UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme

The Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme directly underpins the UNSW Strategy 2025 goals and will enrol up to 700 new PhD scholars of exceptional quality over the next 10 years.

UNSW’s 2025 Strategy states that our aspiration is to be recognised as an international exemplar in equity, diversity and inclusion. Our aim is to achieve this by embracing the diversity and cultural richness of our communities; ensuring that our staff and students can achieve their full potential in a supportive and inclusive work environment. Our diversity commitment aligns to our strong sense of social responsibility and our belief that a diverse workforce enhances our ability to deliver world class research, teaching excellence and thought leadership.  UNSW is committed to admitting and supporting candidates of high potential regardless of background. In particular, we aim to increase the intake and retention of indigenous candidates.

Candidates will be matched with our best researchers in targeted areas of research strength and with demonstrated excellence in supervision. Priority research areas are grouped under UNSW’s areas of research strengths.  Interdisciplinary proposals linking two or more areas of research strength will be encouraged, as will research areas that incorporate engagement with end-users of research (knowledge exchange). Indigenous research areas have also been strongly encouraged. Indigenous applicants are encouraged to apply for any of the research topics listed. 

These prestigious scholarships include a stipend of $40,000 per annum for 4 years and a support package of up to $10,000 per annum awarded to provide support for development activities, international collaboration and other related expenses.

For more information: 



                             Deadline for prospective applicants to contact supervisors regarding support - 11 November 2016


What is the UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme?

The Scholarship Scheme, established as a cornerstone of the UNSW 2025 Strategy, is a distinctive scheme that will attract up to 700 new PhD scholars of exceptional quality over the next ten years.

What is the goal of the Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme?

The Program aims to enhance the culture of research excellence, mentoring, career development, leadership and community, and to have a positive impact on research quality.

What are the benefits of the Scholarship?

Awardees will receive a $40,000 p.a. stipend plus a travel and development support package of up to $10,000 per annum. International students receive a tuition fee scholarship. Scholarship holders will also be able to access to a range of development opportunities across research, teaching and learning and leadership and engagement.

How is the Scientia Scholarship different from other UNSW scholarships?

In contrast to our other prestigious UNSW scholarship schemes, the Scientia scheme is targeted and applicants will apply to a specific research area with an identified supervisory team.  Target research areas are selected by Faculties, and supervision will be chosen from the cohort of highest performing supervisors.

Scientia scholars will have a strong commitment to making a difference in the world with demonstrated potential for contributing to the social engagement and/or global impact pillars of the 2025 Strategy.

A support package is also awarded to provide support for development activities, international collaboration and other related expenses.

Scientia Scholarship holders will take part in an introductory program to facilitate their transition into UNSW and its research excellence culture. All PhD scholars will access up to two planning sessions every year throughout their candidature and follow these up with participation in relevant professional and career development. Scholarship holders will also have a “mentor” as part of their supervisory team.

Are Scientia PhD Scholarships aimed at international applicants?

Both international and domestic applications are strongly encouraged.  The split between domestic and international will be determined solely on excellence and meeting disciplinary and strategic selection criteria.

How many Scientia scholarships are on offer?

700 scholarships will be offered over ten years. In 2017, there will be up to 75 scholarships awarded.

What is the start date for the Scheme and how often are Scientia scholarships advertised?

The Scheme will commence its first successful applicants in 2017, most of whom will likely commence in semester 2. For 2018 and beyond there will be two rounds, one for commencement in each semester.

Will other scholarship offerings still continue at UNSW?

The University’s existing scholarships offerings will still continue at the levels provided in 2016. The only change will be that no further offers for the Research Excellence scholarship scheme will be made from 2017.

What is the role of the SHARP-est committee?

The Strategic Hires and Retention Pathways educational stipend (SHARP-est) Committee supports the Scientia Scholarship scheme and will call for nominations of research areas and supervisors from each Faculty for scholarships for each round of the scheme.  It will approve those research areas and identify supervisors who will be eligible to nominate applicants to be considered for the UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship scheme and ensure that the scheme aligns with the strategic plans of the University.  Its decision-making is founded on collegiate, multi-disciplinary advice and supports strategic diversity goals.  

How are the research areas and the supervisors selected?

Faculties will select targeted research areas to be pursued for each round. Research areas will align with the Faculty and University’s strategic plans. Supervisors will be nominated by Faculties on the basis of their research area and supervisory performance.

The SHARP-est committee will allocate scholarships to priority research areas and themes (as determined by the UNSW 2025 Strategy) and to contribute to UNSW meeting its diversity goals.

In 2017, the priority areas are indigenous, interdisciplinary and knowledge exchange.

How long is each Scientia scholarship?

Each scholarship is awarded for a period of four years full-time equivalent (FTE). No scholarship extensions for overtime study (over 4 years FTE) will be provided.

How do I apply?

Once the application round opens, applicants must contact one of the approved supervisors and discuss whether that supervisor would support an application.  Each supervisor can only shortlist a maximum of two applicants per research area.

Once the supervisors have nominated their applicants, the shortlisted applicants will be provided with a UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship Application Form which must be completed in consultation with the supervisors that they wish to work with.

Will standard leave allowances apply to these Scholarships?

Leave allowances will follow the standard UNSW scholarship guidelines including parental leave of 12 weeks full-time or 24 weeks part-time. Note that part-time enrolment may be permitted on a case by case basis and in these cases, the stipend and allowance will be 50% of the full-time rate.

What are the expectations for Scientia scholars regarding publication and development?

Candidates will be expected to publish their research according to disciplinary norms during their PhD candidature. Wherever possible, journal publications should be pursued. It is expected that the yearly development plan would address the publication strategy the candidate would be pursuing and detail how this will be achieved.

Engagement in at least one national and one international opportunity for presentation of research is required and participation in the Three Minute Thesis competition is also expected. As part of the Scholarship, candidates will be expected to engage in professional and career development.

Can current UNSW PhD candidates apply?

Only new PhD candidates qualifying for direct entry to the PhD will be eligible for entry into the scheme.

What exactly do you mean by mentoring and career development?

A significant part of the Scholarship scheme is that each awardee will be provided with professional and career development. UNSW will support Scientia scholars through personalised development plans and activities. The plan will be used to guide the awardee in their program and allow them to budget the support package provided.  Furthermore, one of the nominated secondary supervisors will act as a mentor with primary responsibility for working with the candidate on refining their development plan.  Access to career coaching will also be provided.  

What can I spend the $10,000 support package on?

The support package is provided to give the candidate support for development activities, international collaboration and other related expenses. As part of the development plan, it is expected that these activities will be planned, fully justified and properly budgeted. It is important to note that the funding is up to $10,000 and only the amount budgeted will be released to the candidate for the coming year.

What will the 4 year plan entail and will I have to complete specific formal courses or programs?

Each scholar will be required to develop a personal 4 year plan with performance targets identified. Development opportunities selected from formal courses, development modules, teaching, industry internships or other identified development opportunities will also be incorporated into the 4 year plan.

What if I do not meet the performance targets during the Scholarship period?

With respect to meeting performance targets in the 4 year plan, careful target setting is a critical part of the mentoring process so providing this is done appropriately there should not be any issue. It is recognised that PhD candidates are on a path of learning and discovery and performance is not always linear. However, like any HDR candidate at UNSW, candidates will be monitored for satisfactory progress and continual poor performance would result in discontinuation.

If you have applied for another prestigious UNSW scholarship, will this preclude you from applying for a Scientia scholarship?

Applicants can only have one active scholarship application at any one time. Those who have been awarded a UNSW scholarship are not permitted to subsequently apply for a Scientia scholarship. However any Scientia applicant who is not successful in securing a Scientia scholarship will be asked if they wish to be considered for UNSW scholarships in the next round.  Depending on the timing of the processes, it may be possible for Faculties to recommend award of an available scholarship to an unsuccessful Scientia applicant during the ranking meeting.

What are UNSW diversity goals in relation to this scheme?

UNSW is committed to admitting and supporting candidates of high potential regardless of background. In particular, we aim to increase the intake and retention of indigenous candidates.