Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What, if any, examinations do I have to take in order to qualify for the Higher Degrees by Research?

A: TOEFL/IELTS (particularly for applicants whose native tongue or medium of undergraduate instruction is not English), GRE and a recognised previous qualification - a first degree with Honours for MA(Arch) and a Masters degree for PhD. The key word to note here is "recognised"; degrees not recognised by NUS will not be awarded the same credit rating.

How important is a proficiency in English?

A: This depends on the research topic. A discursive topic will require much greater proficiency than technical ones. You will have to submit your thesis in English and therefore your chances of passing improves with your proficiency in the language.

Q: How long does the programme take?

A: A minimum of 2 years for an MA(Arch) and 3 years for a PhD. Please note, however, that this is a minimum and be prepared to take up to 3 years for an MA(Arch) and 5 years for a PhD. Even longer periods for both degrees are not uncommon.

Q: Are there ways by which I can keep my study period short?

A: Yes. The important thing is to be very focused and to develop a strong methodology. The methodology used will depend on the subject, of course, but a research degree requires that you present an argument and evidence to support that argument. There are two criteria for a research degree - new knowledge or new understanding of current knowledge. The acid test is the reliability of your research and argument. You need to work very closely with your supervisor on this.

Q: Are there scholarships that I can apply for?

A: A research scholarship form is appended to your application form. The University normally offers both a place and a scholarship but there are cases where the student is offered only a place. Unfortunately, this scholarship is the only one currently offered through the University. Note that this scholarship is for the minimum periods only and will require you to apply for an extension should you need more time. These extensions are not, in general, kindly looked upon.

Q: What can I do to improve my chances?

A: Tailor your topic to match the research interests of faculty. A list of our research areas can be found on the CASA "Research Directory". This is a good source of information regarding the research work in the Department. You can also access our e-mail addresses and write to the relevant faculty to seek their advice. Identify in your application a few faculty members that you might like to work with.

Q: Can I offer research topics in more than one area?

A: Certainly. However, please be clear that this is a self-driven research degree and that you will have to ensure that you have the necessary background to take on these topics at a Master or PhD level. In addition, as research degrees involve you working on a single topic for several years, make sure that your interest in the topic is sufficient to see you through. Do not offer a range of topics just to improve your chances of acceptance!

Q: When do you process applications?

A: Twice a year. Applications need to be received by 15 May for the January intake and 15 November for the August intake. Applicants will be informed of their applications' results in October and May respectively. Students are expected to start in January and August respectively.

Please note that only applications with the complete set of supporting documents will be processed immediately.

The essential documents to be submitted are: -

  1. Application Form
  2. Listing of Publication(s) Graduation Certificate / Diploma of Bachelor’s Degree Official Transcripts of Bachelor’s Degree Graduation Certificate / Diploma of Master’s Degree (if applicable) Official Transcripts of Master’s Degree (if applicable) Research Proposal TOEFL and GRE Scoresheets 2 Referee Reports Other supporting documents (photocopies of NRIC/Passport, membership of organisations, scholarships / awards received etc.)

Incomplete applications will not be processed.

Q: What other essential information should I know about graduate research application/admission?

A: For details about graduate research application/admission at NUS, please refer to the NUS Admissions website at

Answers to FAQs are unofficial and do not form part of the University's offer or acceptance of candidature in the courses mentioned. All inquirers and applicants are requested to check the status of information they receive.