The Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) enrolls Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students from a wide range of disciplines to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a Master of Philosophy (MPhil).  

The Institute for Social Science Research is a national leader in advanced interdisciplinary social science and evidence based policy research. ISSR researchers address some of the most important issues and challenges facing Australia today in areas such as education, employment, housing, social wellbeing, homelessness, sustainability, and Indigenous studies. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, our scholars work closely with policy makers and frontline development workers to ensure our research directly impacts upon policy and practice and contributes to systemic institutional change.

The ISSR Research Higher Degree Subcommittee is responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring ISSR policy and procedures for Research Higher Degree programs (PhD and MPhil). 

ISSR is committed to providing the highest quality experience for PhD students. Students who undertake a PhD with staff at ISSR will interact with leading social science researchers and have access to the country's most advanced social science research infrastructure.

In recent years, PhD graduates supervised by ISSR staff have won the Jean Martin Award for the Best PhD Thesis in Sociology, and the Australian and New Zealand Regional Science International Award for the best PhD thesis in Regional Science.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree enables you to undertake a substantial piece of independent and sustained research on an original topic under academic supervision. The research is expected to make a significant and innovative contribution to the discipline.

HDR students have the opportunity to work with professors and senior researchers on advertised ISSR PhD Projects, existing research projects or choose projects relating to the Institute’s research clusters.

As the largest social science research institute in Australia, with a track record of high-quality, high significance engaged research, the Institute is uniquely placed to offer high quality research training and HDR advising.

Institute staff currently advise over 60 research higher degree (PhD and MPhil) students across a range of scientific disciplines including: sociology, public policy, psychology, statistics, criminology, mathematics, political science, anthropology, and architecture.

Work in the Institute is distinguished by the following characteristics:

  • A concern with significant “real-world” questions and problems that have relevance beyond disciplines and beyond the academy
  • A multidisciplinary perspective that recognises the importance of social structures, cultures, institutions, individual differences and human/environment interactions in shaping outcomes and processes
  • A commitment to advanced theories and methods of social enquiry
  • A reliance on large-scale high quality empirical data
  • High levels of engagement in research, research training and other activities with Australian and international researchers, government, industry and the not-for-profit sector
  • Opportunity to work on existing large-scale externally funded research projects
  • Work on applied social research and analysis of policy in social context
  • Research support funding and internship opportunities
  • A seminar program where Institute staff and international visiting experts deliver seminars on cutting edge research

ISSR aims to provide its students with a distinctive study experience which is characterised by applied research, teaching and commercial opportunities. To support this, the Institute requires our students to sign a Student Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Agreement (SIPCA) as a condition of enrolment, pursuant to UQ’s policy on Intellectual Property for Staff, Students and Visitors. Independent legal advice is available to students free-of-charge through the UQ Student Union (see

HDR students are encouraged to link their research to either existing ISSR research projects, projects relating to the Institute’s research areas, or to apply for an advertised ISSR PhD Project.

The strategy of linking to an existing project or theme has a number of advantages over “curiosity-driven” solo projects, as it:

  • Provides students with experience of “real-world” research on significant topics and questions that are of interest and importance to different stakeholders and end-users
  • Allows access to levels of project resourcing that exceed what can be offered to students working on solo projects
  • Replicates actual research processes in universities, industry, government and the not-for-profit sector
  • Allows for training in team-based and multi-disciplinary research, and transferable skills such as grant and tender preparation, budgeting and project management, time management, and the meeting of deliverables and milestones
  • Provides opportunities for interaction, engagement and networking with researchers, partners and stakeholders
  • Aligns the interests and students and advisors in ensuring good HDR outcomes, because these outcomes are central to the success of the advisors’ research projects.

ISSR Director of Research Training, Associate Professor Abdullah Mamun, .

How To Apply

Future Students

Thank you for your interest in pursuing a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) at the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) at The University of Queensland (UQ).

Joining the HDR program at ISSR requires not only meeting the UQ Graduate School’s entry requirements, but also obtaining the support of the Institute to apply.

Obtaining the Institute’s support can be a lengthy process. To ensure that your online application will be considered for a certain scholarship round, please allow sufficient time to go through this process—at least 4-6 weeks prior to the Graduate School’s online application deadlines.

These are the steps that you need to follow:

  1. Find out about applying for a Higher Degree by Research (HDR), including advice about entry requirements, scholarships and UQ's career development framework. Ensure you meet the entry requirements.
  2. Browse our academic staff profiles and existing projects to find an advisor within our School who matches your area of research interest and who has sufficient expertise in your proposed field of research.
  3. Contact potential advisors by email to find out whether they have the capacity and expertise to supervise your project. Your email should include a rough description of your proposed research project or some broad areas of interest, your academic CV, and past academic transcripts. Potential advisors may request that you make changes to your proposal before proceeding any further. It is essential that you receive written endorsement from at least one prospective advisor to continue the process.
  4. Potential advisors may alternatively choose to circulate your documents to other academic staff within ISSR if they believe that you are a good candidate, but they are unable to supervise you personally. This is nevertheless not a guarantee that a suitable advisor will be found.
  5. Once you have obtained endorsement by an academic staff member to supervise your project, you will need to develop a full research proposal. This research proposal takes time to write and may require revisions based on the feedback by your prospective advisor. Your research proposal should be 3,000-5,000 words in length and fully referenced. The proposal needs to address the following questions:

RESEARCH AIMS: Which broad research question(s) will your thesis aim to answer?

RESEARCH SIGNIFICANCE: How is your proposed project important? What makes the project innovative?

RELEVANT LITERATURE: What does the current literature say in relation to your research question? How will your thesis add to or complement the existing body of work on your topic? How are you building on, advancing or applying the existing literature?

APPROACH AND METHOD: What concepts, theories, methods and data sources will you use to address your research question(s)?

  1. Your prospective advisor(s) will then consider your full research proposal. They may ask you to arrange for an in-person or online interview to discuss the proposal, or to revise your proposal to reach its full potential.
  2. Once your advisors are satisfied with your project, you will be instructed to submit a full application online to the UQ Graduate School. Please include your completed research proposal. We recommend that you apply at least 4-6 weeks prior to any advertised scholarship closing dates to increase your chances of being considered.
  3. The full online application, including your referee reports and research proposal, will be assessed by the Director of Research Training (DRT) at ISSR.
  4. If the DRT approves your application, the complete application will then be assessed by the UQ Graduate School, which will make a final determination on whether to formally support your application. Please note that approval of your application by the DRT and/or the UQ Graduate School does not guarantee that you will be successful in obtaining a scholarship.

HDR training

ISSR is committed to providing the highest quality experience for HDR students that foster the development of independent research skills.

ISSR’s research training and professional development initiatives are designed to create a nationally distinctive and internationally recognised Social Science HDR graduate. We believe that we can offer students a program that is informed by an evidence-based understanding of the diverse pathways into the Research Higher Degree, the diverse jobs and employment arrangements graduates subsequently experience, and the HDR experiences and training that most effectively equip graduates for research and employment in these diverse settings.

Overall the ISSR HDR training program provides opportunities for:

  • High level training in key aspects of research methodologies
  • Broad disciplinary training rather than narrow focus on a thesis topic
  • Formal interactions and networking with established researchers
  • Working closely with supervisors and peers in disciplinary and multi-disciplinary research teams
  • Presentation of research findings at national and international conferences
  • Internships and research experience with potential employers
  • Training and experience in transferable research skills such as writing for academic and non-academic audiences, project management, project budgeting, tender and grant preparation
  • Experience engaging with stakeholders and end-users in government, industry and the not-for-profit sector
  • Professional development & targeted training courses

HDR resources

HDR students have access to:

  • Research support funding to help with costs of fieldwork, conference attendance, data management and collection, specialised software and fees for specialised training
  • Resources commensurate with the requirements of the research project and thesis preparation
  • Shared office accommodation
  • ISSR seminar/training room
  • Onsite IT facilities and computers with statistics software
  • Expertise in data analysis
  • Existing large-scale data sets

The Institute has some of the most advanced social science research infrastructure in the country, including:

  • Quantitative and qualitative social science data archives that are part of the Australian Data Archive, Australia’s national repository for social science data
  • Hardware and software for advanced social science data management and analysis

Current Students


As a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) student, you are required to undertake 3 milestones in the course of your research thesis. The 3 milestones are Confirmation, Mid-candidature Review, and Thesis Review. The milestone procedures are documented in detail in the document contained within the following link:

Once you attain your milestone, you will need to submit an attainment of milestone request through the student portal. Upload the report or email feedback by the Chair of the milestone committee as evidence that you have passed.

The following links contain helpful information and materials concerning the milestone processes at ISSR:

Research Funding

To apply for research funding, please review the funding policy.

You may then submit your completed application form and budget to the Director of Research Training. Your application will be assessed and you will be advised of the outcome:

Current Advisors

Staff resources