PFSC - Research - Postgraduate Research Opportunities

Postgraduate research opportunities at the PFSC

The Parenting and Family Support Centre (PFSC) within the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland offers numerous opportunities to students seeking postgraduate training in all aspects of parenting and family development and intervention. A range of projects are conducted at the PFSC including examining aspects of parenting and family related to child development and adjustment, use of methodological tools, and the development, piloting and conducting of clinical trials of parenting interventions based on the Triple P—Positive Parenting Program a unique multilevel system of parenting intervention. Students undertaking research at the PFSC work as part of a research team, and have the opportunity to collaborate with multidisciplinary professionals. Research projects can be undertaken as part of a Masters, PhD or professional psychology degree program (Master or Doctorate in Clinical Psychology).

Eligibility

Applicants who have a strong bachelor’s degree with honours in psychology will be considered for the research program at the PFSC. Applicants should have a sound understanding of behavioural or cognitive behavioural principles, child or adolescent development and have specific interests in field of parenting, and family relationships. Some relevant experience with children and families would be an advantage. Applications will only be considered for students interested in working with Triple P and in the general field. Please read all the FAQs before submitting an expression of interest.

Expressions of Interest

Please first read the FAQ section then for more information contact Maya Brown (Centre Coordinator) by email in the first instance:

Room:
S220
Phone:
3346 7553
Email:

Frequently Asked Questions about Studying with the PFSC

Below is a list of frequently asked questions for students considering applying for a postgraduate research program at the Parenting and Family Support Centre in the School of Psychology at UQ.

The FAQs listed relate specifically the issues related to application for the PFSC. For general queries about postgraduate research opportunities at UQ please see here:

Question Areas

Why should I study at The University of Queensland?

The University of Queensland is consistently ranked among the top 1% of universities in the world.  For more information on UQ’s excellent global standing:

Where can I get more information about studying at UQ in general?  

More information can be found on UQ in general here:

Why should I study at the Parenting and Family Support Centre in the School of Psychology (PFSC)?

There are two key reason the PFSC makes an ideal place to complete a research higher degree. Firstly,  the Parenting and Family Support Centre (PFSC) is a leading research hub of parenting and child behaviour research internationally. The director of the PFSC, Professor Matt Sanders, is the founder of the Triple P— Positive Parenting Program and the centre is where the majority of new variants of Triple P are developed and where most foundation trials are conducted. If you are interested in parenting and family research this is an ideal place in which to start your academic career.

Secondly, the PFSC has a number of students and researchers working in a similar field of research creating an environment of mutual learning and collaboration that provides students with much more support than a single supervisor can provide. There are monthly seminars and lab meetings, informal assistance and an annual Triple P conference where students get to build relationships with other leading researchers internationally through the Triple P Research Network.

What is Triple P?

Triple P stands for Positive Parenting Program but Triple P is more than a single parenting program. It is a multi-level system of parenting programs aimed at preventing and treating child social, emotional and behaviour problems at a population level.  Triple P is the most evaluated parenting program and has one of the strongest evidence-bases. It is also the most widely disseminated and is now implemented in 24 different countries around the world.  The following paper provides an excellent summary of the theory and application of the Triple P system. It is recommended that any student considering applying for a research position at the PFSC read this paper prior to applying.

Sanders, M.R. (2012). Development, Evaluation, and Multinational Dissemination of the Triple P—Positive Parenting Program. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology,  8, 345-379.

Will Professor Matt Sanders, founder of Triple P be my supervisor if I do a masters or PhD at the PFSC?

Maybe, Professor Sanders is an active research supervisor and places a very high value on the importance of postgraduate students. He is the director of the PFSC and all Triple P students get to know him both professionally and personally during the course of their degree. However there are also a number of other excellent researchers who provide supervision to PFSC students including Dr Alina Morawaka (Deputy Director- Research). The decision about which academic staff member should be your primary supervisor is made by you and the relevant supervisors and takes into account the relevant expertise of the different supervisors in relation to the proposed research topic as well as the supervisor’s current student load.

What kind of skills will I develop while completing a Masters or PhD at the PFSC?

Students will receive advanced training in the following areas:

  1. Designing and implementing evidence-based parenting interventions.
  1. Examining the use of a range of methodologies to assess parenting and family factors, and intervention outcomes.
  2. Designing and conducting studies that rigorously test the efficacy of interventions including use of randomized controlled trials and where appropriate intra-subject replication designs.
  3. Experience in working with a research team specializing in evidence based intervention.
  4. Writing competitive grant submissions to support parenting research.
  5. Experience in conducting research on the dissemination of evidence based parenting programs.
  6. Communicating research findings to professions via manuscript preparation and conference presentations.
  7. Advanced data analysis.

So much research has already been done on Triple P what can I add?

Triple P is a constantly evolving, dynamic system of interventions that is informed by ongoing research. Although a significant amount of research has been conducted there is still much to do. More research is needed on newly emerging Triple P variants such as Baby Triple P for parents of newborns or Triple P Online as well as on examining how and why Triple P is effective for parents and under what conditions change occurs. Students may also conduct research in related fields such as parental engagement, implementation science, cultural acceptability, and mechanisms of change.

What kinds of opportunities are there to develop international networks and research collaborations at UQ and the PFSC?

The Triple P system of parenting intervention is currently in 24 different countries and there are a number of research hubs conducting research in Triple P programs and dissemination models around the world including centres in America, Europe, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.  The PFSC also hosts the Triple P Research Network (TPRN), which facilitates communication between top parenting researchers around the world. The TPRN hosts a yearly conference (held in a different country each year) and many students report the conference is an excellent opportunity for getting to know leading researchers from around the work. Finally, conducting a PhD at the PFSC where the founder of the Triple P System, Professor Matt Sanders, is based provides you with the opportunity to develop a relationship with one of the world’s leading experts in this field.

How will this help my career long term?

Completion of a PhD demonstrates your ability think independently, and design and conduct a large-scale research.  It is the highest academic qualification obtainable and is valued in industry and practice. For example a PhD is required for most academic and senior research positions. A PhD in the area of public health parenting interventions such as Triple P may also be beneficial for those interested in pursuing positions in policy or advocacy. Completing a PhD at the PFSC also provides access to many of the research leaders in the parenting field around the world offering students contacts for future career options in different countries.

Is funding available?

Unlike some countries students at Australian universities are not paid and are able to enrol in a PhD even if the supervisor does not have a funded project available. However a range of competitive scholarships are available for PhD students.  Additionally students in the PFSC are also encouraged to apply for research grants. If grant money is obtained for the PhD project the student can sometimes be paid for part of their PhD work on the funded project.  

Students in Australia typically work to support themselves during their study. Most RHD students work in a position related to their field of study for example tutoring or research assistance work. At the University of Queensland priority is given to RHD students when allocating tutorial positions within the School of Psychology.

What scholarships opportunities are available?

A range of scholarships for both domestic and international students are available through UQ, however these are highly competitive. Depending on your country of origin you may also be able to receive a scholarship from your home country in order to conduct research in Australia. Scholarship information for domestic students can be found here:

Scholarship information for international students can be found here:

Many international scholarships also cover tuition fees for international students.

Are scholarships taxed?

No, scholarships are not considered taxable income in Australia. You are not required to pay tax on your scholarship.

If I am successful in obtaining a scholarship can I do additional paid work to supplement my income?

Yes, you can work while receiving a scholarship but many scholarships place a limit on how many hours of work during the working week you can work while receiving a scholarship. This is to ensure you have sufficient time to concentrate on your research work.  If you work on top of your scholarship your earnings will be taxed if you exceed the Australian tax free threshold (not counting your scholarship). 

Are there fees for research higher degree students at The University of Queensland?

Domestic (Australian) students are not required to pay tuition for research degrees at UQ. The tuition fee structure for international students can be found here:

It should be noted that many of the international student scholarships also cover the payment of tuition fees.

Will my previous undergraduate degree be recognized in Australia? 

Provided your previous degree was from an accredited university or college it should be recognized here however you can check this with the Australian Qualifications Framework:

And will my Australian PhD be recognized in my home country?

In most cases a PhD from The University of Queensland will be recognized internationally however we recommend you check with your own country.  Australia has an Australian Qualifications Framework, which makes it easier for your degree to be recognized internationally. 

For more information see:

What background education or experience do I need to apply?

Applicants who have a strong bachelors degree with honours in psychology will be considered for the research program at the PFSC. Applicants should ideally have a sound understanding of behavioural or cognitive behavioural principles, child or adolescent development and have specific interests in field of parenting, and family relationships. Some relevant experience with children and families would be an advantage but it not required. We are looking for students who are passionate about research that has real world application and can help families around the world. 

How competitive is the application process?

The University of Queensland is world class university and as such applications are only accepted from qualified and suitable candidates. Research higher degree students can apply at any stage during the year so you do not necessarily compete against other applicants and each application is assessed on its own merit. 

Do I need to complete a GRE (Graduate Record Examination) in order to apply?

No, you do not need a GRE in order to study at UQ. Your previous degree, previous grades and application are considered sufficient to demonstrate your academic potential. 

Do I need to be fluent in English in order to study at UQ?

Yes. English is the official language of Australia and the University of Queensland. Your final thesis must therefore be submitted in English and your research supervision will be conducted in English.  The university requires proof of English proficiency prior to accepting candidates from non-english speaking countries. 

When is the deadline for application?

There is no deadline. Applications are accepted throughout the year and students who have been accepted can start their degree at any stage. 

How many students are accepted?

Student applications are accepted throughout the year so although the application process is competitive you are not actively competing against other students for a position. There is no set limit on the number of students who can be accepted (provided there are supervisors available) however only outstanding applicants are accepted. 

How many PhD students are working in the Parenting and Family Support Centre?

The PFSC is a thriving research centre. At present there at 14 research PhD students enrolled.  There are also a number of research students at other universities who collaborate with researchers at the PFSC.  There are also a number of academic staff members and postdoctoral researchers working in the centre. 

How do I apply?

In order to complete a RHD you need to apply to UQ and be accepted as a student and have an academic at the PFSC agree to supervise you. The process requires you to complete an Expression of Interest form and then a formal application.  These include details on a brief research proposal. Details on the UQ application process can be found here:

It is recommended that you discuss your potential application with Mr John Pickering j.pickering@uq.edu.au  (who is Professor Matt Sanders’s personal assistant) prior to applying. He can discuss your proposal with you and help you determine if your research interests would fit with the research focus of the PFSC.

What kind of research proposal should I write?

The application process requires you write a brief research proposal. This is designed to ensure a good fit between your research interests and those of your potential supervisor.  PFSC academics will supervise students who want to do research on or surrounding the Triple P system or the implementation of evidence-based family interventions.  This is the expertise of the academic staff within the PFSC. This guideline ensure supervisors do not supervise out of area and provide the best outcomes for students. 

Research proposals that would be a good fit with the PFSC goals will demonstrate some knowledge of Triple P and how the research proposed fits within the Triple P body of work being conducted.  The following paper provides a summary of the Triple P system and may be helpful in guiding you towards a research project. This paper as well as others demonstrating the evidence-base of Triple P can be accessed here:

Sanders, M.R. (2012). Development, Evaluation, and Multinational Dissemination of the Triple P—Positive Parenting Program. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology,  8, 345-379.

Can you give me an example of potential proposal topics for research at the PFSC ?

Successful research proposals may include, but are not limited to, topics like: the evaluating the efficacy or effectiveness of a Triple P Intervention (perhaps with a new program, population, or in a new country), examining the cultural acceptability of parenting practices in different countries, issues relating to the parenting of teenagers, or proposal related to the dissemination of programs at a population level. 

Proposals that are unlikely to be successful at obtaining supervision within the PFSC are projects unrelated to parenting or Triple P for example binge drinking in teenagers, working with general clinical disorders, evaluation of other parenting programs (unless compared with Triple P) and general psychology topics that are unrelated to parenting or child behavior.

Can I change my research topic once I am enrolled?

Yes, provided your new research project still fits within your supervisor’s area of expertise. It is common for students to further refine their field of interest and the study design following their review of the literature. 

Will I get to design my own research study?

Yes, PhD students are expected to contribute to every stage of the research project including designing the original study. In cases where a PhD student becomes involved in an existing project or a project covered by a current grant the student is expected to design some additional research questions.

Will I be given an office and a desk where I can work?

Yes, all full time PhD students at the university are given a shared office with their own desk and computer, as well as access to a telephone. Students also have access to clinic consulting rooms and the parent training room as necessary.  Where possible students conducting similar research are assigned to the same office so student offices often become a place to access informal research support from people conducting research in similar fields. 

What hours do I have to be in the office to work on my PhD?

PhD students are expected to work on their research full time but are not required to keep set hours. Students can choose the hours and the days that suit them and fit these around any other employment and family commitments. 

How long does it take to complete a PhD at UQ?

The scheduled time to complete a PhD at UQ is 3 years full time. A short amount of time can be added in exceptional circumstances (e.g., maternity leave or a serious illness) but the goal is for all students to complete on schedule. There are a number of university milestones that must be met during the candidature process designed to keep students on track. 

Do I have to be based on UQ during my entire candidature?

Not necessarily. You need to be enrolled at UQ for the duration of your research but you may spend part of your candidature in another location or even another country if this is required for your research. For example a student who is evaluating Triple P in their home country may spend part of the year collecting data in their home country while continuing supervision via skype. If you choose to spend time in another location for the purposes of conducting research this should be negotiated with your supervisor and all provisions for your time in the secondary location will be at your own expense and arrangement. 

The exception to this is if you are enrolled in a dual program at both UQ and a university in your home country. If you are enrolled in both universities you are expected to spend a set amount of time at each university location. To determine if your home university allows dual enrollment with UQ please contact your home university. 

Can I take leave to go on holiday or visit home during my PhD?

Although there are no set working hours for PhD students it is generally expected that they will treat their research like a job. In Australia each employee is entitled to 4 weeks annual leave per year plus public holidays etc. Students are entitled to these breaks as well without impacting their scholarships. Additionally students may take time away from the university to attend and present at relevant conference. 

Will I be trained in all levels of the Triple P System of intervention as a part of my PhD?

Triple P is a system of intervention not a single program. As there are 20 different training programs students do not receive training in every variant of Triple P. Students will receive training in programs that are relevant to their PhD (for example a student conducting a research trial on Group Stepping Stones Triple P would receive training in that variant).  However if free spaces are available in any training programs students are often invited to attend. In additional many of our PhD students go on to become Triple P practitioners and trainers in addition to their research activities. 

Will I receive additional clinical psychology training as a part of my PhD?

No, The University of Queensland does not offer combined clinical coursework and research PhDs. Research PhD students do not receive any specialized clinical psychology training. It is possible to enroll in both a PhD and then later a clinical coursework program if you wish to also be trained as a psychologist  (and obtain both degrees) however this is contingent on you also being accepted into the clinical program and they cannot be started at the same time.

Do I need a visa to study in Australia?

Yes, if you are an overseas student you will need a student visa in order to enroll in a PhD at The University of Queensland. In most cases this will also cover you to work while you are studying. 

Information on student visas (including if they will cover other members of your family) can be found on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) website:

In order to apply for a student visa you must have received an offer of enrollment to demonstrate you have been accepted to study at The University of Queensland. Once you have received this you will need to apply for a student visa with the subclass Postgraduate Research (Subclass 574). 

Can I work while on a student visa? 

Yes, depending on your visa you should be able to work while on a student visa. PhD students typically work in either research assistant positions or in tutoring/lecturing roles that are beneficial for a well-rounded CV. The university has a regulation that PhD students are not permitted to engage in paid work for more than 18 hours of the normal working week. This is to ensure they have adequate time to concentrate on their PhD. The conditions of some scholarships also include limits on the amount of hours students can work. In order to work in Australia you will require and Australian Tax File number however this can be easily obtained while on a student visa.