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Research Degrees
(MPhil, MRes & PhD)

Australian and New Zealand universities welcome applications from qualified international research candidates.

The process of applying for a PhD or a masters by research in Australia and New Zealand is very different to that of applying for a taught (coursework) programme.

There are two options for applying for research programmes (PhD or a Masters by Research) at a university in either Australia or New Zealand.

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Look for an existing research project that you can apply to join as a PhD student. You can search the database of available projects by following the link below.

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Apply independently. 

At almost all Study Options’ partner universities, you will be required to check what existing research projects and groups are already running within the university; to start up a conversation with a potential academic supervisor and to get their provisional approval for your research proposal, all before you can start working on a formal application for admission. This means identifying the universities and the academics working in the area that you intend to research and making direct contact with relevant individuals to discuss your proposed project.

When you approach academic staff please aim to communicate your research ideas in a concise, well thought through manner – academics receive a large number of requests from potential research students, and (understandably) are only likely to respond positively to those that demonstrate both ability and commitment. Your research proposal does not need to be perfect, or finalised, or even particularly detailed when you first get in touch with an academic, but it does need to provide that person with enough information to decide whether or not your research is something they and their university department have the resources and expertise to supervise.

Study Options can provide support with locating relevant departments and with contacting academic staff. If you would like our help at this stage, please email us a copy of your CV and your proposal. Remember to clearly state any additional requirements or preferences that you have (for example, university or location preferences, or particular field work or facility requirements).

Remember, however, that you will always, inevitably, know more than we do about your proposed field of research. It’s therefore very important that you do your own homework about which Australian or New Zealand universities could be the best fit for you and your research project. Try asking your current tutors or other academic staff or contacts for their opinions on possible destinations for your research work, for example, and check to see which Australia or New Zealand-based academics are publishing or researching in your field of interest, and which universities they are based at.

Funding for research students

Many universities in Australia and New Zealand concentrate the bulk of their international student scholarships on research students, so there are usually funding options available to consider if you want to study a PhD or MRes. At some universities, students who specify within their application that they want to be considered for a research student scholarship are then assessed at the same time as their general application is being assessed, without having to provide any further or specific documentation for the scholarship. At others, however, a separate application is required once an offer to study has been issued.

Please check the requirements of each specific scholarship in plenty of time, and contact Study Options to discuss any details you are unsure of. Most university scholarships have fixed, strict deadlines, so make sure you know what these are, and are working backward from them, before you start the application process. There are also external scholarships available to research students in both Australia and New Zealand. The Costs And Practicalities page  provides information about financing your study in Australia or New Zealand and where to look for scholarships. International PhD students in New Zealand are only required to pay local (domestic) tuition fees, rather than full international rates. This is due to an NZ Government policy that aims to attract talented researchers to NZ, and which reduces costs considerably.

Finding a supervisor

Establishing contact with a potential supervisor can be a time-consuming and often frustrating process, but it is extremely important and worth investing both time and effort in. PhD applications, in particular, are often assessed by a committee of academics – your supervisor is the person who can champion your application through this and other Faculty processes. They are also often great sources of information regarding scholarships and funding and may well be able to tell you about scholarship options that other people within the University are not widely aware of.

Many Australian and New Zealand universities provide a facility on their website that enables students to search for suitable supervisors among their research staff. These search functions are all available from the individual university guideline pages, below.

Once you have established contact with a potential supervisor, the team at Study Options can help you fully with your application forms, document certification and visa applications – please contact us for free assistance when you are ready. Please note that it is essential that you nominate Study Options as your ‘agent’ or ‘representative’ when you make your application – either via the online system or as hard copy. In some cases this nomination requires a representative code – contact Study Options to get this.

If you do not nominate Study Options during your application we cannot provide any of the free support services listed above. If you have any questions about Study Options and how we work with you on your application, please contact us to discuss.