Doctor of Philosophy

Abbreviation: PhD
Course Convenor: Prof Anthony Williams
Course Code: 5001


The PhD is a complete, stand-alone degree that is an internationally recognised doctoral degree. It is designed for students to develop advanced skills in carrying out independent and sustained research. The thesis should demonstrate a critical application of specialist knowledge and make an independent contribution to knowledge in the area of research. The delivery of the course is governed by the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Rules for Candidature [AR.09].

Aim of Course

The aim of the Doctor of Philosophy degree is to enable students to mentor their independent learning ability for continuing professional development through acquiring the necessary skills including transferable skills, research techniques and their application. These will be developed through activities which:
  • enable appropriate evidence of advanced knowledge about a specialist body of theoretical and/or applied topics;
  • encourage a high order of skill in analysis, and critical evaluation through the planning and execution of a piece of scholarship or research; and
  • assist creativity and flexibility in the application of knowledge and skills to new situations, to solve complex problems and to think rigorously and independently.


The Doctor of Philosophy degree course is self-accredited by Avondale College of Higher Education within the terms of level 10 in the Australian Qualifications Framework. The course is nationally registered with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.

Admission Requirements

Educational and other qualifications, skills and/or prerequisite occupations

A person may be admitted to the Doctor of Philosophy course who:
  1. has been awarded an AQF Level 9 research master degree, an AQF Level 9 coursework master degree with a self-directed research component of no less than 50%, or an AQF Level 8 bachelors honours degree (first class honours pass) with a self-directed research component of no less than 50% or equivalent; or
  2. holds a qualification that the Research Committee deems equivalent to those prescribed above, and.
  3. is able to demonstrate potential to undertake work at doctoral level in the proposed field of study.

Students enrolled in a research master degree at Avondale may upgrade their enrolment to PhD candidature where they have not yet completed the research master degree, and where they have been enrolled in the research master degree at Avondale for not less than 12 months as a full-time candidate or eighteen months as a part-time candidate, and the student has successfully passed the confirmation process where the assessment has been undertaken using the criteria for PhD confirmation.

Additional Admission Selection Criteria

Acceptance is dependent on: (a) the applicant’s qualifications; (b) the availability of appropriate supervision; (c) the availability of appropriate infrastructure; and (d) the quality and feasibility of the research proposal.
A formal interview conducted by the Assistant Faculty Dean (Research), and in consultation with the relevant Head of Discipline if needed, prior to acceptance for the purposes of establishing areas of interest for the proposed study and identifying a suitable supervisory team.

Length of Candidature

PhD candidates normally conclude their work in no-less than 3 years by full-time study and no less than 6 years by part-time study. PhD candidates are not permitted to extend their candidature beyond 6 years full-time or 8 years part-time study.

Mode of Study

Study is offered in full-time or part-time mode, by distance education or on campus (Lake Macquarie Campus). Click here to decide which mode is right for you.


Tuition costs for full-time doctoral study (24 credit points per semester) are:
$15,392 per annum for Australian and New Zealand students (as at 2016)
$20,928 for international students (as at 2016)

Pro rata fees are calculated for students undertaking the PhD by part-time study.
Additional costs apply for international students studying on-campus.
Please visit the Future Student Financial Information page for further details

Tuition fee-waiver scholarships

A limited number of tuition fee-waiver scholarships are available. Students wishing to be considered for a tuition-fee waiver scholarship should write a letter after their confirmation to the -

Secretary of the Research Committee
Avondale Research Committee
Avondale College of Higher Education
PO Box 19

Allocation of Scholarships is subject to funding availability, ability of the student to complete the degree with standard timeframes and continues subject to satisfactory progress in the degree.

Advanced Standing and Credit Transfer

Advanced standing, credit transfer and recognition of prior learning is as per the Advanced Standing Policy.

Students enrolled in a research master degree at Avondale may upgrade their enrolment to PhD candidature where they have not yet completed the research master degree, and where they have been enrolled in the research master degree at Avondale for not less than 12 months as a full-time candidate or eighteen months as a part-time candidate, and the student has successfully passed the confirmation process where the assessment has been undertaken using the criteria for PhD confirmation

Doctor of Philosophy Milestones

  1. Confirmation of Candidature

    Approximately 6 months to 1 year of enrolment. The student prepares a final proposal of the research project (approximately 10,000 words) to a confirmation panel. The purpose of the confirmation process is to support students in the early stages of their candidature, and to allow them to receive objective confirmation that their research direction is sound, the methodologies appropriate and the standard of academic writing is at the Master of Philosophy level. Any difficulties that may impede successful completion are identified and remedied.
  2. Annual seminar presentation

    An annual presentation to academic peers of the progress made on the research project.
  3. Presentation of thesis for examination

    The objective of units PHDT71000 (full time) or PHDT72000 (part time) is to produce a thesis of between 80,000-100,000 words including footnotes, exclusive of words in maps, bibliographies and appendices. This degree may be done entirely by written thesis or by a combination of written thesis and creative and/or performance practice where the research is derived from creative and/or performance research areas. A thesis by publication is also available.
  4. A publication is submitted

    Acceptance for publication of a peer-reviewed article during the candidature period is expected, but is not a condition of graduation; however, a submitted peer-reviewed publication is required for completion of the degree. Co-authorship with the supervisor is positively encouraged and the rules of co-authorship must be clarified and discussed early in their candidature so that students are fully informed.
  5. Post thesis submission seminar

    A presentation to academic peers of the research project and thesis submitted.

Applying for a PhD

Applications may be lodged at any time of the year*. Intending applicants should discuss their proposed research topic with a potential supervisor before submitting an application.

The application must include:
  • A completed Application for Enrolment form
  • Certified copies of academic transcripts
  • A brief proposal (1,000 words) outlining the proposed research field to be pursued
  • A sample of a major written assignment or mini-thesis submitted for assessment as part of a completed degree

Fully completed applications should be submitted to the Admission Enquiry Centre.

Acceptance is dependent on: (a) the applicant's qualifications; (b) the availability of appropriate supervision; and (c) the availability of appropriate infrastructure.

*Avondale has a shut-down period over the Christmas and New Year. Applications received in the month of December may not be assessed until the end of January the following year.

Potential Topic Areas

The following list of potential supervisors and their respective areas of expertise is indicative rather than exhaustive. It is intended to start prospective candidates thinking. Additional topics and areas may be possible and prospective candidates are encouraged to discuss their ideas with potential supervisors or the Vice-President (Academic & Research).

Supervisor contact details may be found by searching Staff Profiles

For information on other areas contact Admissions on 1800 991 392 or international +61 2 49 802 377

List of Approved Supervisors

Supervisors of Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students are selected from the list of approved supervisors, as outlined in the Selection of Supervisors Policy [AR.02]
Supervisor Name Area of Expertise
Prof Tony Williams* **
Course Convenor
Vice President (Academic & Research)
Curriculum design
Professional education
Design cognition
A/Prof Phil Fitzsimmons* **
Assistant Dean Research, Faculty of Education Business & Science
English pedagogy
Qualitative research methodologies
A/Prof Robert K. McIver* **
Director of the Spirituality & Worship Research Centre (SWRC)
Gospel of Matthew
Historical Jesus
Memory and the Gospels
A/Prof Daniel Reynaud* **
Assistant Dean Learning & Teaching, Faculty of Arts Nursing & Theology
Australian history
Media history
History of the local area
Denominational history
A/Prof Kevin de Berg* ** Chemical epistemology
Chemistry education
History and philosophy of science and its application to teaching and learning of science
Science education
Science and religion
Qualitative and quantitative methodologies
Dr Darren Morton* ** Exercise science
Lifestyle issues
PDHPE curriculum
Dr David Tasker* ** Old Testament
Dr Steven Thompson* ** Old Testament narratives and ancient translations
Studies in the Book of Revelation
Studies in Luke/Acts
Ancient cultural conventions and early Christianity
A/Prof Brett Mitchell*
Director of the Lifestyle Research Centre (LRC)
Infection control
Healthcare associated infections
Infectious diseases
Quantitative research - primarily
Clinical or experimental nursing studies
A/Prof Maria Northcote*
Director of the Centre for Advancement of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (CASTL)
Assessment in Higher Education
Education Studies
Information/Communication technologies and development
Learning Design and Learning Support
Qualitative methodologies
Threshold concepts
Prof Jane Fernandez*
Vice President (Quality & Strategy)
Postcolonial theory
English literature
Quality in higher education
Prof Ray Roennfeldt*
Systematic theology
Biblical Interpretation
Dr Kayle de Waal*
Head of Discipline, Avondale Seminary
Biblical Studies of Revelation
Pauline eschatology
Dr Peter Morey* Leadership
Change Management
Quantitative Methodology
Dr Lindsay Morton*
Head of Discipline of Arts
Australian Literary Journalism
Internationalisation across the Curriculum
Innovative Tertiary Assessment
Contemporary YA Fiction
Dr Carolyn Rickett*
Assistant Dean Research, Faculty of Arts Nursing & Theology
Autobiographical writing
Literary Studies
Creative Practice
Medical Humanities
Dr Marion Shields* Education leadership
Special Education
Dr John Skrzypaszek* Denominational history
Heritage culture
Dr Peter Kilgour*
Director of the Christian Education Research Centre (CERC)
School learning environments
Perception/opinion rating surveys using quantitative and qualitative data
Gender Issues in mathematics education
International student issues in the classroom
Streaming in secondary schools
Mathematics students
Teachers' beliefs and attitudes
A/Prof Peter Beamish*
Dean of Faculty Education, Business & Science
Education technology
Ministry in education
Dr Lillian Kent* Lifestyle medicine
Dr Brad Watson* International development
Environmental perspectives of church leaders
Child sponsorship
Dr Malcolm Anderson Traumatic Brain Injury
Psycho-social support systems
Neurosurgical and medical nursing
Dr Gemma Christian Computational theory
Dr Andy Collis Portraiture in the 21st century
The connection between artist-sitter relationship in portraiture
Dr Rick Ferret Marriage and family psychology
Sociology and Religion
Ministry studies
Dr Sherry Hattingh Internationalisation in Education
Learning and teaching
Assessment in higher education
Faith-based education
Curriculum development
Dr Wendy Jackson Systematic theology
Historical theology
Church history
Dr Murray House Ministry
International service learning
Theological education
Dr Andrew Matthes Effective leadership and a primary teacher’s ability to manage change
Distinct leadership profiles that enhance teacher’s ability to embrace change
Dr Wayne Miller Empowerment evaluation
Dr Richard Morris Painting methodologies
Surface and illusion painting
Dr Jason Morton Marine biology
Dr Robyn Pearce Dietetics
Nutrition and cognitive function in adolescents
Plant based eating
Dietary sodium reduction
Dr Kevin Petrie The relationship between student-peer bullying
School climate and peer popularity
Special needs education
A/Prof Paul Race
Dean of Faculty Arts, Nursing & Theology
Student preparation for practice in differing speciality areas
Career development and specialisation within nursing
Effects of health and social policy, and organisational structures on nursing practice.
Dr Lynden Rogers Interface of science and Christianity
Dr Alison Smedley Curriculum development
Adult learning
Clinical nursing education
Dr Drene Somasundram Women’s ministry
Pastoral theology
Dr Ewan Ward Interface between science and Christian Faith
PBL in upper level biochemistry
Chemical carcinogenesis and DNA repair
* Denotes the supervisor has ‘research active’ status see Research Active Definition [AR.01]
** Denotes the supervisor has supervised an HDR student to completion

English Language Proficiency Requirements

Courses at Avondale are delivered in the English language. In order to complete the PhD successfully students from a country where English is not the first language must provide documentary evidence that an IELTS score 7.0 has been achieved, with no band score less than 7. If the applicant has completed a degree of at least 2 years full time equivalent (AQF level 7 equivalent or higher) where English was the language of instruction and assessment, English language proficiency evidence is not required.

International Students

Overseas applicants wishing to reside on campus in Australia whilst undertaking graduate studies at Avondale are required to satisfy Australian Government VISA requirements (see the Department of Immigration and Border Protection [DIABP] website).

More Information

For more information email the Research Services Office, phone +61 2 4980 2121.