UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarships FAQs

UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarships FAQs

Please consult the Guidelines and the Terms and Conditions for full details on the Scheme and the Scholarships

How is the UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship different from other UNSW scholarships?

In contrast to our other prestigious UNSW scholarship schemes, the Scientia scheme is targeted and applicants will apply to a specific research area with an identified supervisory team.  Target research areas are selected by Faculties, and supervision will be chosen from the cohort of highest performing supervisors.

Scientia candidates will have a strong commitment to making a difference in the world with demonstrated potential for contributing to the social engagement and/or global impact pillars of the UNSW 2025 Strategy.

A support package is also awarded to provide support for development activities, international collaboration and other related expenses.

Scientia Scholarship holders will take part in an introductory program to facilitate their transition into UNSW and its research excellence culture. All PhD candidates will access up to two planning sessions every year throughout their candidature and follow these up with participation in relevant professional and career development. Scholarship holders will also have a “mentor” as part of their supervisory team.

What are the benefits of the Scholarship?

Awardees receive a $50,000 scholarship package for four years, comprising a $42,455 per annum (2021 rate, indexed) tax-free stipend and a travel and development support package of up to $10,000 per annum. International students also receive a tuition fee scholarship. In addition to this scholarship package, candidates are provided with access to a range of development opportunities across research, teaching and learning and leadership and engagement.

How are the research areas and the supervisors selected?

Faculties will select targeted research areas to be pursued for each round. Research areas will align with the Faculty and University’s strategic plans. Supervisory teams submit an expression of interest for specific research projects within the nine strategic research areas. Faculties nominate projects based on research area and supervisory performance. These nominations are considered by the SHARP-est committee, which allocates scholarships to projects and supervisory teams that support priority research areas and themes (as determined by the UNSW 2025 Strategy) and to contribute to UNSW meeting its diversity goals.

What are the nine strategic research areas for 2021?

The nine strategic research areas reflect the breadth and range of research topics within UNSW Faculties:

  1. Biomedical Sciences
  2. Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts
  3. Global Health
  4. Grand Challenges
  5. Indigenous
  6. Interdisciplinary research
  7. Law, Business and Economics
  8. Social Justice, Government and Health Policy
  9. Technology and Innovation
What exactly do you mean by mentoring and career development?

A significant part of the Scheme is that each awardee will be provided with professional and career development. UNSW will support Scientia candidates through personalised development plans and activities. Furthermore, one of the nominated supervisors will act as a mentor with primary responsibility for working with the candidate on refining their development plan.

What is the development plan?

UNSW Scientia candidates will be supported through personalised development plans that identify their professional and career development needs, and outline the activities they will complete to meet these needs. The plan will be used to guide the awardee in their program and allow them to budget the support package provided.

A development plan will be produced for each year of enrolment. One of the nominated supervisors will act as a career mentor with primary responsibility for working with the candidate on refining their development plan.

How often are Scientia scholarships advertised?

There is one application round per year, and successful applicants can commence their candidature in Terms 1, 2 or 3 of the following year.

Are Scientia PhD Scholarships aimed at international applicants?

Both international and domestic applications are strongly encouraged.  The split between domestic and international will be determined solely on excellence and meeting disciplinary and strategic selection criteria.

What are the visa requirements for an international applicant?

International applicants must meet international student visa requirements as specified by the Department of Home Affairs including the requirement to purchase and maintain a standard Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for the duration of the four year candidature. 

  • Domestic applicants are: Australian Permanent Residents or Citizens, or New Zealand Citizens
  • International applicants are: New Zealand Permanent Residents, or Citizens or Permanent Residents of all other countries
If I have applied for another prestigious UNSW scholarship, will this preclude me from applying for a Scientia scholarship?

Applicants can only have one active scholarship application at any one time. Those who have been awarded a UNSW scholarship are not permitted to subsequently apply for a Scientia scholarship. However any Scientia applicant who is not successful in securing a Scientia scholarship will be asked if they wish to be considered for UNSW scholarships in the next round which will be held shortly after the Scientia allocation round.

Can current UNSW PhD candidates apply?

Given the structured nature of the Scientia PhD scheme, only new PhD candidates qualifying for direct entry to the PhD will be eligible for the scheme.

What are UNSW diversity goals in relation to this scheme?

UNSW’s 2025 Strategy states that our aspiration is to be recognised as an international exemplar in equity, diversity and inclusion. Our aim is to achieve this by embracing the diversity and cultural richness of our communities; ensuring that our staff and students can achieve their full potential in a supportive and inclusive work environment. UNSW is committed to admitting and supporting candidates of high potential regardless of background. In particular, we aim to increase the intake and retention of Australian Indigenous candidates through priority scholarships.

What can I spend the support package on?

The support package is provided to give the candidate support for development activities, international collaboration and other approved expenses. As part of the development plan, it is expected that these activities will be planned, fully justified and properly budgeted. It is important to note that the funding is up to $10,000 and only the amount budgeted will be released to the candidate for the coming year. Please consult the Guidelines and the Terms and Conditions for full details.

What will the four year plan entail and will I have to complete specific formal courses or programs?

Each candidate will be required to develop a personal four year plan with performance targets identified. Development opportunities selected from formal courses, development modules, teaching, industry internships or other identified development opportunities will also be incorporated into the four year plan.

What if I do not meet the performance targets during the Scholarship period?

With respect to meeting performance targets in the four year plan, careful target setting is a critical part of the mentoring process so providing this is done appropriately there should not be any issue. It is recognised that PhD candidates are on a path of learning and discovery and performance is not always linear. However, like any HDR candidate at UNSW, candidates will be monitored for satisfactory progress and continual poor performance would result in discontinuation.

What are the expectations for Scientia candidates regarding publication and development?

Candidates will be expected to publish their research according to disciplinary norms during their PhD candidature. Wherever possible, journal publications should be pursued. It is expected that the yearly development plan would address the publication strategy the candidates would be pursuing and detailing how this will be achieved.

Engagement in at least one national and one international opportunity for presentation of research is required and participation in a communication event (such as the Three Minute Thesis competition) is also expected. As part of the Scholarship, candidates will be expected to engage in professional and career development.


What is the role of the SHARP-est committee?

The Strategic Hires and Retention Pathways educational stipend (SHARP-est) Committee supports the Scientia Scholarship scheme and will call for nominations of research areas and supervisors from each Faculty for scholarships for each round of the scheme.  It will approve those research areas and identify supervisors who will be eligible to nominate applicants to be considered for the UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship scheme and ensure that the scheme aligns with the strategic plans of the University. Its decision-making is founded on collegiate, multi-disciplinary advice and supports strategic diversity goals.

Will standard leave allowances apply to these Scholarships?

Leave allowances will follow the standard UNSW scholarship guidelines including parental leave of 12 weeks full-time or 24 weeks part-time. Note that part-time enrolment may be permitted on a case by case basis and in these cases, the stipend and allowance will be 50% of the full-time rate.

If I have not been nominated, am I able to submit an expression to work on a Scientia project the following year?


If I am awarded a Scientia PhD Scholarship, am I able to defer the scholarship?

Candidates awarded the scholarship must commence their PhD program in the following year. For example, if you are awarded a Scholarship for the 2020 round, you will be required to commence in 2020. Deferrals to subsequent years will not be approved. 

If I am currently enrolled in an undergraduate or postgraduate degree and will not complete until after the Scholarship closing date, am I still able to submit an expression of interest?

Yes, absolutely. If you are awarded a Scholarship, you will be issued a conditional offer. You will be required to satisfy the conditions before a full offer is issued. 

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