Alice Taylor
Alice Taylor


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Law

Degree type

Higher Degree Research

Research project topic

Judicial culture on equality rights protection.

PhD student: Alice Taylor
PhD Candidate

Why did you choose ANU?

I had moved cities a lot prior to starting at ANU and I had decided to stay in one place for a few years. I knew I wanted to do HDR study and I wanted to do it full-time and in-person so I was lucky that Canberra had a great university and law school that I could go to. 

At an institution-level, because there is a large HDR community, there are a lot of additional support services available to HDR candidates which are not available at other institutions. There is also generous funding allowances for HDR candidates which allowed me to spend time at other institutions in Canada and the UK and attend a number of national and international conferences. I know that if I had attended another institution I would not have had these same opportunities that I had through ANU. 

What did you do prior to your Higher Degree Research (HDR)?

Prior to undertaking my doctoral studies, I had held a range of different legal roles: I had been a lawyer in a top-tier firm, and held positions as an Associate in a state Supreme Court and a researcher at the High Court. In these roles, I realised that while I enjoyed law, I enjoyed researching and thinking about law more than I enjoyed the practice of law so I decided to focus on pursuing research on a full-time basis. 

Can you tell us more about your research project and a bit of background on why you chose this topic?

My project focused on the importance of courts in fulfilling the potential of statutory human rights regimes, focusing specifically on discrimination laws. I compared the different approaches taken to statutory discrimination law in Australia, Canada and the UK to determine how and why the courts had differed in the interpretation of legislation that was broadly similar. 

I choose my topic by combining a few different areas of research that I was interested in and it somehow came together. I was interested in discrimination law as I had done some work in the area pro-bono when I was lawyer. I was interested in how courts and judges work and enjoyed comparative work and considering the various ways in which jurisdictions can come to different conclusions on the same issues. 

How different is studying for HDR in comparison to your previous degree?

HDR study is very independent and I think you have to be focused and self-motivated in order to complete it. Differently to undergraduate or coursework post-graduate studies, I think you also have put effort into creating a community and network of support. In coursework degrees, you have a group of people who are in the same course, at the same time as you. It can be an instant and in-built support system. This isn’t the case in HDR studies so you have to work to build a community and support system as otherwise it will be an isolating and lonely experience. 

How have you found balancing work and study?

I was grateful to be on a scholarship for the entirety of my HDR studies and did not need to work in order to feed myself. I did teach throughout my HDR studies and found that having a different work task to focus on was excellent for me as I enjoy teaching and being able to engage with humans at different points during the week, rather than just sitting silently by myself. 

What is the postgrad community like in ANU Law?

As HDR studies can be a solitary experience, the HDR students in the law school continue to work very hard to maintain an active and supportive community. I found the weekly writing sessions, annual forums, student organised seminars, lunches, baking competitions and other academic and social events to be invaluable to having the motivation (and the sugar highs) to finish. 

What are your next steps, planned or aspired, after getting your PhD?

As I was finishing my PhD, I commenced an academic position at another institution which I am very much enjoying. At some point, I’ll focus on getting publications based upon my dissertation but at the moment, I am enjoying this new life without a massive project to work on!

What advice would you give students who are planning on pursuing HDR in the future?

I guess a few pieces of advice are: first, choose a topic that you are interested in and that you think you can sustain an interest in for a number of years. Second, work at building an academic support network of your supervisors, other mentors and other candidates. Third, if you are lucky enough to be able to do HDR studies full-time, enjoy it and take all the opportunities that it enables and fourth, know that your dissertation will not and does not have to be ‘perfect’ – it just needs to exist. 

More PhD and MPhil student profiles