PhD study

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Further information

Program Coordinator

The National Security College PhD program develops experts in security policy with strong research skills.

As a PhD student you’ll work with increased independence, under the direction of a supervisory panel of experts in the field. Your research will make an original and important contribution to human knowledge, research and development. Each PhD student is supervised by an academic with relevant expertise.

Degree structure

Further information

Program Coordinator

Admission requirements

To gain admission to the NSC PhD program, applicants need to have at minimum an upper second class (H2A) honours degree (or its equivalent) in security studies, international relations, political science or another cognate discipline.

Please note that it is a Crawford School requirement that you have confirmation from two proposed supervisors, one from the National Security College and another from the National Security College or Crawford School, confirming that they will supervise you for the duration of your candidature.

A PhD degree normally requires the completion of a thesis (around 100,000 words) over a period of three to four years (full-time). The thesis must make an original and substantial contribution to the academic literature, and it must demonstrate the student’s capacity to situate their research in the discipline of security studies.

Application process

Candidates interested in undertaking PhD study at the NSC should:

  1. Review the general information on applying to undertake PhD study at ANU.

  2. Review the NSC website to check the research interests of academic staff

  3. Send an Expression of Interest to the academic staff member who you have identified as a possible supervisor for your PhD project.

Information in your Expression of Interest should include:

  • A proposed thesis topic (be as specific as you can) of relevance to national security policy
  • A preliminary thesis proposal of no more than three (3) pages (see below)
  • The name of a potential supervisor from among the NSC academic staff
  • A copy of your academic transcript(s)
  • A CV including evidence of any work experience
  • A sample of your academic writing (published or unpublished)
  • A statement on whether your ability to undertake PhD study is dependent on being awarded a scholarship
  • The timeframe you envisage for commencing and completing your PhD study at ANU

Your preliminary thesis proposal should address the following questions:

  • What is the central research question you want to answer?
  • What is your argument or hypothesis?
  • What are the competing explanations (brief summary of other views on these issues)?
  • How would you conduct your research?
  • What do you anticipate would be your contribution to the academic literature on the topic?
  • Why would your contribution be important?
  1. If it is established that an appropriate academic supervisor is available, lodge a formal application through ANU. You can apply on an admission-only basis or for admission and scholarship.

More information on applying to undertake PhD study in the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific is available on the Graduate research page of their website.

English language admission requirements for student’s policy

Unless an applicant:

  • is a citizen of Australia; or
  • a citizen of one of the countries listed in the English Language Admission Requirements for Students policy and whose studies were conducted entirely in English; or
  • successfully completed prior full-time study in the medium of English for a minimum of two (2) years in one of the countries listed in the relevant ANU policy, no more than two (2) years prior to the date of the application to ANU

Applicants for this PhD program will normally require either:

  • an IELTS overall band score 6.5 with a score of at least 6.0 in all components; or
  • a minimum TOEFL score of 570 and a Test of Written English (TWE) score of 4.5 (paper-based test); or 230 and an Essay Test score of 4.5 (computer-based test); or a score of 80, with a minimum of 20 in Reading and Writing and 18 in Speaking and Listening_ _(internet-based test).

English language tests must have been taken no more than two (2) years before the date of application.

After candidates have contacted NSC academics and have been approved to submit an online application, they should submit an application to the National Security College and not Crawford school of Public Policy.

TPR presentations are designed to provide the committee, PhD cohort and others with the important contours of the proposed research project. The presentation should be no longer than 45 minutes, and should cover (1) the motivating research question/puzzle, (2) a mastery of the relevant literature(s) to demonstrate the existence of the puzzle, (3) the theoretical contribution to resolve it and (4) how empirical evidence will be used to do so. The presentation may also, if relevant, want to (5) dwell on the potential policy implications of the research. While all the details of this may take longer than 45 minutes, candidates should select the most important parts to ensure that the presentation stays within that time and allows adequate time for committee and audience questions.

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.


Michael Cohen's picture

Michael Cohen

Senior Lecturer; HDR/PhD Convenor

Contact details

Sue Thompson's picture

Sue Thompson

Associate Professor and Academic Convenor

Contact details


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Scholarships and fees

Further information

Program Coordinator

National Security College HDR Travel Grant

The National Security College HDR Travel Grant provides additional research funding for new or existing domestic higher degree by research students from the College to undertake fieldwork or attend conferences.

Other scholarships

ANU offers a wide range of scholarships to students to assist with the cost of their studies.

Eligibility to apply for ANU scholarships varies depending on the specifics of the scholarship and can be categorised by the type of student you are.

Specific scholarship application process information is included in the relevant scholarship listing.

For further information

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Updated:  13 June 2021/Responsible Officer:  Head of College, National Security College/Page Contact:  Web administrator