Study at NCIS

Expression of Interest (EOI)

To be considered for the PhD or MPhil program, prospective students must submit a 5-10 page thesis proposal for consideration by NCIS.

You can enrol at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS) in the Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Program to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy or Master of Philosophy. See: While applications are considered on an ongoing basis, NCIS strongly encourages prospective HDR scholars to commence their program in February at the beginning of the Australian academic year.

The purpose of a preliminary proposal is to enable the NCIS to initially assess the viability of your proposed research and to provide useful feedback to you. Accordingly, proposals should include sufficient broad content to assess whether:

  • The research proposed is worthwhile for the level of the degree you wish to undertake; there are big differences between the kind of contribution required of research and word length for a shorter MPhil thesis, than say for a longer PhD thesis (e.g., a PhD is a substantial piece of research that shows evidence of advanced knowledge, with mastery of appropriate methodological techniques and theoretical interpretation, and makes an original contribution to the field).
  • The scope of the research is suited to the level of the degree; clearly the breadth and depth of research expected, and the length of the written thesis, will be different for MPhil and PhD theses.
  • The methods proposed to complete the research are appropriate.
  • It will be possible for the HDR scholar to access the resources needed to complete the research, to conduct interviews proposed, to carry out field research etc.
  • The proposed research is feasible in terms of time available to complete the degree.

These matters will be taken into account in assessing proposals, so bear them in mind.

There is no single ‘right’ way to write up a thesis proposal. Much depends on your topic and research approach. But there are some components that they all share in common, which are set out below and can be adapted to suit your project.

Professional Development Course

Introduction to Repatriation: Principles, practice and policies

This intensive five-day program is a professional development short course hosted by Ngarrindjeri Traditional Owners in collaboration with partners on the Australian Research Council Linkage Project: 'Return, Reconcile, Renew: understanding the history, effects and opportunities of repatriation and building an evidence base for the future.'

The course is held at Camp Coorong, near Meningie in South Australia, and is presented by numerous project partners and administered by the National Centre for Indigenous Studies.

The course was first held in July 2015. Dates for future courses have not yet been determined. Further details may be available from the course joint convenors.

» read more about the July 2015 course

Higher Degree by Research: Doctor and Master of Philosophy

You can enrol at NCIS to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy or Master of Philosophy as part of the Centre's Higher Degree by Research (HDR) program.

A Doctor 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). As a PhD scholar, you are required to submit a thesis of up to 100,000 words, which will be an original piece of work incorporating an account of the research done during the program and its results. You may be enrolled as a full-time or part-time scholar. Normally, minimum full-time candidature duration is 2 years (4 years part-time) and maximum full-time candidature duration is 4 years (8 years part-time). You can be based at ANU or study externally.

A Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is a supervised research degree in which you carry out research under the guidance of your supervisor. As an MPhil scholar, you are required to submit a thesis of up to 60,000 words. Normally, minimum full-time candidature is of 1 year duration and maximum full-time candidature is 2 years' duration. This time period is doubled for part-time candidature.

» read more about ANU Higher Degrees by Research


For more information about undertaking a PhD or MPhil at NCIS, including how to apply, please contact the NCIS HDR Program Manager Dr Diane Smith. NCIS considers applications throughout the year.

Research topics

As NCIS is a multidisciplinary Centre, with numerous research priorities and expertise, your research can be in a range of fields within Indigenous studies. Supervision is provided by NCIS academics and others throughout ANU.

Please note that NCIS HDR scholars can and do study other topics within Indigenous Studies. In choosing your topic, you should learn about the research interests of NCIS academic staff.

» read about current HDR projects

NCIS research environment

NCIS provides a high-quality and highly supportive, collaborative research environment. Staff and HDR scholars meet regularly for supervision, and the ‘open door’ policy at the Centre encourages communication and provides support for research questions and training. The NCIS community has monthly meetings which provide a forum for debate, presentation and discussion, and organises regular social events.

Each year, NCIS hosts a two-day postgraduate research retreat, providing the opportunity for HDR scholars involved in Indigenous studies across ANU to learn about each other's projects and attend master classes and training workshops on research.

ANU undergraduate research interns and honours students

Although NCIS does not run an undergraduate program or a Masters degree by coursework, we can provide co-supervision for

Please talk to your course convenor and an NCIS staff member in your research area to discuss possibilities.

Information about undergraduate program or a Masters by coursework at ANU is available on the Study at ANU website. For information about ANU support in undergraduate studies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, please contact the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre.

Updated:  1 November 2016/ Responsible Officer:  NCIS Project Coordinator/ Page Contact:  NCIS Administrative Officer