How to apply to do a PhD

Read our step by step guide to applying to do a PhD at Victoria.

The Faculty of Graduate Research aims to make the PhD application processes as smooth as possible.

Applicants to most doctoral programmes at Victoria should follow the instructions on this page. In some cases, however, there is a different application procedure.

If you are currently studying for a Master’s by thesis, you may be able to upgrade from a Master’s to a PhD.

Read more on the qualifications you'll need for PhD study.

Application closing dates

You may submit an application at any time, but applications will only be considered three times each year.

The three application deadlines are 1 March, 1 July and 1 November.

Complete applications must be received by 5.00pm (NZ time) on the deadline of the application round for which you are applying. If your application or any required documentation arrives after one of these cut-off points, your application will be considered in the following application round. We strongly advise that you apply as soon as possible.

The International Institute of Modern Letters has one deadline a year. Read more from the International Institute of Modern Letters website.

How to apply

It is important to read all the information below, plus the Guide to Application, before you complete the online application form. Incomplete or incorrect application material will not be forwarded to selection panels.

Applications for admission as a PhD student and for Victoria Doctoral Scholarships should be made online. If you are an existing Victoria University student, you can apply online by logging into My Victoria.  Once you are in My Victoria, click on the link to Student Records, then click on Apply for PhD. If you are a new student, you can apply by logging into the online application directly.

If it is impossible for you to apply online, please email and we will send a paper application form to you.

You can also see a visual guide to the application process.

Before you begin

To use PDF fillable forms you will need to have an up-to-date version of Acrobat Reader. You can download the latest version. If you do not have an up-to-date version, you can use the Word document version of the form instead.

For Mac users: Your Mac may open PDF forms in 'Preview' by default. 'Preview' does not support all form filling features. You should open the form in the full version of Acrobat Reader. If you don't have the full version, you can download it for free. Otherwise, use the Word forms instead.

Step 1: Read the guide to application

Guide to Application pdf345.4KB (you can also read this online)

Step 2: Select your academic referees and download the confidential report form

References form a critical part of your application. You must ask two referees to evaluate your academic ability and research potential. Once you have downloaded the form, email it to your referees.

  • referees must use the Academic Referees—Confidential Report Form
  • your referees must email the report form directly to the FGR using a verifiable institutional email address (you must not send referees' reports yourself)
  • your application will be considered incomplete if your referees do not get the form to us before the application deadline.
  • you are strongly advised that at least one (but preferably both) referees should have experience with the successful completion of research students
  • if you are asking a potential Victoria University supervisor for a reference, please note that only one potential supervisor may be allowed to provide a reference and they must have had experience supervising you

* Editable form see note above.

Step 3: Download and complete the expression of research interests form

An essential part of your application is your Expression of Research Interests, which should be submitted on the form downloadable below. The form asks:

  • Why are you applying to Victoria?
  • What specific issue or question are you interested in studying? Why do you think this topic needs further research?
  • How might you go about researching this issue? What particular obstacles or challenges, if any, do you anticipate in conducting this research?
  • What in your academic, professional or personal background prepares you to undertake doctoral research?
  • In answering, tell us what you already know about your area of interest, referring to the literature if you think it appropriate.

The International Institute of Modern Letters has some advice for prospective creative writing applicants before they complete this form. Read more from the International Institute of Modern Letters website.

We do not require a research proposal. If you send us a research proposal instead of an Expression of Research Interests, your application will be considered incomplete.

* Editable form see note above.

Step 4: Download and complete the qualifications and experience form

As part of your application, you will need to indicate your qualifications and experience. You must do so on the form downloadable below.

* Editable form see note above.

Step 5: Assemble all required documentation

In addition to the forms listed above, all applicants will need to provide:

  • a 2000-word sample of your academic writing in English
  • copies of your academic transcript/s and degree certificates
  • a copy of your Diploma Supplement (applicants from EU countries only).

International students must provide:

Step 6: Upload all required forms and documentation to the online form

Check that you have:

  • Selected your academic referees and sent them the confidential report form (step 2)
  • Completed the Expression of Research Interests form (step 3)
  • Completed the Qualifications and Experience form (step 4)
  • Provided your academic writing sample and transcript(s)/degree certificates (step 5)
  • Provided a copy of your Diploma Supplement, if required (step 5)
  • Provided evidence of English language proficiency and translations of official documents, if required (step 5).

All of this information should be uploaded to the online form. If it is not possible to do so, you may send your documentation to the addresses listed below. Email attachments must be PDF or MS Word (not JPG or RAR) files.

Postal address

Faculty of Graduate Research
Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600
Wellington 6140
New Zealand


Courier address

Faculty of Graduate Research
Room 103
10 Kelburn Parade
Wellington 6012
New Zealand

All information must be received before the application deadline. If it is not, your application will be incomplete and will not be considered.

A note about sending copies of official documents

You are welcome to upload scanned copies of official documents with your application, or send them by email if you cannot upload them to the online form. Successful applicants will then receive an offer of a place at Victoria which will be conditional on the Faculty of Graduate Research receiving certified paper copies.

International students should note that Immigration New Zealand may require an unconditional offer of place before they will issue you with a student visa. In some cases, it may be best to send certified paper copies soon after submitting your application.

If you are posting documents, please ensure that you only post certified copies of your official documents (note that we cannot return originals).

What is a 'certified copy' of an official document?

Additional information required by some schools

Some schools require additional information to that specified in the application form. To find out more, please follow the links below:

Further details of all documentation required is contained in the Guide to Application.

Step 7: Submit your application

Applications must be submitted directly by the applicant (not by an agent).

You will receive notification from us via the email address provided that the application has been submitted.

You are able to check the status of your application by logging into the online application with your login and PIN. The checklist page on the online application shows the progress of your application including references that have been received.

Incomplete applications

Your application will not be processed until we receive your completed application form and all required documentation.

Victoria will dispose of any applications that remain incomplete through two successive application deadlines.

Certified copies of official documents

Your transcript, degree certificates and other official documents must be formally certified by an appropriate authority as identical copies of the originals.

The certifying authority must have sighted the original documents and be satisfied that the copies are genuine. The certified copies must bear the official stamp of the certifying authority.

Copies of your official documents are best certified by the institution of issue. Other acceptable certifying bodies include:

  • an embassy
  • a New Zealand diplomatic post
  • a New Zealand-based Justice of the Peace or lawyer.

Privacy of personal information

Victoria University of Wellington (the University) collects, stores, uses and discloses personal information relating to students in accordance with the Privacy Act 1993 for the purpose of conducting its proper business. A unique identifier is assigned to each student. Personal information is disclosed to other agencies as required under the Education Act 1989 and other relevant New Zealand laws, regulations, and contractual agreements by which the University is bound. Students have the right to access and seek correction of their personal information. More information on the University’s protection of the privacy of personal information is available.

Confirmation that your application has been received

When you submit your online form successfully you will receive an email, from us, once your application has been processed.

You are able to check the status of your application by logging into the online application with your login and PIN.  The checklist page on the online application shows the progress of your application including references that have been received.

If you do not receive notification from us within two weeks of sending your application, please contact us:

Assessing your application

Your application will be forwarded to the appropriate University school and assessed by the School Research Committee. For your application to be successful, the committee will need to be satisfied that you have an adequate academic background and that the school can provide you with the supervision and resources you will need for your research.

If the School approves your application, the committee may recommend that you do some coursework.

Only successful applications will be ranked for Victoria scholarships.

Victoria Doctoral Scholarships are assessed using the following criteria.

Notification of the outcome

You will receive notification of the outcome of your application and if appropriate your scholarship application six weeks after the closing date for applications.

Offer of place

If your application is successful, you will be sent an email offering you a place at Victoria. This offer will also indicate whether your application for PhD funding was successful.

In order to confirm your place at Victoria, you must:

  • accept this offer within one month
  • supply the Faculty of Graduate Research with original or certified copies of all required documents if you have not already done so
  • meet any other conditions placed on your offer.

PhD Study - Notes to Accompany the Offer of Place Letterpdf454KB

When to start your PhD


You are normally expected to arrive at Victoria and begin your studies:

  • within six months of accepting your offer of a place if you are a New Zealand student
  • within nine months of accepting your offer of a place if you are an international student.
The International Institute of Modern Letters has one start date per year. See the International Institute of Modern Letters website for more information.

Discussing a start date with your supervisor

Your offer of place will name your supervisor. Once you have accepted the offer, please get in touch with your supervisor to discuss a start date for your PhD. You will have to agree on a start date that suits both you and your school, and inform the Faculty of Graduate Research of any change to the date indicated on your offer of place. You will then be issued with a formal offer of study (which can be used for Student Visa purposes).

We highly recommend that you time your start date so you can attend one of the Faculty of Graduate Research's orientation programmes for new PhD students.

Find out more about PhD student orientation

Deferring your start date

If your circumstances change and you wish to delay your agreed-upon start date, please contact your supervisor and the Head of School. Both the Faculty of Graduate Research and your school will need to agree to defer your start date. Note that any deferral may have scholarship implications.

What to do when you arrive at Victoria

All PhD students must initially report to the Faculty of Graduate Research Office at 10 Kelburn Parade, Kelburn Campus. Contact Alana Hamill, Candidature Management Administrator on to make an appointment.

Application forms and information database

All of the forms and information documents mentioned above can be found here, also.