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SML-Zhuhai and HKUST Joint PhD Program in
Marine Environmental Science

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The Joint PhD program aims to train students in original research in marine environmental science, and independent and innovative thinking that is essential for a successful research career. In particular, the collaborative effort provides students with opportunities to benefit from the research excellence shared between HKUST and Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai) (SML-Zhuhai), as well as to cultivate outstanding science and technology talents to build a sustainable economy in China.


Interested students who apply for the program should lodge their applications for admission via the admission system of HKUST. The applications will first be assessed and selected by HKUST, then recommended to SML-Zhuhai for review, and officially admitted by HKUST. Current postgraduate students of both universities are eligible for the program provided that the students meet all the admission requirements of both universities including the English Language proficiency requirements of HKUST.

Details about postgraduate admissions can be found at Fok Ying Tung Graduate School.

Program Duration

The intended duration of the program is normally 4 years. Each student is required to spend 2 years at HKUST and 2 years at the Zhuhai lab.


Students must fulfill the following program requirements, which include at least 12 credits of courses at HKUST and all the degree requirements of PhD degree program at HKUST:

Program Requirements (For intake 2024/25 or after):

  • Minimum Credit Requirement
    • PhD: 16 credits 
      (12 credits from core and/or elective courses + 4 credits from
      OCES 6011 - PG Seminar)
  • Core Courses
    • All students must complete a minimum of 6 credits from the following core courses: 
      OCES 5001 Introduction to Oceanography 3 Credit(s)
      OCES 5100 Biological Oceanography 3 Credit(s)
      OCES 5200 Physical Oceanography 3 Credit(s)        
      OCES 5300 Chemical Oceanography 3 Credit(s)
      OCES 5320 Ecotoxicology 4 Credit(s)
      OCES 5400 Marine Genomics 3 Credit(s)
      Students can fulfill the program minimum credit requirement by taking more than two core courses or taking the elective courses.
  • Elective Courses
    • Elective courses can be taken from:
      i. The following pre-endorsed elective courses, and/or 
      ii. Approved postgraduate courses subject to endorsement by the PG Coordinator. Only a maximum of 3 credits from this category can be counted towards the credit requirement. 
    • Pre-endorsed Elective Courses:
      ENVS 5116
      Environmental Impact and Risk Assessment
      3 Credit(s)
      OCES 6012
      Special Topics in Environmental Science
      1-6 Credit(s)
      MATH 5311
      Advanced Numerical Methods I
      3 Credit(s)
      MATH 5350
      Computational Fluid Dynamics of Inviscid Flows
      3 Credit(s)
      PHYS 5110
      Mathematical Methods in Physics
      4 Credit(s)
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  • Completion of PDEV 6800 Introduction to Teaching and Learning in Higher Education;
    • All full-time RPg students are required to complete PDEV 6800. The course is composed of a 10-hour training offered by the Center for Education Innovation (CEI), and session(s) of instructional delivery to be assigned by the respective departments. Upon satisfactory completion of the training conducted by CEI, MPhil students are required to give at least one 30-minute session of instructional delivery in front of a group of students for one term. PhD students are required to give at least one such session each in two different terms. The instructional delivery will be formally assessed.
  • Completion of and passing PDEV 6770 Professional Development for Research Postgraduate Students:
    • The 1 credit earned from PDEV 6770 cannot be counted toward the credit requirements;
    • Students who are HKUST MPhil (MES) graduates and have completed PDEV 6770 or other professional development courses offered by the University before may be exempted from this requirement, subject to prior approval from the School.
  • Completion of and passing OCES 6770 Professional Development in Marine Science;
    • The 1 credit earned from this course cannot be counted toward the credit requirements.
    • Students who are HKUST MPhil graduates in Marine Environmental Science and have completed CHEM 6770 Professional Development in Science (Chemistry), LIFS 6770 Professional Development in Science (Life Science), MATH 6770 Professional Development in Science (Mathematics), PHYS 6770 Professional Development in Science (Physics) or ENVS 6770 Professional Development in Science (Environmental Science Programs) before may be exempted from taking OCES 6770, subject to prior approval of the Department Head or PG Coordinator.
  • Completion of and passing LANG 5005 Communicating Research in English, which should be taken in the first year of study:
    • The 1 credit earned from this course cannot be counted toward the program credit requirements;
    • HKUST MPhil graduates may be considered for exemption from this requirement, subject to prior approval from the Program Director and PG Coordinator.
  • Taking and passing OCES 6011 Postgraduate Seminar whenever it is offered:
    • A maximum of 4 credits to be earned from this course;
    • Students who have taken the HKUST MPhil (MES) Program will be granted credit transfer from OCES 6011 to the PhD program, with up to 1 credit.
  • Submission of a thesis proposal to the Qualifying Examination Committee who will examine the student’s general background knowledge and knowledge related to the topic of the research proposal:
    • Students must pass the qualifying examination.
  • Registration in OCES 7990 Doctoral Thesis Research; and
  • Presentation and oral defense of the PhD thesis.

​​​​​​Course schedule

Program Requirement (For intake 2023/24 or before)


Two supervisors—one from SML-Zhuhai and one from HKUST—will be assigned to each student.

Study Plan

  • Developed by a three-person group: The two co-supervisors and the student;
  • Stipulates the graduation requirements of both universities, including the curriculum and the research topic;
  • Includes the period of attendance at each university, arrangement of the qualifying examination, a brief description of the thesis research, courses to be taken at each university, credit transfer arrangement; and
  • Must be endorsed by the co-supervisors of SML-Zhuhai and HKUST before commencement of the study. Subsequent changes made to the study plan must be endorsed in writing by the relevant departments of both universities.
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Medium of Instruction

All coursework, qualifying examination, thesis work, and thesis examination will be conducted in English.

Progress Assessment and Quality Assurance

The academic progress of students will be monitored by a Thesis Supervision Committee formed in accordance to HKUST guidelines. Each student is required to submit an annual progress report at the end of each academic year for assessment by the Thesis Supervision Committee. Students are also required to pass a qualifying examination and a thesis examination in accordance with the rules and regulations of HKUST.

Registration and Degree Conferment

Each student has to be registered as a full-time research postgraduate student at HKUST during their doctoral study period, including the period when they register on the “Off-campus Research” status to carry out research at SML-Zhuhai. Upon successful completion of the program, students will receive a degree certificate from HKUST, with a special note on the transcript to indicate that the degree is conferred through a joint program.


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Studentship and Scholarship

Students will be awarded the studentship from SML-Zhuhai, the amount of which is equivalent to the postgraduate studentship for other HKUST research postgraduates during their residency in HKUST.


Due to limited student accommodation at HKUST, students are required to arrange their own accommodation outside HKUST campus.

Intellectual Property

Published papers based on a student’s research work during the Joint PhD Program study should carry the names of both institutions. The first affiliation of the papers should be determined by the co-supervisors of the student. Ownership of Intellectual property created by students in the Joint PhD Program will be governed by the policy on ownership of intellectual property of the institution at which the student is in residence at the time the intellectual property is created.

In other situations where the demarcation of intellectual property rights cannot be clearly defined, an agreement should be reached between the co-supervisors and the student concerned before the student graduates.

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