Higher degree by research

Research at the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies (CAIS) is carried out in a wide range of areas relating to the study of Islam and the politics, political economy, history and international relations of the Middle East and Central Asia.

CAIS offers two research degrees in the research areas covered by its academic staff:

Master of Philosophy (MPhil): supervised research culminating in a thesis of up to 60,000 words; and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): supervised research culminating in a thesis of 80,000-100,000 words. Candidates interested in MPhil or PhD studies can contact the Centre directly to discuss their proposed research topic.

Hear from our students
Christian Bleuer

Career opportunities

Career prospects for graduates with a background in Arab and Islamic Studies include opportunities in both the public and private sectors. Our graduates find employment in the public service, diplomacy, journalism, business and trade, both in Australia and overseas. Students can also benefit from career opportunities which are opening up as Australia’s relations with the Middle East continue to develop. For example language specialists are in particular demand, as the need for personnel who can communicate with non-English speakers increases - specifically in government departments dealing with immigration and ethnic affairs, foreign affairs, customs and excise, social welfare, health, consumer affairs, and the media.  

Research areas

The research interests of CAIS academics can be viewed on the staff page. CAIS has over 20 research scholars at any one time. See the range of subject areas studied by our past and current students.

Applications are invited to undertake PhD or MPhil research in the field of CAIS's coverage.

Admission requirements

Admission to a Higher Degree by Research requires you to have completed an Honours degree at H2A level or above, or equivalent prior studies, such as a Master’s degree that includes a significant research component. Generally it is a requirement that you have completed your tertiary studies in the discipline in which you are planning to do research. Please note that exceptions to this can be made with relevant approvals.


Initial inquiries can be made by email to the CAIS PhD Co-ordinator, who will circulate your inquiry to CAIS's academic staff to assess our capacity to supervise you. Please seek supervision through this channel, not by emailing individual staff members. Your email inquiry should be accompanied by three items of documentation;

  1. A complete CV.
  2. A brief (1-2 page) research proposal outlining a topic of interest, research objectives, the approach to be taken, what types of data will be collected, and modes of analysis. This proposal may well be modified substantially if you are admitted to our research program. Its main purpose is to identify how your research interests match with potential supervisors at CAIS.
  3. Scans of academic transcripts for all previous university studies. Certified English translations are required if the originals are not in English. They are to be accompanied by any list of grade codes. We do not need degree certificates or documents relating to pre-university education or non-university qualifications.

If your most recent relevant previous qualification was obtained from a university in a country other than Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom you may also need to supply the results of an English language test taken within the last 2 years. The University’s English language requirements are (i) an IELTS (Academic) result of at least 6.5 with no component less than 6.0, or (ii) a TOEFL of 570 (Paper based) or 230 (Computer based) with an Essay Rating of at least 4.5, or (iii) an Internet based TOEFL of 90 with at least 20 in all four sections. One reason to choose IELTS over TOEFL is that, should you later need to also provide English language test results as part of a student visa application, Australian immigration authorities will only accept IELTS.

Duration of studies

The PhD and MPhil are available on a full-time or part-time basis, although international students requiring a student visa to enter Australia cannot study part-time. The PhD normally takes three years of full-time work to complete and the MPhil takes two years full-time.

Research topic

CAIS encourages students to pursue their own interests, provided adequate supervision can be found. The ‘Initial Inquiries’ process outlined above requires you to send us a preliminary research proposal. If you are having trouble identifying a topic, we encourage you to browse CAIS’s research areas and the research interests of individual academic staff.

As we cannot admit PhD or MPhil candidates for whom supervision is not available, it is important that your research topic have some affinity with the Centre’s research interests or those of individual staff. The PhD Co-ordinator and other academic staff will be happy to discuss your research proposal with you once you have aroused their interest.


Potential candidates can apply online, or application forms are available online for both domestic and international candidates.

The completed application must include academic transcripts, names and contact details of three referees, a research proposal and evidence of English language competency (if appropriate). We also encourage you to include examples of written work where possible.

Referees reports

We recommend that when seeking references, applicants approach people that can comment on their academic performance and research potential. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that all referees' reports are forwarded to the University. Applicants cannot be considered by the selection committee until these reports are received.

Closing dates

Applications for admission to the PhD degree are accepted at any time during the year. Some scholarships exist for PhD research which are awarded by the ANU. Scholarship applications for international students close on 31 August and for domestic students on 31 October.

More information

Dr Kirill Nourzhanov
CAIS PhD Co-ordinator
E kirill.nourzhanov@anu.edu.au

Updated:  18 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  College Dean/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications