PhD Fieldwork Grant Scheme

Approximate value: $10,000
The amount available for this award is approximate. It will be confirmed at the time of awarding and determined by the committee according to the terms of the award.
Area of study: Any
Available to: Current students
Study level: Graduate research
Travel support: No
Financial need: No


Please read these guidelines carefully. Applications that do not meet these criteria for fieldwork should not be submitted by schools, and students should be advised that GRATS and other funding are more appropriate.

Note that assessment of applications for fieldwork support will be based not on the discipline involved, but the methodology involved.

Methodological approaches relevant to this scheme include ethnographic research techniques and studies requiring participant observation over a sustained period of time. Variants of such approaches include action research or participatory action research which require 'embeddedness' in a particular research environment.

Fieldwork funding may also be appropriate for research projects requiring long-term strategies of building trust to gain access to the object of research.

Fieldwork support is for projects in which the primary data for the PhD thesis can be collected only in a field location (for example, a fundable project may require access to particular communities, physical landscapes, indigenous languages, archaeological sites, or oral histories).

Hence, fieldwork under this scheme is distinguished from other research travel to collect data and information from archives, libraries, museums and galleries (which can be funded by schemes such as GRATS) by three elements:

  • the fieldwork research employs the ethnographic, field-based and observation techniques and research methodologies that are typically associated with, but are not restricted to, the disciplines of Anthropology, Archaeology and Linguistics
  • the fieldwork is essential to the project because research date being collected can "only be obtained by undertaking work at a specific field location", because they must be "studied in their specific locational context, otherwise the purposes of the research cannot be achieved", and
  • the fieldwork component typically will involve a minimum of three months in situ, and frequently significantly longer periods of time (whether as one trip, or several repeat trips.)


To be eligible for Fieldwork Grant funding, applicants must:

  • be PhD candidates enrolled in the Faculty of Arts, who are within 3 months of their expected Confirmation date (or MA students who have been given provisional approval to upgrade to PhD at Confirmation)
  • demonstrate that the primary data collection for their PhD requires fieldwork for a minimum of three months duration during the period of candidature
  • will submit, or have already submitted a detailed fieldwork program to their school as an integral part of their application for Confirmation of PhD Candidature, or concurrently with an application for conversion from Masters to confirmed PhD candidature

Applications for fieldwork funding submitted prior to the student's Confirmation (or conversion) may be approved provisionally, subject to:

  • formal approval of Confirmation (or conversion) and
  • submission to the Faculty Research Office of the Confirmation document, demonstrating that fieldwork is an essential part of the project
  • funds will not be released until these two conditions have been met

Students whose PhD candidature has been confirmed without explicit reference to an extensive fieldwork program as above are not eligible for support under this scheme.

Candidates who apply for funding for fieldwork under this scheme cannot apply for additional funding from the GRATS scheme for the same trip.

Students may apply for several research trips of fieldwork during their candidature, up to the limit of funding specified below. Each of several trips would normally be expected to be elements of the same fieldwork essential to the PhD research.

Candidates awarded a PhD Fieldwork Grant early in their candidature are not precluded from applying later in their candidature for further support for separate research trips to enhance their essential research through the Faculty's Graduate Research in Arts Travel Scheme (GRATS) Scheme and GRATS Top-Up Scholarship (Melbourne Abroad Travelling Scholarship MATS).
The experience of data collection and interpretation is considered an important part of the training of a PhD student. The scheme is designed to support this experience. Fieldwork funding awarded under this scheme cannot be used to pay for data analysis by professional fieldwork companies.

Candidates jointly enrolled in another Faculty (with Arts being the host Faculty) may be eligible for pro-rata funding.

  • AUSAID students are allowed one fieldwork trip (either to their home country or within Australia) funded by AusAID during the course of their scholarship. The maximum period approved for fieldwork is 12 months. Visit the Australia Awards website
  • Human ethics: Applications for fieldwork funding for the purpose of research involving human subjects must demonstrate compliance with the University's code of conduct for research before any data gathering or interpretation can commence under the auspices of the University's PhD Fieldwork funding scheme

Candidates who intend to conduct any form of fieldwork involving human subjects that require review by the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) or its Sub-Committees must attach evidence of ethics approval as part of their application.


Funds are limited and highly competitive for this scheme.

The maximum allowable under the Fieldwork Grant scheme is $10,000 over the duration of the PhD candidature (whether in one long trip, or several repeat trips). Schools are required to contribute a minimum of 25% of the total budget.

  • The costs of return (economy) fares to the primary site of field research
  • Domestic travel and transport costs
  • Government Fees - evidence of fees must accompany application
  • Access fees (ie Research Visas, National Park entrance fees) - evidence of fees must accompany the application

Funding in exceptional circumstances

  • Accommodation costs, where a clear and persuasive case is made that accommodation while on fieldwork is significantly more expensive than usual
  • Research assistance, where a clear and persuasive case is made that paying for such assistance in situ is essential, such as for interpreting and/or gatekeeper/community access
  • In cases of application for either accommodation or research assistance, the onus is on the student, and supervisor, to persuade the Fieldwork Committee that these additional costs should be supported

The Scheme does not fund

  • Visits to libraries, museums, archives, and other forms of data collection or research (see the guidelines for the GRATS and GRATS Top-Up Scholarship (MATS) schemes)
  • Visits to other universities, either to attend courses or to consult with academics
  • Data gathering or analysis performed by professional fieldwork companies or private individuals on behalf of the applicant
  • Applicants undertaking collaborative projects are referred to the Research, Innovation and Commercialisation ARC, NHMRC and internal grants and fellowships web page for further information on collaborative grant schemes
  • Living expenses, including accommodation are expected to be covered by either the applicant's scholarship or other sources
  • the provision of mail costs, equipment, and consumables (eg. tapes and batteries) is the responsibility of the candidate and/or the School (in addition to its 25% contribution to the grant)

Application process


There are two rounds of applications per year:

  • 1 March for fieldwork beginning between April and September
  • 1 September for travel between October and March


Applications will be considered by a committee of academic staff representing the principal fieldwork disciplines, chaired by the Associate Dean (Research) or his or her nominee.


The application must include:

  • Description of the thesis project
  • Description of the fieldwork methodology, demonstrating how it meets the criteria above at "Scheme Guidelines (What Constitutes PhD Fieldwork?)"
  • Detailed timetable for fieldwork travel (including timetable of expenditure)
  • Budget for the planned fieldwork, including
    • Budget must be itemised in detail
    • Justification of the source of quotations for airfares, and the source of other costs requested
    • A detailed case must be made for why accommodation or research assistance costs should be supported

The application must be accompanied by a letter from the student's principal supervisor outlining:

  • How the student's methodology meets the guidelines above of what constitutes fieldwork
  • That the proposed fieldwork is essential and integral to the project, and
  • That the fieldwork program was, or will be identified as an integral part of the application for Confirmation of PhD Candidature, or concurrently with an application for conversion from Master's to confirmed PhD candidature

Applications need to be signed by the Head of School, with an explicit commitment of the total financial contribution to the fieldwork program from the School. All applications will be considered on their merits. Grants will be approved subject to eligibility and the availability of funding.

Overseas travel to high risk destinations

Approval of all PhD Fieldwork will be contingent upon the current DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) advice in respect to level of safety of the overseas destination.

Applications which include travel to a destination issued with a DFAT warning must also include a request for "Special Circumstances Approval". All such requests will be referred to the Academic Registrar and must be accompanied with documentation of the grounds for this special consideration. The University's Travelling and working off-campus web page can provide more information.

Human ethics approval

Candidates who intend to conduct any form of fieldwork involving human subjects that requires review by the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) or its Sub-Committees must attach evidence of ethics approval as part of their application.

Insurance: student cover

To accommodate the Travel Insurance needs of all University of Melbourne Students engaged on University Approved Travel, a Student Travel Insurance Policy has been established. Under this Travel Insurance Policy, FREE Travel Insurance is provided for all University of Melbourne Students under one of 2 separate categories. Please consider the Travel Insurance Policy carefully, and, if you are eligible, complete all formalities at least five (5) University Business Days prior to departure.

It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that adequate insurance cover has been obtained and that the insurance meets all of their needs.

Retrospective applications

Out-of-round applications will not be considered but may be accepted retrospectively and assessed as such during the following round of applications.


Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Graduate Research

Room 120
Old Arts (Building 149)
The University of Melbourne
Parkville VIC 3010


The judges' decision will be final and the University reserves the right not to award the prize in the event it is considered that no work of sufficient merit has been submitted. Winning applicants please note the University of Melbourne reserves the right to publish the name of the winning applicant on its websites and other University of Melbourne publications.