Why undertake higher degree by research?

by Dr. Anbalagan Krishnan and Dr. Dhanuskodi Rengasamy

A higher degree by research (HDR) is a research study recognised by a university or any higher learning institutions around the world. In this field of study, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is the top research academic degree in which candidates need to invest a considerable amount of work and commitment, as well as have a keen interest in the field of research and development.

A research degree involves submitting a dissertation, a document submitted by the candidates for the attainment of academic degree or professional qualification. A dissertation differs from a thesis where the latter is used for the partial fulfilment of bachelor or masters degree course and the former for the attainment of a doctorate degree.

The admission requirements for HDR students vary significantly from one country to another. In the United States, a candidate is expected to have pre-requisite study beyond the basic graduate qualification, while in other countries admission to a HDR programme is based on the candidate’s graduate programme background.

Higher Degree by Research (HDR)
Generally, HDR can be classified into three categories – Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Research Masters degrees.

A PhD degree involves independent research study where the candidate is expected to contribute his research output in his chosen field of study.

A MPhil degree may lead to a PhD programme while Research Masters degrees are similar to MPhil programmes in which candidates are required to submit their theses for evaluation.

At Curtin Sarawak, we have significantly developed our HDR programmes over the past few years and are well on our way to fulfilling our ambition of becoming a research-focused university. We currently have almost 70 postgraduate research students in our Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programmes.

At our School of Business, research can be undertaken in various areas of research such as tourism and hospitality; entrepreneurship, human resources and marketing; financial accounting, managerial accounting and auditing; corporate governance; economics, finance and banking; media, Borneo and indigenous studies; public relations and Corporate Social Responsibility; corporate and social law; and learning pedagogy.

Our School of Engineering and Science offers research study in four interdisciplinary areas, namely energy and environment; intelligent systems, design and control; materials and structures; and bio-process technologies.

Higher Degree by Research in Malaysia
Malaysia is attracting more domestic and international students to pursue their PhD in our country. A study conducted by Dr. Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier entitled ‘Why do your PhD in Malaysia?’ revealed that the number of PhD students in Malaysian public universities increased from 6,000 to 14,000 between year 2005 and 2010. Worldwide, Malaysia occupies a top 20 spot for the highest number of international students in higher learning institutions.

In fulfilling the country’s aim to become the higher education hub in the Asian region by 2020, Malaysia established EduCity in Iskandar Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur Education City (KLEC). While EduCity aims to provide high quality education and produce a skilled workforce to support foreign companies located in the commercial zones of Iskandar Malaysia in Johor, KLEC aspires to showcase Malaysia as an environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient centre focusing on the development of human capital.

Benefits of Higher Degree by Research
HDR students are highly employable due to their expertise and focused areas of research. They also possess good management skills and are able to work independently, solve critical problems and communicate effectively.

In a highly competitive employment market, HDR degree qualifications give students an added advantage as they gain intellectual stimulation and further sharpen their analytical and research skills, giving them significant theoretical grounding and practical exposure.

Dr. Anbalagan Krishnan is the Associate Dean of Research and Development at Curtin Sarawak’s School of Business. His professional and teaching experience include conducting industrial training programmes and teaching accounting and managerial accounting units for university degree programmes. He can be contacted by e-mail at anbalagan.k@curtin.edu.my.

Dr. Dhanuskodi Rengasamy is a senior lecturer in accounting at Curtin Sarawak’s School of Business. He has 22 years of teaching experience in India, Ethiopia and Oman, covering subjects such as financial accounting, management accounting, cost accounting and auditing.