Higher Degree by Research

Our Graduate Centre is home to a thriving research community. We give you the opportunity to maximise your research potential and take your research further.

We have over 80 PhD candidates working on a range of research projects. View our HDR student profiles.

See theses from our graduates at UQ eSpace.

HDR students in our School Graduate Centre receive a number of benefits including:

  • dedicated and experienced academic staff who are able to supervise across a number of fields
  • postgraduate workshops and dedicated training
  • a dedicated Higher Degrees by Research Liaison Officer.
  • a thriving research culture in one of the world's best schools in the discipline


Download our School HDR Handbook for a full description of support available:


How to apply

Joining the Higher Degree by Research (HDR) program at the School of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) is a 3 step process.

Step 1: First, you need to supply a list of documents (explained below) so we can assess your eligibility.  Only after an initial assessment can you proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Second, you need to attain the support of an academic supervisor at POLSIS who will then put forward your application to the UQ Graduate School.

Step 3: Third, 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.

Below you can see a fuller outline of the procedures we ask you to follow:

  • Find out about applying for a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) including advice about HDR entry requirements, scholarships and UQ's career development framework. 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 director.

  • 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 (see below for more information on how to structure your research proposal).
  • Complete the 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.

  • Please 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.   

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?

If the Director of the HDR Program approves your eligibility, you will be invited to move to Step 2. At this point,

  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.

If the School committee approves your application, you will be invited to move to Step 3. At this point,

  • 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.