Three Minute Thesis Competition

The University of Queensland’s Three Minute Thesis initiative at U21.

First developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, the Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT®) challenges research students to communicate the significance of their projects to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes.

Following a successful launch in 2013, the U21 3MT 2014 competition will pit the leading presenters from each U21 member university against one another.  Each participating member will hold their own internal 3MT competition to select a local winner who will then be put forward for the U21 final, to be judged by an international panel consisting of industry and academic professionals. 

3MT provides research students with the opportunity to develop their academic, presentation, and research communication skills by explaining their research to an intelligent but non-specialist audience.  The local competitions will challenge the students to present face-to-face, and additionally the virtual final will hone skills associated from being filmed for an international audience, receiving international peer review, and gaining skills surrounding the presentation of their research to a wider audience.

Not only will students benefit from this experience, but members have the opportunity to showcase their research and researchers throughout the network, as well as open doors to new collaborations and networks for both researchers and supervisors.  



There are three prizes to be won in this year's competition:

  • Judges' First Place: Prizewinner will receive a bursary of US$2,500 to visit a U21 university of their choice, to benefit their research or on-going career development.
  • Judges' Highly Commended: Prize US$500
  • People's Choice: Prizewinner will receive US$300 plus the opportunity to have their presentation turned into an animated video by 99Scholars, creating an innovative way to share the presentation online and via social media.

Associate Professor Caroline Daley, Dean of Graduate Studies University of Auckland (and U21 DDoGS chair)

Phil Baty, Editor at large Times Higher Education

Dr Jani Brouwer, Director of Research and PhD Programs, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Dr Allan Goodman, CEO Institute of International Education

Dr Patrick Chu, Chairman of 99Scholars (an academic event platform for research scholars) and UNSW Alumni


Click on "more information" to read the judges' biographies.


Timeline for the 2014 competition

3 October 2014: Video submission deadline

6 October 2014: Videos online and open the People’s Choice Vote

20 October 2014: People’s Choice Closes

28 October 2014: Winners announced



Active doctoral candidates who have successfully passed their confirmation milestone by the date of their first presentation (including thesis under submission) are eligible to participate in the U21 3MT competition.  Graduates are not eligible.


Rules of Engagement

  • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
  • A single static slide is permitted (no slide transitions, animations or 'movement' of any description).  This can be visible continuously, or ‘cut to’ (as many times as you like) for a maximum of 1 minute. 
  • The video can be filmed from a live 3MT event or a specific set, but must have only one camera angle filmed from a static position. Zoom in and out from the static position is acceptable.
  • The 3 minute audio must be continuous – no edits, breaks etc.
  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment, animated backgrounds) are permitted.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through movement or speech (timing does not include the students title slide)
  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted within the video recording. 
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final. 


Below the winner of the 2013 competition, Jamie Gallagher, accepts his prize and gives some insight into what it was like participating in the inaugural U21 3MT grand final.

Dr Gemma Marakas
Researcher Development Manager