The Research School of Social Sciences is home to one of the best Philosophy Programs in the world. It is a very unusual and distinctive program, as befits its place in the ANU, which is an institution dedicated to research-led education. This page sets out some of the distinctive features of research training in the School of Philosophy.
The principal focus of graduate training in the School of Philosophy is on producing the major research scholars of the next generation. A graduate student typically comes to us with a strong grounding in the discipline overall, and leaves with a dissertation which establishes him or her as among the leading lights of the next generation. In effect, this is an apprenticeship in academic research. Of course, not every student will end up being an academic researcher (although 80% of our students do); but whatever you do in life, the skills required for academic researcher will place you in good stead. (We are extremely successful in placing our graduate students in academic research positions, especially in Australia and New Zealand; for information about this, visit our placements record page.)
The key element of the graduate program of Philosophy RSSS is the unique research culture of philosophy at ANU. Our guiding assumption is that the best way to produce academic researchers is to incorporate them into a culture of academic research. This research culture is made possible by at least two things: the culture of philosophy with its intensive focus on discussion and debate, and the culture of the ANU, with its focus on research-led education. Some elements of our research culture are:
- Weekly research seminars: the Thursday Seminar, the Tuesday PhilSoc Seminar, the MSPT Seminar.
- Two annual named lectures -- the Jack Smart Lecture and the John Passmore Lecture.
- Roughly six conferences or workshops per year, including one major international conference every year.
- The Program hosts a very large number of international and national visitors. For example, in 2010 we had roughly 60 visitors including visiting graduate students.
The strong expectation of the School of Philosophy is that students will take an active role in this research culture.
PhD Progress Milestones
Throughout your candidature, the University requires you to successfully complete a series of progress milestones. You can read about these here. Further information about the PhD program and University requirements, policies and procedures can be found in the Higher Degree Research Guide.
In addition to the general research climate of the School of Philosophy, we have instituted a number of elements of graduate training designed to enhance the experience of graduate students a. First, reading groups: These are small weekly discussion groups of about 10 or so participants, lasting for 2 hours. The groups are attended by staff and students, and are organised around areas of common interest; sometimes the focus is on reviewing the foundations of the discipline, while sometimes the focus in on cutting edge research. There are usually around a half dozen such groups running at any one time. To see the list of Reading Groups active at the moment, visit our reading groups page. The School of Philosophy expects its graduate students to attend at least one of these reading groups per week and any given student would typically attend at least a couple of them.
Second, the pre-talk: Every week, before the main Thursday Philosophy seminar there is a one-hour 'Pre-talk', open to PhD students alone, in which the speaker sets out the background of his/her talk. Active participation in this 'pre-talk' is compulsory for PhD students at all stages of their career in RSSS. To see the titles of recent talks in this series, click here. As is evident from that list, over the course of the year this series of seminars covers all the principal areas of the subject, and participation in those seminars and the backgrounder Pre-talks preceding them gives PhD students a good, well-rounded introduction to the cutting edges of contemporary analytic philosophy.
The thesis proposal review
The Thesis Proposal Review. Approximately 9-12 months after students arrive they will undergo a comprehensive review of their plans for their dissertation and their ability to carry out this plan. Students must provide three pieces of work: i) a general statement of the goals and plan for the thesis; ii) a piece of focused written work focusing on some analytic question relevant to their research; and iii) a bibliography. The first two of these pieces of research are presented to a seminar of the whole faculty. After this the student will meet with his or her committee to discuss their progress. The chair of the committee will then write a report summarizing the findings and making a recommendation about the next stage of the student’s career.
Finally, international exchanges: during the last ten years, we have been very successful in arranging for our students to spend some time overseas. (Just as we have been very successful in hosting visiting graduate students from Michigan, Arizona, MIT, Princeton.) In recent times, we have had our students visiting UNC, Princeton, MIT and various other campuses overseas. We have also supported students. These exchanges are made possible by the international reputation of the School of Philosophy.
HDR Coursework requirements
From 2011 all candidates commencing a PhD or MPhil in the Graduate Research Field (GRF) of Education will be required to undertake three courses at the post graduate level. PhD candidates in the School of Philosophy will be required to enrol in the following courses within the first two years of candidature:
PHIL8011 Foundations Seminar (12 units)
ARTS8102 Situating the thesis(6 units)
ARTS8103 Research design & ethics 6 units)
Successful completion of these four courses is required for confirmation of candidature.
As part of the initial meeting period with the Chair of their supervisory panel, each student will undergo a brief 'skills needs analysis' (TOAST) that will identify the skills which students are likely to need during candidature; which skills they might already have; sources of support and training; and when it is likely that they will need those skills, so that a learning plan can be developed. Recommendations on appropriate courses for individual students will be based on the skills audit and discussions between the supervisor and student.
JASON collects all known scholarships for postgraduate students in Australia, and presents them in a useful, searchable database.