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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Risk and Actuarial Studies

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Make an original and significant contribution to knowledge in the fields of Risk and Actuarial Studies under the tutelage of high profile academics.

The aim of the UNSW Business School's Doctoral Program in Risk and Actuarial Studies is to train you with the skills to identify, analyse and solve problems using original academic research in this field.

Rigorous coursework will be undertaken dealing with topics such as risk theory; multivariate models for risks, longevity risk management, economic and regulatory capital, and investment and asset liability modelling. This is followed by full-time research culminating in a doctoral thesis.

You will be involved in research projects from an early stage and enjoy the interdisciplinary engagement with a high-quality cohort of research students across the whole Business School. There will also be exciting opportunities to develop your teaching portfolio.

Ultimately, your PhD thesis will showcase your research skills and contributions your research makes to knowledge by offering original insights into the field.

Year 1

The first year of study is designed to provide a rigorous foundation to conduct research in Risk and Actuarial Studies using a range of methodologies, as well as helping to build your communication and presentation skills.

Common core coursework will cover fundamental qualitative and quantitative research methods, and key research skills such as identifying, framing, presenting, and writing academic contributions.

You will also work as an assistant on faculty research projects and start working on your own research as your skills develop. Through your interactions with faculty staff you will use this first year to identify your potential thesis supervisor for the PhD component of the program.

Throughout the first year, there will be invaluable ongoing engagement with a cohort of high-achieving research students, as well as integration into the community of scholars in the Business School.

Under the new UNSW3+ academic calendar being introduced in 2019, you will study one of the three common core courses in each trimester as well as additional Risk & Actuarial Studies stream electives.

On successful completion of the first year, you will be awarded a Master of Pre-Doctoral Business Studies and continue into the PhD, Risk and Actuarial Studies stream.

Program typeTerm 1Term 2Term 3
Program CoreCOMM8100 COMM8101 or
COMM8102
COMM8103
Stream Core Research assistance work
Stream Electives Elective 1
Elective 2
Elective 3 Elective 4
Elective 5

Program Core Courses


The following courses are completed in your first year of study.

COMM8100 Foundations of Bus Research

This course covers the foundations of research for business research. In the first part of the course topics will include intellectual foundations of research, research methods and academic reading and writing. In the second part students will move into qualitative research design. The third and final part contains statistical methods and cover probability models, estimation, hypothesis testing and regression analysis.

COMM8101 Stats for Business Research

This course aims to provide a strong background in statistical methods.

It covers the foundations of statistical methods for business research and includes topics such as quantitative research methods, experimental design and analysis, survey design and analysis, linear and multiple regressions and discrete choice models, as well as case study research.

or

COMM8102 Econometric Analysis

This course aims to provide a strong background in advanced statistical methods.

Students will focus on advanced econometrics such as time-series econometrics and application to financial data, as well as field interventions and policy evaluations.

COMM8103 Research Project Seminar

This course aims to help students develop their skills in writing and presenting their own research.

The course includes topics on research integrity and ethics, how to develop research questions and conduct literature surveys, and how to present and provide feedback on research. Students will undertake an individual major written research project, a research presentation, and provide feedback on other students' research.

Stream Courses


You must complete five courses from the following list:

ACTL5100 Actuarial Theory and Practice A

This course develops the theory and practice underlying the actuarial management of risk-based and other products offered by financial institutions. The course draws examples from actuarial practice and discusses implications for life insurance, general insurance, superannuation, asset-liability management and other areas where actuaries are involved in product design, pricing, reserving, investment and surplus management. The course emphasises recent developments in actuarial theory.

ACTL5110 Actuarial Data and Analysis

This course covers the actuarial professional syllabus for data analysis including techniques for mortality, health, and insurance data used in actuarial analysis and decision-making. The course covers aspects of data analysis including exploratory data analysis, data checking and cleaning, and data visualization; classification and prediction with regression and generalized linear models; descriptive, inferential and predictive analysis and models; and statistical and machine learning including supervised and unsupervised learning.

The course also covers ethical, regulatory and professional issues, and risks and risk management associated with using data and data analysis. A particular focus will be placed on communication of technical results for business applications.

ACTL5200 Actuarial Theory and Practice B

This course, along with ACTL5100 Actuarial Theory and Practice A, develops the theory and practice underlying the actuarial management of risk-based and other products offered by financial institutions. The course draws examples from actuarial practice and discusses implications for life insurance, general insurance, superannuation, asset-liability management and other areas where actuaries are involved in product design, pricing, reserving, investment and surplus management. The course emphasises recent developments in actuarial theory.

This course, along with ACTL 5100, corresponds to the Part II courses of the professional examinations of The Institute of Actuaries of Australia.

ACTL5301 Models for Risk Management

This course explores quantitative methods of risk measurement and modelling in financial institutions, including insurers, reinsurers, superannuation funds, and banks, and the major types of risks encountered therein. Topics covered include: risk measures; multivariate models for risks; copulas and dependence models; extreme value theory and tails of losses; time series techniques. The links between the different modelling tools are explored, and are further illustrated with models used in different risk types.

Together with ACTL5302 it is designed to cover the course topics for the professional actuarial Enterprise Risk Management / CERA qualification.

ACTL5302 Risk and Capital Management

This course covers the motivations and techniques for risk and capital management in financial institutions, including insurers, reinsurers, superannuation funds, and banks and the major types of risks encountered. Topics covered include: economic and regulatory capital; regulatory frameworks for banks and insurers; quantitative and qualitative issues of measuring and management of market risk, credit risk, interest rate risk, operational risk, liquidity risk and model risk, with particular emphasis on data issues met when quantifying those risks; scenario analysis and stress testing methods.

Together with ACTL5301 it is designed to cover the course topics for the professional actuarial Enterprise Risk Management / CERA qualification.

ACTL5303 Asset-Liability Management

This course covers the knowledge, skills and judgement necessary to understand investment and asset liability modelling with an emphasis on practical issues. It covers the design and monitoring of investment strategies for a range of liability profiles including life insurance, general insurance and superannuation funds. There is an emphasis on investment and asset issues of relevance for the management of liabilities.

The course has been designed to cover the International Actuarial Association syllabus covering Investments and Asset Analysis and the Institute of Actuaries of Australia Investments professional syllabus.

* Other advanced courses (for example from ACTL, RISK, MATH, ECON, or FINS) can be undertaken as recommended by the School's Research Committee and approved by the Stream Convenor.

Year 2

During the second year, you continue in the Risk and Actuarial Studies stream with a further year of advanced coursework while also identifying your thesis topic with your supervisor and engaging in literature review and research design.

Up to eight additional units of coursework will be undertaken covering topics such as quantitative risk management for insurance, continuous time modelling of derivative securities, and decision making under uncertainty, with an opportunity to take at least one subject outside of your specialised discipline.  Those courses include:

  • ACTL5003 – Research Topics in Actuarial Studies (Core)
  • MATH5835 - Stochastic Processes (T1B)
  • MATH5305 - Computational Maths
  • MATH5916 - Survival Analysis
  • MATH5295 – Special Topics (Applied Finite Element Methods)
  • MATH5965 - Discrete Time Financial Modelling
  • MATH5335 - Computational Methods for Finance
  • MATH5816 - Continuous Time Financial Modelling
  • MATH5836 - Data Mining and its Business Applications
  • MATH5960 - Bayesian Inference and Computation
  • Any relevant Level 5 Economics (ECON) course; or
  • Any relevant Level 5 Finance (FINS) course

 

Years 3 - 4

In the last two years in the program, you will primarily conduct full-time research and work towards completing your doctoral thesis.

Your thesis gives you the chance to address some of the biggest challenges in Risk and Actuarial Studies and make a significant contribution to research and practice in these areas.  You will conduct original research to explore ideas and generate new knowledge that contributes to ongoing academic debate in your field.

It will offer new critical thinking and withstand critical analysis from expert researchers in the area, setting you firmly on the path to a potential career in a high quality academic institution anywhere in the world.

  • The equivalent of a three-year undergraduate degree plus an equivalent postgraduate degree in a relevant discipline with an overall average grade of at least 75 (Distinction).
  • OR
  • The equivalent of multiple undergraduate degrees (e.g. a dual degree) with at least one in a relevant discipline and an overall average grade of at least 75 (Distinction).
  • OR
  • The equivalent of a four-year degree of Bachelor with first or upper second-class Honours in a relevant discipline.

English language requirements also apply.

NOTE: These are the minimum requirements for admission. Admission will ultimately be at the discretion of the UNSW Business School and will rely on the Business School having appropriate research supervision capacity and resources available for the applicant’s research interests.


Information on how to apply for this degree is available at How to apply for a research degree.

While the UNSW Business School is at the heart of the Kensington campus 'village' that is bustling with cafes, bars and retail, the whole of Sydney is right on our doorstep - including world-famous beaches, a wide variety of food, entertainment and culture, plus stunning scenery to enjoy and explore for free.

There are more than 300 clubs and societies at UNSW covering social activities such as music, movies and sport, but also academic interests including an Actuarial Society, a Business Society, an Economics Society and a Society of Financial Technology amongst many others. Joining a student club is a great way to meet new friends and broaden your experience. But as well as that, you may also make potentially important research or academic connections with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Find out more about UNSW’s Clubs and Societies

Stay active

Exercise boosts your mental wellbeing and can help you deal with exam or assignment pressures. It's easy to stay fit with UNSW’s state of the art sporting facilities on campus in Kensington, including a 50m indoor pool, fitness centre, squash courts and a range of competitive sports teams.

Find out more about the UNSW Fitness and Aquatic Centre

Explore

While the UNSW Business School at the heart of the Kensington campus ‘village’ that is bustling with cafes, bars and retail, the whole of Sydney is right on our doorstep including world-famous beaches, a wide variety of food, entertainment and culture, plus stunning scenery to enjoy and explore for free.

Find out more about UNSW Campus Life

Strong support

When you join the UNSW research community, you join a passionate collective of people who are using research to transform minds, transform lives, and transform the world.

We want all our research students to reach their maximum potential and to achieve this we offer in-depth faculty supervision and support, as well as study skills workshops and mentoring programs.

Our ‘Meet the CEO’ series offers unique behind the scenes business insights, and there are a number of orientation, leadership and mentor programs specifically designed for postgraduate students.

Find out more about student support


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Quick facts for students

Program code
1545
Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Assumed Knowledge
Actuarial Studies, Research experience
Study Mode
Face to face
Duration
4 years full-time; 5-8 years part-time
Commencing terms
Term 1 – February

​​​​​​​​Research Study Options

Browse the list of study options available for research students

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Search Degrees​​

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