Doctor of Philosophy (Education)

Uncover new knowledge and develop practical solutions for real-world educational problems. 

Solve our future educational needs.

Uncover new knowledge and develop practical solutions for real-world educational problems.

Southern Cross University’s Doctor of Philosophy (Education) is for teachers and educators with a strong background in research and who want to embark upon in-depth exploration of a specialised topic.

Through inclusive leadership and mentoring practices through the Faculty of Education, students foster the development of world-leading research across a range of disciplines.

The Faculty engages in diverse projects, many of which relate to learning and teaching in formal educational contexts from early childhood to higher education.

Outcomes of these research projects have informed education policy and practice nationally and internationally, and have influenced the Faculty's own curricula and teaching practice.

Academic staff in the Faculty of Education can provide supervision for various discipline areas. Please search for a supervisor on our Find a Supervisor page.

Meet your supervisors

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Research Highlight: With funding of $690,000 from the Mathematical Association of NSW, Southern Cross University researchers are investigating factors that impact the identity and retention of mathematics teachers in regional, rural and remote areas of NSW. The research aims to develop a ‘mathematics teacher identity’ and therefore improve student outcomes. Visit the Faculty's research pages for more information.


Faculty Duration Location CRICOS Code Contact
Faculty of Education 3 years 6 months  Lismore, Gold Coast, Coffs Harbour 016170F Professor Liz Mackinlay


A Doctoral Thesis must embody all of the below:

  1. Reviewing literature in a critical and focused manner
  2. Deploying analytic, comparative and critically reflective skills as appropriate
  3. Gathering and analysing material and interpreting results in an informed and competent manner
  4. Utilising and justifying appropriate methodologies, techniques and processes
  5. Make an original and significant contribution to knowledge and understanding in the field
  6. Demonstrate a high-level capacity for independent research.

Improving feelings of belonging in school can support student engagement and achievement.

Megan Pedler

PhD Candidate, Faculty of Education

Teenage years are some of the hardest years of our lives. We start trying to figure out who we are and what we want to do. Of those four very formative years we spend about 4,900 hours in class so we should make those hours count, right?

I went to a really competitive high school and it was clear to me that some of these kids were not making the most of their time. Many of them slept through the classes that they did come to and flat-out refused to do any homework like this guy. Let's call him Bob.

Some of them will love school and did really well and tried really hard like this girl, we can call her Sally. Before my eyes, those kids that were doing well kept doing better, and the kids that were doing poorly kept doing increasingly worse. Unfortunately, school separates teens based on willingness to jump through hoops. Something that it wasn't designed to do but it does very well.

Bob doesn't want to jump through the hoops but Sally does it very well and their different performances reflect that we've all known kids like Bob who just didn't want to be in school. Some of us may have even been like Bob. It's sad because when you think about it, we were all so into school when you were young so what changes? Why do kids stop wanting to engage in school once they reach their teens, which is when it really matters?

Many of them say things like school isn't for me or I'm never going to use this stuff again. Essentially they feel like they don't belong in school.

So what is belonging? Belonging is the extent to which an individual feels accepted or respected in their school. It involves the students perception of the school climate and how well they think they fit into what they see. If we want to help the teens who feel like school isn't for them we want to boost those feelings of belonging in school. 

Let's talk about how we can best help Bob.
Whether Bob feels like he fits in will depend hugely on what he values and what he values will come from his social relationships. First off, we have peers who are responsible for socializing Bob to what's normal and valued by others their age. Unfortunately, we'd be kidding ourselves if we thought that we could affect who a teenager chooses as a friend, so that isn't an option for us.
Second Bob is influenced by his family in both positive and negative ways depending on their circumstances, but obviously we can't change what a kid's family circumstances are, so that isn't an option for us to help either. But here's the shining star of influence - teachers.
Teachers can play a huge role in teen's lives as a positive role model. So the question is...
The relationships teachers have with their students help shape the student's ideas about themselves. We want to encourage Bob to see himself as a student, someone who belongs in school. I can do well in school.
The first step is continuing to show the equality and sensitivities of every student that all teachers strive for. More importantly, though, we need to emphasise Bob's identity as a student which we can do through a couple of tested and effective interventions.
First off exercises in self-affirmation, which includes listing and applying your personal values have been helpful with student's ability to cope with threats to their identity. If we can help Bob identify values of his, and then help me come up with ways in which those values can be applied to school, he can be able to see how he can use what he's good at and what he cares about.
Second, one study showed kids stories, that were written by older kids, that discuss times in which they had felt like they didn't belong. The kids were told to read these stories like they were editing them, but these stories actually had a deeper effect than that. Kids realised that feeling like you don't belong is a very normal experience, and it actually led to better school performance. Just showing kids that they do belong in school and showing them how they can help bolster their identity as a student with these few short interventions has noticeable effects in terms of engagement and academic achievement. We have nothing to lose, so why shouldn't we try?
Maybe if we help Bob see that he belongs in school and can do equally well in school as Sally does, then there won't be this huge discrepancy in performance. We just need to teach kids that they can see themselves as students and hopefully all kids can reach their full potential because they all belong in school.

Course fees

Domestic students:

Eligible applicants can apply for a Research Training Program-supported place. This will provide a tuition fee offset funded by the Australian Government's Research Training Program. Southern Cross University will then supplement this cost to cover the full program tuition fees.

If unsuccessful in obtaining a Research Training Program place, students may be required to pay fees.

Applications are considered on a case by case basis and the process can be highly competitive.

International students:

Course fees for International Students are $26,000 per annum, unless a tuition fee waiver has been approved as per the below detailed information. 

A request for a tuition fee offset can only be approved by the Dean, Graduate School providing there is support from the Principal Supervisor, DHDRT and Associate Dean (Research). For a request to be considered, the following criteria need to be taken into account:

  • Academic quality of the student is of high standing
  • Appropriate level of English proficiency (International English Language Test Score (IELTS) Academic (or equivalent) equal to or above 7.0, with a minimum 7.0 in Writing and no other band less than 6.5)
  • Expected research outcomes, quality of project and how it fits with the Supervisory team research areas
  • Whether the Faculty and Supervisory team have the resources and facilities to support the project
  • If the HDR applicant is not on a scholarship, evidence must be provided that they can support themselves during their candidature.

The Dean, Graduate School, will assess the request according to these criteria together with the application for admission to candidature and will seek further clarification if the above-mentioned criteria are not satisfied. If the tuition fee offset is approved by the Dean, this is recorded in the Student Administration System and conveyed to the student in the letter of offer for admission to candidature.

Tuition Fee Offsets that are not approved will mean the applicant will be required to pay full fees. If it is not obvious that the HDR applicant’s project will enhance the research output of the University and that of the Supervisory team, fees will apply.

Admission requirements

To qualify for admission to a PhD, applicants must:

  • Possess a degree equivalent to a Bachelor's degree from the University with first-class Honours or second class Honours, first division, or
  • Possess a degree equivalent to a Masters degree from the University, with a Relevant Research Component, or
  • Submit other evidence of relevant professional qualifications and experience, or research experience, to satisfy the Dean (Graduate Studies) that the applicant possesses a level of relevant research experience equivalent to an award in either clause (4)a or (4)b; and satisfy such additional requirements for admission to a PhD candidature, if any, as may be prescribed by the Dean (Graduate Studies).

All candidates are expected to be proficient in English comprehension and expression.

Apply online now

Research proposal

The Faculty of Education has 2 research concentrations, namely the Sustainability, Environment and the Arts in Education (SEAE) and TeachLab.

SEAE welcomes HDR researchers across sustainability, environment and the Arts in education, for example:

  • Environmental Education in the Anthropocene from K-12, higher education and the community
  • Sustainability in the Anthropocene
  • Arts Education in the Anthropocene from K-12, higher education and the community
  • Creativity
  • Childhoodnature and Natureplay
  • Arts-based Educational Research (e.g. a/r/tography)
  • Autoethnography
  • Walking Inquiry
  • Pedagogy and Curriulum
  • Theoretical studies (e.g. posthumanism, poststructuralism, postqualitative).

TeachLab welcomes HDR researchers across educational improvement, for example:

  • Educational leadership
  • School improvement
  • Teacher Education
  • Professional Experience
  • Mentoring
  • Curriculum Studies
  • Virtual learning
  • Higher education governance
  • STEM.

Contact the Graduate School


T: +61 2 6620 3219

T: +61 2 6626 9186