PhD in Accounting

The PhD program in Accounting is offered by the Research School of Accounting (RSA). The program draws upon the supervision expertise of researchers within RSA, and offers various opportunities for higher degree by research (HDR) candidates to immerse themselves in the School’s vibrant research community.

While the program focuses on preparing candidates for an academic career, many of the skills it provides are readily transferable to senior industry positions in professional services, business analysis, accounting, finance, auditing, tax, commercial law, and quantitative analysis.

CRICOS #: 048345A

Duration: 2 to 4 years full time (4 to 8 years part time)

Before applying

Before you submit an application for entry to the program, you should:

  • ensure you meet the admission requirements outlined below
  • identify potential supervisors – that is, one or two accounting academics at ANU who conduct research in your area of interest.

You can find information on researchers and their research areas in the ANU researchers databaseRSA staff directory or at RSA Research.

While other ANU schools may recommend contacting potential supervisors before submitting an application, this is not required or encouraged for entry into RSA’s PhD program. Instead, you only need to list the name(s) of potential supervisors in your online application form.

Potential supervisors cannot guarantee entry into the PhD program. Admission will depend on the strength of your application relative to others in the pool.

After you’ve completed the steps above, you can proceed with an online application.

Application deadlines

The first semester of the ANU academic year starts in February, and the second semester starts in July. While all applications for first semester entry must be submitted before 31 October, international applicants wishing to be considered for an ANU scholarship should submit their applications before 31 August.

To be considered for a scholarship, your application must be accompanied by all the supporting documents listed below, including the referee reports. Request for referee reports are triggered and sent to your nominated referees at the time of submission of program application. It is thus important that you submit your application in advance (2-3 weeks) to allow time for your referees to provide their reports prior to the scholarship deadline.

If you’re currently completing an academic degree and haven’t yet received your final results and transcript, you should still submit all available documents before the deadline, and forward remaining results once you receive them. We won’t make a final decision on your application until we’ve received all the required documents.

Admission requirements

The admission requirements for the PhD program in Accounting reflect the advanced knowledge that candidates will need to undertake the coursework component of the degree, and the research experience and skills needed to successfully undertake and complete the research thesis.

The minimum qualification requirement for admission to the PhD program in Accounting is:

  1. a Bachelor degree with First Class Honours or Second Class Honours Division A in accounting (or a closely related discipline) from an Australian university, or
  2. another qualification (e.g. a Master degree or equivalent postgraduate qualification) that the Delegated Authority is satisfied is equivalent or superior to a degree mentioned in (a), or
  3. a combination of qualifications and professional experience that the Delegated Authority is satisfied is equivalent or superior to a degree mentioned in (a).

Admission to the PhD program in Accounting is competitive and we can only admit a limited number of applicants each year. Meeting the minimum entry requirements does not guarantee you a place in the program.

If you don’t have the minimum qualification for entry into the PhD program, you might consider applying to the MPhil program or the Master of Commerce (Advanced) program. If you’d like to consider these pathways, contact the RSA HDR convenor or Master of Commerce program convenor for more information.

English language requirements

All applicants must satisfy the University’s English language admission requirements. An international applicant who is not a native English speaker may satisfy these requirements by submitting evidence of an IELTS overall score of at least 6.5, and with no component less than 6.0, or a paper-based TOEFL score of at least 570, with at least 4.5 in the essay component.

Application and supporting documentation

You must submit your application online via the ANU Application Manager.

In addition to the standard information required in the online application, you must submit the following supporting documents as part of your application:

  • a research proposal – see guidelines on how to prepare a persuasive research proposal
  • example(s) of your written work, e.g. thesis abstract and chapter, research project, or published work
  • transcripts from all university degrees (colour scans including grade explanations)
  • completion or graduate certificates from all university degrees (colour scans)
  • a one-page personal statement or statement of purpose
  • official TOEFL or IELTS results (where applicable) to demonstrate that you satisfy the University’s English language requirements
  • a current resume listing research experience and all previously awarded scholarships
  • nomination of three referees. A referee report form will be sent automatically to the referees you list in your online application. Your application will be complete and ready for assessment once we receive all documents, including referee reports.

Offers of admission

The HDR convenor will review all complete applications submitted by the relevant deadline.

If your application is short-listed, you may be required to attend an interview (face to face or online).

We may send you an offer of admission if you satisfy the eligibility criteria and your area of interest matches those of RSA academics with supervisory capacity. However, since admission is competitive and supervisory capacity is limited, we won’t send any offers of admission until after the relevant application deadline, irrespective of the date when you submit your application.

Program structure

The PhD program in Accounting consists of two components – coursework and research.

Candidates undertake the research component concurrently with the required coursework.

PhD coursework component

PhD candidates are typically required to undertake up to eight semester-length courses over the first 12 months of the candidature when studying on a full-time basis. These eight courses include five core courses and up to three elective courses. The minimum coursework requirement for candidates who have completed equivalent courses includes four core courses and two elective courses.

The coursework provides training on research in accounting, research methodology and statistics. It also equips candidates with knowledge and skills specific to their PhD topic area, as well as broader research training to foster high-quality research. The required courses are listed below.

Core courses

Candidates must complete the following core courses:

  • BUSN8007 Analysis of Financial Reporting
  • BUSN8013 Seminar in Research Methods in Commerce
  • BUSN8200 Judgement and Decision Making Research in Accounting
  • STAT6038 Regression Modelling, or EMET6007 Econometric Methods, or EMET8005 Economic Models and Introductory Econometrics; or a higher-level statistics or econometrics course
  • BUSN8100 Empirical Research in Financial Accounting


Candidates can select up to three more specialised elective courses – from advanced RSA units when offered – including:

  • BUSN8145 Corporate Governance: Research Preparation
  • BUSN8056 Advanced Auditing and Assurance Services
  • BUSN8111 Seminal Research in Accounting (studying financial accounting, management accounting, public sector accounting, or taxation)
  • advanced courses from other disciplines deemed to be at an appropriate level (e.g. finance, econometrics, management, psychology, statistics or sociology).

Electives are determined in consultation with the candidate’s supervisory panel.

Candidates must complete the coursework with at least a 70 per cent average in each semester before they can progress to the thesis stage.

PhD research component

PhD candidates proceed to the thesis component following completion of the coursework at the required standard and the successful defence of their proposals. Candidates are expected to consult widely with their supervisory panel in completing their research thesis.

Research supervisory panel

When a candidate is admitted to the program, a primary supervisor is appointed. The primary supervisor has the responsibility of overseeing the candidate’s progress until a supervisory panel is chosen. During the first year of the program, it is important that candidates start developing their research topic ideas by consulting with their primary supervisor and other academic staff within RSA.

Either in a candidate’s first year of study, or soon after completion of their coursework, a supervisory panel will be chosen. The role of the panel is to assist, advise, and provide support and encouragement to the candidate for a timely and successful completion of the research thesis. The HDR convenor will determine the composition of the supervisory panel in consultation with the candidate.

RSA research seminar program

The RSA research seminar program consists of weekly seminars presented by national and international researchers. PhD candidates are expected to attend and participate in the seminars throughout their candidature.

Research integrity training

Within three to six months of enrolment, all PhD candidates must complete the Research Integrity Training and pass the exam. Completion of this course and exam is a compulsory milestone for all PhD candidates.

Thesis proposal review

In addition to the coursework component, each PhD candidate must develop and defend a detailed thesis proposal in consultation with their supervisory panel. The purpose of the review is to assess the originality, significance, adequacy and achievability of the candidate’s thesis plan.

To proceed with the thesis, the candidate must successfully defend the proposal. The candidate defends their proposal 12 or 18 months after commencement (or 24 months if part-time), and a review panel formally assesses the proposal.

Annual progress review

It is University policy that each candidate’s progress be reviewed periodically. In each year of their program, PhD candidates are required to submit an annual plan and report as a basis for periodic progress review. This document provides details on work completed by the candidate since the previous review, current progress, and any problems that may impact their research. It also outlines the coursework and research the candidate intends to undertake in the following 12 months.

Oral presentation

In their final year, candidates are required to give a final oral presentation on their research, usually three months before submitting their thesis.

Read more about research candidate milestones.

Thesis submission and examination

The culmination of the PhD in Accounting is a written thesis which, upon completion, is submitted for examination. The thesis is examined by experts in the relevant field.

For more information on the process, visit our page on submitting a thesis.


For information about scholarships available to HDR candidates, visit our page on scholarships and fees.

Job placement

Read details of some of our alumni’s recent job placements.

Current PhD candidates

A list of current PhD candidates in Accounting is available on the RSA staff directory.