How to apply: Higher Degree by Research (PhD)

Joining the Higher Degree by Research (HDR) PhD program at the School of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) is a 5 step process, and there are a few things to prepare before you commence your application. 

International candidates: please note that the international cycle for study beginning in 2025 has now closed. We anticipate that the next round will occur in early 2025, date to be confirmed. As a result, the School will not assess applications for international students before December 2024. 

This timeline applies to all international students except international students currently in Australia (onshore international students) candidates for/in receipt of an Australian Awards scholarship; candidates who are fully funded by their home governments. If you are in one of these three categories please proceed to submitting an Expression of Interest.

Candidates must complete each of these steps before moving to the next.

  1. Prepare
  2. Initial eligibility check – Expression of Interest
  3. Work with prospective supervisors on research proposal and full application
  4. Submit full application for assessment by the POLSIS HDR Application Committee
  5. Full application assessed by UQ Graduate School.


    Before you apply, there are a few things to consider and to prepare:

    • Read the Graduate School's page about applying for a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) including advice about HDR entry requirements, scholarships and UQ's career development framework. Before you apply, ensure you meet HDR entry requirements.
    • Browse the academic profiles of POLSIS staff to find a supervisor within our School who matches your area of research interest and who has sufficient expertise in your proposed field of PhD research. NB: Do not contact potential supervisors at this point.  Please wait until your application documents have passed an initial eligibility assessment by the POLSIS HDR program DirectorPlease note that current supervision obligations may mean that your chosen supervisor(s) is/are not available and that the school may not be able to proceed with your application on this basis.
    • Write a 3000-5000 word research proposal that outlines your proposed PhD topic, research questions, significance in relation to background literature, proposed methods and approach. Please note that the research proposal is a crucial component of the application process. Students should provide only one research proposal. See below for more information on how to structure your research proposal:

    Research proposal: the following matrix provides an outline of the information that should be clearly communicated.

    Research Question

    What question or hypothesis is your thesis aiming to analyse or test? What question is your thesis trying to answer?


    How is your proposed question or hypothesis significant for your area of research? What makes the project important or original?

    Background Literature

    What is the literature currently saying in relation to your research question or hypothesis? How is your own proposed study positioned in relation to that literature? Are you building on, advancing or contesting aspects of the existing literature?

    Approach and Method

    What theories, methodologies and methods are you proposing to use to investigate your research question or hypothesis?

    First, you need to supply a list of documents so we can assess your eligibility, including a research proposal of between 3000-5000 words.

    Complete our Expression of Interest form which asks for information on the type of application you are lodging and lists the documents that are required so we can assess your eligibility in the School.  The EOI also requires you to nominate two potential supervisors from POLSIS. 

    Send the completed EOI, research proposal and other relevant documents (see list of required documents explained on EOI) by email to the current Director of the HDR Program.

    If the Director of the HDR Program approves your eligibility, you will be invited to move to Step 3.

    Your prospective supervisors will work with you to sharpen your research proposal. They will also arrange for an interview in person or online to discuss the proposal. They might ask you to revise your proposal to reach its fullest potential. The purpose of this process is to ascertain whether or not a PhD student and supervisory team are a good match. Discussion of the proposal does not indicate a firm commitment to supervise a student.

    • NB: Your application may be unsuccessful and declined if you do not respond to requests from your nominated academic supervisor during this stage of the process. 
    • Prospective supervisors will indicate whether or not a proposal can move to the full application stage. With their agreement the candidate then submits a full online application to the Graduate School. 
    • If the proposed supervisor is satisfied with your research proposal, you will be directed to submit a full application, including your research proposal, to the UQ Graduate School.
    • The full online application, including your research proposal and referee reports, will be assessed by a School-based committee. The support of the School-based committee is not a guarantee of a scholarship.

    Finally, your application needs to be approved by the UQ Graduate School.  The process is lengthy and competitive.  To ensure your online application will be considered for a particular scholarship round, please allow sufficient time for POLSIS-led processes before the Graduate School’s online application deadlines.