University Of Canterbury Phd

Perhaps you have a burning intellectual curiosity about something, wish to advance your career or even change career direction and increase your employability and earning capacity. Either way you can be sure that studying towards a Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Education, or Doctor of Musical Arts will give you fresh knowledge, allow you to discover new things and develop new skills.

A doctoral degree is the highest academic degree offered at UC. Those who earn it must demonstrate significant intellectual achievement, high scholarly ability, and great breadth of knowledge. 

The UC PhD is a research-only degree (no coursework) which can be completed in over 80 disciplines, carried out under academic supervision and using world class facilities.

In addition to your thesis research, UC offers a number of workshops and seminars for thesis students to develop general skills such as career planning, time management, networking, and communication skills. See the ‘Further study’ section below for more details. 

A number of scholarships and awards are available for doctoral students.

For social networking and events, UC’s Postgraduate Student Association (PGSA) is run by postgraduates for postgraduates and works closely with the Dean of Postgraduate Research to enhance the UC postgraduate student experience. 

Entry requirements

The minimum requirements to apply for doctoral study are that you should have completed, or be in the process of completing, a research-focused honours degree or master’s degree. For PhD study you must achieve this degree at either the level of First-Class or Second-Class Division I (or equivalent).

For international applicants, our International Office, in consultation with your host department, look at your previous qualifications and transcripts to ensure that you have the necessary background required to complete a doctoral degree at UC. You are also required to meet UC’s English language requirements for admission.

Find out how to apply for PhD and Doctoral degrees.

Identifying a supervisor

As part of the admissions process, you must identify a potential research supervisor before submitting a formal application to enrol in a PhD. A supervisor must be an academic member of staff at UC. Over 500 academics at UC have expertise in a large variety of topics. To identify experts in a given area and to find out about the research interests of staff in your discipline, you can search the school or department website, or the UC Research Profile database.

If you identify any possible supervisors, please contact them directly to discuss your potential research topic and ascertain whether suitable supervision might be available. When you have identified a supervisor who is willing to support your application to enrol please complete the admissions documents.

Specific qualification entry requirements

If you are applying for Doctor of Musical Arts study, you will typically require an audition, interview and/or submission of previous academic work and recommendation from the School of Music.

If you have any questions or would like some more information please fill in an enquiry form.

Qualification options

During your doctoral degree you will investigate a research topic and develop your research skills, culminating in the submission of a thesis for examination. The thesis undergoes examination by two independent examiners prior to you having an oral examination. 

Your thesis must:

  • be an original contribution to knowledge/understanding in its field 
  • meet internationally recognised standards for doctoral research in its field 
  • demonstrate knowledge of literature relevant to the field to which it belongs, and the ability to exercise critical and analytical judgment of that literature 
  • be satisfactory in its method, in the quality and coherence of its expression, and in its scholarly presentation and format.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

A Doctor of Philosophy involves extensive and sustained original research in a subject of your choice, with the results being presented in a thesis. It is normally the highest academic qualification available and is a mark of intellectual ability and independence, critical thinking, self-discipline and commitment. PhDs are offered in a wide range of subjects at UC, and are by thesis only.

Doctor of Education (EdD)

A Doctor of Education is a specialised doctorate designed for professionals in education, health sciences, and related fields. Built on a cohort model of inquiry, the Doctor of Education provides a structured, supportive, rigorous approach to doctoral study. The Doctor of Education builds leadership and commitment, fosters scholarly excellence, and allows candidates to connect educational research with questions of professional practice, in particular leadership. International students will need to pay international fees for this doctorate.

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

The Doctor of Musical Arts is a doctoral degree that is specific to advanced research in music composition or performance. It comprises scholarly research in the form of a supervised research thesis and performance practice in the form of public music performance or the presentation of compositions. International students will need to pay international fees for this doctorate.


You can begin a PhD or Doctor of Musical Arts on the first day of any month of the year, and should regard study and research as a full-time occupation throughout the calendar year. The minimum period of enrolment if you are a full-time student is 3 years (PhD students should normally complete their thesis within 4 years). There are provisions for you to apply for part-time study, in which case the minimum period is 4.5 years, and you should complete your thesis within 6 years.

The first two years of the Doctor of Education degree are part-time for all. This doctorate will take 4-5 years to complete, or part-time only for up to 6 years. Enrolment is on 1 March for all students.

Structure of the programmes

The doctoral programmes are structured in PhD reporting milestones to track your progress. These must be submitted to the Dean of Postgraduate Research and approved every six months.

The exact structure of programme will vary based on the nature of the research being undertaken and agreed to with your senior supervisor. 

Further study

Additional skills and training opportunities

In addition to providing world-class research supervision and facilities, the University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha is committed to providing PhD students with a range of opportunities to engage in a broader research-based experience, equipping students with research skills, introductions to professional networks, and enhanced career opportunities. A UC doctoral graduate will not only be recognised for the quality of their research thesis, but will also have additional research skills and experiences.

While doing a doctorate at UC, students have the opportunity to participate in:

  • transferable skills workshops
  • research design and statistical analysis workshops
  • ‘Surviving your Thesis’ seminars
  • networking opportunities, within and outside the University
  • presentation experience
  • social events.

Many doctoral students also have the opportunity to undertake teaching assistance work.