Doctor of Philosophy program | Law

Doctor of Philosophy program

Program code: 
3 to 4 years. (Minimum duration for completion is 3 years)
Additional entry requirements: 
Recognised Masters degree (including a substantial research component) with a minimum distinction average (75%), or a recognised 4 year Bachelor degree with Honours Class II, Division (I) that includes a substantial research component, or the equivalent.
View UNSW online handbook

Program overview

The Doctor of Philosophy gives candidates the opportunity to conduct a research project that will make a significant contribution to an area of knowledge. A UNSW Law PhD produces researchers with the highest level of scholarly expertise. Throughout the program of study, candidates acquire advanced specialist research training in order to produce a thesis that provides evidence of independent thought and critical analysis, effective communication, and expert knowledge of the discipline. Graduates commonly pursue careers in academic, specialist legal practice and in related areas of law and policy work.

Program structure

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy requires a minimum of three years full-time study and the submission of a thesis normally not exceeding 100,000 words in length (including footnotes).

Unless the candidate already has a Master's degree or equivalent research experience, the early stages of a candidate's research towards the PhD degree must be closely supervised to ensure sure that the candidate has a thorough grounding in research methods. The Faculty also runs a research methods course to this end. In the later stages of the degree, the candidate is allowed increasing scope to pursue his or her research ideas and to demonstrate originality. In the last year of the program, the candidate should be able to work alone and be guided rather than directed by his or her supervisors.

Ongoing enrolment in the PhD program is subject to confirmation between six to nine months full-time equivalent (FTE). PhD candidates are required to attend a Confirmation of Candidature Review Panel for this purpose. General information on the requirements of a Confirmation of Candidature Review Panel is available here (section 5.3). These requirements must be read in conjunction with the UNSW Law Guidelines, which set out the School's specific requirements for confirmation of a PhD candidature. Read the Confirmation of candidature guidelines.

Once candidature has been confirmed, PhD students are required to attend an Annual Progress Review. Progress reviews provide an opportunity for the student, his or her supervisors and the Law School to review how a student's research has progressed since their Confirmation of Candidature Review or last Annual Progress Review. They also provide a forum to review all aspects of the student's candidature to date, to develop a plan of action for the next review and to identify and respond to any impediments towards timely completion of the thesis. Two external examiners will be appointed by the Faculty Higher Degree Committee to examine the thesis. For some candidatures, satisfactory performance in coursework is also required.