Admission overview

Preparing your application

Assuming you have read Steps 1 to 4 on the Future research students page, you are now ready to put together the components required for a higher degree by research application.

In the application for admission, all applicants must:

  1. Inform the University of all previous tertiary studies that have been previously undertaken
  2. Supply a Curriculum Vitae using the HDR CV Template [.pdf – 130kB]
  3. Include a one to two page research proposal which is a summary outlining the proposed research topic
  4. Ensure all documents are uploaded when lodging your e-Application. Applications lodged without supporting documents cannot be assessed.

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 two pages (excluding references).


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:

  • Contextualising the research problem – how does it arise?
  • Referring to core literature currently associated with the topic. What other research has been conducted which has directly or indirectly attempted to address your research questions?


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.


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:

  • refer to an accepted method or approach;
  • highlight problems in developing a suitable approach (methodological issues);
  • describe how information will be generated, analysed and reported.


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?


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.

Other information to consider

Enrolment and duration of study You may undertake a higher degree either as a full-time or part-time candidate. 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.

  • Doctoral degree duration – A full-time doctoral candidate must complete their program of study within a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years of full-time equivalent study*.
  • Master degree duration – A full-time master candidate must complete their program of study within a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years of full-time equivalent study*.

*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. Students extending enrolment beyond this period will be classified 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.  Please note that you must lodge an Application for Leave of Absence form prior to going on leave.  If you are a scholarship holder, you will also need to inform the HDR Scholarships Officer 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.

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.

  • Doctoral degree level of face-to-face contact – This means that face-to-face contact (either in person or using appropriate video technology) with a member of the Thesis Committee (your supervisor, co-supervisor, associate supervisor or Thesis Committee chair) should occur on no less than an average of 10 days each academic year over the period of candidature.  At other times, you must maintain frequent contact with your supervisor, via mail, telephone, fax, email or other means. Under these circumstances the level and means of face-to-face contact should be agreed between the candidate and the Thesis Committee prior to candidacy and reviewed annually as part of the Annual Progress Report process.
  • Master degree level of face-to-face contact – Under these circumstances the level and means of face-to-face contact should be agreed between the candidate and the Thesis Committee prior to candidacy and reviewed annually as part of the Annual Progress Report process.

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.  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 must satisfy the Head of Enrolling Area that they are able to devote the time necessary for the satisfactory completion of the research program within the prescribed time limits.

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 Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research Training.

Transfer of enrolment You may also apply for admission to the University if you wish to transfer your higher degree enrolment with another University. To do so you will be required to formally withdraw from enrolment at the other University.

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.

Admission assessment process An eApplication should be lodged and supplemented with a curriculum vitae and a one or two page summary of your proposed research topic.

The application is then sent to your proposed enrolling area for review.

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

  1. You meet the eligibility criteria of the University, including English language proficiency;
  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 application, including the names of the people suggested for your Interim Thesis Committee.  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. 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 Interim Thesis Committee 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.

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.

Associate supervisors may be internal or external to the University.  You may have up to three associate supervisors. If the associate supervisor is external he/she must provide:

The Head of Enrolling Area will then forward your application form to the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee for consideration. Once your application has been approved, you are deemed to have “Provisional Candidature”, which remains until your application for candidacy has been approved.

Outcome of assessment All applications who submit a complete application are notified of the outcome of assessment. Letters of Offer are issued to successful applicants.

Permanent residents of Australia, Australian citizens and New Zealand citizens

If you are a permanent resident of Australia, an Australian citizen or a New Zealand citizen, once your application has been approved a Letter of Offer will be sent to you by Graduate Research School staff along with any information needed to complete your enrolment.

International applicants

If you are an international applicant, once your application has been approved the Letter of Offer and invoice for fees will be mailed to you by Curtin International together with a pre-departure information guide containing information on tuition fee payment, visa, health insurance and any other special requirements.

Unsuccessful applicants

If your application is unsuccessful, you will be advised by Graduate Research School staff.  Please note that your application may have been unsuccessful because the enrolling area does not have either facilities or staff currently available to provide appropriate supervision for the proposed research.  This does not necessarily reflect adversely upon your qualifications or ability to undertake the proposed program of study.

Get in touch for information about higher degree by research candidacy at Curtin