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Managing the academic aspects of your program


A Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) is a supervised research degree in which you carry out independent research on a topic developed by you and your supervisor(s). Your thesis will be an original piece of work incorporating an account of the research conducted during the program, and its results and interpretation.

A Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is a supervised research degree in which you carry out research under the guidance of your supervisor. Contact the appropriate HDR Convenor to see if their area offers an MPhil.

The Australian government and the ANU offer scholarships and stipends for students undertaking a PhD.


The PhD program at Crawford is offered in the department ‘areas’ of

  • Economics (ACDE, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics)

  • Policy and Governance (POGO)

  • Resources, Environment and Development (RE&D)

  • National Security


Your individual PhD program (which is what we call your candidature) nominally fits into one of these areas, although at Crawford there is a lot of overlap. For example, you might be writing a largely qualitative thesis based on water pricing policy, but you include some econometrics as part of your analysis.

Which area you are in is usually determined by the area your Primary Supervisor works in: if your Primary Supervisor is in RE&D, then you are seen as an RE&D student. This is important because it has implications for the type of thesis you write as well as the coursework you undertake.


The thesis (or dissertation) is the key component of the PhD at Crawford. A PhD thesis should not be more than 100,000 words in length, although length and format does vary according to area:

  • Economics PhD theses commonly take the format of three or more essays (each with the general format of intro, literature review, model(s), data, results, analysis, discussion, conclusion) as well as a general thesis introduction and a general thesis conclusion. Sometimes, a separate literature review is included after the general introduction. This format should encourage you to publish journal articles out of your thesis. This style of thesis is not a thesis by compilation. It is also possible to undertake a ‘book style’ or unitary thesis. You should discuss thesis format with your supervisor.

  • Policy and Governance and Resources, Environment and Development, and National Security theses are commonly around 80,000 words in length and are presented as a ‘book style’ thesis, i.e., a unitary, monographic thesis that presents a synthesised, narrative argument. Longer theses are discouraged. How chapters are set up in this kind of thesis varies and will depend on the data or material you collect and how you want to present it in order to ‘show’ your thesis.

  • Thesis by compilation (sometimes referred to anachronistically and incorrectly as ‘thesis by publication’) consists of a minimum number and standard of papers and requires a written application on the part of the student to submit in this format as well as the approval of the Delegated Authority. See the Thesis by compilation protocol for further information.


Word count does not include the list of references. Whether or not footnotes are included is a moot issue and, in fact, might depend on how how much you rely on footnotes to sustain your thesis (i.e., your argument); thus, the over-use of footnotes is discouraged.

Contact the PhD Academic and Research Skills Advisor if you want to discuss the likely format for your thesis (and certainly discuss the matter with your supervisor) and any other thesis-related issues. There is a deadline for deciding upon thesis by compilation, but not for a standard thesis. We also strongly recommend that you look at some past theses so that you get a sense of what is required. You can borrow past theses from the collection in the 'thesis pantry' in the PhD Common Room. Contact the PhD Academic and Research Skills Advisor for access. You can also view the Crawford PhD thesis collection list online.


The maximum time for completion for domestic students is five calendar years full-time, double that for part-time students. This completion duration will include any program leave taken during the candidacy. This ruling applies only to students enrolled after 1 January, 2016. You can apply for an Extension of program.

If you want to submit prior to the minimum duration of your program (i.e., before two years of your candidature have elapsed), then you need to seek approval from the Delegated Authority.

See the ANU’s Procedure: Higher degree by research – submission and examination of theses for details. See more information on visa requirements.


It is important that you take your HDR (Higher Degree Research) candidature seriously. Both Crawford and the ANU look on your candidature as being the equivalent of full-time employment, and it is expected that you approach your research in a professional manner. Crawford is also keen to ensure you enrich our academic community. Our expectations are that you

  • Participate fully in Crawford PhD events and attend meetings of HDR students when necessary

  • Attend academic seminars

  • Work in your area (tutoring, etc.) when not on fieldwork and if the opportunity arises

  • Meet deadlines. You will be guided by your supervisors but it is ultimately your responsibility to meet deadlines and work within the milestones structure outlined by the University

  • Regularly check your ANU email account. All official correspondence will be sent to your ANU email address.


Upon enrolment, an interim supervisor will be appointed for you. This will be a member of the School’s academic staff who is most likely to be confirmed as the Chair when the topic and supervisory panel are formally approved three months after you enrol. The interim supervisor will consult with you on development of the thesis topic and on the composition of the supervisory panel. Your panel must be appointed within three months of commencement of your candidature.

Composition and role of your panel

Typically, you will have a panel of three guiding your work. Supervision panels consist of three members (sometimes more, although we do not recommend more than four or, at the most, five) with the titles of Chair, Primary Supervisor, and Associate Supervisor. The Chair is responsible for the academic administration of your degree, i.e., they have the power to endorse things such as requests for software or applications for Crawford HDR student funding. The Chair also defines roles for Associate Supervisors and may limit their responsibility. The Chair of your supervisory panel is an ANU academic (you are located in the same Academic area as the Chair) and is the supervisor responsible for arranging panel meetings, monitoring your progress, and ensuring compliance with required milestones and other University rules and policies.

Your Primary Supervisor (usually also the Chair of your panel) is the person who you consult most often about the intellectual direction of your project. Your Primary Supervisor is available for regular consultation and will maintain regular contact with you, and they play a direct role in shaping your research project and they will encourage you to participate in the research culture of Crawford. This person is expected to read and comment on your written work and to guide you in your reading and in the development of your research questions.

These other panel members provide additional expert advice; how much you end up using them will depend on a number of factors. In general, Associate Supervisors are less closely involved in the supervisory process and are not expected to read all of your written work or to meet with you on regular basis. Associate Supervisors are typically appointed to provide expertise in specialist subject areas or methodologies, or to facilitate access to a range of contacts and resources, often external to the University.

The Delegated Authority may approve supervisors not holding a PhD or who are not employed at ANU, but only with the approval of the Associate Dean HDR. At least one panel member must hold an ANU appointment for the duration of the program. Visit the You and your supervisor page as well as the Supervision and Candidature Policies and Procedures for more details.

Who should you put on your panel?

Your panel should be made up of people who are familiar with your area of research. What’s more important, though, than getting panel members who are experts in precisely in what you’re looking at, is finding panel members — especially your primary supervisor — who you can communicate with, who meet with you regularly, who provide useful feedback, and who you trust and feel comfortable with.

One thing we recommend is that you find panel members who are academics, as opposed to practioners or other experts. The reason for this is that academics have a much clearer idea about what a thesis actually is, and about what constitutes academic research and how that research is carried out. Although practioner knowledge can be valuable in many respects, putting such people on your panel can lead to misunderstandings as regards the nature of the scholarly enterprise you are undertaking.

Your panel must be appointed within three months of commencement of your candidature. If you are a new student and you wish to register your panel within your first three months of candidature, you must fill out the HDR supervisory panel details form and return it to the HDR Administrator.

HDR supervisory panel details form

If you are current student and you wish to update your supervisory panel, please  complete  the supervisory panel update form.

Meeting with your supervisors

Within the first few months of candidature, it is expected that you will regularly meet with your Primary Supervisor. After that, the frequency of meetings will depend upon your particular needs and on the supervisor’s workload. As a general guideline, you should expect to meet your Primary Supervisor formally at least once a month and at other times as needed. Toward the end of your candidature more frequent meetings can be expected. Full panel meetings are expected to be held twice a year; the Chair of the supervisory panel (who is also likely to be your Primary Supervisor) has the responsibility for organising such meetings, but you should give them a gentle reminder if these meetings seem to be dropping off the radar.

Following formal meetings with your Primary Supervisor, you are required to provide a memorandum detailing what has been agreed during the meeting. Supervisors and candidates are expected to arrive at an agreed set of expectations in line with various HDR supervision and candidature policies and procedures.

Supervisor feedback

As a guideline, you can expect to receive feedback on written work within two to four weeks, but this will depend on how much work you have produced for comment. Here it is important to take into account an ethic of reciprocity. Clearly if you are late in meeting deadlines you can’t expect a quick turnaround. Similarly, you should not expect feedback on multiple iterations of draft chapters, as you are expected to incorporate supervisor feedback into your work as you go. Individual circumstances will vary but as a general rule you should probably not expect supervisors to comment on more than one detailed outline and two complete drafts of each chapter. Don’t forget that you can always get feedback on your work from the PhD Academic and Research Skills Advisor.

Associate Supervisors are not formally required to read drafts, but they may read and provide comments in their areas of expertise; whether they have a greater involvement varies according to particular cases.

Absence of supervisor

If a Primary Supervisor is absent for more than three months, the University appoints a substitute (acting supervisor). In the case of shorter absences, arrangements should be made to maintain contact with the Primary Supervisor and/or for another member of the panel or member of the School to be available for consultation. A substitute supervisor must be appointed if there is an unplanned break in supervision of four weeks or more.


The first few months are crucial to the development of a viable thesis topic, i.e., one which in the view of the supervisor can be completed within the maximum time allocated to the course. It is also important that you establish good work practices. This includes meeting writing and other relevant deadlines, set in consultation with the supervisor.

During the first year of your HDR candidature your research topic is likely to evolve. It may continue to do so in response to research results, and following the first PhD thesis seminar and thesis proposal review (TPR). If, however, you want to change your topic in a significant way following your TPR you may need to undergo the process again and no extension to the candidature can be guaranteed. Such a change should thus be carefully considered and discussed in detail with the panel. When you start your degree, you must register your thesis topic (or 'thesis title', as it is referred to, sometimes) with the HDR Administrator. If you change your topic, you must record the change on the Panel or topic update form and hand the form to the HDR Administrator. See Changes to your supervisory panel for more information.


All Crawford PhD students must undertake CRWF9000 Fostering Public Policy Research (0 units), which is to be taken in the first year of PhD study.

PhD candidates are also required to do at least 12 units of coursework as part of their PhD program. A full academic coursework load is 24 units per semester, and at Crawford all students are required to undertake at least 12 credits of coursework (across the life of the degree, but usually at the start of your candidature). Students enrolled in less than 24 units per semester are expected to spend the remaining time on their research work. Coursework requirements at Crawford are as follows:

  • Economics PhD students are required to successfully complete a part A component (eight 6-unit courses) prior to moving to part B of candidature. The course list for the part A component is provided on the PhD in Economics page. You are recommended to closely consult with your Chair of Panel in making your course selections.

  • National Security College (NSC) PhD students are required to undertake POGO9097 (6 units), which is offered in Semester 1.

  • Policy and Governance (POGO) PhD students are required to complete (and achieve a distinction average in) POGO9097 (6 units) and POGO9098 (6 units).

  • Resources, Environment, & Development (RE&D) PhD students are required to undertake 12 units of coursework, selected from EMDV9102 (6 units), EMDV9008 (6 units), or EMDV9066 (12 units). Exemptions or substitutions from the above can be made with permission from your supervisor, however you must complete 12 units of coursework as a minimum.

View the list of Crawford courses, including compulsory courses. You can take any other courses that you think might benefit your research, but you should first consult with your supervisor about this, as you will need to their approval before signing up. Coursework is intended to develop supplementary skills (in research methodology or background knowledge, for example). To the best of our knowledge, poor coursework marks have not in the past acted as an obstruction to a student’s being awarded the PhD, as both milestones and examination are the chief, formal obstacles to gaining the degree. Of course, if a student were to do poorly in coursework, then that would act as a ‘red flag’ and the supervisor might consider recommending terminating candidature, but a lot of support is put in place before things get to that stage.

You will need to discuss with your supervisor whether or not you should undertake any additional courses. To enrol in a course (including those listed above), you will need to submit an application to add (or drop) courses via your ISIS account.


Go to ISIS > Degree Management > Manage My Degree > MMD HDR > Apply.

Please note that, when you submit an application for enrolment in coursework, the approvals process and finalisation of your enrolment in the course can take some time (between two and eight weeks). This is due to the number of persons in the approvals chain and the need for you to be manually enrolled in the course by Student Central. In the meantime, however, you should continue to attend your courses; you can ask your lecturer to manually enrol you in Wattle, but be aware that they are not obliged to do this.

If you believe you might qualify for 'status' or 'credit' for previous coursework, you should firstly discuss the matter with yoru supervsior before filling out the application for HDR coursework exemption


Each student is expected to make at least three seminar presentations during their period of PhD candidature in the Crawford School (after completing coursework requirements). The first PhD thesis seminar and thesis proposal review (TPR) is a formal candidature milestone and will typically include a research proposal and some preliminary results. The second PhD thesis seminar presentation (aka Mid-Term Review) will normally be based on an original chapter. This is not a formal, ANU milestone, but many students prefer to give a mid-term review, anyway, in order to get feedback on their work to date. The final PhD thesis seminar presentation is a formal candidature milestone and will usually be of an additional research chapter, or an overview of the key results of the entire thesis. The TPR and the final oral presentation are formal university milestones and must be advertised to the public -- this usually done when your seminar is announced via one of the PhD or related mailing lists -- and the public must be allowed to attend. In very rare cases, an exception can be granted to permit students to present their seminar in a closed session; contact the PhD academic and research skills advisor for advice on such exceptions.

The PhD seminar series provides an ideal forum for these presentations. You should make arrangements for your seminar presentations with the PhD seminar co-ordinator in your area. Presentations can be conducted via zoom or skype; talk to the seminar co-ordinator and contact the ANU’s IT Service Desk if advised to do so. If ANU IT are helping you with zoom or skype, you will need to provide them with the date, time, and venue for the seminar, so be sure to book your seminar before you contact the Service Desk, and make sure that everything is organised at least two weeks in advance. You also need to make sure that any panel members you want to Skype in are actually available at the time and date you are giving your seminar. Obviously. See below for how to book a seminar in your area.

There are three PhD seminar series run by the Crawford School, organised by area. You will be asked to present your research at and participate in seminars on a regular basis. The PhD seminar co-ordinator in your area is responsible for organising the seminar series. Each area’s seminar series is run along slightly different lines, so please contact your PhD seminar co-ordinator for more information or to book a seminar. You can give a PhD seminar presentation at any time during your candidature — you aren’t limited to the formal milestone seminars of your candidature. Contact the PhD seminar co-ordinator in your area to arrange your seminar. Please bear in mind that staff and students are often on holidays between the end of November and late January, so you would do well to schedule any seminars outside of those times.

The Economics PhD seminar series brings together the entire Arndt-Corden Department of Economics and is a central part of the Economics PhD program at the Crawford School. The series serves two main purposes: (a) it provides a forum for Economics PhD students to receive feedback on their work from other students and academics; and (b) it is the primary opportunity for students to hone seminar skills. Key details follow.

  1. When? 11am–12.15 pm Fridays (see schedule or Crawford Events for locations).

  2. Who? All ACDE students and academics are encouraged to attend all student seminars, regardless of topic or whether an advisor. Seminars are publicly advertised.

  3. Why? Each student is expected to give around three seminars during their PhD candidature, after completing coursework. The first is typically a first research paper or proposal. The second and third are typically papers. The third might also provide an overview of the entire thesis or serve as a practice job talk. The series is suitable for Thesis Proposal Reviews (which must, without exception, be completed within 18 months) or final Oral Presentations to meet ANU’s research student milestones.

  4. Seminar format. Presentation are 30 minutes, followed by a 5 minute discussion by another Economics PhD student and a 40 minute Q+A. Presenters should not aim to speak for the full 30 minutes, as presentations are interactive after the first five minutes (during which we have a moratorium on questions). It is OK to finish a little early, much better than rushing or not finishing on time. The Q+A begins with a couple of questions from students.

  5. Discussant. Each student should be a discussant around three times during their Economics PhD, potentially once before completing coursework. Discussants may prepare a maximum of 5 slides to aid in the discussion, and should spend minimal time summarizing the paper and focus on major comments and suggestions leaving minor ones after the seminar.

  6. Audience questions. Please raise your hand to indicate that you wish to comment or ask a question, and the presenter or chair will invite the contribution. Seminar time is a scarce resource, so comments should be short, helpful (i.e., any criticism or concern should come with a suggestion where possible), and focused on helping to make papers publishable in top economics journals. Presenters do not need to respond to all comments and questions received during the seminar.

  7. Prior to booking a seminar, students should confirm with their supervisor that their paper is ready to be read by others and presented, and also check that panel members can attend on the nominated dates.

  8. Complete this online form to request a seminar booking. Bookings should be requested at least one month before the proposed date. The form requires:
    (a) presenter name
    (b) paper title
    (c) complete PDF paper attached
    (d) abstract of no more than 100 words
    (e) discussant name (presenters find their own discussants)
    (f) panel member names
    (g) up to 3 potential dates (minimum 2; see the schedule for availability)

  9. If the paper to be presented is revised after booking, students can email the revised draft before COB Thursday of the week before the talk and the updated version will be attached to the seminar email (otherwise, the submitted paper will be attached). Presenters should ensure discussants have the latest draft at least two weeks before the seminar.

  10. Presenting students are strongly encouraged to 'buddy-up' with another student before their talks, where buddies write down all the questions and comments so the speaker is free to focus on their presentation and process all the feedback later.

  11. Comprehensive tips are available for your seminar and being a discussant. Students are strongly advised to follow these best practices. In particular, please at least make sure, as the seminar speaker, that you:
    (a) Have no more slides than you do minutes to speak, i.e. 30.
    (b) Do not use tables and text when a figure is possible, do not use small fonts, and do not fill slides with only text.
    (c) Do not get through your first 5 minutes without telling us the question and how you will answer it. Try to do this on your first or second slide.
    (d) For applied empirical papers where you are estimating a causal relationship (i.e., most papers), you should be clear on the economic idea/theory (doesn’t need to be a formal theory) you are testing, research design and identification assumptions, and evidence marshalled to support the assumptions.


National Security College

TPR presentations are designed to provide the committee, PhD cohort and others with the important contours of the proposed research project. The presentation should be no longer than 45 minutes, and should cover

  1. The motivating research question/puzzle

  2. A mastery of the relevant literature(s) to demonstrate the existence of the puzzle

  3. The theoretical contribution to resolve it and

  4. How empirical evidence will be used to do so.


The presentation may also, if relevant, want to dwell on the potential policy implications of the research.


While all the details of this may take longer than 45 minutes, candidates should select the most important parts to ensure that the presentation stays within that time and allows adequate time for committee and audience questions.

To book a time to give a seminar at the NSC, contact your PhD Seminar Co-ordinator.

Policy and Governance (POGO)

POGO PhD seminars (TPRs and final oral presentations as well as ad hoc student seminars) are scheduled on an ad hoc basis and last one hour. Seminars are typically 30 - 40 minutes in length with the remainder of the scheduled hour devoted to audience questions. You can use PowerPoint if you wish (most do). Information regarding seminars is posted to the POGO PhD student mailing list, but you are welcome to invite others to the seminar, also. To book a time to give a POGO seminar, contact your PhD Seminar Co-ordinator.


Resources, Environment, & Development (RE&D)

Resources, Environment, & Development student seminars run for one hour (normally Thursdays, 12 noon – 1 pm). The standard seminar format is a half-hour presentation by the student, followed by a 5-minute commentary from another student, previously nominated as the ‘discussant’, followed by general discussion with the audience. The discussant's commentary should provide a few key points, identifying the main strengths and possible areas for improvement to consider in the final written proposal. The discussant may suggest further areas of the literature that could be consulted, or give other pointers. You are expected to provide a copy of the full seminar paper to the student discussant and all members of the supervisory panel beforehand. The seminar is advertised in advance to all members of the RE&D group (staff, students and visitors). You are welcome to invite others to your seminar. To book a time to give an RE&D seminar, contact your PhD seminar co-ordinator.


You have the opportunity to participate in numerous academic seminars and skills development workshops both within crawford and elsewhere in the University. Check your ANU email account regularly for notices about School seminars and for information about academic and research skills workshops run by the Crawford School. ANU Researcher Development runs and excellent events series, and you should also check out the Research and learn programs offered by the ANU Library’s Information Literacy Program as well as the statistical courses run by the Statistical Consulting Unit. A fuller list of training opportunities can be found on the ANU’s Communities and training page. You may also be eligible for more specialised training (such as fieldwork training, or OH&S training), so be sure to check your training catalogue when you are logged in to ISIS.

Please note that some ANU organisations require you to supply a ‘charge code’ when you register for their free courses; this is to cover costs in the event of your non-attendance, aka a ‘no-show’. Please contact the PhD academic and research skills advisor for a charge code in these situations. The charge code will be given out on the understanding that if the School receives an invoice for your non-attendance at a course, then the money will be taken out of your next application for Crawford HDR student funding. You should contact any organisation requiring a charge code such purposes so that you are clear about how much notice you need to give to avoid a fine for non-attendance.

HDR (Higher Degree Research) programs
Academic areas
The thesis
Degree duration
Supervision and your panel
Topic and topic development
PhD seminars
Training and workshops
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