Defence civilian undergraduate sponsorship

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).

Applications for the 2023 DCUS intake have now closed.

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

The Department of Defence will determine the undergraduate degree disciplines that will be offered from the following options:

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

Eligible applicants will have the full tuition costs of their degree covered and receive a generous annual allowance to cover the cost of text books and equipment.

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

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 at UNSW Canberra - ADFA campus. Civilian students will learn alongside military cadets who are training in order to join the Australian Defence Force in either the Navy, Army or Air Force.

During the final year of study, you will apply for a position in the Defence Graduate Program to commence your career in Defence.


To be eligible for the DCUS you must:

  • be an Australian citizen
  • have not previously enrolled in a university 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 receive:

  • the opportunity to study at at UNSW Canberra - ADFA campus, one of Australia’s most respected universities with one of 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 allowance 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 the 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

Work experience placements will be organised for you during the summer holidays over the course of your degree. Depending on your discipline, placements will be for a period of six to twelve weeks, to enable you to obtain a good understanding of the work area’s key deliverables and how areas work cohesively to deliver a product or service. During your work placements you may work with other sponsorship recipients under the guidance of an experienced Defence Australian Public Service (APS) professional.

Work placement locations will be determined by the sponsoring areas with Defence, who will cover your travel and accommodation costs associated with your work placement if the project is outside Canberra.

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
  • maintain a pass grade in each subject
  • participate in your work placements
  • apply for the Defence Graduate Program in your final year of study
  • demonstrate your commitment and adherence to the Defence Values and Behaviours.

Stage 1 - Online Application

Selection is based on academic merit; relevant interests and career aspirations; interest in your chosen degree; and performance at interview. Your continued tenure in DCUS is dependent on competent progress.

Applications are to be submitted via the Career Pathways & Job Opportunities page. You will need to answer a few questions about your experience, submit a resume, and provide details of two current referees.

Applications for the 2023 DCUS intake have now closed.

Stage 2 - Interviews

If you are considered suitable based on your application, you will be invited to attend a virtual interview. Interview details will be provided to shortlisted applicants only.

Interviews will be held in October 2022.

Stage 3 - Final Selection

If you are successful after the application and interview stages, you will be offered a sponsorship on the 2023 DCUS. The 2023 DCUS will commence in February 2023.

Please note all DCUS offers are subject to UNSW eligibility requirements. Please refer to the UNSW Canberra website for more information.

Offers will be made to successful applicants in November 2022.

  • review the available information on the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) website on how to address a 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 by reading relevant documents (these include, but are not limited to the 2016 Defence White Paper and the Naval Shipbuilding Plan, which are both accessible online)
  • consider your preparedness to go through the security clearance process
  • be prepared to relocate to Canberra (if currently residing interstate) at your own expense
  • be able to commence your studies in Canberra in February 2023.

The selection criteria provide a set of measurable standards against which employers can assess your application.

When you apply for a position in the public service your application must address the selection criteria. The written application should provide sufficient and relevant information to allow a selection panel to shortlist candidates to the next stage. This should include relevant examples of how you have demonstrated the particular skill or behaviour required in the selection criteria.

You can find more information on how to address the selection criteria, including the STAR approach, on the APSC website.

Below is a list of the criteria which applicants will be assessed against.

Achieves Results

  • 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

  • ability to identify connections between issues, to draw links and to organise 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

  • 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.

Team Work

  • 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 Department of Defence
  • awareness of one’s ability to make a contribution to Defence and of the personal benefits to be gained through the Defence sponsorship.

Do I need to be an Australian citizen?

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

It is a condition of employment with the Australian Public Service (APS) that all employees are Australian citizens. This applies to ALL jobs within the APS, not just Defence.

The Australian Government considers that it is appropriate for government employees to be Australian citizens as a demonstration of their commitment to, and long-term stake in, the future of Australia.

Can I participate in the sponsorship at a university other than UNSW at ADFA?

As the cost of tuition is funded via an existing contract between the Department of Defence and UNSW at the ADFA campus, the sponsorship is unable to be offered at any other university.

How many sponsorship places are available?

Each year, Defence provides up to 30 sponsorships under the DCUS.

Do I need to provide a referee?

You must provide details of two referees in your application. These referees can either be professional or academic and must be able to vouch to your skills, qualifications and abilities as they relate to your DCUS application.

Do I also have to apply through the University Admissions Centre (UAC) in order to get a place in the DCUS?

To be eligible for the DCUS, you must also meet the UNSW admission requirements for your degree and lodge an online application for the relevant UNSW degree through UAC.   

Please refer to the UNSW Canberra website for more information regarding this application process.

Does the Department of Defence assist with the funding or acquiring of accommodation for students who are required to relocate?

As the successful students are not employees of the Department of Defence, we are unable to assist in the funding of accommodation or relocation costs.

The Defence Entry Level Programs team is able to provide students with information regarding local accommodation for university students. Please contact for more information.

Will I get paid during work placements?

During work placements, successful DCUS applicants will be employed on a non-going basis and will be paid at an APS Level 2 classification.

Will I receive an allowance?

As part of the sponsorship agreement, successful DCUS applicants will receive a generous allowance of $2,000 per annum to put towards the cost of text books and other study expenses. This is generally paid around February or March each year.

Do I have to pay for the Bachelor degree or the tuition costs?

As part of the sponsorship agreement, Defence will cover the full tuition of a three or four year Bachelor degree in one of the specified disciplines.  

Are DCUS participants expected to adhere to the Defence Values and Behaviours?

Yes. The Defence Values are the core principles of our actions and behaviours and are an evolution, with a strong foundation in the values that have come before.

We live the Defence Values by demonstrating the Defence Behaviours.

The Defence Behaviours are a clear vision of the behaviours expected of you regardless of your role, rank or working environment.

DCUS Program participants are expected to abide by the Defence Values and Behaviours at all times.

Why do I need a security clearance?

The Australian community requires the highest level of integrity from Defence employees. Security clearances are required for people who, as part of their work for the Australian Government, need to access classified information or resources.

Successful DCUS applicants will be required to successfully undergo the security clearance vetting process at a specified clearance level in order to participate in work placements in Defence.

Your suitability to hold a security clearance is determined after a series of assessments and background checks by the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA). AGSVA conducts security clearance assessments to ensure that people entrusted with access to security classified information or resources are eligible, suitable and can be trusted to safeguard them.

Further information regarding the security clearance process is available in the Australian Government Security Clearance Applicant Guide Book. Please ensure that you read this information thoroughly and confirm that you meet the minimum requirements to be eligible to hold a security clearance at the required level, and that you are able to provide the necessary documents if you apply for the DCUS.

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 students may require a higher security clearance and this will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Candidates who require a Negative Vetting 1, Negative Vetting 2 or Positive Vetting security clearance will undertake an additional clearance process as advised by the Defence Entry Level Programs team.

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)
  • Whole of life for Positive Vetting (PV) clearances.

Further information regarding the security clearance process is available in the Australian Government Security Clearance Applicant Guide Book.

Does every applicant undergo a security clearance?

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

Further information about the clearance process can be found on the AGSVA website.

Jade Boreta Second year - Computing and Cyber Security

The opportunity for a HECS free degree and paid work experience in an upcoming industry intrigued me and I completed my application for the DCUS in Sydney and eventually moved to Canberra the following February. Being a fresh 18 year old, just out of high school and with no programming background, both the transition from Sydney to Canberra and High School to University posed a lot of unique hurdles for me to overcome. Studying at UNSW Canberra means that I get a glimpse into the experience of the ADFA Cadets. I credit my survival of the programming and maths heavy courses to the help I received from them. The lecturers we meet at the University and the Professionals we meet through the program allow us to experience first hand the ever changing and expansive nature of the Cyber industry that many of us had no idea of before becoming a part of the DCUS.

Georgina Hazenberg Third year - Aeronautical Engineering

It was because of the DCUS program and UNSW Canberra’s outstanding facilities that I decided to move from Brisbane to Canberra for my tertiary studies. This move has meant that I have been able to create a new network of friends and points of contact for my future career that wouldn’t have been as easy to form if I had not been part of the DCUS. The program has benefited me in so many ways during the past three years but most notably for me was the organised work experience. At the start of the year, I completed the first of my two placements at RAAF Base East Sale. This was an incredible opportunity as I was given the resources to work in a professional environment with the added bonus of getting to see and interact with various Defence aircraft and facilities. During the semester, I am involved in various groups and projects within the University. Most recently I have been involved in the national Warman Design and Build Competition as part of my degree and outside of that have been involved in the University Rocketry group. The DCUS program has allowed me to transition from high school to university and to look further into the future of my career.

Daniel Bell Second year - Electrical Engineering

I accepted a position in the DCUS program straight out of college, choosing to attend UNSW Canberra over other engineering programs available in the ACT. In my experience, UNSW Canberra is a very well equipped university – while the campus is small, the laboratories and other facilities are excellent and available to all students. I appreciate the smaller size of the university as well, as we have plenty of time to talk to lecturers and tutors individually. Unlike other engineering programs, the courses at UNSW Canberra are very specific to our disciplines. The material I am learning is directly relevant to Electrical Engineering and I can see how the material I’m learning can be used in practical engineering work. The DCUS program has provided many potential opportunities for those of us on the program. We have been able to meet our sponsoring groups, join extra-curricular activities at the university, have had access to a mentorship program and support is always available from the DCUS and UNSW staff.


If you have any questions about the DCUS program or the application process, please email or call 02 5109 8228.