Doctor of Philosophy

CRICOS 063715K

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is an AQF level 10 research doctoral award. It meets the specifications for a Doctoral Degree (Research) set by the Australian Qualifications Framework. It provides the opportunity to pursue advanced study in a theologically related area by research at the highest academic level. It is designed for those who seek to further their study in such an area, including interdisciplinary study, for academic, vocational, professional and/or personal reasons. It also offers research training and experience that would support an academic or professional career involving research.

The Doctor of Philosophy is undertaken by research and thesis alone. It provides the opportunity for candidates to embark on a significant, extended piece of research, which investigates a theologically related topic in a systematic, creative and comprehensive manner that is not available in coursework programs. The research will contribute to knowledge in an original way.


3-4 years full-time or 6-8 years part-time


Full-time per semester - AUD$7100
Part-time per semester - AUD$3550
Fees are same for domestic and international students.
FEE-HELP may be available for eligible students.


Semester 2, 2019 : 08/07/2019 to 06/12/2019. The census date is 19/08/2019.
Semester 1, 2020 : 06/01/2020 to 06/06/2020.

Award Summary

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Supervisor List

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The Sydney College of Divinity may admit to candidature in the PhD those persons who have attained:

  1. A Bachelor (Hons) degree or equivalent with results at Class II, Division 1, from the Sydney College of Divinity or an equivalent institution; or
  2. A Graduate Diploma with a GPA of 3+ and one 18 cpt research unit at Distinction level from the Sydney College of Divinity or an equivalent institution; or
  3. Qualifications deemed by the Sydney College of Divinity to be equivalent to or higher than those above.

In all cases, prior studies should include sufficient preparation to undertake the proposed research in a theologically related area.

In exceptional cases, candidates may be admitted on the grounds of academic and/or professional attainments, including publications, in the theologically related area in which they wish to pursue the research.

Notwithstanding the provisions above, the Sydney College of Divinity may require suitability for candidature to be demonstrated by such examination or other work as determined by the Sydney College of Divinity.

The Sydney College of Divinity will decline to accept an applicant if it cannot offer supervision in the proposed field of research.

Applicants must submit together with their application a Summary of Research Intentions, sufficient for the Research Committee to determine the general suitability of the topic and availability of appropriate resources and supervision.

Applicants whose entry qualifications were obtained in an institution where English is not the language of instruction will be required to demonstrate competency in English by an IELTS result of 7.0 in all bands of the test and may be required to attend such English language courses as prescribed by the Sydney College of Divinity.

Applicants will be required to show evidence of competence in ancient and/or modern languages, in order to access primary sources and/or significant secondary works relevant to their thesis topic, and competence in any other relevant area of knowledge. Any language or other requirements will be determined after advice from the Research Committee at the time of application and subsequently in consultation with the proposed supervisor.

Candidates for the PhD are admitted provisionally on the basis of approval of the Summary of Research Intentions. Candidates must submit a formal Thesis Proposal no later than one semester from admission for a full-time candidate or two semesters for a part-time candidate for approval by the Research Committee in order to continue their candidature. This proposal may not be substantially changed after acceptance without application to the Research Committee.

No candidate for the PhD may be concurrently enrolled in any other undergraduate or postgraduate course within the Sydney College of Divinity or any other tertiary institution, except in the case that, on the recommendation of the supervisor, a candidate may be directed to undertake one or more individual units of study on a non-award basis in order to attain a competence emerging as appropriate to the most effective pursuance of the PhD research.

Candidates for the program are registered with the Sydney College of Divinity through the Office of the Dean.

A candidate for the degree will be designated as full-time or part-time based on time to be given to the research. Typically, full-time candidature requires an average of thirty hours per week and part-time candidature requires an average of fifteen hours per week. These hours should preferably be achieved through regular weekly commitment, but they may be achieved through varying periods of more and less intensive work. Clear progress is expected in each semester of enrolment.

A candidate enrolled in the MPhil may apply for transfer to PhD candidature, using the Application to Transfer to a Different Research Degree, following satisfactory completion of 20,000 words of the thesis under the direction of the approved principal supervisor and associate supervisor; a record of having met MPhil regulations; and demonstration that the research is of a sufficient scope and depth to sustain a doctoral thesis. The application should be accompanied by a letter of recommendation from the principal supervisor. Applications are determined by the Research Committee. In the event that an application is refused and the student wishes to appeal the decision, the appeal will be referred to the Dean. In the event that the student remains unsatisfied with the outcome, the student may have recourse to formal grievance procedures available through the Dean, as set out in the Student Grievance Policy and Procedures. Period of candidature provisions for the PhD degree apply from the time of transfer. Allowance for time already spent in MPhil candidature will be determined by the Research Committee in relation to the stage already reached in the research, but the remaining period of doctoral candidature will be at least two semesters for full-time candidates and at least four semesters for part-time candidates.

All PhD candidates proceed to the award by research and thesis alone.

Candidates pursue a program of advanced study and research approved by the Research Committee and submit a thesis embodying the results of the research. The thesis will form an original contribution to research in the area. The thesis is to be 80,000 words maximum, including footnotes/endnotes but excluding bibliography and appendices.

A candidate may not submit as the main content of the thesis any material that has previously been submitted for a degree, unless that material has been significantly reworked in the context of the thesis being submitted.

Not later than one semester after admission to provisional candidature for full-time candidates and two semesters for part-time candidates, the candidate will submit a formal Thesis Proposal for approval by the Research Committee. Following approval, the thesis topic may not be substantially varied except with the permission of the Research Committee.

The Research Committee appoints a principal supervisor and an associate supervisor to oversee the development of the thesis, and may determine any special arrangements for supervision. Normally, the principal supervisor will be a faculty member of the Sydney College of Divinity. In some cases the Sydney College of Divinity may appoint an external supervisor based in another reputable theological college or university. The associate supervisor may likewise be internal or external to the Sydney College of Divinity. In either case the principal supervisor must be research active according to the Research Active in the SCD Policy and the associate supervisor will normally be research active according to the Research Active in the SCD Policy.

As part of the program for the award of the PhD the candidate is required to participate in the Research Seminars listed for each year of their candidature, and to present a paper at least once a year for full-time candidates and at least once every second year for part-time candidates. Ongoing enrolment in the award is subject to completing these requirements.

Candidates in their first year of enrolment must attend a Research Degree Workshop in addition to the Research Seminars, provided that they have not previously attended such a seminar with the Sydney College of Divinity as part of a previous award. Regardless of such previous attendance, they may be required to attend those parts of the Workshop considered relevant to their current research.

All thesis proposals involving the gathering of personal information from people by surveys, interviews or case studies will be dealt with according to the policies and procedures of the Research Ethics Committee, which makes a recommendation to the Academic Board in consultation with the Research Committee. Ethics clearance is normally sought at the same time as submission of the formal Thesis Proposal. If the need to seek ethics clearance arises subsequently, as the need to gather personal information arises belatedly, the application for ethical clearance should be lodged promptly. Under no circumstances may those elements of the thesis relying on the gathering of personal information proceed before ethical clearance is granted.

All candidates are to nominate a ‘home library’ from amongst the libraries of the Member Institutions of the Sydney College of Divinity. The library will regularly receive a research grant to supplement its collection in the topic area of the candidate.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates will have systematic and critical understanding of a complex field of theologically related learning and specialized research skills for the advancement of learning in the field. They will have:


  • systematic and critical understanding of the chosen theologically related area
  • mastery of a substantial body of knowledge at the frontier of knowledge in the field, including knowledge that constitutes an original contribution
  • expert understanding of theories pertaining to the field
  • substantial knowledge of research principles and methods applicable to the field


  • expert and specialized cognitive, creative, and technical skills in the field of research, so that they are able independently and authoritatively to:
  • critically evaluate existing knowledge and ideas pertaining to the field of research
  • systematically investigate and integrate other information potentially relevant to that field including potentially relevant theories
  • demonstrate and apply theoretical understanding of the field
  • develop or adapt research methodologies to extend existing understanding of the field
  • communicate results of research cogently and appropriately to specialist and non-specialist audiences, using the English language competently and effectively for the purpose

Applications of Knowledge and Skills

  • as a practitioner or learner in relation to the inter-dependent building up of the church and good of the wider community, ongoing capacity to:
  • plan and execute a coherent, significant and original piece of research with intellectual independence and authority
  • generate significant and original knowledge in the field
  • contribute expertise to academic discourses in the field
  • take initiatives, think creatively and make innovations in new situations and/or undertake further learning
  • assume full responsibility and accountability for personal outputs

Graduate Attributes

PhD graduates will:

  • Be able to identify, analyse and articulate problems and issues in discourses current in their academic, professional and social communities
  • Recognize the level of their own understanding
  • Demonstrate creativity and originality of thought in solving problems and dealing with complex and abstract conceptual matters
  • Be able to access information efficiently using the means most appropriate to purpose and context
  • Conduct themselves with academic integrity and rigour and exercise critical thinking in forming judgments
  • Work autonomously and with an open mind
  • Understand the distinction between information and argument and be adept in marshalling information as evidence in argument
  • Adopt and practise responsible values and attitudes as members of academic, professional and social communities, based in part on their experience as SCD research candidates
  • Be able to communicate their thinking coherently and effectively, with appropriate English proficiency, in public debate and printed word
  • Have confidence to engage in public discussions of faith and ethics
  • Appreciate and act on opportunities for lifelong learning and encourage others to recognize learning opportunities for themselves
  • Be willing to assume high-level leadership in their academic, professional and social communities as needed

Applications for candidature are made directly to the Sydney College of Divinity. Applications can be submitted online and and are accepted throughout the year.

The process of applying online for candidature must commence only after you have discussed your proposed study with the Sydney College of Divinity Research Director Professor James Harrison. Email Prof Harrison at  [email protected] to explore your options.

An overview of the process would be

  1. Contacting Research Director Professor James Harrison at  [email protected] to explore your options
  2. Deciding on the research degree taking onto consideration what is most suited to your research topic. You would also need to consider the time, cost and other factors before you embark on your study
  3. Check your eligibility and know the regulations
  4. Prepare to submit your online application. Have all the information and supporting documentation ready. All official documents must be certified.
  5. Submit your HDR Application online
  6. Attend an interview in person or online with Professor Jim Harrison

The Sydney College of Divinity Research Committee will consider the application. If you are successful, you will be admitted on a provisional basis and assigned a principal and secondary supervisor. They will assist you to prepare a Research Proposal.  Once your Research Proposal is accepted, your candidacy will be confirmed.

If you are an international student, please see Information for International Students.

A graduate research degree provides a unique opportunity to follow and focus on an area of interest, and make an important contribution to the development of your chosen area. The decision to enter into a research degree should not be taken lightly. The study requires substantial time and financial commitment, and the capacity for innovative, independent research; critical thinking; time and project management skills; and skills of organisation and communication of information. Typically, full-time candidature requires an average of thirty hours per week and part-time candidature requires an average of fifteen hours per week. These hours should preferably be achieved through regular weekly commitment, but they may be achieved through varying periods of more and less intensive work.

International students and others not using FEE-HELP will be required to pay the tuition fee at the beginning of each semester. Sydney College of Divinity may discuss payment plans if paying upfront presents difficulties.

Thesis Proposal

A formal Thesis Proposal will be submitted to the Research Committee within one semester of admission for a full-time candidate and within two semesters of admission for a part-time candidate. The formal Thesis Proposal may not be substantially changed after acceptance without application to the Sydney College of Divinity Research Committee.

The thesis submitted for examination must be clearly written in English and the expression should not hinder the reading and comprehension of the argument. For those candidates with a non-English background, proof-reading and advice on felicitous expression and correct English are particularly important. Such students may be recommended to seek the assistance of persons competent in English. Any arrangements that may ensue are completely independent of the Sydney College of Divinity. In any modification of expression, the content of the thesis must remain the work of the candidate. If there is any doubt, the Research Director should be consulted.

Research Supervision

All candidates have two supervisors, a principal supervisor, who must hold a doctoral degree and be research active according to the Research Active in the SCD Policy, and an associate supervisor, who must hold a doctoral degree, carry out research and normally be research active according to the Research Active in the SCD Policy. These are formally appointed by the Research Committee.

Each semester the supervisors report to the Research Committee concerning the candidate’s progress and any other related matter, using the Research Degree Progress Report form, which requires also candidate comment on the supervisor’s comments. This enables the Committee to monitor progress, offer advice to supervisors and/or candidates, and make appropriate recommendations to the Academic Board. In the event of continued unsatisfactory progress termination of candidature may be recommended. Unsatisfactory progress occurs when there is no evidence that production of the thesis has been advanced by identifiable further research, constructive meetings of the candidate with the supervisor, or written drafts, and where there are insufficient grounds for special consideration.

To make advanced theological education available to those who wish to benefit from it, the Sydney College of Divinity permits some candidates living away from Sydney to pursue higher degrees by research. In order to carry out its responsibility to ensure adequate supervision the Sydney College of Divinity requires of such students that they:

  1. Arrange for a substantive meeting with their supervisor twice per semester in person or by email or other means.
  2. Communicate at least briefly with the supervisor at least once a month, irrespective of the progress that has been made in the month that has elapsed.

In addition, in some cases, the Research Committee may require students to devote some period to the writing of the thesis in ongoing close contact with the supervisor. This may entail residing for a time close to the supervisor’s workplace. The associated costs will be met by the student.

Compulsory Research Degree Workshops

These workshops are compulsory for all new thesis writers. Held annually, they are offered in intensive mode, early in first semester. They will also be offered early in the second semester for any new students. Presented by various lecturers, they are designed to introduce candidates to practical matters affecting the production of a thesis such as:

  • defining a thesis topic and planning chapters
  • research methodologies
  • bibliographical aids
  • using the library to best effect in research
  • writing a formal thesis proposal
  • ethical considerations and ethics clearance procedures
  • examiners’ expectations
  • guidelines for writing and documenting
  • writing an abstract
  • participating in the SCD research seminars and in conferences.

Compulsory Research Seminars

Several Research Seminars (about eight) are held in the evening at intervals throughout the year, coordinated by the Research Director. Ongoing enrolment in all research degrees is subject to completing attendance requirements and presenting a paper related to the research seminar at least once each year for full-time candidates and at least once every second year for part-time candidates. Where the candidate normally resides abroad or in an Australian location remote from the usual physical location of the seminars in Sydney, the Research Director will advise the candidate concerning minimum participation in the seminars.

Research Ethics

Specific ethics clearance may be required depending on the research. Whether or not a candidate needs to obtain a specific ethics clearance, it is still obligatory to conduct ethical research. Ethical research includes avoidance of the following:

  1. Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the representation of another’s works or ideas as one’s own; it includes the unacknowledged word for word use or paraphrasing of another person’s work, and the inappropriate unacknowledged use of another person’s ideas.
  2. Fraud: Academic fraud is the falsification and fabrication of research results and dishonesty in reporting research results.
  3. Misrepresentation: Misrepresentation is the giving of false or misleading information in academic matters. It includes falsely claiming credit for past study and falsely stating that thesis material has not been used in another thesis beyond the permitted scope.
  4. Unethical behaviour: Unethical behaviour is behaviour that breaches accepted ethical standards. It includes failing to observe the terms of an ethical approval to conduct research and misuse of confidential information obtained in field education.

Failure to conduct ethical research may result in the candidate being charged with academic misconduct.


Each research degree candidate will be asked to nominate as a home library one of the Sydney College of Divinity libraries, typically but not necessarily the library of the Institution in which the supervisor is based. This enables the Sydney College of Divinity, in consultation with the supervisor and candidate, to build up research resources in the topic area of the candidate using a Research Degree Library Resources Grant to the library from the Sydney College of Divinity. The grant is made to the nominated library each semester in which the candidate is enrolled.

Where the candidate normally resides abroad or in an Australian location remote from the libraries of the Sydney College of Divinity, the candidate will nevertheless make use of the Sydney College of Divinity libraries through electronic access, interlibrary loans, and personal use during visits to Sydney or to the location of other Sydney College of Divinity libraries. The Sydney College of Divinity will assess such a candidate’s probable library needs at the time of enrolment and periodically, and may advise or negotiate use of a suitable university or college library elsewhere on behalf of the candidate. The Sydney College of Divinity takes responsibility for ensuring adequate library access for all its students.

For more information email [email protected]