PhD and MPhil applications in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

CASS HDR (Higher Degree by Research) programs

Graduate research degrees are available in more than 20 disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences within the College of Arts & Social Sciences (CASS). Students who wish to undertake a graduate research program at ANU can do so through either a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Master of Philosophy (MPhil).

Depending upon your research field, the major component of both research programs is usually a substantial written work (‘thesis’) which investigates a particular subject or issue. A research student works independently under the direction of a primary academic supervisor who forms part of a supervisory panel of academic staff (PhD candidates will have at least three panel members; MPHIL candidates will have at least two).

Prospective students are expected to have an agreed supervisor for their proposed projects before they make a formal application to a CASS research program. See Areas of Research below.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

PhD degrees are expected to submit their thesis for examination within four years (full-time study), or up to eight years part-time. A standard-format thesis is about 80,000 words, and makes a substantial contribution to the relevant scholarly literature, and demonstrates how their research relates to their discipline. It is also possible to submit a PhD in an alternative format (such as a composition, exhibition or other creative work) or by publication upon approval by your supervisory panel and School or Centre. School of Art and Design students normally produced a thesis by creative work (a combination of written exegesis and exhibition).

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Program duration for MPhil degrees is up to two years full-time and up to four years part-time. An MPhil thesis is normally limited to 60,000 words.


College schools and centres sit under two research schools: the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) and the Research School of Humanities & the Arts (RSHA).

Each research school has its own PhD and MPHIL programs – the program you apply for depends on the location of the academic staff member who has agreed to supervise your thesis. (See Areas of Research below.)

PhD Programs:

9520XPHD Doctor of Philosophy RSSS

Details and Application:

9552XPHD Doctor of Philosophy RSHA

Details and Application:

MPHIL Programs:

8520XMPHIL Master of Philosophy RSSS

Details and Application:

8551XMPHIL Master of Philosophy RSHA

Details and Application:

Areas of Research

Visit the Higher Degree Research page to browse areas of research within CASS. The College also supports interdisciplinary research through the Interdisciplinary and Cross-Cultural Research (ICCR) Program.

Schools and Centres hosting HDR candidates within the College:

Research School of Humanities & the Arts (RSHA):

School of Archaeology and Anthropology

School of Art & Design

School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics

School of Music

Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS):

Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research

Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies

Centre for Social Research and Methods

School of Demography

School of History

School of Philosophy

School of Politics & International Relations

School of Sociology

Minimum entry requirements

Admission to a Doctor of Philosophy program in CASS requires you to have completed an Honours degree at H2A level or above, or equivalent prior studies, such as a Master degree that includes a significant research component. Admission to a Master of Philosophy program in CASS requires you to have completed an Australian Bachelor degree or equivalent, with an overall grade of distinction. 

Generally it is a requirement that you have completed your tertiary studies in the discipline in which you are planning to do research. Please note that exceptions to this may be made with relevant approvals.

At a minimum, all applicants must meet program-specific requirements, and the University's English Language Admission Requirements for Students. Admission to most ANU programs is on a competitive basis. Therefore, meeting all admission requirements does not automatically guarantee entry. 


You can apply at any time throughout the year and commence at any time throughout the year (except the end of year University close down period). Please note that deadlines apply for those wanting to be considered for scholarship, as listed below. If you are successful in gaining a scholarship, your scholarship conditions may state that you must start by a particular date. For the main domestic and international scholarships rounds the deadline to commence your program (if successful in gaining a scholarship) is the 31st of March in the following year. If you apply to commence between 1 January and 31 March, please select the Summer session, not Semester 1. This is because many HDR courses run during the Summer session, and you need to be enrolled in the Summer session to take those courses. 


The College requires research students to complete postgraduate/research coursework (the equivalent of one semester full-time study) as part of their degree. Coursework may include training on research methods, ethics and other topics as deemed appropriate by your supervisory panel and School/Centre.


Students enrolled in Higher Degree Research programs are expected to be in attendance for the duration of the program (full-time is 40 hours per week and part-time is 20 hours per week) unless approval is given by the Delegated Authority for the student to be an external PhD degree candidate. On campus candidates will be expected to physically attend ANU as a full time student for 18 months or for a part time student for 24 months. Periods of absence on fieldwork, conference attendance, or in pursuit of the program at another institution do not count towards this attendance period. External candidates must spend a minimum of 4 weeks (consecutive or non-consecutive) per year of the program at ANU.

External candidates must note their periods of time in residence at the ANU in their Annual Reports. The written approval of the appropriate Delegated Authority is required for any variation to these attendance requirements. If you intend on applying to be externally based you should discuss this option with your proposed supervisor (Chair of Panel) and should also note this in your application for admission. Once enrolled, to gain formal approval to be externally based you will need to complete the Application for External Attendance in Research Program.

Preparing for your application

Research proposal

To be considered for the PhD or MPhil program, prospective students must submit a research (or thesis) proposal for review. When contacting potential supervisors or Graduate Research convenors they will most often expect that you have already prepared a draft research proposal. The proposal is often utilised as an indicator to assess the quality and originality of your ideas, your skills in critical thinking, the projects feasibility, and how the research fits within the School or Centres current research focus and supervision capacity.

The length of the proposal required varies between different Schools and disciplines. As a guide you should aim for between 2 and 5 pages. On advice from your potential supervisor or Graduate Research Convenor you can adjust your initial proposal to fit within the School or Centres guidelines.

Please note that your initial research proposal should be viewed as a starting point or work in progress. In your first year of candidature your research proposal will most often be refined such as through: detailed literature reviews, coursework courses completed, supervisors and other academic colleagues.

In writing your research proposal you should consider:

  • The field of research or topic of investigation
  • Your primary research objective or central research question to address
  • The value of your research and the contribution it will make to your field
  • The context and background of your research
  • Your research strategy and methods

What should I include in my thesis proposal?

  1. Title: A precise and informative description of the project. Avoid acronyms and phrases such as "A study of . . ."
  2. Abstract: A summary of the proposed research (approx 300 words) that includes the key research question or hypothesis, the rationale for the research, and the method to be employed in the study
  3. Aims & significance: A clearly focused statement of the overall purpose of the proposed research (i.e., why is it important?)
  4. Research questions and/or hypotheses: the questions that the proposed research will address and/or the hypotheses that will be tested
  5. Literature review: A preliminary review of the key research that has already been carried out in the field and identification of the gaps in the literature that the proposed research aims to fill
  6. Methodology: An explanation of what type of data will be required to answer the research questions or test the hypotheses and how the data will be collected and analysed
  7. Timetable: An indication of how the research will be carried out over the duration of a full-time (3 years for PhD, 2 years for MPhil) or part-time (6 years for PhD, 4 years for MPhil) candidature
  8. Resources: An indication of the funding that will be required over the course of the candidature (e.g., for fieldwork) as well any special materials or training that may be necessary for the successful completion of the project
  9. Institutional fit: A statement on why CASS is an appropriate 'home' for the project and an indication of potential supervisors/advisors
  10. Bibliography: A list of references cited in or relevant to the proposal

Finding a supervisor

Identifying a potential primary supervisor is an important part of any graduate research application. Browse the Researchers database to find and contact a potential supervisor to support your application. In most cases the School or Centre location of your potential supervisor will determine which School or Centre within CASS you will reside in.

Please note that once you have found a potential supervisor, any offer of supervision will be subject to you being formally offered admission to the program and meeting any conditions (if applicable).

Application Queries

If you have any technical difficulties when applying you should contact the Admissions Office:

Domestic enquiries | International enquiries

After you have completed your application, the normal timeframe for an outcome is six to eight weeks. If you are applying for an ANU administered scholarship, in order for us to prepare your application as best as possible you should try to aim to submit your application well in advance of the final closing deadline (2 to 3 weeks prior to the deadline). If you are applying for an externally administered scholarship such as the Endeavour Awards, you should apply well in advance of your deadline (try to leave at least 6 to 8 weeks prior to the deadline).


Admission and ANU administered scholarships for HDR degrees are applied for together in the one application for admission (an online form). If you are interested in being considered for an ANU administered scholarship you should indicate this in the relevant sections of the application.

In order to be eligible to be considered for a scholarship you must have the equivalent of H1 honours (first class honours). The Scholarship ranking process is very rigorous, each applicant must first be internally ranked and recommended by their School or Centre for the Scholarship round. Then a central College HDR Scholarship round committee assesses and ranks each applicant. Many criteria are taken into account such as the applicants:

  • Academic record (including GPA)
  • Research potential and support from prospective supervisor and area
    • Research Proposal
    • Referee reports & questionnaires
    • Publications
    • Prizes, Awards and Scholarships
    • Relevant professional experience
  • English language competency
  • Ranking relevant to others in the graduate research field or discipline area

Following this there is often a University level ranking committee that ranks applicants put forward by the College to reach a final ranked list of applicants.

Information on scholarships is available at the ANU Apply online portal


Domestic students

Domestic research students at ANU are covered by the Fee Offset scholarship offered under the Australian Government Research Training Program (AGRTP) where the cost of your tuition is paid by the Commonwealth Government.

Research students are required to pay other associated costs such as the Services and amenities fee.

International students

Information on Fees is available at the ANU Apply online portal

HDR transfers

If you are currently undertaking an PhD or MPhil at another Australian university, you will still need to apply to ANU as normal. If you are given an offer of admission before you can be enrolled you will need to provide the following:

  1. Your program commencement date and withdrawal date (if already withdrawn)
  2. A statement of your RTS (or AGRTP) consumption to date (in EFTSL - Equivalent Full Time Student Load).
  3. Dates and durations of any periods of leave (other than recreational leave).
  4. Whether your enrolment was full or part-time.

Please note these details can be obtained from your university administration.

So we can determine your eligibility for Scholarships please advise if you have been in receipt of any Scholarships under your current (or previous) Higher Degree by Research programs (such as an APA scholarship). 

Please also note that before you can enroll at ANU, the enrolments office will also require Proof of withdrawal from your current University. You can provide this information to us once you have received an offer letter from ANU.

Contact us 

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