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Curtin University
Office of Research & Development

Guidelines for research students

Admission

Entry requirements for doctoral and master research degrees

A higher degree by research differs from other postgraduate degrees in that at least two-thirds of the study program must involve research. Although Heads of Enrolling Areas may require some coursework units to be completed, the main part of the work will be in the form of a thesis written under the guidance of a supervisor and associate supervisor(s).

Applications for admission to a doctoral or master higher degree by research program can be made at any time of the year. View a full list of research courses via the Courses Handbook.

All applicants who are not citizens of Australia or New Zealand or permanent residents of Australia are classified as international applicants and are required to pay fees for the duration of the research program. Information for international applicants is available on the Future International Students website.

As an Australian or New Zealand prospective research student, you should make initial contact with your Head of Enrolling Area or Postgraduate Coordinator (see Contact us page) in the enrolling area most relevant to your area of study and/or a staff member who may be willing to act as your supervisor. This contact may be made in person or in writing. If you are an international applicant and are unsure which enrolling area to contact, or have other issues relating to international study, you should contact the International Office.

If you also wish to apply for a scholarship, see the Scholarships section on this page.

Entry requirements - Doctor of Philosophy and other doctoral research degrees

Curtin offers several doctoral research degrees, including the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Doctoral research degree candidates should uncover new knowledge either by the discovery of new facts, the formulation of theories or the innovative re-interpretation of known data and established ideas.

The thesis research will be a program which is practically oriented and useful in developing an effective understanding, providing for the application of solutions to real world problems.

Subject to and in accordance with Curtin's Rule 10: Degree of doctor by Research, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree shall be awarded for a thesis as defined in the Rules or a combination of a thesis and coursework in which the coursework component does not exceed one-third of the total doctoral degree program. In all cases the thesis must in the opinion of the examiners be a substantial original contribution to the knowledge or understanding of any field of study and demonstrate the capacity of the candidate to conceive, design and carry to completion independent research.

For admission to a doctoral degree program an applicant normally shall have studied for a minimum of four years in a tertiary institution and satisfied the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee that at least one of the following entry requirements has been met:

Entry requirements - master by research degrees

The master (by research) candidate should aim to expand knowledge above that of the undergraduate Honours and/or postgraduate diploma level, and the program shall culminate in a research thesis. Recipients of a master (by research) degree may apply to be considered for entry to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program. Subject to and in accordance with Curtin's Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, a master degree shall be awarded for a thesis as defined in the Rules or a combination of a thesis and coursework in which the coursework component does not exceed one-third of the total doctoral degree program.

For admission to a master degree program an applicant shall satisfy the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee that at least one of the following entry requirements has been met:

General requirements

As an applicant you will need to demonstrate that:

  1. You have studied for a minimum of four years in a tertiary institution;
  2. You meet the eligibility criteria of the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee for the enrolling area in which you propose to study. The Committee will expect you to satisfy at least one of the criteria given in the Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 3;
  3. You and your proposed supervisor have confirmed with the Head of your Enrolling Area that the enrolling area can provide the necessary supervision and facilities required to support your research;
  4. You have reached an appropriate level of proficiency in the English language to complete your research. Applicants from non-English speaking backgrounds must either provide evidence of previous tertiary studies conducted in English, or have received test scores on the listed tests in excess of the minimum standards outlined in the International Office's English Entry Requirements by English Language Test [.pdf - 225 kB].
    At the discretion of the Head of Enrolling Area, you may be required to complete a bridging course in English as a condition of enrolment (see Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(b)(v)). For further information, view information on the English Language Centre site.

At this time, you should also enquire about the facilities which will be made available to you, such as accommodation, access to a telephone, computer, other equipment necessary for your research, after hours access to facilities and so on. See the document outlining essential facilities for higher degree by research students (on-campus [.pdf - 41 kB] or off-campus [.pdf - 42 kB]).

Distance education candidates undertaking research away from campus should also enquire about the means by which they will be maintaining contact with their supervisor(s) and the University, which is likely to include obtaining an email account and establishing electronic access. Be sure to discuss with the enrolling area any other special equipment or facility needs that you may require whilst undertaking your research.

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Scholarships

For information regarding scholarship availability, see the Scholarships website.

Scholarship Forms - Higher Degree by Research

 

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Research Training Scheme (RTS)

Research Training Scheme (RTS) places are allocated to the University by the Commonwealth Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) and all Australian universities must comply with the DIISR guidelines for the RTS. They can only be offered to Australian or New Zealand citizens and permanent residents of Australia. All Australian and New Zealand citizens and permanent residents of Australia are admitted to their HDR program with an RTS place and do not pay tuition fees.

If you are an international student you are required to pay fees according to the nature of your degree. Visit the Future International Students website for more information.

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Industry assistance (sponsorship)

Sponsorship may be available from external organisations under special conditions. This can take the form of free access to resources and facilities, or an industry scholarship, for example, an Australian Postgraduate Award - Industry (APA-I). Further information can also be obtained from your enrolling area and the Scholarships site. Important issues may arise when the external organisation hopes to benefit from your research and/or is your employer or potential employer (see the information on intellectual property in applying for candidacy and information on the confidentiality of thesis in the section on thesis preparation). To find out about the existence of, and conditions applying to, any sponsorship schemes relevant to your program of study, speak to your supervisor or contact your enrolling area's Postgraduate Coordinator.

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Transfer of enrolment

You may also apply for admission to the University if you wish to transfer your higher degree enrolment from another University. To do so you will be required to formally withdraw from enrolment at the other University (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(n)(i-iii)).

Prior to transferring your enrolment, an initial approach should be made to the relevant Head of Enrolling Area regarding the availability of supervision and resources. With the Head of Enrolling Area's approval, you can then continue with the application procedure below. In such cases, the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee may, at its discretion and on the recommendation of the Head of your Enrolling Area, credit you with up to one year candidature for the time you have already spent at the other University (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(n)).

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Enrolment and duration of study

You may undertake a higher degree either as a full-time or part-time candidate. If you choose to enrol part-time you are governed by the Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 4(d). Your type of enrolment will determine the period of time in which you must complete your degree.

If you are a scholarship holder you should check the conditions of your scholarship before enrolling or changing your enrolment, as most scholarships are only available to full-time candidates.

If you are an international applicant, you must satisfy the requirements as set out in your Letter of Offer from the International Office.

*Candidates who change between full-time and part-time enrolment during the course of their program of study should note that one year full-time study is considered equivalent to two years part-time, but that the duration of study must fit into the absolute limits on maximum and minimum periods of enrolment mentioned above. Enrolment is possible beyond this period as overtime and fees may be levied.

Your enrolment in the degree is continuous unless the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee has granted a formal leave of absence. You will be enrolled for future years up until your Funded EFTSL Consumed date. Please note that you must lodge an Application for Leave of Absence [.pdf - 35 kB] form prior to going on leave. If you are a scholarship holder, you will also need to inform the Manager, Scholarships that you are applying for leave and that a leave of absence has been approved. Applications for retrospective leave of absence periods will only be considered in exceptional circumstances (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 4(i)).

Off-campus research

If you intend to reside away from the campus at which you are enrolled you and your supervisor will be required to demonstrate that an appropriate level of contact can be maintained to fulfil the face-to-face contact requirement.

The University may give approval for you to conduct substantial amounts of your research at another organisation. In this case, the University is still responsible for you and is required to ensure that you have adequate support, supervision, training and research freedom. According to the Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 4(e), your Head of Enrolling Area may recommend to the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee that you be permitted to conduct the research at another institution or at other places, particularly where special facilities exist, provided that your Head of Enrolling Area is satisfied that the research can be supervised in a safe and satisfactory manner and that appropriate facilities and infrastructure exist.

Other external activities

Particular conditions regarding employment and/or additional study apply to the various scholarships. You will receive this information as part of the notification of award of scholarship (see the Scholarships site for more details). Students who wish to enrol part-time and who are also employed are governed by Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 4(d). Full-time students wishing to undertake a limited amount of employment may do so with the approval of the Head of Enrolling Area after consultation with their Thesis Committee (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 4(h)).

One particularly important restriction to note is that you are not allowed to be enrolled in another degree or diploma, either at Curtin or any other institution, unless you have obtained approval from the University Graduate Studies Committee (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 4(g)).

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Application for admission

Please visit the Future Researach Students website to apply for admission. Please note that Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(a) requires you to inform the University of all previous tertiary studies that you have undertaken. You must also supply a Resume and a one to two page summary of your proposed research topic (see Guidelines for the Research Proposal). The form and attachments should then be lodged with your Head of Enrolling Area.

The Head of Enrolling Area will review your application to ensure that:

  1. You meet the eligibility criteria of the University, including English competency;
  2. You have adequate training and the ability to pursue the proposed program of study to the required standard;
  3. There is adequate supervision, infrastructure and other resources and facilities available to you; and
  4. Applicants intending to study externally have made adequate arrangements to meet the on-campus/face-to-face contact requirements.

The Head of Enrolling Area will then complete the appropriate section of the form, including the names of the people suggested for your Interim Thesis Committee (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(c)-(f)). This committee must include a Chairperson (who is often the Head of Enrolling Area or the Postgraduate Coordinator) and a supervisor. It may also comprise a co-supervisor and/or one or more Associate supervisors. The Head of Enrolling Area is required to consult with you before nominating the Interim Thesis Committee (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(c)). Please note that the members of this committee will play an important role in helping you complete your program of study, so it is important you play an active role in ensuring the makeup of your Interim Thesis Committee is appropriate to your needs (see the Interim Thesis Committee information in the section on Applying for candidacy).

Your supervisor must be a member of the University Academic staff because, in addition to providing academic support and guidance, the role has administrative responsibilities to the University (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(e)).

A co-supervisor may be a member of University academic staff, an Adjunct Fellow, or an Emeritus Professor of the University who makes a substantial contribution to the candidate's academic support and guidance (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(g)).

Associate supervisors may be internal or external to the University. If the associate supervisor is external he/she must provide (i) a letter to the University indicating their willingness to be involved in your program of study ; and (ii) a Registration of a University Associate, including the Confidentiality and Compliance Agreement [.pdf - 155 kB] form (all of which are included with your application for admission). You may have up to three associate supervisors (Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(f)).

The Head of Enrolling Area will then forward your application form to the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee for consideration of the items detailed in Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(b). This formal application process normally takes 3 - 6 weeks (as the committee will consider your application at its regular/monthly meeting). Once your application has been approved you are deemed to have "Provisional Candidature", which remains until your application for candidacy has been approved.

If you are a permanent resident of Australia, an Australian citizen or a New Zealand citizen and your application is accepted, a Letter of Offer will be sent to you by the Faculty Graduate Studies Officer. Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research and Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research, Section 5(h). Please note that this does not constitute enrolment in the University. In addition to the Letter of Offer, you will be sent any information needed to complete your enrolment and a copy of either Rule 10: Degree of Doctor by Research or Rule 11: Degree of Master by Research.

If your application is unsuccessful, you will be advised by the Secretary of the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee. Please note that your application may have been unsuccessful because the enrolling area does not have adequate facilities or staff available to provide appropriate supervision for the proposed research, and this does not necessarily reflect adversely upon your qualifications or ability to undertake the proposed program of study.

If you are an international applicant, the Letter of Offer and invoice for fees will be mailed to you by the International Office together with a pre-departure Information Guide containing information on tuition fee payment, visa, health insurance and any other special requirements. If your application is unsuccessful, you will be advised by the International Office. Please also see the Frequently asked questions for prospective international students.

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Guidelines for the Research Proposal

Your Application for Admission to a Higher Degree by Research form must be submitted with a summary of your proposed research topic. These following guidelines are designed to assist you with structuring your proposal. You may receive guidance on your proposal from your potential supervisor, but the proposal must be written by you. Please limit your proposal to 2 pages (excluding references).

Abstract/Introduction

Include a brief overview of your proposal describing the research topic/research area in general.

Background/Literature Review

Your research topic needs to be located in its context and background. You should include the motivation for doing your research and how your thesis would fill a gap in the existing literature. In drafting this background, you need to show the theoretical basis of this research, as well as how and why the topic is important and why it is worth researching. This means:

Aims/Objectives

Describe what you intend to accomplish and the questions that your research would address. Detail concise and precise objectives that should follow logically. Objectives are the ultimate deliverables and different types of objectives lead to different types of research methodology and design.

Methodology

Briefly explain how you will conduct your research and address the research questions and objectives.  Discuss the kinds of sources you hope to consult and the methods you will use to extract and process the information you gather. You should refer to an accepted research method or approach. Describe how information will be gathered, analysed and reported.

The methodology section typically might:

Significance

Explain why this topic is worth considering and how this research will contribute to both theory and practice. What will this new knowledge add to the field of knowledge that already exists on this topic?  What new perspective will you bring to the topic? How can your work make a contribution to the field and what is original about what you want to do?

References

Insert the references related to your proposal here using recognised and appropriate international standard of referencing. Normally a minimum of ten key references would be considered acceptable.

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Notification of change of address

If, at any time during your term of study, you change your address, you must notify all areas of the University which have a bearing on your research program.

You will need to notify your Faculty Graduate Studies Officer of your address change.

If you are a scholarship holder, please notify the Manager, Scholarships.

If you are an international student, please notify the International Office.

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