Frequently asked questions about applying for Higher Degree by Research programs

What do I do first?

On the Federation University home page, on the blue header bar hover the cursor on the word ‘Research’.

See the drop down menu? Go to the fourth column titled: ‘Research Centres and networks, and look at what research is on offer, also see the School research groups and CRC Research to ensure your intended area of study can be supported.

Next, go to the second column titled: ‘Study with us’. The Apply Higher Degree by Research offers information on verifying your eligibility, and a step by step guide on how to apply for candidature, and a check-list to ensure you know what supporting evidence is required to support and progress your application.

International applicants must check out the ‘Information for international applicants’ which covers information on eligibility requirements for candidature/scholarship, English proficiency standards etc.

Who do I contact for further information?

Email with your questions, and a member of our Graduate Research School team will respond to your enquiry.

How do I identify a suitable supervisor?

If you have not already made contact with a prospective supervisor via the Federation University research website, upon receipt of an eligible application the relevant School will assist in this process.

What forms do I need to fill out?

After determining you meet the eligibility requirements, and have read all other relevant website information under Apply. Submit the completed application and all requested supporting documentation to the Graduate Research School for evaluation and assessment via the online portal:

Domestic applicants should complete the HDR Application for Admission

International applicants should apply using the StudyLink Connect application system.

If applying for any scholarship, ensure you mark this detail on the application for admission form where indicated, and which scholarship type you are applying for, to ensure you will be assessed for that scholarship.

Applicants applying for scholarship, will also need to complete the relevant scholarship application form, available from the co-funded industry scholarship website, in addition to the candidature application form. Check-lists are provided at the end of these forms to assist you in supplying all requested information to progress your application through the assessment process.

When will I know the outcome?

If you are applying for scholarship in the annual round that closes on 31 October each year, you will be advised of the outcome of your application prior to the Christmas close down in the final week of December.

At other times of the year, applicants applying for candidature with an RTP fee offset scholarship, should receive notice of the outcome of their application within six weeks.

Applicants applying for scholarship, will find individual information related to that scholarship opportunity on the co-funded industry website.

What is the tuition fee cost for higher degree by research programs at Federation University?

The tuition fee cost for postgraduate HDR programs will vary depending on the discipline you intend to research, and whether you are a domestic or international candidate. Current information regarding fees can be found at Fees.

For domestic applicants, locate the heading: ‘Fee-paying place’, then go to the current year of ‘Higher Education Domestic Postgraduate Tuition fees’ all costs are listed by school, then by program.

For international applicants, locate the heading ‘International students’, then access the year matrix. Note that this matrix is grouped by Undergraduate, Postgraduate Coursework and Higher degrees by research, so check carefully for the Higher Degrees by Research programs:

What financial support is available to undertake an HDR program?

The Australian Government provides funding for scholarships - See questions 8, 9, 10, 11 and 22 for details.

Externally funded and Co-funded Industry scholarships are offered during the year in specific research areas. See Scholarships for current opportunities.

For Australian domestic and permanent residents or New Zealand citizens, who are successful in obtaining an ‘externally funded’ or ‘Co-funded Industry stipend scholarship’, they will be automatically awarded an RTP Fee Offset Scholarship in addition to their stipend award.

For International applicants who are successful in obtaining an externally funded or Co-funded industry stipend award, their School may apply to the Graduate Research School for University funded tuition–fee waiver support.

What is Research Training Program (RTP) funding?

RTP funding is an Australian Government scheme, administered individually by universities according to stringent audit requirements, on behalf of the Department of Education and Training. RTP provides funding for higher degree by research candidates undertaking postgraduate study by research in either:

  • Master by Research
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Section 1.6.1 of the rules states applicants can be offered RTP scholarships for one or more of the following:

  • tuition fees offset
  • stipend for general living costs
  • allowances related to the ancillary cost of research degrees.

Who is eligible for a Research Training Scheme (RTP) Scholarship?

Due to the Government regulated funding limit of 10 per cent on the amount of allocated RTP funding that can be used to support overseas students, currently to be eligible for an RTP funded place at Federation University Australia, applicants must be either:

  • an Australian citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident, or
  • New Zealand citizen

Eligible applicants who are awarded a stipend scholarship will automatically receive an RTP fee offset scholarship.

When are RTP funded Tuition fee Scholarships allocated?

Applications for Higher Degree by Research candidature supported by an RTP Tuition Fee Offset Scholarship are available all year round. (Conditions apply – See information for international applicants)

If granted an RTP funded tuition fee place, the awardee will not be required to pay up-front tuition fees, nor will they accrue a ’Commonwealth Supported Place debt’ (formerly called a HECS debt) for the stated duration of the course. However, HDR candidates whose RTP funded term has expired, without submission of their thesis may be required to pay the full tuition fee until they have submitted their thesis, in order to complete their program

RTP funding covers the effective full time duration of the course (EFTSL: Effective Full Time Study Load), or equivalent part-time study load. Three years is the funded term for Doctoral (PhD) candidature at Federation. Any request for an RTP funded extension, is at the discretion of the University.

Two years is the maximum funded term for the Masters by Research. No further funding extension apply.

When are RTP funded Stipend Scholarships allocated?

The RTP funded stipend scholarships open for application on 1 September and close on the 31 October each year.

RTP funded stipend recipients receive an annual allowance paid on a fortnightly basis, to assist with general living costs. The RTP stipend rate is updated every year in line with CPI increases (Consumer Price Index).

All new candidates awarded RTP stipend scholarships will receive the minimum annual RTP stipend rate from 1 January of the next calendar year, unless the student has commences later during the following year, suspended their enrolment to a later date, or terminated in that year (refer section 1.6.10 and 1.6.45 of the regulations).

The stipend rate is available on the Research Training Program web page.

Applications for RTP stipend scholarships and HDR candidature must be applied for between 1 September and 31 October each year. Applicants unsuccessful in receiving a stipend award, may still be eligible for tuition fee offset support. International candidates must refer to the ‘Information for International Applicants, due to their specific visa requirements.

What is EFTSL?

EFTSL is an acronym for Effective Full-Time Study Load. Full-time study is considered to be 30-32 hours or four full days devoted to your specific research program.

Part-time study load in post graduate research, is expected to be a minimum of two days per week. This is sometimes referred to as .5 EFTSL, or half-time study load.

Note: It is a visa requirement that all international applicants must maintain full-time EFTSL, or study load of 4 effective full days. Only domestic candidates may elect to study part-time.


Applicants from non-English speaking countries must demonstrate English language proficiency by achieving the required score in one of the following formal tests of English language proficiency:

  • IELTS (International Language Testing System) minimum score of 6.5 with no band less than 6.0
  • TOEFL (American test of English as a Foreign Language) minimum score of 580 plus a TWE (Test of Written English) a score of 5.0
  • TOEFL computer-based minimum score of 237 plus a minimum score of 22 in writing
  • TOEFL internet-based minimum score of 92-93 plus a minimum score of 22 in writing


  • Under exceptional circumstances, applying formally for an exemption from being required to provide an IELTS or TOEFL score based on supporting evidence sufficient to validate the claim.

For further information, please refer to Check your eligibility.

What is honours equivalence?

Applicants without honours or masters by research qualifications will be required to provide supplementary information to support their application into the research program. This is referred to as honours equivalency.

To build a case for honours equivalency, the applicant will need to demonstrate that they have previously undertaken research and generated outputs at an honours level standard in terms of both quantity and quality. This will require the applicant to have;

  • undertaken research or research-related activity for approximately 6 to 9 months full-time or part-time equivalent as evidenced by exhibitions of creative work or peer-reviewed publications or reports; or
  • undertaken research as part of a coursework masters.

The research produced must be at an equivalent level to a first or second class honours (upper division) with publications or a minor thesis of at least 15,000 words and other supporting activity.

For further information, please refer to the honours equivalence web page.

What is an academic transcript?

An academic transcript is an official document from the awarding university/institution, showing results and information about your degree (including the proportion of any research (thesis/methods) components).

When can I commence my research candidature?

HDR candidates are able to commence study at any time throughout the calendar year, as undergraduate semester time-frames and term breaks do not apply to HDR candidates.

Note: HDR candidates receive 20 days annual leave per year, and may apply for leave from studies, should a longer period of leave from their research be required.

I did not get a scholarship, but can I still enrol in HDR candidature?

Enrolments into HDR candidature are accepted year round. Should you have applied for a stipend scholarship and not been successful in this round, you may request to have your application for candidature considered and commence in the New Year. RTP funded tuition places are available for successful Australian domestic, permanent residents and New Zealand citizens, year round. Having commenced candidature, you may apply for a stipend award in the next scholarship round.

International candidates should refer to Information for international applicants.

As an RTP recipient, must I acknowledge the Commonwealth’s Scholarship contribution in my publications?

Section 1.6.55 of the RTP Guidelines sets out the requirement that the Commonwealth's contribution is acknowledged in University research publications which relate to the research project carried out by the recipient of RTP funding.

The acknowledgement must include mention of the student's support through an "Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship"

An example acknowledgement statement would be, "This research is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship."

Can I transfer my HDR project from my current uni to Federation University?

Federation University would first need to identify if they were able to support your research project by way of supervisors with relevant scholarly expertise in your field. Then that appropriate resources required for timely completion of a high-quality research project are available. PhD transfers are not usually approved later than two years into the candidature.

In the event of a transfer, the length of HDR candidature will be adjusted to take into account time already spent. A letter of advice from your current university detailing the consumed EFTSL (effective full-time study load) and remaining balance of EFTSL would be required along with your Federation University application for HDR candidature. Contact the Graduate Research School: for further information

Can I transfer by HDR project from Federation University to another university?

Should you choose to transfer your candidature to another university, contact the Federation University Graduate Research School to obtain official documentation on consumed EFTSL (effective full time study load) and remaining balance of EFTSL for your program. The other university will require this information in order to determine whether the transfer of candidature can proceed.

Where do I find more information?

If you have any other questions or require further information, please email

Where can I find further information about government financial assistance and university courses to undertake a postgraduate research degree in Australia?

The Study Assist website provides a one-stop shop for all information about Australian Government assistance available to help finance tertiary studies. The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching website provides students with a broad range of information about Australian universities, course options and postgraduate research

What candidature support is available?

Support is available in numerous ways throughout candidature. All new HDR candidates are required to participate in an induction day, where the structure of the University, and HDR programs and support services are detailed by the Skills Development Unit.(SKU)

The Skills Development Unit (SDU) offers a range of personal and professional development programs to enhance the higher degree experience. The program is delivered at the Mt Helen and Gippsland campuses on an almost weekly basis. The SDU also offers an annual HDR research conference designed to give all HDR candidates an opportunity to present their work in a formal conference environment.

Federation University's home web page lists all student support and services, with specific support available for international candidates and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates.

HDR candidates undertake annual reporting of their progress, as do their supervisors. Candidates requiring additional support also undertake the interim report process.

In addition to annual reporting each HDR candidate undertakes the milestone titled: Confirmation of Candidature (CoC) to progress their candidature status from probationary to confirmed. This ensures the candidate has devised a viable research project with appropriate methodology and a panel of experts in that area will determine the candidate’s capacity to successfully compete their project within course time-lines.