Higher Degree Research

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) is a motivating and successful intellectual environment for Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates. The HDR training program attracts a diverse range of students interested in plants and the broader ecological systems that underpin them. This program has resulted in the Institute's strong reputation as a successful environment for the development of professional researchers by supporting and nurturing a large number of PhD candidates to create a vibrant postgraduate intellectual community.

Applicants will undertake research within the broad areas of:

  • Ecology, biodiversity, and sustainability of terrestrial ecosystems, particularly forests, savannas and grasslands
  • Soil science and molecular microbial ecology including plant-microbe interactions, soil biogeochemistry and ecological genomics
  • Plant-animal interactions, including vertebrate and insect ecology, herbivory and multitrophic interactions
  • Ecology, physiology, biochemistry and genetics underpinning adaptation of plants to a changing environment

Finding a supervisor and the research proposal

As a first step, potential applicants should look through the research profiles of individual academic staff (opens in a new window) to find an appropriate supervisor, as well as the currently funded projects (opens in a new window) to find a suitable fit with your own research ideas.

Approaches to a prospective supervisor (or supervisors) would ideally, within one or two pages, include a research proposal that contains:

  • The research theme/research question
  • Name of the academic(s) with whom you have discussed the project
  • Overview of current research – where is the gap?
  • Methodology
  • Describe all that applies: the type of study, how it will be done, the data collection and data analysis
  • Resource requirements; will you need specialist equipment or field work expenses, for example?
  • Draft timeline
  • Expectations of investigation results; the "so what?" question.

Scholarships

Working with a supervisor through the Hawkesbury Institute allows access to a range of Higher Degree Research scholarship opportunities. We will work with you to identify potential scholarship opportunities. In the first instance, you should contact your proposed supervisor to discuss what opportunities may be available.

It is also advisable that you also look at the University's Research Scholarships page. (opens in a new window)

Some scholarships are available each year through application to the University. These may include:

  • Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA) for domestic students – closing in October each year
  • UWS Postgraduate Research Awards (UWSPRA) for domestic and international students – closing in October each year
  • UWS International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (IPRS) for international students – closing in July each year

Some scholarships are available each year through application to the funding authority. These may include:

  • Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarships for international students – closing July each year

In addition, your proposed supervisor can provide advice on scholarship opportunities that are funded from specific Research & Development organisations, and industry. These applications will require a detailed research proposal that benefits the industry targeted. The Institute is currently working with the following organisations, and will expand to others:

  • Sugar Research Australia
  • Grains Research Development Corporation
  • Cotton Research Development Corporation
  • Australian Wool Innovation
  • Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS)

Top-Ups

Once you have secured a scholarship, the Hawkesbury Institute will work with you to apply for additional funds to support your candidature. These funds may support:

  • the cost of consumables for the project
  • travel
  • additional living allowances (stipends)

Academic Criteria and Assessment

Assessment and selection criteria vary according to the scholarship applied for. Generally, applicants are assessed on the basis of previous academic merit and performance, which must be supported by evidence. These include (but may not be limited to):

  • Grade point average achieved for undergraduate studies;
  • Postgraduate studies and results achieved (Bachelor Honours; Masters by Research; or Masters by Coursework with a research component greater than 25% are considered);
  • The research proposal and how well it meets the research endeavour of the Institute;
  • Supporting evidence including: research output including refereed journal articles, refereed conference proceedings, commercial patents, books or book chapters; relevant industry research experience directly related to, and of benefit to, the proposed area of study; and awards and nominations such as Dean's Medals, University awards, etc

For international applicants, if you cannot provide evidence of undertaking advanced study where the language of instruction was in English, then you must also provide evidence of your English language ability as assessed by an IELTS (Academic) overall score of 6.5 with a minimum 6.0 in each subtest. If this has not been assessed recently you can still lodge your application, but proof that you meet these standards will be required before a full offer of admission is made.

Applicants who are ranked highly will also be contacted by telephone or SKYPE to have a conversation with their proposed supervisor.

How To Apply

You should have a reasonable expectation of success BEFORE you submit an application, ie you can demonstrate success across a range of criteria shown in "Academic Criteria and Assessment".

Once a potential supervisor has been identified and a research proposal has been prepared, you can apply for admission to the PhD program at any time. Please read the information on Western Sydney University's (opens in a new window) site first, and then click "How to Apply".

Australian citizens (domestic students) can apply online – you will find a link at the bottom of the page.

International applicants will also find a link at the bottom of the page which will take you to a paper-based application form (you can not apply for admission using the online program for domestic students). The direct link is here (opens in a new window) and scroll down to "Postgraduate Application Form and Fee Schedule" to apply.

Outcome Of Your Application

Applications may be assessed for admission, a scholarship, and fee relief.

For domestic students the outcome could be:

  • No admission. The Institute is unable to supervise the proposed project, or the application shows a lack of suitable qualifications or experience to meet minimum entry standards into the program;
  • Offer admission and RTS place only. You would fund your own living expenses but receive a Research Training Scheme place as a domestic student (ie no fees). This option is not normally suitable for applicants unless they are well supported financially by independent means;
  • Offer admission and RTS with scholarship secured through one of the programs identified under "Scholarships" or through another funding agency. You would receive a scholarship to meet living expenses, plus a Research Training Scheme place as a domestic student (ie no fees).

For international students the outcome could be:

  • No admission. The Institute is unable to supervise the proposed project, or the application shows a lack of suitable qualifications or experience to meet minimum entry standards into the program;
  • Offer admission only – full fee paying student. You would fund your own living expenses and pay a tuition fee. This option is not normally suitable for applicants unless they are well supported financially by independent means;
  • Offer admission with scholarship. You would receive a scholarship to meet living expenses, but you need to pay a tuition fee;
  • Offer admission with scholarship and fee waiver. You would receive a scholarship to meet living expenses and an international student fee scholarship. These offers are extremely competitive.