How to apply for HDR

The ANU College of Law offers world leading HDR programs that provide rigorous and supportive research training in a vibrant intellectual environment.

Below are the steps you need to undertake to apply for one of our HDR programs. Please read this page closely. We encourage you to start this process sooner rather than later.

  1. Research your program options
  2. Ensure you meet minimum program admission requirements
  3. Ensure you meet the English language requirements
  4. Find out about your scholarship options
  5. Begin your thesis proposal
  6. Contact a potential supervisor for your project
  7. Submit a formal application


1. Research your program options

If you are interested in applying for a research program please decide on the most suitable research program for your needs: the MPhil or the PhD in Law. Most students express interest in a PhD, but it may be worthwhile investigating your other options.

And bear in mind that, for some students, the best fit may be another program: the ANU LLM, for example, provides a range of coursework options that allow for some element of independent research.


2. Admission requirements

For admission to the PhD at the ANU College of Law we generally require, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree with first or upper second class honours, usually in law. Admission into this program is highly competitive and we therefore prioritise applicants with a first class honours degree. We favour applicants who also have a masters degree with a high grade point average.

We ordinarily require evidence of research aptitude, including substantial legal research theses at an honours or masters level, or published research work with reputable publishers (including journals and edited collections).

The admissions committee’s decisions are based on evaluation across multiple criteria, including the following:

  • Ability (e.g. past and potential academic performance)
  • Quality (e.g. research proposal)
  • Capacity (e.g. fit with supervisors, program and school)

For admission to the MPhil, our requirements are the same, save that a masters degree in law is generally not required.

Further formal information may be found at the ANU central website.


3. Ensure you meet the English language requirements

You must demonstrate an adequate standard of English before you can be accepted for admission. Applicants should look at the ANU policies setting out the English Language Admission Requirements for Students: look closely at the Accepted English Language Tests for the scores required for Graduate Law programs (there is a helpful table).

The ANU policy website is your authoritative guide to a range of relevant language tests, but to give you some indication, we will be looking for:

  • Academic IELTS: An overall score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component of the test.
  • TOEFL paper-based test: A score of 570 with a TWE* score of 4.5.
  • TOEFL internet test: An overall score of 80, with a minimum of 20 in Reading and Writing and 18 in Speaking and Listening.

* TWE = Test of Written English


4. Find out about your scholarship options

ANU funds and administers a range of scholarships for graduate research degree programs for international and domestic students. You may also wish to explore other scholarship options.


5. Begin your thesis proposal

Drafting your thesis proposal is an important part of preparing your HDR application. Naturally the proposal will help us assess your application, but many HDR applicants also find it an incredibly useful and clarifying exercise for their own purposes. Indeed, putting your ideas into proposal form will often help you clarify those ideas and think about the extent to which they can form the basis of an extended research project.

And so, the detailed thesis proposal will usually be a document that:

  • states the central research question that the proposed research project will seek to answer;
  • clearly explains the proposed topic and its boundaries: in answering your central research question, what do you propose to cover and what do you propose not to cover;
  • includes a preliminary review of the literature. The preliminary review of the literature will differ from topic to topic but it generally should identify the strengths and weaknesses of the existing literature and explain what that literature has focused on/omitted/avoided;
  • explains how the research will contribute to the legal literature or legal scholarship, linking back to your preliminary review of the literature: give as clear a sense as possible of the 'gap' your thesis will be filling, or what your thesis will try to do that hasn't been done before by anyone else;
  • describes the research strategy and methods that you propose to adopt for the research project;
  • outlines how your project will engage with theory (for example will it adopt a single or multiple theoretical frameworks);
  • explains why you want to do a PhD at the ANU College of Law and why the project is a good fit with the ANU College of Law’s research strengths;
  • provides a draft outline of the chapters of the thesis;
  • includes a bibliography reflecting the sources drawn on in preparing the thesis outline; and
  • proposes a draft timetable for researching and writing the thesis, and indicates whether you propose to study full-time or part-time (please note that for HDR study at the ANU College of Law, full-time on-campus study is now the default, and applicants proposing part-time and/or external study will now require compelling and detailed reasons in support of that proposal).

If you need a starting point, try to prepare a document that addresses each of these dot-points in turn. The thesis outline should be approximately 4-6 pages in length exclusive of your bibliography and timeline. It must be such as to convince our a potential supervisor and the ANU College of Law HDR admissions committee that the topic is sufficiently developed and refined, that the thesis can be successfully completed on time, and that the project is a good fit with the ANU College of Law.

A thesis outline does not need to be as detailed as a final thesis (of course!) and we won’t necessarily hold you to every fine detail set out in the outline. But it is, nonetheless, an unavoidably important way of establishing for yourself, and ultimately for potential supervisors, where your research interest lies and the viability of your project. It is also a great opportunity for you to demonstrate to potential supervisors and the admissions committee, that you are dedicated to conducting an extended research project, and that you are serious about that task.


6. Contact a potential supervisor for your project

More than any other academic program, Higher Degree Research depends on a working relationship between you and your supervisor(s) and other members of your panel. It’s important to begin thinking about potential supervisors early on in the process of formulating your application.

As a first step, please review the ANU College of Law’s list of academic staff (where you can search for an academic by research interest) and/or the ANU Researchers website, to identify the names of one or more academics who you think may be suitable and available to supervise you in your area of research. In doing so, recognise that we may not have supervisory capacity for every topic.

One good way of figuring out whether an academic would be a good supervisor for your HDR project is to look at the academic’s own publications and research. Is their research similar to the sorts of research you would like to do, or similar in subject matter, theory, or methodology?

The ANU College of Law academic staff welcome enquiries about potential PhD projects within their area of expertise. Therefore, part of your consideration of who might be a potential supervisor for your project will involve your writing to an appropriate member (or members) of academic staff, with your draft proposal, to ascertain whether they are interested in your project and might have capacity to supervise you, should you choose to apply for the PhD, and should you be admitted into the program.

Support from an academic staff member does not guarantee admission into the program, but it is important that you are able to demonstrate that you have engaged with your potential supervisor, and that they have expressed support for the proposal which you choose to submit with your application.

In addition to your approaching our academics in this way, and if you require further support, the Associate Dean HDR and the HDR Convenor will be able to offer advice on potential supervisors, including the best possible combination of supervisors, taking into account a broad range of considerations. This may include suggesting additional or different supervisors to those you have identified in your initial search on this website and the central ANU websites.


7. When should I submit a formal application?

Once you have prepared your thesis proposal, contacted a potential supervisor at the ANU College of Law and received support from them in writing as described above, we encourage you to submit a formal online application.

The mechanics of this are handled by the ANU Admissions Office, rather than by us at the ANU College of Law. The ANU Admissions Office can help you with what documentation is required and what forms you’ll need to fill in. Once your formal application has been received and processed by the ANU Admissions Office, we’ll then receive your application, and if there is anything missing from the application you may be contacted by our ANU Law HDR admin team.

Your application will then be considered at the next meeting of the HDR admissions group. Generally, these meetings will be held three times a year: in April/May to consider both domestic and international applicants (general entry, non-scholarship round), in September to consider international applicants (international scholarship round) and in November to consider domestic applicants (domestic scholarship round).

While there are no deadlines for applications as such, you should be aware that applications are considered in groups at our admissions meetings (explained above) and you should also carefully note the ANU’s central deadlines for applying for ANU scholarships. Information about these deadlines can be found at the ANU Admissions Office. Please note that there is no separate process for applying for an ANU scholarship. In all of this, international applicants may also wish to remember that, unlike the northern hemisphere, in Australia the academic year runs from February to November.

So if you are considering applying for HDR study it is important to think a little bit ahead, plan when you wish to apply and follow the above steps.

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