CHL Grad

The School of Culture, History and Language represents one of the world's largest concentrations of specialists on the Asia-Pacific region. Our interdisciplinary community of academic staff and PhD candidates conduct research in Japan, China, Indonesia, the Pacific Islands, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Timor Leste, Mongolia and Burma (Myanmar), drawing on a range of disciplines that include anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, history, political science, religious studies, cultural studies and literature. 

Research in CHL emphasises facility in languages of Asia and the Pacific.

The CHL PhD program is designed to facilitate the exchange of multidisciplinary knowledge and innovation. We believe in putting our doctoral study students in touch with the real world, connecting them with researchers across disciplines and creating a supportive community for learning.

Our ethos is centred on enabling our doctoral candidates to develop strong networks across campus and external organisations, and to strengthen their research approach in line with contemporary real-world challenges.

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CHL's Pre-application Steps

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How to apply

The School of Culture, History & Language closely reviews applications of prospective candidates to ensure that candidates put forward the best application possible, and arrive ready to begin the rigors of PhD training.

It is recommended that all prospective applicants complete the following steps before proceeding to the ANU Online Application.

Step 1: Confirm your eligibility

Admission to the PhD program at CHL should ideally have one of the following qualifications:

  • An Australian Bachelor Degree with at least Second Class Honours - Upper (First Class Honours is often required) or its international equivalent

  • A research-based Master’s Degree in a relevant field. Potential candidates will also need to demonstrate the necessary language and prerequisite skills:

  • Students whose first language is not English are required to have an overall IELTS score of no less than 6.5, with no less than 6.0 in any individual band. We will also speak to prospective candidates by telephone or Skype.

  • Most CHL research programs will require a high degree of competence in at least one Asian or Pacific language. Use your proposal (Step 3) to discuss your competence in these and any other skills (statistical analysis, etc.) that may be necessary to your proposed research.

  • Beyond simply stating degree credentials, be prepared to demonstrate your understanding of and competence with research skills and methodology.

If you are not sure whether you can meet these criteria, please contact Ms Etsuko Mason via cap.hdr@anu.edu.au.

Step 2: Locate and contact a potential supervisor(s)

Each PhD candidate will have a committee consisting of at least three scholars, headed by a main supervisor from within CHL.

You should initiate contact with a prospective supervisor when you begin to prepare your application, and confirm that this person is willing to be your primary supervisor.

It is very important that you confirm this initial consent before you continue your application. There will be opportunities to change the composition of the committee during the program.

Step 3: Write your thesis proposal

Since you will be expected to commence work on your thesis soon after arrival to ANU, it is vital to arrive with a detailed and practical project proposal. There is no minimum word length for the proposal, but it should not exceed 5,000 words. The proposal should include the following:

Title and Abstract Include the key research question or hypothesis, rationale for the research, and research methodology to be employed in the study

Aims & significance What is the overall purpose and significance of the proposed research? What does your project aim to accomplish, and how do your research questions contribute to the international scholarly literature in your field?

Methodology and preparation Discuss the methodology to be used, as well as your own research background, including the sort of additional training you may need to undertake.

Fit with CHL Indicate why you wish to pursue your research in CHL, and what sort of contact you have had with your proposed supervisor.

Timetable How does your project fit within a 4 year PhD candidature?

Resources Indicate the funding that will be required over the course of the candidature (e.g. for fieldwork) as well as any special materials or training that may be necessary for the successful completion of the project.

Bibliography A list of references cited in the proposal.

A good proposal will be clear and direct. Click here for other tips on proposal writing.

Step 4: Contact the school with your proposal

Send the following application materials to the school HDR administrator in one email marked “CHL application.”

• Curriculum vitae (CV)

• Academic transcripts

• IELTS/TOEFL results (if applicable)

• Thesis proposal (Step 3)

We strongly advise you to complete this step and wait for the CHL response before proceeding to the next step.

At this stage do not include information about referees, copies of academic work, or any non-academic materials.

Step 5: Make a formal application to the ANU

You may initiate the ANU online application process at any time. However, CHL strongly recommends that all candidates complete the previous four steps before proceeding to this stage so that we can guide them through the process.

The HDR administrator will be able to advise you on the application process. For further information and advice, check the links under resources and future students.

The Process of Applying

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Each PhD student works with a supervisory panel matched to the student's interests and needs, drawn from the academic staff of CHL; outside supervisors can be recruited if appropriate.

CHL normally provides office space and computer facilities to full time students who are resident in Canberra, and offers the possibility of applying for a research grant of $7500 to assist in fieldwork expenses and professional development (including conference attendance).

In addition, CHL, CAP and ANU present a lively program of seminars and professional training sessions and courses suited to postgraduate students.

Admission to the PhD program is normally limited to those who have demonstrated the ability to conduct a sustained piece of research equivalent to an ANU Honours thesis (15,000-20,000) or larger.

If you are interested in undertaking a PhD at CHL, you should begin by contacting a potential supervisor to ascertain their interest in your work. Many of our academic staff have heavy supervision loads and not all requests can be accepted.

In approaching a potential supervisor, you should normally outline the topic you propose to study and send an electronic sample of your writing. You should also outline your academic qualifications and your language training (if appropriate).

You can also seek advice from CHL's PhD administrator, Ms Etsuko Mason etsuko.mason@anu.edu.au.

At this stage, you need only obtain the agreement of a single supervisor who is willing to be your panel chair. Once you have such agreement, you can commence the official application process.

The PhD Experience at CHL

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The duration of a full-time course for the PhD degree is a minimum of two years and a maximum of four. Scholarships, where they are awarded, rarely last beyond three years, and we will work with you from your commencement to finish your course within that three-year period.

Research students at The Australian National University work under the direction of a supervisory panel intended to bring together expertise tailored to the students’ needs. Panels are typically composed of a Chair of a Panel and up to four other members who bring general or specific knowledge.

The progress of PhD students is closely monitored in accordance with University, College and School policy. Your candidature is governed by a series of ‘gates’ that you must pass through at certain times. This system ensures that you finish your thesis in a timely fashion and that any issues or concerns are brought to our attention as soon as possible. These include:

  • An initial project proposal (9–12 months after enrollment).
  • Annual plans that provide details of your work schedule for the next 12 months.
  • Annual reports that detail your actual progress against your previous plan.
  • Mid-term reviews that present your evolving project and findings midway through your candidature.
  • Thesis reports about your project delivered towards the end of your candidature.
  • Public seminar to disseminate your research.
  • Research integrity training and ethical clearance for fieldwork.

We view your candidature as a professional appointment, the equivalent of a full-time job. We expect you to work regularly in the Department, to join in the Departmental activities such as workshops and seminars, and to contribute to the general intellectual life of the Department.

Study CHL

Current PhD Candidates

Meet our current PhD students and know more about the overall higher degree research studies experience.

Etsuko Mason

Meet Your HDR Coordinator

If you have any questions regarding the higher degree research program at CHL, please get in touch with our HDR Coordinator Etsuko Mason.