PhD in Individualized Interdisciplinary Program (Research Area)


Program Description

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Programs in Individualized Interdisciplinary Program (Research Area) is designed for students who have well-articulated research goals which cannot be reached through established research postgraduate programs. They aim to create an organic study curriculum pattern to facilitate students’ intellectual growth, an exploration into a novel research direction, and a long term commitment in an interdisciplinary research field.

The programs offer students the broad academic freedom to create a unique research postgraduate program focused on a specialized area of research in ways that best suit their own intellectual interests and passions, by working on an interdisciplinary research topic and using courses from different Departments/Divisions to fulfill the curriculum.

Students have to develop a research plan and framework which allows them to explore their unique research interests and to work with their supervisors from different research areas to pursue and complete their degree.

On completion of the program, students will be conferred a Ph.D. degree in Individualized Interdisciplinary Program. The chosen area of research will also be specified in the degree title (e.g. Ph.D. in Individualized Interdisciplinary Program (Bionics Engineering)).


  • Minimum Credit Requirement

Ph.D.: 21 credits

  • Credit Transfer

Subject to the approval of the Primary Supervisor, Co-supervisor(s), and the Program Director, students may apply for credit transfer or course substitution.

  • Required/Elective Courses

Ph.D.: A minimum of 21 credits of postgraduate courses at HKUST, approved by the Primary Supervisor, Co-supervisor(s), and the Program Director.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the program, graduates will be able to:

  1. Generate an advanced degree curriculum that interrelates knowledge and skills from selected academic areas, and proficiency in the areas of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods of research;
  2. Develop knowledge and understanding of appropriate concepts, methods, and materials in disciplines which appropriately constitute the framework of their studies;
  3. Demonstrate curricular understandings and proficiency of research skills through a comprehensive examination, group interaction and evaluation, professional presentations, and the successful completion of thesis defense;
  4. Develop multi-dimensional perspectives and innovative problem-solving skills to existing and emerging problems; and
  5. Develop a distinctive skill mix that enables them to communicate effectively with people of different levels and disciplines within and across organizations.

Admission Requirements

To qualify for admission, applicants must meet all of the following requirements. Admission is selective and meeting these minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.

i. General Admission Requirements of the University
  • Applicants seeking admission to a doctoral degree program should have obtained a bachelor’s degree with a proven record of outstanding performance from a recognized institution; or presented evidence of satisfactory work at the postgraduate level on a full-time basis for at least one year, or on a part-time basis for at least two years.

ii. English Language Admission Requirements

Applicants have to fulfill English Language requirements with one of the following proficiency attainments:

  • TOEFL-iBT: 80*
  • TOEFL-pBT: 550
  • TOEFL-Revised paper-delivered test: 60 (total scores for Reading, Listening and Writing sections)
  • IELTS (Academic Module): Overall score: 6.5 and All sub-score: 5.5

* refers to the total score in one single attempt

Applicants are not required to present TOEFL or IELTS score if:

  • their first language is English, or
  • they obtained the bachelor's degree (or equivalent) from an institution where the medium of instruction was English.

iii. Additional Information
  • Applicants are required to develop a research plan as a written proposal and identify the supervisory group of at least two supervisors with one serving as the primary supervisor. Before submitting an application, they should form a research team which is composed of at least two faculty members working on different research areas to warrant that the research is interdisciplinary in nature;
  • Applicants should propose the degree title (i.e. research area). The degree title together with the curriculum proposed by the student and supervisors will be reviewed and endorsed by the Program Director and the relevant committees in the admission process.

For more program information, please refer to

Last updated Oct 2020

About the School

Located at the Clear Water Bay of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is a research-focused institution that ranks first among top young universities in the world (Ti ... Read More

Located at the Clear Water Bay of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is a research-focused institution that ranks first among top young universities in the world (Times Higher Education Young University Rankings, 2020). With an international outlook and global reputation, the university aims to be a leading university, both locally and internationally, through excellence in teaching and research. With the unprecedented demand for high-end talent in support of the development of Hong Kong and the world, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou) (HKUST(GZ)) will be set up in Nansha, south of Guangzhou, to synergize with its Clear Water Bay (CWB) counterpart, nurturing talents and facilitating collaboration amongst Hong Kong, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) and beyond on education, research and knowledge transfer. Read less