Graduate research (PhD)

DPA boasts the largest and fastest growing Pacific-focused doctoral program anywhere in the world. DPA’s PhD program is a vibrant community of researchers pursuing some of the most important long-term research questions relevant to Melanesia and the broader Pacific. In 2016 DPA’s PhD program comprises a diverse group of 30 scholars, including former senior policymakers, Pacific island researchers, Pacific development practitioners, senior Australian Defence Force personnel, and graduate students that bring a range of experiences and expertise to their studies.

DPA attracts outstanding graduates to work for post-graduate research degrees. We offer supervision and training of the highest quality to equip scholars for careers as independent thinkers and world-class researchers. We provide a supportive environment that encourages students to pursue rigorous, innovative research, to undertake in-country fieldwork, and to share ideas with other students, staff and visiting fellows.

DPA welcomes applications for PhD study from graduates with excellent academic records and with degrees in political science, anthropology, geography, law, development studies, or gender-studies. Prospective students must be willing to conduct fieldwork-based research in a country in the region. Interdisciplinary and comparative research perspectives are encouraged. Before applying, please look carefully at the profiles of DPA members and our research clusters to ensure that DPA is best suited to your study goals.

The PhD program in DPA consists primarily of independent research by the candidate on a topic developed in consultation with her or his supervisor. Students may be required to do relevant coursework, particularly in research methodologies, depending on their research experience. The outcome of the PhD program is an original thesis incorporating the research conducted during the program and its results. The thesis must make a substantial contribution to knowledge in the chosen field and must relate the research undertaken to broader debates within the scholarly and disciplinary literature.

Recently completed theses

Jane Anderson – A Kundu Relationship: Translating Development in the Papua New Guinea Church Partnership Program.

Kerryn Baker – Women’s Political Under-Representation and Campaigns for Gender Quotas in the Pacific Islands Region.

Jone Baledrokadroka – Sacred King and Warrior Chief: The Role of the Military in Fiji Politics.

Pyone Myat Phu – Negotiating Displacement: A Study of Land and Livelihoods in Rural East Timor.

Tim Sharp – Following Buai – ‘Betel People’ and the Making of the Highland Betel Nut Trade, Papua New Guinea.

Terence Wood - Ties that Unbind? Ethnic Identity, Social Rules and Electoral Politics in Solomon Islands.

Please visit Our People to learn more.

Information for prospective PhD scholars

A full-time PhD program takes a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years to complete. It is important to note that scholarships are usually available for three years. Students with scholarships are strongly encouraged, therefore, to complete their program within that time. Each research candidate at the Australian National University works under the direction of a supervisory panel intended to bring together expertise tailored to the specific needs of the topic. The supervisory panel consists of three to five academic staff members, one of whom will be the chair of the panel or chief supervisor. The chair of panel must be a member of DPA; other members of the panel may come from elsewhere in the University or occasionally from other institutions in Australia.

The progress of research students is closely monitored in accordance with University, College and School policies. Students will be required to complete various milestones during their candidature, including several presentations, to ensure that they are meeting progress expectations. Unsatisfactory progress may result in the removal of the student from the program.

Please consult the Higher Degree Research Guide.

To apply for admission as a PhD scholar with DPA, applicants should contact DPA with:

  1. A letter of application specifying intended timing, source of funding and an explanation of why you hope to study with DPA; Evidence of an outstanding academic and/or applied research record;
  2. A research proposal (1-2 pages) identifying the subject of the proposed research, the main questions the research seeks to answer, an outline of the proposed methodology, and an indicative timetable for completion within 3 years consistent with university requirements.
  3. Admission will occur only after extensive consultation between the applicant and the postgraduate studies coordinator, who will consult closely with other members of the program about potential supervisors. Decisions regarding admission will be taken by the DPA Teaching Committee. Potential applicants are strongly recommended to submit their application three weeks before the university deadline and to have commenced discussions with the postgraduate studies coordinator well before this submission.


To contact DPA regarding postgraduate studies please send us an email:

Updated:  6 April 2020/Responsible Officer:  Bell School Marketing Team/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team