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Postgraduate Research

Postgraduate research students are an important part of the School's vibrant and active research culture. If you are ready to make your own discoveries and would like to join the team, then read on.

The Ph.D and M.Sc degrees are research-oriented degrees, not requiring coursework, and culminating in the presentation of a thesis. The excitment of research involves making an original contribution at the boundaries of knowledge. Ph.D theses must make "an original and significant contribution to knowledge", while M.Sc theses must demonstrate "the ability to undertake research" and involve an "original investigation." For more information on Ph.D and M.Sc degrees, please see Programs.

  • Master of Science (Research) - Program 2920
  • Doctor of Philosophy - Program 1880

All projects and theses are undertaken in collaboration with a member of the academic staff, the supervisor (and also a co-supervisor). Since your supervisor will, at various times, be your teacher, your confidant, your friend, your protagonist and even perhaps your (intellectual) antagonist, it is important to choose a supervisor whose research interests closely match yours, and with whom you are compatible. To find a supervisor, visit the list of research areas and contact individual researchers in your area, or email the Director of Postgraduate Studies (Research). Read also about past research students.

The School welcomes students from Australia and overseas who have recently completed a successful first degree. It also has a special "back to academia" program for older students with industry experience (see below).

The School provides its graduate students with excellent office and computer facilities and contributes to conference travel.  University travel scholarships are also available, and most of our students make use of these to support their travel to an international conference during their studies.

Our Frequently Asked Questions section addresses many common queries in regards to research degrees within the School of Mathematics and Statistics.

Funding and careers

There are various sources of funding, including scholarships and tutoring. 

Postgraduate degrees can lead to academic careers but they are also widely sought in a range of other careers.  A research thesis is the ultimate proof of real understanding in mathematics. It is a necessary foundation for an academic/research career, but is also valued in industries that need high levels of mathematical skill.

To see where some former postgraduates of the School have ended up, look through the School's alumni page. Those with postgraduate degrees are identified - they have succeeded in a wide range of careers, academic and non-academic.

Back to academia program

The School recognises the value of industry experience for developing a mature appreciation of mathematics and its uses. It welcomes applications from graduates with several years of work experience who wish to trade the high pressure of routine work for the intellectual challenge of working on applicable mathematics. The US-style practice of moving back and forth between industry and academia means that the financial and other industries value the depth of understanding that a postgraduate degree reveals (see Careers). A postgraduate degree can fast-track a career. At the same time, the drop in salary to undertake research is small, once tax-free scholarships and tutoring is taken into account.

Potential students wishing to work on a problem while retaining links with their workplace should consider negotiating an ARC Linkage Grant, which can allow an employer to have a postgraduate researching an industry problem for around $5000 cash per year (plus office space and resources).

Advice from an expert:

"I worked in the city for 3 years as a management consultant. It is an interesting job with exposure to many different industries and practical problems faced by business. But ultimately, you don't have the intellectual freedom to pursue your true areas of interest.

"Many of my colleagues were leaving work to take 2 years to study off-the-shelf MBAs at business schools. I figured the time was right to undertake a PhD in mathematics, a subject I had always found genuinely intellectually appealing.

"Mathematical research need not be overly esoteric and abstract. We constantly get enquiries about our research from big investment banks who are keen to apply our work. In an increasingly analytical and data-flooded world, a mathematical PhD is a great way to up-skill and provide that next leg-up in your career.

"There are many obvious advantages to doing research, but the possibilities for travel is one of the best. There are many opportunities to go to conferences in all parts of the globe. These are much more vibrant and stimulating than working late in a hotel room that happens in the business world.

"I'm not sure what I'll do at the end of this. I guess I'll see where it takes me. That, as they say, is the nature of research."

- Ben Waterhouse
Now heading up his own company, Model Solutions, a data analytics and forecast modelling company for the pharmaceutical industry.

Postgraduate Director's welcome

"Welcome to the School of Mathematics and Statistics at UNSW. You'll find us relaxed, friendly and focussed on research excellence. Come and join us. For any questions, please email me."

- Prof. David Warton, Director of Postgraduate Studies (Research)

More about us

Read also about the School's industry partnershipsalumni and history.