The Doctor of Philosophy(PhD degree programs within the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences provide the highest level of training in key areas of scientific research. These programs allow you to work on an independent research project. You’ll get the chance to produce a thesis that demonstrates a significant and original contribution to knowledge in your chosen field of study.

PhD programs equip you with advanced specialist training in research. By completing a thesis, you’ll develop independent thought, skills in critical analysis and expert knowledge of a discipline in an international context. All Doctor of Philosophy degrees require between three and four years of full-time equivalent study and completion of a written thesis. The length of a doctoral thesis varies, but generally, it’s limited to 100,000 words.

During your research, you must make a distinct contribution to the knowledge within their specific discipline, often concurrently resulting in the publication of original research findings. These finding can be published in a peer-reviewed journal of international standing. The final thesis examination is conducted by independent members of the Australian and international scientific academic community.

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The minimum requirement for admission to a PhD includes:

  • An appropriate UNSW bachelor degree with upper second class honours; or
  • A completed Masters by Research from UNSW with a substantial research component and demonstrated capacity for timely completion of a high-quality research thesis; or
  • An equivalent qualification from a tertiary institution as determined by the Faculty Higher Degree Committee (HDC)

The minimum requirement for a UNSW scholarship with admission to a PhD include:

  • A four-year bachelor degree with honours class from an Australian institution or equivalent research qualification experience. This qualification must be awarded in a field relevant to the proposed area of research

Supervisor Approval

Before you apply, you must contact and receive approval to apply from an academic research staff member of UNSW Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences to be as a primary supervisor. Our School does not determine potential supervision or approve for you to apply via general expressions of interest. It’s your responsibility to contact potential primary supervisors independently. Available and eligible BEES Supervisors are listed on the Find a Supervisor page.

Once you identify a potential primary supervisor, you must participate in a pre-admission interview. This interview can be conducted either face-to-face or via online video conference call (through Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or other messaging services). The purpose of this interview is to determine whether your research interests and working style are compatible with those of your potential supervisor. It will give you the chance to discuss your proposed research project. It will also allow your potential supervisor to explain their supervisory philosophy and determine whether they have the resources to supervise your project.

Once supervision is confirmed, you’ll need to develop a research description and fulfil any additional Faculty requirements before submitting an application for admission.

Your research description should be approximately one page in length and include the following:

  • Title of your research project
  • Statement of the research problem and its significance
  • Outline of how you plan to address the problem
  • Details of any previous research and/or publications you’ve undertaken in your area of interest (if available)

Note that further checks on appropriate supervision and resources will be completed during the assessment process. Approval to apply does not guarantee an offer.

English Requirements

All applicants, whether domestic or international, must provide evidence that their English language ability meets the minimum UNSW English Language Requirements.

Fees, Costs & Financial Details

The costs associated with enrolment in a research higher degree program vary depending on whether you’re a domestic or international candidate. Learn more about the fees and costs associated with your preferred higher degree research program at UNSW Fees and Costs.

All applicants, whether domestic or international, must complete a Financial Declaration Form. You may also be required to submit evidence of capacity to fund all living costs, fees and other associated costs. As an applicant to UNSW, you must demonstrate that you can financially support yourself (and any dependants) for the duration of your studies and, if an international applicant, that you’re a Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE). This may be through applying for a UNSW Research Scholarship, an alternative scholarship or sponsorship (provided by a source external to UNSW) or through self-funding.

Learn more about Scholarship application deadlines at  UNSW Key Dates.

Submit an Application

Once you have secured a supervisor, held your interview, developed a research description and prepared your supporting documents, you’re ready to lodge your application. Only full applications (i.e. with all required documents) will be processed for assessment. 

If you wish to be considered for a scholarship, simply indicate this on the application form and select the applicable scholarship round for your preferred term start date.