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:
- An up-to-date Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- Academic transcripts from your previous degree(s)
- 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.
In order to fulfil the requirements of ANU’s internal scholarship application process, prospective HDR (Higher Degree Research) must meet a number of deadlines which depend on if they are a domestic or an international applicant.
All applicants should include a section in their application detailing the viability of their project in the context of COVID restrictions. This section should either (a) explain how the project is not dependent on travel and/or fieldwork and therefore feasible regardless of restrictions in these domains, or (b) provide a 12-month plan outlining how the project will proceed if the current restrictions on fieldwork and travel continue. Applicants should discuss the viability of their research project under COVID restrictions with their proposed supervisors prior to submitting the application.
For International students: the applicant must send an initial expression of interest to the Department’s HDR Convenor as soon as possible, but no later than 31 May. An international applicant who wishes to be considered for an ANU scholarship will subsequently be required to submit a full application through the ANU Application Manager by 31 July at the latest. This time frame is designed so that we can help you finalise your application package before the scholarship committees meet. Applications that are submitted after 31 July but before 31 August will still be considered; however, such applications risk being incomplete at the time of consideration as they will not have benefitted from the abovementioned review process.
For domestic students: the applicant must send an initial expression of interest to the Department’s HDR Convenor as soon as possible, but no later than 31 July. A domestic applicant who wishes to be considered for an ANU scholarship will subsequently be required to submit a full application through the ANU Application Manager by 30 September at the latest. This time frame is designed so that we can help you finalise your application package before the scholarship committees meet. Applications that are submitted after 30 September but before 31 October will still be considered; however, such applications risk being incomplete at the time of consideration as they will not have benefitted from the abovementioned review process.
For non-ANU scholarships, prospective students must express their interest in the Department’s graduate research programs to the HDR Convenor at least two months in advance of the respective scholarship program deadlines (if formal acceptance to a university is a scholarship eligibility requirement).