PhD in Finance

The PhD program in Finance at the Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics (RSFAS) equips graduates with the necessary skills to conduct research in the field of finance. The program will challenge PhD candidates to identify and solve important questions in the finance world, and will help them to develop a keen analytical mind essential for navigating the fast-changing financial marketplace and corporate sector.

While the program is focused on developing candidates for an academic career, many of the skills it provides are readily transferable to various positions in government and industry. Some examples are researchers or associates within the banking and financial sector, including investment banking, in roles such as investment or quantitative analysis, mergers and acquisitions analysis and business analysis; and researchers and policy advisers at institutions including central banks, bank regulators, international organisations such as the World Bank, IMF, OECD and ADB, and government departments such as Treasury and Finance.

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 finance 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 database and on the RSFAS Finance faculty page.

While other ANU schools may recommend contacting potential supervisors before submitting an application, this is not required for entry into RSFAS’s PhD programs. 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 Finance 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 Finance is:

  1. an Australian Bachelor degree (or equivalent) with First Class Honours or Second Class Honours Division A in finance, actuarial studies, economics, business, commerce, or a subject area with a substantial quantitative content, or
  2. another qualification (e.g. a Master degree) with a substantial research thesis component that the RSFAS HDR (higher degree by research) committee is satisfied is equivalent or superior to a degree mentioned in (a), or
  3. a combination of qualifications and professional experience that the RSFAS HDR committee is satisfied is equivalent or superior to a degree mentioned in (a).

Admission to the PhD program in Finance 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 sufficient research experience for entry into the PhD program, you might consider applying to the MPhil program. If you’d like to consider this pathway, contact the RSFAS HDR 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 one-page statement of purpose outlining your motivation to undertake a PhD in Finance at ANU
  • a research proposal – see details below, as well as these guidelines on how to prepare a persuasive research proposal
  • copies of written research work, e.g. honours or Master thesis, research project, or published works
  • either GRE General Test or GMAT results completed within the last five years – some applicants are exempted from this requirement (see below for further information)
  • official TOEFL or IELTS results (where applicable) to demonstrate that you satisfy the University’s English language requirements.

Research proposal

The online application requires you to submit a research proposal. The proposal should set out an original research idea, provide an introduction or background to your research idea, clearly set out the research objectives, and explain why the research is important and the contribution it will make to the finance discipline. Among other things, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of the key literature in your chosen topic area. As a guide, you should aim for between 1,500 and 2,000 words, including a list of key references.

If you don’t have a prior degree in finance, your research proposal should present a puzzling and interesting real-world phenomenon in finance that could lead to an important research topic. You should aim to convince the RSFAS HDR committee that your proposal is relevant and interesting.

The RSFAS HDR committee uses the research proposal as an indicator to assess the quality and originality of your ideas and your skills in critical thinking. Note that the research proposal does not restrict you to this field of study should you be admitted to the PhD program.

GRE or GMAT requirement

You must submit either your GRE General Test or GMAT results as part of your application. You’re exempt from this requirement if you’ve already completed an ANU Master of Finance or ANU degree with honours in Finance. You’re also exempt if you’ve completed a Finance degree with honours from another Australian university, but we encourage you to provide GRE or GMAT results to improve your chances of admission and scholarship support.

Offers of admission

The RSFAS HDR committee 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 RSFAS 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 in program in Finance consists of two components – coursework and research.

Candidates undertake the research component after successfully completing the required coursework.

Assumed knowledge and pre-PhD preparation

While not a formal requirement for entry, you should be aware that the PhD coursework requirements outlined below assume knowledge equivalent to later-year undergraduate and graduate diploma–level studies in economics, finance and quantitative methods. The following is an indicative list of ANU subjects that make up the basic assumed knowledge:

PhD coursework component

In the coursework component, PhD candidates undertake a comprehensive set of courses designed to provide training in the theory and methods necessary to conduct high-quality finance research. These courses are academically rigorous and will be examined. Candidates take up to 18 months to complete the coursework (10 subjects plus a pre-PhD mathematics refresher course, if required). Upon successful completion of the coursework, PhD candidates will progress to the research component. The standard coursework structure for the PhD is as follows:

Pre-PhD summer course (if required):

  • ECON8007 Mathematical Techniques for Advanced Economic Analysis

Year 1, Semester 1:

Year 1, Semester 2:

  • FINM8018 Doctoral Studies in Asset Pricing
  • FINM8019 Doctoral Studies in Corporate Finance – Theory
  • Elective
  • Elective

Year 2, Semester 1:

  • FINM8020 Doctoral Studies in Asset Pricing 2
  • FINM8021 Doctoral Studies in Corporate Finance – Empirical

Three electives taken in the first year, consisting of:

  • At least one of:
  • At least one of:
  • At most one of:

Other electives may be possible beyond those listed above. Note that not all courses are offered in all years.

In Semester 1 of the second year, PhD candidates are also required to attend Special Topics in Finance seminars. This is an advanced reading seminar series led by faculty and senior PhD candidates aimed at providing candidates with exposure to up-to-date research. This seminar series culminates in a draft proposal that will form the basis of the candidate’s thesis proposal review (see below).

PhD research component

Following the successful completion of coursework, PhD candidates undertake specialised research training and independent research. Research training begins in the second year with advanced-level seminars, where participants delve deeply into key current research papers. At the same time, PhD candidates will commence research in their chosen topic. The year culminates with the defence of the first research proposal or paper, known as the thesis proposal review (see below).

Research supervisory panel

When a PhD candidate is admitted to the program, a provisional supervisor is appointed. The provisional supervisor has the responsibility of overseeing the candidate’s progress until a supervisory panel is chosen.

The Special Topics in Finance seminar series held during Semester 1 of the second year of candidature will help facilitate the finalisation of PhD supervisory panels. The role of the supervisory panel is to assist, advise, and provide support and encouragement to the candidate for a timely and successful completion of the research thesis.

RSFAS finance seminar program

The RSFAS finance seminar program consists of regular seminars presented by national and international researchers. PhD candidates are expected to attend and actively 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

The thesis proposal review is a major milestone towards the end of the second year. The purpose of the review is to assess the originality, significance, adequacy and achievability of the candidate’s thesis plan.

PhD candidates are required to submit a draft thesis proposal following completion of the Special Topics in Finance seminar series towards the end of Semester 1 in the second year of their candidature. The proposal includes a description of the research to be undertaken in the thesis, and a summary of the thesis structure and time plan. Candidates are required to give a presentation to the RSFAS faculty and submit a paper to their supervisory panel.

Successful completion of the thesis proposal review (as determined by the Delegated Authority following consultation with the HDR convenor and supervisory panel) is required to continue in the PhD program.

Annual progress reviews

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 Finance is a written thesis which, upon completion, is submitted for examination. The thesis is assessed by examiners who are 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

See our list of current Finance PhD students.