Institute for Social Justice

The Doctoral Program in Social and Political Thought

Supported by innovative and world-renowned scholars engaged in local, regional and international networks of research and praxis, the Doctoral Program in Social and Political Thought is a doctoral program for people who believe that the world can and should be different.


PhD students at our Sydney School for Critical Social Thought

Altogether distinctive in the Australian context, the PhDSPT is a four-year program that begins with an intense year of coursework and training, combining serious theoretical and conceptual work with a strong commitment to engaging with the enormous challenges of our era. The demanding and rigorous year of coursework, comprised of four North American style doctoral seminars, provides students with a deeper understanding of the great debates in social and political thought, and better prepares them for the task of undertaking original investigations of their own.

The program is also committed to a cohort model of doctoral training. Each year there is one intake of PhD applicants, who begin the coursework and training together, forming a mutually supportive community of inquiry sustained by close contact with academic staff and students from other cohorts. All members of the program, staff and students, learn from and support one another from the beginning to the end of the PhD. The degree will be awarded as the Doctor of Philosophy in Social and Political Thought.

Students develop a deeper understanding of the great debates in political and social thought, and the complexities of socially engaged research, and develop original investigations within a strong intellectual community sustained through close contact with academic staff and other students. Our students come from diverse disciplines (philosophy, political science, sociology, anthropology, geography, political economy, Indigenous studies, gender studies, literary studies, film, art history) and many also have activist experience. Some projects are purely theoretical, and some combine theory with diverse forms of empirical and action research. All students are engaged in practically oriented and theoretically sophisticated research projects that aim at the creation of a more just, participatory and sustainable world. Our current students have come to the Institute for Social Justice from all over the world, including Austria, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Turkey, UK, Ukraine.

All doctoral students participate in seminars, workshops, and supervisory relationships with outstanding academic staff engaged in cutting edge research.

Doctoral Program brochure

How to Apply

Please note that dissertations in the Doctoral Program must have a strong focus on theoretical work.


Applications from International and Domestic candidates are now being accepted for admission for 2019. Please write to Professor Allison Weir, Director of the Doctoral Program in Social and Political Thought, at  to express your interest in applying for PhD candidacy in the Institute. After assessment and approval of the Expression of Interest, applicants will be encouraged to apply for admission and scholarship to ACU by October 2018

Deadline for Expression of Interest: 17 August 2018

Classes begin in August 2019

Expression of Interest

Please submit a Research Proposal of 1000-2000 words addressing the following:

  •  Description of the central research problem or question
  • Theoretical background and proposed research
  • Theoretical approach and methodology

Please also include answers to the following questions:

  •  Why is your research appropriate to the Doctoral Program in Social and Political Thought in the Institute for Social Justice?
  • Who among the research staff at ISJ most closely aligns with your research?
  • What value do you see in a year of intense coursework with ISJ academic staff?

In addition to the Research Proposal, all Expressions of Interest should include the following documents:

  • copies of academic transcripts
  • an indicative piece of writing (approx. 5000-6000 words)
  • 2 academic letters of reference

A limited number of full scholarships (tuition fee and living cost) and partial scholarships (tuition fee) are available to highly qualified domestic applicants on a competitive basis.

Application and scholarship forms can be found on the ACU Research website.
Domestic students can apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) Scholarship
Indigenous students can apply for an ACU Indigenous Postgraduate Research Scholarship.

Please note that Doctoral Program classes begin on 1 August. We encourage students to arrive in Sydney and commence candidature in May, to participate in our Sydney School for Critical Social Thought in the second half of May.