Why Choose UNSW?

Welcome to UNSW Sydney, and to the first step in your research career.

UNSW is proud to be a university that crosses research boundaries. We are experts in science, social sciences, engineering, built environment and medicine, in professional fields like law and business, and in more traditional spaces like the creative and performing arts and humanities. We also celebrate our interdisciplinary research in areas including grand challenges such as climate change, refugees and migration and inequality. UNSW is steeped in tradition yet focused on innovation, offering degrees in both established and emerging fields to reflect the changing nature of research in Australia. As well as PhDs and research Masters programs, we deliver professional and industry-based doctorates that focus on the application of research in the world beyond academia.

When you join the UNSW research community, you join a passionate collective of people who are using research to transform minds, transform lives, and transform the world. You will become part of a collaborative team in your discipline area, and your outputs will make a valuable contribution to the university’s broader research reputation.

As a UNSW research candidate, you are supported by the Graduate Research School, which exists to guide and champion you at every stage of your degree. We are committed to building tomorrow’s research workforce (that’s you!), and to helping you build the skills, expertise and networks you need to succeed long into the future.

You may think of yourself as a student, but we think of you as a professional researcher in the early stages of a long and vibrant career. Beyond the development of fundamental research skills, you will live and work like a career researcher at every stage of your degree. You can publish, teach or travel; network with or be mentored by high achievers in your field; conduct blue-sky research or apply your knowledge in the world beyond our campus.

Whatever you are passionate about, whatever makes you tick, UNSW has something for you. We look forward to being part of your higher degree research experience.


Young enough to be bold, old enough to know better

UNSW Sydney sits in a unique space among Australian universities. Established in 1949, we walk the line between youth and wisdom: we have built an extensive body of knowledge in more traditional fields, but we are also committed to embracing research excellence in emerging research disciplines. Our motto Scientia Manu et Mente (or Knowledge by hand and mind) remains as relevant today as it was when we were established almost 70 years ago. With our deep commitment to knowledge exchange and our breadth of industry-linked research activities, UNSW Sydney provides exceptional opportunities to our higher degree research (HDR) candidates. 

Our areas of research expertise reflect the diversity of our approach. As a Group of Eight (Go8) university, we offer world-leading programs in fundamental and enabling sciences; next generation materials and technologies; social, government and health policy; law, business and economics; contemporary humanities, and creative arts. As a HDR candidate, the breadth of our approach offers you a chance to engage deeply with your chosen discipline, or to explore the vast opportunities of interdisciplinary research. 


Bigger but better

UNSW Sydney is home to one of the largest postgraduate research programs in the country – we graduate approximately 700 higher degree researchers per year, so we know a thing or two about HDR success. Our current candidate cohort – nearly 4000 in all – make up nearly 50 per cent of the university’s overall research workforce. When you join us, you’ll become part of a vast research community, and play a critical role in UNSW’s research success, from early in your degree.


Eyes on the prize

Our commitment to research excellence is more than just a passing phase. With a growing global profile and a commitment to conducting research that benefits the world, we’ve got big plans in the works as we implement the UNSW 2025 Strategy. These include the expansion of industry PhD programs, a UNSW Innovation Precinct, and our flagship Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme, which will fund up to 700 exceptional new PhD candidates by 2025 to undertake research that makes a difference. We’re focused on delivering the infrastructure, supporting services and academic expertise to transform your university experience – and there’s plenty more to come.


Playing the long game

When you choose UNSW Sydney, you’re choosing the university that prepares you for a research career, not just for a research degree. We think of all our HDR researchers as people who are taking the first steps in a long-term career. We also really value prior industry and government experience, and we’re proactive in supporting our candidates to access professional opportunities while they’re studying with us. Whether you’re pursuing an academic trajectory, or you want to apply your expertise in government or industry, we’ll help you create a tailored research program to prepare you for the future.


Up against the best

All universities brag about their rankings, but we think we’re doing pretty well – in the 2015 Excellence in Research for Australia benchmarking initiative, we achieved the highest possible score (‘well above world standard’) across a broad spread of research areas: Mathematical Sciences; Earth Sciences; Information and Computer Sciences; Engineering; Economics; Commerce, Management and Tourism Services; Psychology and Cognitive Sciences; Law and Legal Studies; Studies in Creative Arts and Writing; History and Archaeology.

We’re ranked 78 globally and 5 in Australia by the THE World University Rankings, 49 globally in the QS World University Rankings, and the top 10 THE Golden Age universities – to name a few. Read more about UNSW rankings.

We’re also leading the field when it comes to our academic staff. Our research teams come from all over the world, so you could wind up working alongside one of the greats in your field. UNSW researchers of note include Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla (Materials Science and Engineering), who has transformed toxic waste into viable new ‘green’ materials; Professor Graham Greenleaf (Law), who drove the development of AustLII and its free access to primary legal materials; and Professor Carla Treloar (Social Research in Health), whose research aims to combat the devastating effects of hepatitis C.

Read more about UNSW’s trailblazers and game-changing researchers.


A coordinated campus

UNSW Sydney’s research facilities are some of the best in the business. From the world-leading Lowy Cancer Research Centre to the Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre, we invest in the latest technologies, spaces and equipment to support research excellence across all disciplines. We’re also ahead of the game in the way we manage our infrastructure. We take a centralised approach that gives all our researchers easy and equitable access to all UNSW facilities. Even – or especially! – as a research candidate, you can get your hands on world-leading instrumentation both within your field and beyond.


A diverse higher degree research community

When you join UNSW Sydney, you join a large and diverse higher degree research community. The graphs below show the number of enrolments in our world-class programs.