Defence Civilian Undergraduate Sponsorship

DCUS image

Are you interested in studying engineering or ICT at university in 2018?  What if you could study at one of the best universities in Australia, get paid work experience placements and complete your degree with no HELP debt?

The Defence Civilian Undergraduate Sponsorship (DCUS) is open to aspiring university students who wish to pursue a degree through the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra campus at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA).

There are no military service obligations or requirements.  This is a sponsorship for civilian students who may be interested in a career in the Department of Defence.

Interested?  Applications will be open from 4 September and will close 28 September 2017 APPLY HERE

The following undergraduate degree disciplines are available for study in 2018:

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical, Electrical, Aeronautical and Civil) (4 years)
  • Bachelor of Computing and Cyber Security (3 years)

Eligible applicants will have the full tuition costs of their degree covered by the Department of Defence sponsorship agreement and receive a generous annual bursary to cover the cost of text books and equipment.

During the sponsorship students may have the opportunity to participate in paid work placements within Defence which will provide exciting opportunities and give an insight into how one of Australia’s largest organisations conducts business.

About the DCUS

The Department of Defence is offering sponsorships to students who have completed their secondary education and are interested in pursuing a degree as a civilian student.  We offer a sponsorship for you to complete a three or four year degree on campus at the UNSW Canberra at ADFA.

The DCUS aims to assist you to:

  • make the most of your studies at university
  • become a professional graduate in your discipline
  • gain an understanding of the relationship and co-dependencies that exist between Defence, the  Australian Public Service (APS), and the three military services.

On successful completion of your undergraduate studies and attainment of an accredited degree in a relevant discipline, you are encouraged to apply for a position on one of the Defence Graduate programs to commence your career in Defence.

What's in it for you?

  • full tuition costs of a three or four year degree
  • a generous text book and equipment allowance each year
  • the chance for exciting paid six week work placements in Defence in your second and third years of study.

Your eligibility

To be eligible for the DCUS you must:

  • be an Australian citizen
  • have not previously enrolled in a similar degree
  • achieve the required minimum ATAR for your degree
  • meet the UNSW admission requirements for your degree.

What we offer

As a sponsorship recipient in the DCUS, you will have:

  • the opportunity to study at the UNSW Canberra at ADFA which is one of Australia’s most respected universities and has the best student-to-teacher ratio in the country
  • full tuition costs for your Bachelor degree – this means no Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) fees
  • a generous bursary of $2000 per annum to put towards the cost of text books and other study expenses
  • an opportunity for practical work placements, which in some cases will form part of the professional requirements of your degree
  • the benefit of Defence experience when applying for a relevant Defence Graduate Program in the final year of your undergraduate degree
  • exposure to a unique and diverse organisation with great career opportunities
  • an opportunity to work on projects with leading edge technology.

Work placements

A six week work placement during the summer holidays in each of your second and third years may be organised for you. During your work placements you may work with other sponsorship recipients under the guidance of an experienced Defence APS professional.

Work placements will be located in Canberra, however there may be circumstances where placements could occur in other capital cities including Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and regional locations like Williamtown (near Newcastle), Nowra in New South Wales, Oakey in Queensland, East Sale in Victoria or Rockingham in Western Australia.

Note: Defence will allocate you a work placement in Canberra or your home location if you live within commuting distance of a suitable location. However, Defence may cover travel and accommodation costs associated with your work placement if the project is away from your normal residence.

How do I successfully complete the DCUS?

To complete the DCUS successfully you need to:

  • successfully complete your degree within the relevant full study load time frame
  • participate in your work placements
  • develop and demonstrate your professionalism
  • apply for the Defence Graduate Program in your final year of study
  • demonstrate your values by committing to the sponsorship program and complying with the APS, ADFA and UNSW codes of conduct.

How do I ensure I can apply for the Defence Graduate Program

To be eligible to apply for the Defence Graduate Program in your final year of study you need to continue your studies through to graduation and achieve the required academic standard for entry into a relevant stream of the program.

Graduates who successfully complete a Defence Graduate Program are provided permanent ongoing positions relevant to their discipline within Defence.

Further information on the Defence Graduate Program and streams available can be found here

Great career opportunities

Defence offers civilian staff the opportunity to play a real part in keeping Australia secure, to support intelligence operations nationally and internationally, and to support peace keeping missions overseas. We are one of Australia's largest government departments and as such, we are able to offer rewarding opportunities across a wide career spectrum. You name it, we do it.

You will be able to develop your professional career in your discipline and apply those skills in a wide range of projects. Check out the Department of Defence website to see the kind of things you can do.

Excellent employment conditions

Upon successful completion of your studies and application for the Defence Graduate Program, as a civilian full time employee you will have access to:

  • four weeks annual leave per year
  • 15 days personal leave each year for illness and caring purposes
  • access to up to 52 weeks maternity leave, including up to 18 weeks paid leave
  • flex time and access to other flexible working arrangements, like working from home (after you have completed your graduate program)
  • assistance for further formal study
  • Christmas stand down
  • paid long service leave (after the applicable period).

Employment conditions for Defence APS employees are contained in the Defence Enterprise Collective Agreement (DECA) 2012-2014.

See: DECA 2012-2014 on the Defence Pay and Conditions website.

DCUS Selection Process

Selection is based on academic merit; relevant interests and career aspirations on graduation and in the long term for your chosen discipline/degree; and performance at interview. Tenure is dependant on satisfactory progress.

Our recruitment process is a three stage process:

1. Application – Applications are to be submitted via the Defence online recruitment website. You will need to answer a few questions about your experience, submit a resume, and provide details of two current referees. Applications will open in September 2017.

Open: start September 2017   Close: end September 2017

2. Interviews – If you are considered suitable based on your application, you will be invited to attend an interview. These will most likely be conducted in Canberra (however, we can provide travel assistance for you to get to Canberra or your nearest capital city for the interview if you do not live in the ACT). 

October 2017

3. Final Selection – If you are successful you will be offered a sponsorship on the 2018 DCUS which will commence in March 2018. Please note all DCUS offers are subject to UNSW eligibility requirements. 

Selection offers: 
November 2017

The selection timeline for the 2018 DCUS is outlined in the following table:





DCUS applications open.

September 2017


DCUS applications close.

September 2017


Interviews and other possible assessment activities conducted.

October 2017


Offers are made to candidates after successfully completing the interview activities.

November 2017


Candidates accept or decline offers.

By late November 2017


Successful candidates undertake a Baseline security clearance.

November/December 2017


UAC submissions close and candidates change UAC preference to Engineering or Computing and Cyber Security at UNSW Canberra at ADFA.

Early December 2017


ATAR results released on UAC website.

December 2017


UAC Early January round released on UAC website.

January 2018


Preferred candidates who have achieved the required ATAR score accept UAC Early January round offer to the UNSW Canberra at ADFA.

January 2018


Joining instructions sent to successful candidates outlining important dates and providing information on when and how to commence studies.

Successful candidates requiring a higher security clearance to complete particular work placements will commence an additional clearance upgrade.

January 2018


Successful candidates attend induction and enrolment day at UNSW Canberra at ADFA.

February 2018


Successful candidates attend a Defence Orientation session in Canberra.  

February 2018


Successful candidates commence study at UNSW Canberra at ADFA.

March 2018

The selection process

Can you meet the challenge?

Are you:

  • a strong communicator?
  • a team player?
  • proactive and good at achieving results?
  • an innovative problem solver?
  • wanting to make a difference in our community?
  • wanting to work in a dynamic environment?

Hints on how to prepare your application

Before applying for the DCUS, you should:

  • review and understand the selection criteria
  • find out as much as you can about the Department of Defence and its current projects
  • gain an understanding of strategic Defence issues
  • consider your preparedness to go through the security clearance process
  • be able to commence your studies at Canberra campus for March 2018.

Selection Criteria

The following table describes the selection criteria against which applicants will be evaluated:


Characteristics (Things you can do to meet the criteria)

Achieves results:

  • goal focused
  • resilient
  • realistic
  • overcomes obstacles
  • being proactive and taking the initiative
  • self-motivation and commitment to achieving results
  • ability to develop solutions that target problems effectively
  • ability to keep difficulties in perspective and respond positively to setbacks and challenges
  • willingness to take responsibility for own actions

Thinking skills:

  • intelligent
  • shows wise judgement
  • ability to identify interrelationships between issues, to draw links and to synthesise information across different sources
  • ability to place information in a broader context and to identify likely implications
  • ability to generate new ideas and innovative approaches to problems
  • ability to generate effective practical applications

Communication skills:

  • listen
  • understand
  • explore
  • convey ideas
  • ability to express oneself clearly and logically both orally and in writing
  • ability to tailor communication to accommodate a wide range of people
  • negotiation and influencing skills
  • listening skills

Relationship management:

  • relates well to others
  • contributes effectively
  • ability to assist, support and work co-operatively with other team members
  • commitment to team objectives and ability to generate this in others
  • ability to give and receive feedback effectively
  • understanding of own role within a team and the impact on others
  • ability to motivate, mentor and provide direction to others

Genuine interest in working with Defence

  • genuine interest in, and knowledge of, the work of Defence
  • awareness of one’s ability to make a contribution to Defence and of the personal benefits to be gained through an engineering scholarship

Frequently asked questions

Do I need to be an Australian citizen?

You must be an Australian citizen to be eligible to commence on the DCUS.

See: Department of Immigration and Citizenship website.

Why do I need a security clearance?

A security clearance is a condition of undertaking a work placement at the Department of Defence and is required to assess your reliability and trustworthiness with Defence information. If the availability, integrity or confidentiality of Defence information is compromised in any way, lives can be lost – it is as simple as that.

What level of security clearance do I need?

You will need to initially be cleared to a Baseline level to participate in the DCUS.

Some sponsorships may require a higher security clearance and this will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Candidates who require a Negative Vetting Level 1, Negative Vetting Level 2 or Top Secret Positive Vetting security clearance will undertake an additional clearance process in January 2017.

What do I need for a security clearance?

You will need to be an Australian citizen to obtain a security clearance. In addition, applicants must have a verifiable personal background/history for at least the preceding:

  • Five years for Baseline clearances;
  • Ten years for Negative Vetting 1 (NV1)/Negative Vetting 2 (NV2); and
  • Whole of life for Top Secret Positive Vetting (TSPV) clearances.

Does every applicant undergo a security clearance?

Only the candidates who accept a sponsorship will undergo the security clearance process.

Will I need to complete a Psychological Assessment?

To work in some areas of Defence, it is necessary to complete a Psychological Assessment. Candidates who require a Top Secret (Positive Vetting) (TSPV) security clearance will need to undertake a Psychological Assessment to determine suitability to work in a high security environment. If you feel uncomfortable about having to undertake a Psychological Assessment, you can discuss the requirements of the assessment with the DCUS Manager as there are multiple DCUS opportunities, some of which do not require a TSPV clearance.

Want to know more? Please email us at or call (02) 6127 3103.