Doctor of Philosophy

Course Code 5001
CRICOS Code 059853A
Course duration /
Study mode

Course duration: Three to four years full-time (or 6 years part-time)
Study mode: On-campus and/or distance education available 

Location Lake Macquarie
Fee Support


*for eligible students, see


The Doctor of Philosophy (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 course is unique in that it is delivered within Avondale’s Christian education framework. Students of the PhD degree will develop critical thinking skills, ethical scholarship and attitudes that are conducive to personal and collective involvement. These values are applied in the context of Avondale’s values of Excellence, Spirituality, Nurture, Service and Balance. Avondale will ensure that the students gain the necessary introduction to research and provide an opportunity to support the development of their research skills.

The PhD provides students with the opportunity to develop a systematic and critical understanding of a complex field of learning and specialised research skills for the advancement of learning and/or for professional practice. 

Research specialisations can be in the areas of Education, Arts, Nursing, Ministry and Theology.

The aim of the PhD degree is to mentor students' 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.

You will be guided by your supervisor/s and will benefit from online support for specific methodological approaches. In addition, the staff development unit provides research students with support for specific issues such as writing or statistics. 

Career Opportunities

PhD graduates may gain employment in their specific area of research or the following:

  • Professor
  • Academic
  • Tertiary lecturer
  • Management consulting

Admission Criteria


A person may be admitted to the PhD 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 25%, or an AQF Level 8 bachelors honours degree (first class honours pass) with a self-directed research component of no less than 25% 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.


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.

No compulsory security or health clearances are required for admission purposes; however a student may need to obtain clearances in industries where they are conducting research further into their candidature for example:

Students are required to obtain a Criminal Record Check and Working With Children Check if they are to be researching and/or working with children and have not previously obtained this.

NSW Health Department vaccinations where the area the student will be researching and/or working requires vaccinations.


Overseas applicants are also required to satisfy Australian Government visa 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 7.0. 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.

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 [DIBP] website).

Course Structure

Course duration: Three to four years full-time (or 6 years part-time)
Study mode: On-campus and/or distance education available
Maximum time to complete: Full time - 6 years, Part-time - 8 years


  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 Doctor of Philosophy level. Any difficulties that may impede successful completion are identified and remedied.

  1. Annual seminar presentation

An annual presentation to academic peers of the progress made on the research project.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Post thesis submission seminar

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


Fully completed applications should be submitted to the Reseach Services Office - email:

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

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.



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



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]


Prof Tony Williams* **
Course Convenor
Vice President (Academic & Research)


Area of Expertise

  • Curriculum design
  • Professional education
  • Design cognition

A/Prof Phil Fitzsimmons* **
Assistant Dean Research, Faculty of Education Business & Science

Area of Expertise

  • English pedagogy
  • Qualitative research methodologies

A/Prof Robert K. McIver* **
Director of the Spirituality & Worship Research Centre (SWRC)

Area of Expertise

  • Gospel of Matthew
  • Historical Jesus
  • Parables
  • Tithe
  • Memory and the Gospels

A/Prof Daniel Reynaud * **
Assistant Dean Learning & Teaching, Faculty of Arts Nursing & Theology

Area of Expertise

  • Australian history
  • Media history
  • History of the local area
  • Denominational history

A/Prof Kevin de Berg * **

Area of Expertise

  • 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 * **

Area of Expertise

  • Exercise science
  • Lifestyle issues
  • PDHPE curriculum

Dr David Tasker * **

Area of Expertise

  • Old Testament

Dr Steven Thompson * **

Area of Expertise

  • 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)

Area of Expertise

  • Infection control
  • Healthcare associated infections
  • Infectious diseases
  • Epidemiology
  • 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)

Area of Expertise

  • 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)

Area of Expertise

  • Postcolonial theory
  • English literature
  • Quality in higher education

Prof Ray Roennfeldt *

Area of Expertise

  • Systematic theology
  • Biblical Interpretation

Dr Kayle de Waal *
Head of Discipline, Avondale Seminary

Area of Expertise

  • Biblical Studies of Revelation
  • Pauline eschatology

Dr Peter Morey *

Area of Expertise

  • Leadership
  • Change Management
  • Quantitative Methodology

Dr Lindsay Morton *
Head of Discipline of Arts

Area of Expertise

  • Australian Literary Journalism
  • Internationalisation across the Curriculum
  • Innovative Tertiary Assessment
  • Contemporary YA Fiction

Dr Carolyn Rickett *
Assistant Dean Research, Faculty of Arts Nursing & Theology

Area of Expertise

  • Journalism
  • Autobiographical writing
  • Literary Studies
  • Creative Practice
  • Poetry
  • Medical Humanities

Dr Marion Shields *

Area of Expertise

  • Education leadership
  • Special Education

Dr John Skrzypaszek *

Area of Expertise

  • Denominational history
  • Heritage culture
  • Spirituality
  • Identity

Dr Peter Kilgour *
Director of the Christian Education Research Centre (CERC)

Area of Expertise

  • 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

Area of Expertise

  • Education technology
  • Ministry in education

Dr Lillian Kent *

Area of Expertise

  • Lifestyle medicine

Dr Brad Watson *

Area of Expertise

  • International development
  • Environmental perspectives of church leaders
  • Child sponsorship

Dr Malcolm Anderson

Area of Expertise

  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Psycho-social support systems
  • Neurosurgical and medical nursing

Dr Gemma Christian

Area of Expertise

  • Computational theory

Dr Andy Collis

Area of Expertise

  • Portraiture in the 21st century
  • The connection between artist-sitter relationship in portraiture

Dr Rick Ferret

Area of Expertise

  • Marriage and family psychology
  • Sociology and Religion
  • Ministry studies

Dr Sherry Hattingh

Area of Expertise

  • Internationalisation in Education
  • Learning and teaching
  • Assessment in higher education
  • Faith-based education
  • Curriculum development
  • Discipleship

Dr Wendy Jackson

Area of Expertise

  • Systematic theology
  • Historical theology
  • Church history
  • Ecclesiology

Dr Andrew Matthes

Area of Expertise

  • 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

Area of Expertise

  • Empowerment evaluation

Dr Richard Morris

Area of Expertise

  • Painting methodologies
  • Surface and illusion painting

Dr Jason Morton

Area of Expertise

  • Marine biology
  • Biology

Dr Robyn Pearce

Area of Expertise

  • Dietetics
  • Nutrition and cognitive function in adolescents
  • Plant based eating
  • Dietary sodium reduction

Dr Kevin Petrie

Area of Expertise

  • The relationship between student-peer bullying
  • School climate and peer popularity
  • Special needs education

A/Prof Paul Race
Dean of Faculty Arts, Nursing & Theology

Area of Expertise

  • 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

Area of Expertise

  • Interface of science and Christianity
  • Physics

Dr Alison Smedley

Area of Expertise

  • Curriculum development
  • Adult learning
  • Clinical nursing education

Dr Drene Somasundram

Area of Expertise

  • Women’s ministry
  • Chaplaincy
  • Pastoral theology

Dr Ewan Ward

Area of Expertise

  • 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


To find out more about any of the units listed here, copy the unit code and then search for that unit here.


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 (AQF). The course is nationally registered with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

Where to get further information

Course Enquiries


Phone: +61 2 4980 2377
Monday-Thursday, 9.00am-5pm
Friday, 9.00am-12.00noon

Student Experience Survey

Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching

Approved Supervisors

Approved Supervisors for PhD Study and their Research Interests.


FEE-HELP is available for eligible students, see

View current information on tuition fees


Scholarships are available for Avondale students.  View all scholarship information.


"The beauty of Avondale is the relationships you can form due to the smaller environment and the nurturing lecturers... it's not just about the study. It's about the way you study."
Paul Rankin, Avondale PhD Graduate