Higher Degree by Research Scholarships Policy (incorporating RTP Scholarships Policy)


DATE OF APPROVAL: 15 November 1996

Academic Board 17 July 1998
Research Degrees Committee June 1999
Academic Board February 2000
Academic Board May 2007
Academic Board 27 February 2015
Academic Board November 2016
Academic Board October 2017

REFERENCE AUTHORITY: Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President (Research & Innovation); Dean of Graduate Studies (Chair of Research Degrees Committee)

Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research
Code of Good Practice: research degrees management and supervision
Code of Practice: University philanthropic activity
Commonwealth Scholarship Guidelines (Research) 2017
Higher Degree by Research Supervision (RES-18)
Research Degrees Scholarship Allocation Guidelines: Competitive Commonwealth and University of South Australia funded scholarships
University of South Australia Scholarship Benefits and Conditions (Domestic)
University of South Australia Scholarship Benefits and Conditions (International)


The purpose of this policy is to establish the general principles underpinning the sourcing, establishment, promotion and administration of research degree scholarships for which the University has primary responsibility.  This includes the Commonwealth Government Research Training Program (RTP), as well as University funded and administered scholarships.

This policy does not apply to:

  • scholarships for undergraduate students;
  • externally funded scholarships where only payments are administered by the University;
  • scholarships wholly administered by organisations external to the University; or
  • opportunities for paid work experience with industry which are awarded on a competitive basis.


Research Training Program (RTP)

The RTP is the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. Forms of support available may consist of a fee offset, a stipend for general living costs, or allowances related to the ancillary cost of research degrees, as specified in the scholarship offer.


A scholarship is an award selected on merit to assist a research degree student to undertake or complete a program of research at the University, in accordance with the selection criteria. A scholarship may take the form of monetary payment or assistance with specified costs (such as tuition fees or ancillary costs). It may also be known as a grant.

University approach to scholarships

1. Scholarships are of strategic significance to the University's competitive, research and equity aspirations and indicate the University's commitment to academic and research excellence, social responsibility, equity and diversity.

2. The University's Research Degrees Committee (RDC) will report new scholarships, or major amendments to scholarships, to Academic Board on an annual basis. The University will establish and administer scholarships for any of the following reasons:

  • to meet the University's research priorities
  • to attract the best possible research degree students to undertake research degrees
  • to provide equitable access to education
  • to support existing research degree students
  • to enable the timely completion of research degrees

3. The University will support growth in the range and number of scholarships congruent with its strategic intent through setting aside funds for scholarships to be established, actively encouraging donations from industry, government, business and community organisations, alumni and philanthropists, as well as through allocation of earned income by the University.

4. All external funds received for the purpose of an approved scholarship may be directed via the University's Foundation and will be managed in accordance with the principles outlined in the Code of Practice: University philanthropic activity, for the purposes specified by the donors. The University will report annually on the use of the funds to the donors or their trustees.

5. The University reserves the right not to accept scholarship funds from a donor, and not to accept particular conditions on funding, such as the establishment of a scholarship in a particular area, or the requirement to impose certain criteria associated with a new scholarship.

6.1 The University will administer scholarships established under relevant legislation, including the Higher Education Support Act and Australian Taxation law.

6.2 If, for any reason, a donor is unable to meet the financial obligations associated with a scholarship, the University will not be responsible for providing ongoing payments to scholarship recipients.

Establishment and award of scholarships

7. Scholarships

7.1 The University may recognise its most outstanding research degree students by the awarding of scholarships as outlined in clauses 8-13 of this policy.

7.2 The Research Degrees Committee will be responsible for endorsement of scholarships, and recommendation of new scholarships to Academic Board, including scholarship conditions, promotion, selection, ranking, awarding and reporting of University-wide research degree scholarships.

8. Establishing scholarships

8.1 All research degree student scholarships established at and offered by the University will be in accordance with this policy.

8.2 University researchers may negotiate with potential funding bodies in order to establish scholarships. Normally, approaches to potential external donors will be coordinated through the Dean of Graduate Studies.

8.3 To ensure that it is administered in a fair and transparent manner, consistent with the principles of equity and equal opportunity, each new scholarship will be formalised through a written agreement with the donor, detailing:

  • eligibility criteria
  • financial contribution
  • selection criteria
  • special conditions
  • intellectual property
  • industry placements (where relevant)
  • other relevant matters

Wherever possible, the selection criteria and scholarship conditions are to comply with the established University scholarship conditions.

8.4 All such agreements are to comply with the Vice Chancellor's designations established by the University's Council.

8.5 The Dean of Graduate Studies, in conjunction with the Divisional Associate Dean: Research Education (or equivalent) and Advancement Services, is responsible for managing relationships with donors of scholarships that are specific to the relevant research degree programs, including recommending ways to formally acknowledge donations through naming of scholarships (subject to conditions).

8.6 Student and Academic Services will maintain a database containing details and conditions of all University research degree scholarships. The database may also include details of non-University scholarships available to UniSA students. Student and Academic Services will ensure that comprehensive, current and accurate information about scholarships is available on the University website.

9. Promoting scholarships

9.1 A scholarship may not be promoted, advertised or awarded until all documentation has been approved and finalised, and funding to cover the duration of the scholarship for the first recipient(s) has been confirmed.

9.2 The Communications and Marketing Unit, in conjunction with the Dean of Graduate Studies, will undertake regular publicity, advertising and marketing initiatives for University scholarships.

10. Research degree scholarship conditions and benefits

Except where specified, the benefits and conditions contained herein are applicable to Research Training Program (RTP) scholarships and University funded and administered scholarships. These conditions will also apply to named scholarships, including those funded within and external to the University, except where different conditions and benefits are approved when the scholarship is established (clause 8.3) and which are detailed in the offer letter.

10.1 Scholarships are to be awarded on the basis of academic merit, including eligibility for admission to the degree in line with the Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research, research capacity, potential to complete a research degree and conducting research in a University-designated area of strength.

10.2 The Dean of Graduate Studies will determine the University's research degree Scholarship Conditions, review them on a regular basis and report changes to Research Degrees Committee.

10.3 The following conditions will apply to all scholarships:

  • The research degree student must be enrolled in a research degree program,
  •  The research degree student must not have completed a research degree at an equivalent or higher level,
  • A research degree student receiving a living allowance must not be receiving equivalent support providing a benefit greater than 75% of the student’s stipend rate (income unrelated to the student’s course of study or income not for the purposes of supporting general living costs is not to be taken into consideration),
  • An overseas student must meet overseas student visa requirements,
  • A research degree student receiving a living allowance will normally be studying full-time. In some cases, a research degree student can apply to receive scholarships on a part-time basis if there are compelling reasons (such as the need to provide full-time care of children, disabled, sick, injured or the elderly),
  • the research degree student will normally reside in South Australia while undertaking the scholarship,
  • continuing eligibility is subject to satisfactory academic progress, as defined in the University's Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research,
  • A research degree student who wishes to undertake paid work will abide by Recommended working hours (clause 4.15 in the Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research).

10.4 In addition to 10.3, the following conditions apply specifically to RTP scholarships:

  • A research degree student receiving a RTP fee offset must not be receiving a scholarship for which course tuition is a component under any other scholarship program to which the Australian Government makes a substantial contribution.
  • The Commonwealth government’s contribution must be acknowledged, via a statement mentioning the student’s support through an "Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship", on all published material relating to the research project carried out by the recipient of a RTP Scholarship.
  • Domestic research degree students in receipt of a RTP tuition fee offset who are not receiving a living allowance may study part-time if approved in accordance with the Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research.

10.5 The maximum period of support for a research degree scholarship (living allowance and international tuition fee) will be up to three years full-time for a Doctoral program or two years full-time for a Masters by Research.  Research tuition fee offsets for domestic students will be up to four years for a Doctoral program and up to 2 years for a Masters by Research. Periods of study towards the research degree within three years prior to commencement will be deducted from the period of the scholarship.

10.6 Research degree students undertaking doctoral programs may apply for an extension of scholarship where the grounds for extension are beyond the control of the student, and are related to their studies. The Associate Dean: Research Education, on application from the research degree student and supported by the Principal Supervisor and Research Education Portfolio Leader (or equivalent) may certify that a doctoral student is eligible for an extension to the scholarship funding for a period normally not exceeding six months.

10.7 The living allowance (stipend) rates for scholarships will be reviewed annually in line with advice from the Australian Government, and published in the Scholarship Benefits and Conditions (Domestic and International). The scholarship value will also be included in the offer of scholarship.

10.8 All research degree students, including those with scholarships, will be entitled to:

a) supervision as detailed in:

b) resources as detailed in Appendix A of the Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research.

10.9 Research degree students in receipt of scholarships will be entitled to paid leave as detailed in the Scholarship Benefits and Conditions (for domestic and for international students) and their offer letter. Research degree students may also apply for periods of unpaid leave, during which their scholarship payments will be suspended. Research degree students may apply for both paid and unpaid leave in accordance with section 4.10 of the Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research.

10.10 Research Degree students may undertake industry placements, internships or other similar enrichment activities as part of the research degree. Where placements form part of the research degree, and are unpaid, living allowance and tuition fee scholarships (as applicable) will continue. Where placements are not directly related to the research degree and will impact upon the research degree student’s progress, and/or where placements are paid at greater than 75% of their living allowance, research degree students should apply for unpaid leave of absence, in consultation with their supervisor. An unpaid leave of absence will defer the end date of the scholarship by the period of the leave. Industry placements and similar activities cannot be accepted as grounds for an extension of the scholarship.

10.11 Scholarships (tuition fee and/or living allowance/stipend) will cease:

10.11.1 automatically upon the event of any of the following, whichever is earlier:

  • when the thesis is approved for examination by the Associate Dean: Research Education
  • when the maximum period of the scholarship expires
  • if the research degree student does not resume study at the conclusion of a period of leave of absence or does not make arrangements to extend that period of leave of absence, OR
  • on the death, incapacity, resignation or withdrawal of the research degree student

10.11.2 Following notification to the student in the event of any of the following:

  • If the student ceases to meet the conditions of the scholarship in 10.3 and 10.4 or any additional conditions included in the offer of scholarship (including if the research degree student takes up full-time employment), OR
  • if the research degree is not being carried out with competence and diligence or in accordance with the offer of candidature, and no suitable alternative arrangements can be made for continuation of the postgraduate degree,

10.12 Grievances relating to scholarships will be managed according to the Grievance procedures detailed in section 15 of the Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research.

10.13 Unless specified otherwise in the procedures governing a particular scholarship, scholarships are not transferable to or from another university or provider.

11. Scholarship Allocation and Ranking Criteria

11.1 The University will select students for a research degree scholarship against published selection criteria (University’s Research Degrees Scholarship Allocation Guidelines: Competitive Commonwealth and University of South Australian funded scholarships), and the awarding of the scholarship will be conditional on continuing eligibility under those criteria, including future enrolment and/or performance in a program of research at the University.

11.2 Criteria for the awarding of a scholarship will include competitive academic merit and evidence that the research is in a designated University area of research strength, but may also include or take account of factors that contribute to a student's relative disadvantage in their capacity to demonstrate academic merit.

11.3 A research degree student or applicant who wishes to be considered for a scholarship must apply in accordance with the published process and, where applicable, the application closing dates.

11.4 The Research Degrees Committee will determine the University's Research Degree Scholarship Allocation Guidelines and review them on a regular basis.

11.5 Selection for a scholarship will be based on academic merit and the ranking of each applicant will be assessed on a combination of:

  • Undergraduate academic record
  • Honours level or equivalent standard
  • Referees' reports
  • Publications
  • Professional experience
  • Location in an area of research priority and research strength

11.6 Where a student becomes ineligible for, or rejects the offer of a scholarship, an offer may be made to the next ranked student providing they meet the selection criteria.

11.7 Students who commenced prior to 1 January 2017, and who were in receipt of one or more of the previous Australian Government scholarships (i.e. Australian Postgraduate Award, International Postgraduate Research Award, Research Training Scheme) will be offered an appropriate RTP scholarship as a replacement for their previous scholarship. The conditions, benefits and length of the previous scholarship will be maintained.

12. Awarding scholarships

12.1 Student and Academic Services will formally offer all research degree scholarships on the recommendation of the appropriate selection committee.

12.2 Offers made to a scholarship recipient must be in writing, either by email or letter, and include:

  1. the name and amount of the scholarship
  2. the duration of the scholarship
  3. program details
  4. supervision details
  5. payment details
  6. the donor, where applicable, and any additional requirements
  7. contact details of the area or person responsible for administering the scholarship
  8. inclusion of candidature information and scholarship conditions, and
  9. an acceptance slip requiring the recipient to agree to the terms and conditions and accept the offer of the scholarship in writing and to abide by the University's policies and procedures.

12.3 Scholarship recipients may apply to vary their candidacy in accordance with the Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research and the University's Scholarship benefits and conditions (domestic or international), or where applicable, those applying to the named scholarship.

12.3.1 For changes to the student’s research project that result in a new Field of Education (FOE), or for changes in program level (Masters and Doctoral or the reverse) refer to Transfer to another higher degree by research (clause 4.11 of the Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research).

12.3.2 For changes to load (from full to part-time, or the reverse), refer to Change of load between full-time and part-time enrolment (clause 4.6 of the Academic Regulations for Higher Degrees by Research). Also refer to 10.3 above. An approved change in load will normally change the living allowance (stipend) value accordingly.

12.4 A research degree student who relinquishes a scholarship may have it reinstated, subject to approvals and funding being available.

12.5 Student and Academic Services is responsible for ensuring the fortnightly payment of scholarships directly to the research degree student through the University's established payment procedures, following the research degree student's formal enrolment in the program. All variations to payment of research degree scholarships shall be authorised by the relevant Associate Dean: Research Education (or equivalent) and the appropriate cost centre manager.  For Commonwealth and University funded scholarships, variations to levels of funding will also be authorised by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

13. Reporting

13.1 The Dean of Graduate Studies will report to Academic Board annually on new scholarships established.

13.2 The Director, Finance, in conjunction with the Dean of Graduate Studies, will be responsible for preparing appropriate reports on financial details associated with Commonwealth funded research degree scholarships.

13.3 The Dean of Graduate Studies will be responsible for preparing appropriate reports on details associated with scholarships provided by non-government sources.