University of Sydney Handbooks - 2017 Archive

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Doctor of Philosophy

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is a research degree awarded for a thesis considered to be a substantially original contribution to the subject concerned. The Doctor of Philosophy is offered in all faculties of the University and is governed by the resolutions of the Senate and the Academic Board of the University of Sydney for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The normal minimum period of candidature is six full-time semesters (or the part-time equivalent), while the normal maximum length of full-time PhD candidature is eight semesters. Full-time candidates for research degrees do not keep to the normal semesters but work continuously throughout the year except for a period of four weeks’ annual recreation leave.

For the rules and guidelines pertaining to the degree and candidature, students should refer to the following:

The most recent versions of these rules are found the Policy Register

Additional information can also be found in the Graduate Studies handbook.

PhD candidature at the Conservatorium

At the Conservatorium candidates may undertake supervised research in composition, ethnomusicology, music education, musicology, performance, applied and interdisciplinary research.

On completion of a course of advanced study and research, candidates present the results of the work undertaken for examination in a thesis that demonstrates an original contribution to knowledge, and forms a cohesive and unified whole. The thesis shall be either:

  1. a thesis that represents a sustained investigation of a single topic
  2. a thesis comprising a dissertation that includes a critical and appropriate historical and theoretical discussion plus a substantial body of creative work.

The normal upper limit of a PhD thesis is 80,000 words (not including appendices). This may be exceeded with the permission of the Conservatorium Research Committee; however, the absolute upper limit is 100,000 words. In the case of option 2, the normal upper limit will be the equivalent of 80,000 words; the proportion of creative work and dissertation components may vary and in cases where the two components are of equal weight, the dissertation will be no more than 40,000 words.

Some coursework may be required during the candidature but this is not a major component. Candidates are normally expected to present and discuss their research in an appropriate seminar each year. The University’s rules of Annual Review and progression apply.


The minimum admission requirement for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the possession of a relevant master’s degree or a relevant bachelor’s degree with first or upper second class honours. Alternatively, an applicant may be admitted having passed a qualifying examination at a standard equivalent to the bachelor’s degree with first or upper second class honours. This qualifying examination could be completion of a period of advanced study and research towards a relevant master’s degree at the University of Sydney, at such a standard as would demonstrate to the satisfaction of the faculty that the candidate is suitably prepared in the particular field of study to undertake candidature for a PhD. See University of Sydney (Higher Degree by Research) Rule 2011

In addition to these academic requirements, the Conservatorium must be satisfied that your proposed course of advanced study and research is appropriate and acceptable to the faculty; that you have in addition to the academic qualifications the necessary training and ability to pursue the proposed course of study and research; and that there are sufficient supervisory and other resources and facilities available to enable your candidature to be completed successfully.

Faculties are particularly concerned to ensure before admission to PhD candidature that there is the likelihood of a successful outcome. At the Conservatorium admission to candidature involves the acceptance of a research proposal presented as part of the application. This proposal needs to be 1500 to 2000 words in length with additional bibliography, and should include at least the following:

  • identification of the topic
  • an introductory literature review
  • an outline of the research program and a rough schedule for the research.

Following admission, PhD candidature is probationary for the first 12 months of enrolment.

Language requirements

An IELTS level of 7.0 with no component below 6.5 is required for entry to PhD candidature.

How to apply

Intending candidates should refer to the admission and degree requirements in the University of Sydney Calendar and the University of Sydney Postgraduate Studies Handbook. They should discuss their application and intended research with the chair of the relevant unit and the Associate Dean (Research). Research Supervisor Connect provides information on supervisors and their research fields.