Doctor of Philosophy - Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

Course DR-PHILMDH (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Year and Campus: 2016 - Parkville
CRICOS Code: 006670B
Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Level: Research Higher Degree
Duration & Credit Points: Students are expected to complete this research in 4.00 years full time, or equivalent part time.


Associate Dean (Research Training)


Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
UoM Health Hub
Level 1, Brownless Biomedical Library
The University of Melbourne (Parkville Campus)
Victoria 3010, Australia



Course Overview:

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy signifies that the holder has undertaken a substantial piece of original research, which has been conducted and reported by the holder via the thesis, under proper academic supervision and in a research environment for a prescribed period.

The PhD thesis demonstrates authority in the candidate's field and shows evidence of command of knowledge in relevant fields. It shows that the candidate has a thorough grasp of the appropriate methodological techniques and an awareness of their limitations. The thesis makes a distinct contribution to knowledge. Its contribution to knowledge rests on originality of approach and / or interpretation of the findings and, in some cases, the discovery of new facts. The thesis demonstrates an ability to communicate research findings effectively in the professional arena and in an international context. It is a careful, rigorous and sustained piece of work demonstrating that a research 'apprenticeship' is complete and the holder is admitted to the community of scholars in the discipline. In scope, the PhD thesis differs from a research Masters thesis chiefly by its deeper and more comprehensive treatment of the chosen subject. It is written succinctly, in English, unless approval has been given for the thesis to be written in a language other than English. All candidates for the degree will be examined on the basis of their thesis which is examined externally. The normal length of the thesis is between 80,000 and 100,000 words, exclusive of words in tables, maps, bibliographies and appendices.


  • Students may commence a PhD at any time during the year between 1st February and 15 December.
  • Commencement in the degree is subject to prior arrangement with their nominated supervisor and the Learning and Teaching Unit. (Scholarships have separate rules and students should seek approval from Melbourne Scholarships to vary their scholarshp commencement).
  • Please check with the relevant academic unit prior to making any arrangements for enrolment or travel.


A range of University policies and procedures apply to Higher Degrees by Research and students should familiarise themselves with these policies.

Learning Outcomes:

See 'Graduate Attributes'

Course Structure & Available Subjects:
  • Candidates enrol in a thesis subject for the duration of the degree.
  • The normal period of candidature is 3 years for full-time candidates (part-time equivalent) with the possibility of up to 12 months extension.
  • All candidates are required to complete a minimum of 12 months full-time research at the University in order to benefit from planning, conducting and writing up their research within a University community and environment.
  • Normally the entire degree is undertaken at the University.
  • A candidate will have appropriately experienced supervisor/s and an Advisory Committee who in consultation with the candidate, arranges a course of supervised research designed to suit the individual requirements and interests of the candidate.
  • A candidate may be required to supplement their research program by attendance at, or enrolment in, additional subjects if considered necessary by the supervisor(s).
  • All candidates are expected to attend departmental seminars over the period of their candidature.
  • Academic progress is reviewed regularly throughout the degree.
  • All candidates for the degree will be examined on the basis of their thesis which is examined externally. The normal length of a PhD thesis is between 80,000 and 100,000 words, exclusive of words in tables, maps, bibliographies and appendices.
  • Candidates should refer to the University policy library and the Graduate Research Hub for further information regarding candidature, academic progress, ethics, thesis preparation and examination.
  • To be eligible to submit a thesis for examination, students must be enrolled in their course for the minimum period of 24 months full-time equivalent.

PhD with Coursework in Neuroscience

PhD coursework in neuroscience is offered once annually (Semester 1) and provides a sound basis from which the research project can be conducted efficiently. The coursework consists of a structured 4-week program normally taken in the first month of candidature. Through a series of built-in assessment tasks, the coursework facilitates progression to confirmation. The program aims to teach essential theoretical concepts and facilitate the understanding of specialised literature. Key areas of contemporary neuroscience research provide a focus for developing advanced research skills and integrating this new multi-disciplinary knowledge into the research project from the start of candidature.

The coursework brings together the cohort of new graduate researchers coming from a variety of background disciplines across the three Melbourne Brain Centre locations, other research institutes, departments, schools and faculties. Any graduate researcher undertaking a PhD that engages the neurosciences is potentially eligible for participation in this coursework. Subject selection should be discussed with the Supervisor and with the Course Convenor (Dr Kathy Lefevere-Burd) and should also include discussion as to whether successful completion of the coursework will form part of the requirements for confirmation. The coursework is a confirmation requirement for all graduate researchers enrolled through the Florey Department of Neuroscience and Mental Health, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Students seeking exemption may apply to the Course Convenor who will seek approval from the Director, Florey Department of Neuroscience and Mental Health. Applications for exemption must be submitted before the subject selection's application deadline. To select subjects, graduate researchers should complete the Subject Selection Form available from the Course Convenor. The approval of the Supervisor, Head of Department/School and the Course Convenor is required. For PhD students of the Melbourne Schools of Engineering and Science, Faculty approval should also be sought. Contact the relevant Faculty.

Places in these subjects may be limited and preference will be given to first year PhD students based at the Melbourne Brain Centre, Howard Florey Laboratories and other centres and institutes for whom the coursework is part of the confirmation requirements and those who choose to complete all four subjects.

This coursework is not available to Masters or other students.

Refer to Subject Options for further information about the course structure for neuroscience.

Subject Options:

This information is relevant only for PhD students engaged in the neurosciences.

Neuroscience Coursework structure:

Getting Started in the Neuroscience PhD Program (Introductory Day)

This introductory program (0 points) provides essential information for successful completion of the coursework subjects and is compulsory for all students taking all or any of the following coursework subjects. This program brings together the multi-disciplinary cohort of new PhD students engaging in the neurosciences across the entire University, facilitating supportive networking and new friendships. This introductory coursework program is in addition to any induction or orientation program organised by the student’s home department for research.

Getting Started in the Neuroscience PhD is followed by 37.5 pt of coursework comprised of four week-long consecutive subjects:

All graduate researchers except for those enrolled through the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences will complete:

Psychological Sciences graduate researchers may choose to complete the following subject instead:

All graduate researchers choose between the following A or B subjects. Only one subject may be taken at 12.5 points:

All other graduate researchers should discuss subject options with their supervisor and the Course Convenor and note that the approval of the Supervisor, the Head of Department or Faculty nominee, and the Course Convenor is required to undertake one or more subjects.

Entry Requirements:

1. In order to be considered for entry, applicants must have completed:

  • a four-year bachelor degree in a relevant discipline which includes a substantial research component equivalent to at least 25% of one year of full-time study and have achieved a minimum weighted average of 80% or (University of Melbourne) equivalent;


  • a masters degree in a relevant discipline which includes a substantial research component equivalent to at least 25% of one year of full-time study and achieved a minimum weighted average of 80% or (University of Melbourne) equivalent;


  • a qualification and professional experience considered to be equivalent;


  • a research proposal; and
  • referee reports (except for applicants who have graduated from the University of Melbourne within the last 5 years); and
  • the endorsement of a prospective supervisor.

Meeting these requirements does not guarantee selection.

2. In selecting applicants, the selection committee will consider applicants’:

  • prior academic performance and, if relevant, professional qualifications;
  • understanding of the research question to be explored;
  • performance at an interview;
  • motivation and capacity to complete the course in a timely manner;
  • relevant prior research and/or professional experience; and
  • the referee reports.

3. The selection committee may seek further information to clarify any aspect of an application in accordance with the Selection and Admission into Graduate Research Courses Policy.

4. The minimum English language requirements for this course are: Band 7

Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards of Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit Website:

All candidates are required to complete the equivalent of at least six months full-time (12 months part-time) advanced study and research at the University unless studying at an outside institution approved by the Research Higher Degrees Committee (RHDC). The RHDC will not approve entirely distance supervision or entirely on-line supervision for research higher degree students.

Throughout their candidature candidates are expected to attend the University in order to benefit from planning, conducting and writing up their research within a University community and environment.

The residency requirement is deemed especially important during the first six months of candidature. During this time the student is expected to interact on a regular basis with the supervisor, the department (including staff and other research students) and the University, so as:

  • to build the skills and knowledge necessary to carry out the proposed research program
  • to acquire an understanding of the standards and requirements for a research higher degree awarded by the University
  • to make use of support programs and facilities provided by the University throughout candidature.
Graduate Attributes:

Doctoral degrees at the University of Melbourne seek to develop graduates who demonstrate academic leadership, increasing independence, creativity and innovation in their research work.

The University expects its doctoral graduates to have the following qualities and skills:

  • an advanced ability to initiate research and to formulate viable research questions;
  • a demonstrated capacity to design, conduct and report sustained and original research;
  • the capacity to contextualise research within an international corpus of specialist knowledge;
  • an advanced ability to evaluate and synthesize research-based and scholarly literature;
  • an advanced understanding of key disciplinary and multi-disciplinary norms and perspectives relevant to the field;
  • highly developed problem-solving abilities and flexibility of approach;
  • the ability to analyse critically within and across a changing disciplinary environment;
  • the capacity to disseminate the results of research and scholarship by oral and written communication to a variety of audiences;
  • a capacity to cooperate with and respect the contributions of fellow researchers and scholars;
  • a profound respect for truth and intellectual integrity, and for the ethics of research and scholarship;
  • an advanced facility in the management of information, including the application of computer systems and software where appropriate to the student's field of study;
  • an understanding of the relevance and value of their research to national and international communities of scholars and collaborators;
  • an awareness where appropriate of issues related to intellectual property management and the commercialisation of innovation; and
  • an ability to formulate applications to relevant agencies, such as funding bodies and ethics committees.

The University provides a variety of opportunities in addition to the supervised research program, to facilitate a student's acquisition of these attributes.

Links to further information:


  • Find out how to apply.
  • Prior to submitting an application, applicants should discuss their research interests with a potential supervisor of the department in which they would like to enrol and discuss any external commitments which may impede their successful academic progress.

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