Graduate research

The Department of Political and Social Change offers PhD and M.Phil research supervision and training to outstanding graduates interested in the politics and societies of Asia. We are committed to postgraduate training of the highest quality, equipping scholars with the skills to be independent thinkers and world-class researchers. Our graduates include leading academics, published authors and senior government advisors around the world.

We strive to provide a supportive environment for students to pursue rigorous, innovative research from a range of perspectives, undertake in-country fieldwork, and share ideas with other students, as well as with Departmental academic staff.

The Department encourages applications for the PhD and M.Phil programs from graduates with excellent academic records, training in political science, sociology, anthropology or a related field, and a demonstrated capacity for conducting outstanding fieldwork-based research on political and social change in Asia.

The core component of the PhD and MPhil degrees is a thesis (80-100,000 words for a PhD, 60,000 words for an MPhil). The thesis must make a substantial contribution to learning and relate the research to a broader literature in political science, sociology, anthropology and/or related fields.

In addition to the thesis, all PhD and MPhil candidates in the Department are required to take a 13-week seminar course on social science research design and writing run by the Department. They may also take other courses relevant to their discipline or for language study.

A full-time PhD program is a minimum of two years and a maximum of four, although scholarships are normally available for three or three-and-a-half years. Part-time candidature may be approved in special circumstances (but rarely for candidates on scholarship). A M.Phil takes a maximum of two years full-time or four years part-time.

Each postgraduate research student has a supervisory panel of between three and five academics with expertise in the area of her/his research. The Chair of the panel - the supervisor - is a member of our Department. Advisers can come from elsewhere in the University and on some occasions from other universities.

As a PhD or M.Phil student, you will have an office (usually two students per room) and a MS Windows-based computer. Computers are networked to the library, various databases, mainframe computers, and the Internet. You will also have access to photocopiers for reasonable photocopying and financial support for fieldwork and other reasonable research costs. Frequently the Department also gives financial support to PhD and M.Phil students who present papers at academic conferences and workshops.


Prospective students interested in applying to our MPhil and PhD program should first submit an expression of interest to the Department’s Higher Degree Research Convenor, Associate Professor Marcus Mietzner. Your expression of interest should include the following:

  1. An up-to-date Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  2. Academic transcripts from your previous degree(s)
  3. An MPhil or PhD research proposal. This should be a well-conceived document of 5-10 pages in length (2500-3000 words). It should contain a clear statement of the central question you wish to address, a brief statement of why this is an interesting question, why it is new or different in relation to the existing literature in your field, a brief statement of the methodology you propose to use, and finally, what original contribution you expect to make to our understanding of political and/or social change in Asia. Ideally this statement should include a select bibliography of key works. This document is very important as it is our first step toward assessing your research potential and determining whether or not we have a staff member willing and able to supervise your MPhil or PhD project.

Applications for admission to the MPhil and PhD programs are accepted on an ongoing basis. However, please keep in mind that: (a) there are deadlines for scholarships; and (b) there are advantages to commencing study early in the Australian academic year (February-March). For one thing, the compulsory seminar in the Department starts in early April.

To meet ANU scholarship application deadlines, prospective PhD students should express their interest in the Department’s program no later than 31 May (international students) or 31 August (domestic students). For all other scholarships, prospective students should express their interest in the Department’s graduate research programs at least two months in advance of the scholarship deadline (if formal acceptance to a university is a scholarship eligibility requirement).


Dr Marcus Mietzner

Higher Degree Research Convenor


Telephone: 61 2 6125 5501

Updated:  28 February 2020/Responsible Officer:  Bell School Marketing Team/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team