HDR program

Higher Degree Research Program

The Research School of Social Sciences is home to one of the best political science and international relations programs in the world. The distinctive, world-leading program befits its place in the ANU, which is an institution dedicated to research-led education. This page sets out the opportunities for, and distinctive features of, research training in the School of Politics and International Relations.

Degree Programs

The School of Politics and International Relations offers two higher degree research programs, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and the Master of Philosophy (MPhil). The PhD requires a minimum of three years of study and students are required to submit a thesis of no more than 100,000 words, whereas the MPhil requires a minimum of one and a half years of study and the submission of a thesis of no more than 60,000 words. For more detailed information about entry requirements for the PhD and MPhil program, please refer to the PhD and MPhil applications website.

Teaching Researchers

Whether a student is enrolled in a PhD or an MPhil degree, our graduate training program enables students to undertake an in-depth research project at postgraduate level under the close supervision of academic staff. The School of Politics and International Relations provides a supportive environment and programmes that encourages new modes of research while also supporting traditional scholarly methods of inquiry.

The key element of our graduate program is its intense focus on the unique research-led education culture at the ANU. Our guiding assumption is that the best way to produce academic researchers is to incorporate them into a culture of academic research. This research culture is made possible by two things in particular: the culture of political science with its intensive focus on discussion and debate, and the culture of the ANU, with its focus on research-led education. Some elements of our research culture include our weekly research seminars, monthly politics and international relations works-in-progress workshops, and the presence of a large number of international and national luminaries who are present on campus as visiting fellows.

The strong expectation of the School of Politics and International Relations is that students will take an active role in this research culture, and all HDR students are required to attend the research seminars.

Finding a Supervisor

It is incumbent on applicants to identify and contact potential HDR supervisors. We encourage applicants to view the research profiles of the School’s faculty to identify supervisors who work in the area of the students’ interest. Visit this page to view all the members of faculty.

Once an applicant has identified a potential supervisor, the applicant should contact the supervisor via email, stating that they are interested in HDR studies, outlining their area of interest and proposed topic, and asking whether the faculty member is willing to supervise them. If an applicant is unsure about how to contact a potential supervisor they should contact the HDR Convenor via hdrconvenor.spir@anu.edu.au

Research Funding

HDR students are entitled to a fixed amount of funding to support their research. Funding may be used for fieldwork, to attend academic conferences and other presentations, or other research activities as approved. Applications for funding must express a clear statement of the purpose and a rationale for the funding. Applications should be developed in consultation with the principal supervisor and approved by the principal supervisor and the HDR Convenor.

HDR Progression

Upon matriculation into a PhD or MPhil with the School of Politics and International Relations students will be invited to the annual HDR Induction Program.

The induction will welcome students to the School and to the University, introduce the faculty of the School, and familiarise students with their opportunities and responsibilities. It also includes social events that allow new students to meet the other students, faculty and support staff who comprise the School community. The Induction Program usually occurs during March.

Once students commence their HDR program, the University requires the successful completion a series of progress milestones, which you can read about these in more depth here. The key program milestone are outlined below.


HDR candidates in the School of Politics and International Relations are typically required to undertake coursework at the post-graduate level. Successful completion of coursework is typically required for confirmation of candidature. Candidates in the School generally enrol in the following courses:

Semester 1 - POLS8042 (12 units)

Semester 2 - POLS8044 (6 units)

Further coursework is possible with the agreement of the Chair/Primary Supervisor.

More information on these courses can be found on Programs and Courses (or simply click on the links above) and on the CASS website, or by contacting the Graduate Convenor hdrconvenor.spir@anu.edu.au

In addition, as part of the initial meeting period with the Chair of their supervisory panel, each student will undergo a brief 'skills needs analysis' that will identify the skills which students are likely to need during candidature; which skills they might already have; sources of support and training; and when it is likely that they will need those skills, so that a learning plan can be developed. Recommendations on appropriate courses for individual students will be based on the skills audit and discussions between the supervisor and student.

The Thesis Proposal Review (TPR)

In accordance with university rules, students must complete a thesis proposal, to be reviewed and approved by their supervisory panel and presented to the School’s academic staff, before the end of the first year of full-time study. The TPR is a comprehensive review of a student’s plans for their dissertation and their ability to carry out this plan. Students must provide three pieces of work: i) a general statement of the goals and plan for the thesis; ii) a piece of focused written work focusing on some analytic question relevant to their research; and iii) a bibliography. The first two of these pieces of research are presented to a seminar of the whole faculty. After this the student will meet with his or her committee to discuss their progress.

The chair of the committee will then write a report summarising the findings and making a recommendation about the next stage of the student’s career. The review formally assesses whether a student’s program will:

  • continue as specified in the Thesis Proposal and Annual Plan (with any necessary amendments)
  • be significantly revised (and subsequently reviewed)
  • be converted to an MPhil (if in a PhD program); or
  • be terminated.


The Final Review

In the final year (normally between 3 and 6 months before the thesis submission date) students must present a final seminar on their research. Students present an overview of the research and discuss its significance and outcomes.

The Student Perspective

Hear first hand the experiences of two HDR students, Intifar Chowdhury and Feodor Snagovsky.

Office Space

Given our strong on-campus research culture the School of Politics and International Relations provides shared office space for all HDR students to facilitate their presence on campus.

Applications and Funding

Further information can be found at:

For further information, please contact the HDR Convenor hdrconvenor.spir@anu.edu.au

Updated:  11 December 2023/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications