I am new to this community. The discussions here are interesting so I thought may be I can solve one of my queries regarding PhD admissions.

I am in India and I have completed my post-graduation last year from IIT (one of the top engineering institute in India) in research. I have submitted 2 journal papers and 3 conference papers (as co-author) in my post-grad course. Now I am looking for PhD admission in Australia. There is some personal reason for choosing Australia and I don't want to go to other country as of now. meanwhile I am working as a software engineer in an IT organisation.

I have emailed my resume and thesis to professors in Australian universities regarding the PhD vacancies under them. I have not received any reply (positive or negative). I have started wondering whether I am doing something wrong! Is there some other way to get this information and applying for it? Or am I suppose to send more information than resume and thesis, something that I am missing out.

PS: I have not added any sort of recommendation letter yet. I personally feel that my achievements should speak for me.

Thanks for any help in advance.

  • Did you supply any references? Or did you supply a list of referees who can be contacted? Or do you mean people who can "canvas" on your behalf?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 9:04
  • No, I have just mentioned my educational background, my thesis project, and current job experience. I haven't mentioned any point of contact other than me. Is that a good thing to add a POC?
    – RC0993
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 9:06
  • Referees or references are a "standard" part of a CV IMHO... Unless that is now classed as passé...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 9:10
  • I will keep reference for sure the next time I email someone. Thanks :)
    – RC0993
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 9:22
  • Can you edit your post to contain only one question? Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 10:40

3 Answers 3


The short answer is yes. You're not going to get PhD admission virtually anywhere in the world without letters of recommendation.

But there's something more important: your approach is wrong. You should not start by contacting professors directly. First, find out if the university has a centralized PhD program (these centralized programs are very common in the US, for example). As far as I'm aware, Australian unviersities do not, but if they do then contacting professors individually is just inappropriate and a waste of time; you should apply to join those.

If they don't then you should find out if they're recruiting PhD students. They might have a webpage with a list of possible projects for example. If they do then you want to check those projects out and make sure you're interested before contacting them.

Here's an example of how to get a PhD position in astronomy at the Australian National University. After Googling for this, you should land at this webpage for the RSAA. You can see what topics are being studied there. You can also find a link to a list of potential projects, sortable by the level of study. Restricting the search to only PhD-level projects, the first result as of time of writing is this one on 3D modelling of nearby galaxies by Dr. Brent Groves, with a short description of what is involved. If you like the project, then you can email Dr. Brent Groves with your CV, motivation statements, thoughtful questions about the project (if any), and ask him if he's willing to supervise you. If you've read Dr. Brent Grove's work and have a suggestion for a potential project, you could write that too. If you just send your CV and "thesis" (what's this?) without any apparent knowledge on what Dr. Brent Groves is doing, he's likely to just ignore you.

  • Thanks @Allure. If you just send your CV and "thesis" (what's this?) without any apparent knowledge on what Dr. Brent Groves is doing, he's likely to just ignore you. I suppose this is happening to me all along. Can you comment, whether it is appropriate to email again to a professor with the approach you have mentioned? Actually I have mailed to only those professors who I believe work in my interest and knowledge area.
    – RC0993
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 9:20
  • 1
    @RC0993: This is just a random thought, and perhaps others can comment on whether this has any merit, but if you are starting the process early enough so that you have the time to do this, perhaps snail-mail letters would less likely be ignored (giving your full contact information in the letter, of course). (I'm used to the U.S., where in math at least one simply applies to the department, like applying for undergraduate university admission.) Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 9:32
  • Overseas snail-mail is not possible for me unfortunately. But I can see its importance. :) Thanks for advise.
    – RC0993
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 9:35

All of the universities (that have postgraduate programmes) will have an administration office that handles PhD applications and admissions. You will need to find out what these are for each university that you wish to apply to, as these are usually centralised within some area of the university administration and not at the faculty or department level.

Sending your application/resume/thesis directly to professors is the wrong approach. They all receive many such emails and letters and usually have neither time nor interest and will neither read nor forward your application. It is parallel to sending your job application to the CEO or a board member instead of to a company's personnel department.

I myself receive numerous such emails, with e.g. "Dear Professor, I am a student in < country > and would like to study/work/research in your research group", and I am not even a professor. I read that far (at most) in an email and take the next step of simply deleting it as it seems to me that my email has simply been gleaned from a journal site, research site, or other such location.

You need to select the university(s), find the appropriate contact point and approach them. You need to find out what you need to send, and when the deadlines are. A stochastic approach will not help you here, not even were you wanting to do a PhD in statistics.

It is, however, appropriate to reach out to a potential supervisor to enquire about research projects that they are offering. This may or may not be published openly. This can open a line of dialogue which may then proceed to a formal application or submission. This is quite different to a blind application by sending a resume with a generic "I would like to do a PhD in your group" message.

  • 1
    I don't think this is necessarily applicable in Australia. If I'm not mistaken, Australia follows the European model where PhD students go directly to research, and professors can directly hire students.
    – Allure
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 10:00
  • 1
    Well, picking UNSW at random, they had this to say on their applications page: "Most Faculties require you to contact potential primary supervisors independently, while others require you to submit an Expression of Interest, after which they will connect you to appropriate supervisors." So, the first step is to contact the university and find out the appropriate process for that university.
    – Mick
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 10:19
  • @Allure is correct, Mick's answer is completely wrong for Australia, but correct for the USA. Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 10:37
  • @AnonymousPhysicist Where is the UNSW? If it is in Australia - why do you then suggest Mick's answer and follow-up comment is incorrect?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 13:22
  • My bad, I actually didn't think it was necessary to expand UNSW in the context of Australia to spell out University of New South Wales. Missing link to the quoted text: research.unsw.edu.au/finding-supervisor
    – Mick
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 13:59

To answer the question "Should I include a recommendation letter when emailing a potential supervisor for the first time?" No, you should not. In your CV, list previous supervisors or other people familiar with your work. If the potential supervisor wants recommendation letters, they will request them. Recommendation letters should be sent by the author of the letter, not the applicant.

  • Yes I have heard this somewhere that "Recommendation letters should be sent by the author". But I remember seeing a girl from my previous organisation filling out some kind of recommendation form which was printed with some format. I wasn't applying abroad at that time so I let it go. Which was now confusing me whether to get a letter from ex-supervisor and sent it across with my email or does my ex-supervisor sent it himself. Thanks for clearing that doubt :)
    – RC0993
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 10:53

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