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Minimum standards for entry to the PhD

PhD applicants will be assessed using the criteria described below. The measures include an assessment of an applicant's knowledge of the discipline and evidence of their ability to complete a rigorous research project. Applicants are required to meet the minimum standards described for each of the six criteria listed below. In addition all applicants (internationally and locally qualified) must meet the University's English language entry requirements. Further information is available from the Future Students website.

In exceptional circumstances, the Research Higher Degrees (RHD) Committee may consider for admission a person who does not have qualifications equivalent to a four-year honours degree, if it is satisfied that the person's experience in research and the results of that experience are so outstanding that the person is likely to have the ability to pursue the degree successfully. In such cases, or where the other minimum standards as specified below are not all met, the department (with faculty endorsement) may present a case for admittance, including relevant evidence, to the Chair, RHD Committee.

Normally, the evidence of such equivalence would take the form of a research publication record and/or additional significant research experience that would be equivalent to a fourth year. In the case of a three-year honours degree from the United Kingdom the sponsoring department may also provide evidence about the quality of the institution and the quality of the degree, compared with a four-year honours degree.

Criteria for assessing applicants' eligibility for PhD candidature

Minimum qualifications Applicants are normally required to have completed at least a four-year honours degree at H2A (75–79%) grade from an Australian university, or a qualification or combination of qualifications considered by the RHD Committee to be equivalent. For particular disciplines applicants are also required to complete, at an appropriate level, a Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or a Graduate Record Entry (GRE) test.
Minimum level of academic achievement

Applicants should have achieved an overall H1 (80–100%) or H2A (75–79%) grade in the relevant honours or masters degree.

Applicants who have completed certain professional degrees such as MBBS, MD, BVSc, DVM, LLB, JD, BPhysio, DPT, BDSc, DDS, BEng and MEng will be assessed individually.

Relevance of the degree The completed degree must be in an area that is relevant to the intended PhD, including sufficient specialisation such that the applicant will have already developed an understanding and appreciation of a body of knowledge relevant to the intended PhD.
Evidence of research ability

Applicants are normally required to have completed a research project, component, subject or group of subjects that accounts for at least 25% of their work (ie Honours year), or 25% of one year accumulated over the length of a Masters degree, and which has, or have, been conducted, and assessed, individually. Research carried out in groups should at least have been graded individually. This project, component, or subject(s) may include:

  1. any obviously research oriented project, subject or sustained piece of scholarly writing conducted for assessment, such as small theses, research essays, long essays, or studios; AND/OR
  2. any less-obviously research subjects, including practice-based subjects such as performance or fieldwork, where there is also scholastic rigor as documented in a sustained piece of writing analogous to (a); AND/OR
  3. any subjects directed at the formation of research skills, such as methodology and reasoning, such as scientific reasoning, or legal reasoning, where a sustained piece of writing has also been produced.

Graduates of certain professional degrees at the University of Melbourne, including MBBS, MD, BVSc, DVM, LLB, JD, BPhysio, DPT, BDSc, DDS, BEng and MEng are deemed to have met this requirement.

Currency of applicant's knowledge of the discipline The applicant's degree(s) and/or professional experience must demonstrate that the applicant's knowledge of the discipline in which they plan to undertake their PhD is current. It is therefore expected that an applicant will have completed their tertiary studies and/or any relevant professional experience in the ten years immediately prior to their intended entry to the PhD.
Assessment of suitability Based on interview or other verbal communication, an assessment should be made of the level of understanding, motivation and time commitment of the applicant for the proposed program of study. For example, a full-time candidate would be expected to devote at least 40 hours per week and a part-time candidate about half this.

English language requirements

Applicants must also meet the University's English language entry requirements.

Graduate course fees


The course fees for international students can be found on the University of Melbourne international fees page.

International candidates may apply for a range of scholarships, including full and part-fee remission of course fees. International candidates without a fee remission scholarship are charged tuition fees on a daily pro-rata basis.

Australian and New Zealand citizens and Australian Permanent Residents

PhD degrees are offered on a Research Training Scheme (RTS) basis only. The RTS provides Commonwealth-funded Higher Degree Research (HDR) students with an 'entitlement' to a fee exemption for the duration of an accredited HDR degree. Funding is provided for a maximum of four years full-time (eight years part-time) for a PhD. Local PhD candidates who enrolled before September 2000 remain entitled to a fee exemption for up to five years full-time equivalent study. The University may elect to impose fees on students who wish to remain enrolled after exhausting their entitlement. For more information see the Australian Government's RTS website.

Student Services and Amenities Fee

The Australian Federal parliament passed legislation in 2012, allowing universities to charge students a Student Services and Amenities fee (SSAF). Graduate researchers enrolled in an RTS supported degree (Australian and New Zealand citizens and Australian Permanent Residents) are required to pay this fee annually to maintain their enrolment. The fee amount that is required to be paid will vary depending on enrolment across the full academic year (ie full or part-time enrolment and any planned periods of leave of absence). For more information, see the University's Student Services and Amenities Fee and the Australian Government's SSAF websites.

Residency requirement

All PhD candidates are normally required to complete the equivalent of at least 12 months full-time (24 months part-time) advanced study and research in the University unless studying at an approved outside institution. The RHD Committee will not approve entirely distance supervision or entirely on-line supervision for graduate researchers.

Throughout their candidature candidates are expected to attend the University in order to benefit from planning, conducting and writing up their research within the University community and environment.

The residency requirement is deemed especially important during the period of probationary candidature. During probationary candidature the candidate is expected to interact on a regular basis with supervisors, the department (including staff and other research candidates) and the University to:

  • Build the skills and knowledge necessary to carry out the proposed research program
  • Acquire an understanding of the standards and requirements for a PhD awarded by the University
  • Make use of support programs and facilities provided by the Melbourne School of Graduate Research (MSGR) throughout candidature.

Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) and Melbourne Research Scholarship (MRS) holders will usually live within reasonable commuting distance from campus for the duration of their award. APA and MRS holders are entitled to apply for periods of up to 12 months study away. Refer to the APA/MRS condition booklet.

A candidate undertaking their studies away from the University for any period of time will in most cases be required to apply for approved study away (refer to Study away from the University).

Non-consecutive periods of residency

Under certain circumstances permission will be given to fulfil the residency requirement by means of two or more short periods of residency totalling 12 months full-time (or 24 months part-time). Time spent on approved fieldwork or other off-campus studies for a period of less than three months may be approved by the RHD Committee as part of the minimum period of residency. Application for non-consecutive periods of residency must be made to the RHD Committee and should include a:

  • Statement of reasons for the application
  • Detailed timetable stating how the residency requirement will be met by the combined short periods
  • Letter signed by the supervisor and head of department.

Satisfying the residency requirement by other means

In exceptional circumstances, and where an applicant already has a proven professional background in the area of research, an application may be made to meet the residency requirement by other means. A case may be made to the RHD Committee and must be supported by the nominated supervisors and head of department. Please note applications for meeting the residency requirements by other means will not be approved automatically. The application should include:

  • Capabilities of the applicant, details of proven research skills and professional background
  • A statement of commitment to attend the University for face-to-face meetings with the supervisor and meet other expectations as identified at least at commencement, at six months, at 12 months and annually thereafter (refer to Recommended minimum attendance expectations below)
  • A plan detailing the commitment and agreed upon attendance expectations.
Recommended minimum attendance expectations

Candidates who have been approved to meet the residency requirements by other means should still attend the University at regular intervals, as follows:

  • At commencement the candidate and principal supervisor will clarify expectations, including planned supervisor meeting frequency and communication strategy. It is strongly recommended that candidates and supervisors complete the Checklist for Research Students and their Supervisors – Research Integrity and the Responsible Conduct of Research.
  • At six months progress will be reviewed
  • At 12 months the candidate will give a presentation for confirmation of candidature and attend the Confirmation Committee meeting
  • Annual visits thereafter will include a presentation in the department
  • Before thesis submission the candidate will present at their Completion Seminar in the department.

The above face-to-face intervals are a minimum only and these meetings need to take place in the department. Meeting the attendance requirements and other expectations will be a hurdle requirement for confirmation of candidature. All other attendance must be monitored and signed off by the advisory committee for progress reporting. Documentation of visits must be maintained and recorded appropriately. Refer to these sections that are relevant to the residency requirement:

Applicants based at approved outside institutions

Candidates may be permitted to base their research entirely at certain approved research institutions. Candidates based at an outside institution must report on their progress to the RHD Committee through the department in which they are enrolled, and take part in graduate seminars and other activities, as required by the department.

Departments should refer to Appendix A, section F. Candidates based at outside institutions for the following important information:

Expected time commitment

A PhD program at the University of Melbourne is a demanding undertaking requiring performance to the full extent of the candidate's ability. It is therefore expected to be a full-time commitment (at least 40 hours per week) unless enrolment is part-time in which case the expected time commitment is at least 20 hours per week. In some instances, the candidate in consultation with their supervisors and head of department might determine that additional coursework subjects will assist in their PhD research program (refer to Enrolment in additional subjects, courses and degrees).

Part-time candidature

An applicant for admission as a part-time candidate must satisfy the head of department and supervisors that adequate time is available to devote to their PhD work (at least 20 hours per week) and to maintain regular contact with the supervisors and the department. Periods of probationary and confirmed candidature for part-time candidates are twice those set for full-time candidates. Part-time APA/MRS scholarships are available only to applicants who can demonstrate compelling social reasons for part-time study. International students on student visas can generally only be enrolled at a full-time study rate (refer to Change in study rate between full and part-time).

Enrolment in other courses concurrent with the PhD

In accordance with University policy Doctor of Philosophy: Rules of the Academic Board, PhD candidates may not concurrently undertake study towards any other award at the University or elsewhere without prior approval by their head of department and the Chair of the RHD Committee. Concurrent enrolment will only be approved in exceptional circumstances and is not normally approved for full-time PhD candidates. Refer to Enrolment in additional subjects, courses and degrees.

Employment restrictions

Full-time candidates

Professional development is considered an integral part of the PhD training program, and might include tutoring or demonstrating. The University of Melbourne does not stipulate the maximum hours to be worked, but recommends, as a guide, that more than six hours per week across the year, during normal working hours would be undesirable. Where sessional teaching is undertaken, it should be understood that the initial tutorial will include two hours of preparation and marking. Repeat tutorials involve one additional hour.

No other commitments should impact on the time commitment to the PhD program. It is the responsibility of the supervisors, head of department and candidate to ensure that paid work will not jeopardise the completion of the degree of study in the time allowed.

Research assistants

Full-time research assistants within the University of Melbourne may enrol in the PhD part-time if their nominated supervisor(s) provide a statement with the application form covering the following points:

  • That the candidate would have sufficient time to undertake independent research towards their PhD
  • The relationship of the proposed thesis research to the applicant's employment, bearing in mind the independent nature of PhD research
  • That the candidate would complete the program in the required time.
PhD candidates freed by employers for full-time research

Eligible applicants for PhD candidature who are in full-time employment must satisfy the head of department and supervisor, by way of confirmation in writing from their employer, that the following conditions can be met:

  • The complete freedom of the candidate from all duties other than research for the degree, including attendance at the candidate's normal place of employment
  • The vesting in the University of power to regulate all aspects of the candidature.

Application procedures

For information on the current application process, requirements and links to faculty pages please visit Future Students.

Applicants for PhD candidature should contact their prospective faculty or graduate school and/or academic school or department prior to submitting a formal application. Each faculty or graduate school may have additional or differing entry requirements. The department's research activities and potential supervisors who are qualified and available to accept PhD candidates for supervision, will be considered as part of the department's selection process.

An applicant must meet the entry requirements and the application must be approved by the supervisors, head of department, dean of faculty and the Chair of the RHD Committee. The official letter of offer will contain advice on enrolment procedures (refer to Enrolment).

Joint department applicants

Cross-disciplinary research applicants may apply for joint enrolment in more than one department. Applicants should indicate this by listing each department/school on their application. Supervisors, heads of departments and deans of faculty in each proposed department/school must approve the application.

Applications for a jointly-awarded PhD program

Under the jointly-awarded PhD program candidates are supervised jointly by academics from the University of Melbourne and a nominated partner institution, spending at least 30% of the total time limit (or one year) in each university. Each candidate's program takes place under a reciprocal agreement between the two institutions, which sets out the terms for joint supervision and examination. The candidate pays fees at one institution only. Jointly-awarded arrangements are part of an ongoing or developing cooperative research collaboration between a department or research group in this University and a partner institute.

Before a jointly-awarded PhD program can be approved, an applicant must be approved as an eligible candidate for the PhD degree. Applicants must also complete the Agreement for a Jointly-Awarded PhD Degree form.

Transfer from masters by research candidature

Candidates who are enrolled in masters by research at this University and who are qualified for admission to the PhD program may apply to transfer to PhD candidature. A current incomplete masters or doctorate degree normally cannot contribute to meeting the eligibility requirements for admission to the PhD.

Some PhD programs have compulsory coursework components and masters by research candidates are advised to check with their faculty and department for any conversion conditions and requirements. The University Handbook entry for the relevant PhD degree includes any compulsory coursework components.

Candidates are encouraged to apply within six to 12 months of masters candidature and must lodge an Application for Conversion from Other Research Higher Degree Candidature to the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. This can be done with your proposed faculty or graduate school.

Candidates who have completed six months or more of research for a masters by research may be admitted to confirmed PhD candidature. Candidates are required to undertake the same confirmation process as probationary PhD candidates (refer to Probationary status and confirmation of candidature).

The PhD candidature will normally be regarded as a continuation of the same program of study, and the PhD commencement date will be backdated to the commencement date of the masters degree. International masters candidates should check that their visa and sponsored funding arrangements do not impose any restrictions on undertaking a PhD.

International masters candidates should check that their visa and sponsored funding arrangements do not impose any restrictions on undertaking a PhD.

Transfer of PhD candidature from another institution

PhD candidates at other institutions who wish to transfer their candidature to the University of Melbourne must satisfy all the requirements for undertaking a PhD at this University. Candidates apply by completing the application from available from the Future Students website.

Departments may make a case on an individual basis for the probationary period to be reduced, or recommend admittance into confirmed candidature, on the basis of work completed at another institution. Normally, the residency requirement of one year full-time would still be imposed (refer to Residency requirement).

Under the provisions of the RTS (refer to Australian and New Zealand citizens and Australian permanent residents), Commonwealth-funded candidates transferring their candidature from another Australian university are required to have the time they were enrolled at their previous university included in the maximum time available, up to a maximum period of four years full-time or eight years part-time equivalent study for a PhD (refer to Period of candidature).

The University of Melbourne allows a maximum term of PhD candidature of three years (for full-time candidates). If necessary, candidates may apply for a maximum of two extensions of six months. Part-time candidates have a maximum term of candidature of six years, and may apply for a maximum of two twelve-month (part-time) extensions. Further extensions beyond four years will only be granted in exceptional circumstances (refer to Extension to period of candidature). The University may elect to impose fees on candidates who have exhausted their entitlement. The University may also deduct prior candidature of international fee paying higher degree research candidates transferring from another Australian university from the maximum time available.

Police checks

Organisations which host clinical placements or field experience may require candidates to have obtained a police record check regarding their suitability to undertake such placements. Applicants and enrolled candidates are advised that they may be required to obtain and pay for a police check prior to undertaking clinical placements or research in their degree. Applicants and candidates who anticipate they may need to obtain a police record check for their research project should seek advice from their supervisor or from their school or faculty at the earliest possible time.