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Postgraduate Study

PhD by Research in Astronomy

Quick links

bullet Visit Us!
bullet Why Study @ Swinburne CAS?
          Staff, Research, Keck telescope access, Supercomputer access.
bullet The CAS PhD Program
         PhD topics, Meet our PhDs, CAS PhD student support summary, Swinburne Research Post-Graduate Studies.
bulletMasters by Research
         Swinburne scholarships, , External scholarships.
bulletHow To Apply
         Expression of Interest, Finding a supervisor, Formal applications, Timing, Eligibility,
         Research Higher Degrees Policy and Procedures.

Visit Us!

We welcome and encourage visits to CAS by prospective PhD students! It's the best way for you to see who we are, what we do and what doing a PhD here is all about. Please contact A.Prof. Ryan Shannon by phone or email to arrange a visit.

The CAS Vacation Scholarships in Astronomy programme is a great avenue for coming and seeing what research at Swinburne is all about. Every year, we offer up to four paid positions for 8-10 weeks of research experience for talented domestic and international students.

You can meet some of our current Ph.D. students here.

Why Study @ Swinburne CAS?

Because we're focussed on research!

Excellent researchers, cutting-edge astrophysics
With 24 research faculty staff, about 20 postdoctoral researchers and 35-40 current PhD students, CAS is one the largest astrophysics research centres in Australia. As the home of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery, OzGrav, and also a node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3D, Astro3D, CAS is undeniably one of Australia's leading research institutes in the field of astronomy and astrophysics. Our PhD contingent is probably the most vibrant and diverse in the country, with more than half of our students coming to CAS from overseas. Our PhD students play a central and vital role in the life of the Centre, as they conduct a large fraction of our cutting-edge research.

Wide-ranging expertise
With expertise in observational astronomy at just about all wavelengths (especially optical, infrared, radio astronomy) as well as many different facets of computational and theoretical astrophysics, CAS astronomers have many and diverse ways to discover, measure, understand, imagine, and simulate the most exciting astrophysical phenomena in our universe. Our research strengths cover all major areas of astronomy, from cosmology and the large-scale structure of the Universe, to quasars and the most distant known galaxies, extreme phenomena (including supernovae, hypernovae, fast radio bursts, and gravitational waves), to clusters and groups of galaxies, down to our own Milky Way, its structure and fascinating contents: stars, planets, pulsars, neutron stars and globular clusters. We also research 3-D visualisation techniques and applications of advanced scientific computing. You can find some of our latest research results highlights in our news section.

The world's best telescopes
CAS astronomers are regularly awarded observing time at major national, international and space-based observatories covering the entire electromagnetic spectrum. But we are the only Australian institute to have access to the world's largest optical telescopes. The Keck Observatory in Hawaii comprises the Keck twin 10-metre telescopes, and CAS astronomers are now observing there for 10 nights per year, guaranteed through to 2023. And that could be you! As well our having our own unique remote observing facility for Keck, each year we send two CAS PhD students to Hawaii to observe with Keck through our Keck Observatory Travel Bursaries scheme. And that's not all! Thanks to Australia's 10 year Strategic Partnership with the European Southern Observatory ESO, we also have access to all ESO facilities including the Very Large Telescopes.

Extreme computing
CAS is home to the GPU-based 'gSTAR', and since March 2018 also the new 'OzSTAR' supercomputer. As some of Australia's most powerful supercomputers, these facilities are excellent research tools in key areas of astronomy ranging from simulations of large-scale structure formation to the processing of enormous data volumes collected from radio telescopes. They are also used to render 3-D animations and movies promoting and explaining astronomy to the broader community. CAS is the only astronomy department in the southern hemisphere with its own dedicated supercomputers.

High-achieving PhD students
Around 30 high-achieving students are currently undertaking their PhD studies at CAS. They are a friendly, knowledgable group of independent-minded astronomers who help each other become experts in their fields. CAS students come from all over the world, not just Australia: as the map indicates, current CAS students come from more than two dozen different countries. Collectively, they speak about 20 different languages fluently.

We encourage applications from high-achieving students anywhere in the world who are strongly motivated to complete a PhD in astrophysics and/or supercomputing with an emphasis on astrophysical applications. While we make regular calls for competitively allocated, scholarship funded PhD positions throughout the year, we welcome Expressions of Interest at any time from students interested in pursuing their PhD in astrophysics at CAS.

    A larger CAS Staff Map is available here.

The CAS PhD Program

The primary postgraduate degree we offer is a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) by Research in Astrophysics. Academically high-achieving students work with leading astronomers to research important questions in astrophysics, data analysis, and visualization. The 3.5 year program enables students to conduct independent research at a high level of originality, relevance, and quality. Swinburne PhD graduates often take positions in leading astrophysics institutions around the world, and pursue a diverse range of other careers. A wide range of potential PhD topics are on offer. You can meet some of our current Ph.D. students here.

All CAS PhD students are provided with a powerful workstation and access to the considerable computational resources of the 'gSTAR' and 'OzSTAR' supercomputers. Students have access to internal funding to help support travel to telescopes, international conferences, and/or collaborative meetings. Please see the summary of PhD student support at CAS. CAS PhD students also have numerous opportunities to be involved in outreach and education.

As of 2018, the new Graduate Certificate of Research Innovation and Management is a new feature of the Swinburne PhD programme. This Certificate formally acknowledges and certifies some of the more important and transferable skills that higher research demands. All CAS PhD students are automatically enrolled in this Graduate Certificate programme.

Swinburne Research administers all of the University's research and graduate studies. For more information, see their Post-graduate Studies website. The full Research Degrees Policies and Guidelines can be found there. Please note that we do not offer PhD programs online or by distance learning.

Masters by Research

While we can award a Masters by Research degrees in Astrophysics, this is not the preferred route for postgraduate research training at CAS: scholarships for Masters by Research applicants are rare. (CAS does offer an online Master of Science (Astronomy) course via Swinburne Astronomy Online, but this is not a research degree.) If you believe your situation is exceptional, please contact A.Prof. Ryan Shannon by phone or email to discuss your case. We do not offer Masters by Research programs online or by distance learning.


While some PhD projects have guaranteed funding through external agencies (see here for a list), a CAS PhD position typically relies on having some form of scholarship or equivalent funding. Swinburne offers and administers a range of scholarships for domestic and international students. Domestic students are particularly encouraged to apply through the Research Training Program Stipend (RTPS) scheme. The Swinburne University Postgraduate Research Award (SUPRA) scheme is open to international and domestic students alike. All scholarships include a tuition-fee waiver. More information, including selection criteria, current rates, and application deadlines, can be found here .

Since all PhD scholarships are highly competitive, our usual process is to identify those students whose applications we will support, and then we help those students secure a scholarship to support their position. We make regular calls for Expressions of Interest in order to identify high calibre students interested in undertaking their PhD at CAS (see below for instructions on How To Apply).

Note for international students: While we make every effort to support international students with their relocation, there are significant costs associated with moving to Australia to start a PhD, including Overseas Student Health Coverage, visa, and relocation expenses. You can find more information about these costs, and our sources of PhD student support at this link.

Note on external scholarships: Some countries and external agencies offer scholarships for students wanting to study a PhD in Australia. We encourage students to apply for these opportunities in addition to applying for a scholarship from Swinburne; students applying for external scholarships still need to complete the stages listed in the How To Apply section below.

How To Apply

Applications for PhD positions and scholarships at CAS proceed as follows:

  1. An online Expression of Interest (EoI) to CAS.

    Australian and New Zealand citizens and Australian permanent residents are encouraged to consider applying for Research Training Postgraduate Stipend (RTPS) funding. Students in this position are requested to submit an Expression of Interest through the CAS form by October 5 in advance of the University-wide deadline. These EoIs will be considered for the open round listed next.

    For students of all nationalities we are now accepting Expressions of Interest, with a deadline of October 21.

  2. Following the EoI deadline, there is a short period of a few weeks where a short-list of applicants can discuss projects and positions with potential PhD supervisors at CAS. At the end of this period, both applicants and supervisors express a list of their preferred projects and students.
  3. A short, formal interview (either in person, via Skype, or by phone) with representatives from CAS.
  4. Student/project/supervisor allocations are made through a competitive process, taking into account the strength of each application, and the preferences of each student and supervisor.
  5. A formal application to Swinburne for PhD candidature and a scholarship.

Timing of applications and PhD start dates

The timing of our regular calls for EoIs are timed to approximately coincide with the major scholarship application deadlines. We will usually inform applicants whether we will support their scholarship application at least 4 weeks before the relevant deadline. CAS has a very strong track record through the scholarship application process: we only support applications where we feel confident of success.

The formal scholarship application and enrolment process is administered by Swinburne, rather than by CAS, and can take 6-10 weeks. For international students, the visa application process can only begin after Swinburne has approved the PhD application. In our experience, visa applications are typically processed within 1 or 2 months. Travel arrangements can only be made after a visa has been awarded.

While there can be considerable flexibility around start dates, successful applicants typically start their PhD positions at least 6 months after the EoI deadline.


The eligibility requirements for undertaking a PhD at CAS are detailed in Swinburne Research's Research Higher Degrees Policy and Procedure document. In summary, PhD applicants must have completed at least 4 years (or part-time equivalent) of university studies, at a high level of achievement, in a subject area related to their proposed PhD project. For most CAS PhD applicants, this translates to having completed a BSc with first or upper second class Honours or a Masters (with a research component) awarded at a similarly high grade.

There are English language requirements for international students. If English is not one of your native languages then at least 24 full months (or part-time equivalent) of your formal university studies must have had English as the language of instruction and assessment. Otherwise, you must submit the results of an English language examination with any formal PhD scholarship application. If you are relying on a language exam to certify your English language skills, then your exam results must have been issued no more than 2 years prior to your Swinburne application. You do not necessarily have to take the exams before submitting an EoI, but you will not receive a formal offer from Swinburne unless or until you can satisfy the English language requirements.

All international applicants should be sure to check here for the latest Swinburne IELTS and TOEFL Score Requirements.

International students must study full time.