ANU law expert heading to Oxford to pursue his ‘passion PhD’

Associate Professor Ven. Alex Bruce
Photo: Tim Grainger/ANU

A PhD scholarship to Oxford University will give ANU College of Law Associate Professor Ven. Alex Bruce the opportunity to fulfill two long-held aspirations - the chance to study theology, and play a Bach lute suite in the Oxford cloisters. 

An expert in competition, consumer protection and animal law, Associate Professor Bruce heads to Oxford this September to begin a new academic challenge - a Doctor of Philosophy in Theology.

“I’m calling this my passion PhD - not that I wasn’t passionate about my first ANU doctorate in law - this is just something I have wanted to do for a long time,” Associate Professor Bruce said.

Indeed the ordained Buddhist Monk (in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition) Associate Professor Bruce has a long standing interest in theology, spirituality and philosophy.

“This PhD has been ten years in the making – starting from when the Dalai Lama asked me to convene an inter-religious symposium in Canberra in 2007 that examined the differences and similarities between Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Islamic religious traditions.”

Through his Oxford studies he is hoping to drill down deeper into these issues to understand the fundamental traditions and beliefs of Christianity and Buddhism. He will be delving into early Indo Tibetan Buddhist texts and texts by an early Christian monk – both of which are held by Oxford University – and his studies will be supervised by two world experts in Christian and Buddhist philosophy.

“I’m hoping to make the findings of my thesis generally accessible through the publication of a short book that will be every-day, down to earth and much more accessible and share insights in order to help the ordinary spiritual seeker - the sort of book you will find in Dymocks or the airport stores,” he said.

Gaining the place to study this doctorate has been a long an arduous journey for Associate Professor Bruce. To apply to do post-graduate theology studies at Oxford, you need to be proficient in two ancient languages.

For the past few years he has been enrolled in undergraduate studies at the ANU learning the two key languages that will help him explore the religious texts he will be studying - Ancient Greek and Classical Tibetan.

Having gained the required competencies, he competed against several hundred other doctoral candidates from around the world for an opportunity and a scholarship to undertake his studies – and a place at an Oxford College.

This year all those doctoral ducks lined up and Associate Professor Bruce has accepted an offer to study and reside at St Stephen’s House where he will live alongside other theology doctoral students.

“I’m hoping to immerse myself in the life of the University, attending the Oxford world leader’s lectures and music concerts - and even finding time to work on improving my classical guitar playing, so I can fulfil my other dream; to play a Bach lute suite in Oxford’s famous cloisters,” he said.

He’ll spend three years studying at Oxford University but he will come back to the ANU each year in the long Oxford summer break to teach intensive courses on Competition Law and Consumer Protection Law.

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Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team