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, .