliated centre may be approved at the recommendation of the School. Any request for this requires the support of your supervisor and must include satisfactory arrangements for appropriate continued supervision and contact with the School and University
  • A PhD candidate carrying out some of their research outside Australia must complete a minimum period of candidature within the University, normally equivalent to two semesters during candidature
  • International candidates should check their visa conditions (See Related Links)

Working away from UNSW (greater than 1 year)

  • Please see the general information above relating to working away from UNSW locations.
  • Requests to work away from UNSW for a period greater than one year may only be made in exceptional circumstances and must be considered by the Higher Degree Committee
  • The Committee must be satisfied that the location and period of time away from the University are necessary to the research program. The Committee will require evidence of satisfactory arrangements for Annual Progress Reviews, supervision and resources to support the research

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Changing between full-time and part-time enrolment

  • An applicant requesting to convert to part-time enrolment should submit, with the form, a proposal indicating how 15-20 hours per week commitment to the research will be maintained, and any relationship to planned employment will have on this
  • Part-time candidates are a group at high risk of non-completion usually due to time-management issues and a high likelihood of less than 15 hours per week being spent on the research. For this reason it is important to document how you plan to devote sufficient time to your research
  • International candidates on a student visa are required to be enrolled full-time

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  • If you would like to withdraw from your candidature or your circumstances are such that you are unable to anticipate when you will be able to resume your candidature, you should seek to withdraw from your candidature
  • Should you wish to resume at a later date, you will need to re-apply for admission. Some credit might then be given for work that you had done up to your withdrawal, but you would be commencing as a new candidate. 
  • If you fail to re-enrol, your candidature will be regarded as having lapsed and this may result in your candidature being discontinued

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Overtime re-enrolment

  • If you are given feedback at your Annual Progress Review, or from your supervisor or Postgraduate-Co-ordinator, that you may not be able to complete your thesis with the maximum time of candidature (4 years full-time equivalent for PhD; 2 years full-time equivalent for Masters or MPhil), you need to apply for an extension of your candidature
  • Extensions are granted one semester at a time.  Your supervisor will need to support your application and endorse your plan for completion. Any request for an extension of one semester for enrolment will be made on a case-by-case basis by the Faculty Higher Degree Committee.

Failure to complete within 5 years (PhD) or 2.5 years (Masters) is a serious academic matter and you should not assume that these requests will be automatically approved. 

  • If requesting to re-enrol beyond this point you must attach to the form a two page minimum proposed timetable for completion, discussed with and supported by your supervisor. Your application must explain why you have been unable to complete your research within the extension periods already granted, and should refer to any difficulties that might have been experienced during the candidature as noted in Annual Progress Reviews
  • Requests for extension must be made in advance and not retrospectively and you should therefore lodge an application at least 2 months before the census date prior to the semester in which you are requesting an extension to re-enrol.
  • If you are an international candidate please check your visa conditions as you may also require an extension of your visa

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