Supervision Areas

Through the Expression of Interest process, you will be assisted in getting connected with a supervisor.

Below you will find a list of the postgraduate research supervision areas that are offered in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. We invite you to look through this list and read more about our supervision areas and the academics that work in them.  This will help you to identify your proposed field of study and have an idea of who you may be working with, should you be accepted into one of our postgraduate research programs.  

We strive to support our students, by connecting them with a supervisor who is knowledgeable in the area and methodology in which you propose to research.  

The nature and level of supervision will evolve over the duration of your candidature. The early stages of your PhD are closely supervised to nurture a strong grounding in research methods. In the later stages of your degree, you will be equipped with the necessary skills for independent investigation.

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Current list of HDR candidates (PDF) [695 Kb]

Postgraduate research supervision areas

Key Target Areas

Theatre of the Real

Supervisors: Prof Michael Balfour, Dr Meg Mumford, Dr Caroline Wake

This project explores the politics of participation and representation in what Carol Martin has coined ‘theatre of the real’, an increasingly prominent form of performance internationally. Such theatre explicitly cites or summons the real world and its problems. It includes autobiographical, documentary and participatory practices. Often involving vulnerable or marginalised people, theatre of the real casts these participants as ‘everyday experts’ with valuable knowledge derived from their lived experience. This project investigates what happens when such experts meet theatre professionals and spectators. To this end it explores the complex politics and ethics that surround the process of empowering people through theatre.

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Multimodality, Social Semiotics and Contemporary Communication

Supervisor: A/Prof Louise Ravelli

Contemporary communication across all media embraces multimodality – the bringing together of different modes to create meaningful, coherent texts. Using social semiotic approaches to multimodality, a range of research trajectories are open in relation to linguistic, visual, auditory, and/or spatial modalities, and the role of multimodal texts in contemporary communication contexts. The aim is to enhance understanding of and communication outcomes in professional and public contexts, in terms of how meanings are made in such contexts, how meaning can be reshaped by and through use, and how contexts of practice and communicative texts mutually inform each other.

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The Sociomateriality of New workplaces: Multimodel Analysis and Organization Studies

Supervisor: A/Prof Louise Ravelli

'New' workplace designs are ubiquitous, foregrounding trends such as co-working, office-less organization, micropeneur-ship, minimal hierarchisation, and weaker borders between workplace, home, and leisure. Despite being of such interest, little research has investigated the sociomaterial nature of these designs and their implications for new meanings about 'work'. This project uses methods from social-semiotics, spatial discourse analysis, and organization theory, to investigate newly - designed corporate workplaces and the meanings they create about work, and for workers. This will make the connections between design, use, and meaning explicit, and will provide productive frameworks for future evaluations of workplace designs.

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Media and Social Justice

Supervisor: A/Prof Tanja Dreher

The project on Media and Social Justice investigates contemporary media and mediation through the lenses of social justice, the politics of listening, First Nations sovereignties, anti-racism, decolonising methodologies, data justice and feminist media studies. Media and Social Justice covers a diverse range of potential topics, including: First Nations media and voice; community and alternative media; media activism and media interventions; resurgent white supremacy, listening interventions, social justice in the age of datafication, community engaged research.

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The Phycological Power of Music

Supervisor: Prof Emery Schubert

Why does music have such powerful effects on listeners? The projects investigated in our music-based laboratory examine this question from a psychological perspective, applying experimental and statistical techniques to uncover the most basic and yet still hidden questions about music’s apparently magical qualities. Past postgraduates working on the psychological power of music projects have completed investigations in diverse topics, in particular: music and spirituality, emotional and aesthetic responses to music, music and preference, music and cognition, as well as music and health. Opportunities for publication, conference participation and international collaborations are provided. Prospective students will have considerable flexibility in the topic they choose, while being supported by excellent human and laboratory resources in the Empirical Musicology Laboratory at UNSW.

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Individual Difference in Music Performance

Supervisor: Prof Dorottya Fabian

Music performances are assessed regularly by teachers, examiners, competition judges, music critics. Some performers are internationally acclaimed. But while we can tell apart a good or competent performance from a mediocre one, or an excellent from a bad one, we have very limited language and analytical tools to identify specific and unique artistic signatures and explain the differences among highly regarded professional musicians. How does Lang Lang’s playing differ from Yundi Li’s? How do the interpretative tendencies of famous singers, violinists, pianists differ? Subjective but systematic aural analysis combined with empirical (computer-aided) investigations of sound recordings can provide insight into your favourite musicians’ individuality and how they compare to others. This type of study is most suited to European classical music performance but proposals involving other styles may also be considered.

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Sexuality and Identity Education: Students with Intellectual Disability And/or Autism in mainstream school

Supervisor: Prof Iva Strnadova

I am looking for a PhD candidate interested in conducting a PhD study on sexuality and sexual identity education of students with intellectual disability and/or autism, who attend mainstream schools (primary and/or high schools).

Students with intellectual disability and/or autism have a right for a quality sexuality and sexual identity education, with information provided in understandable and accessible way. However, research shows that people with these conditions receive less sexuality and sexual identity education than their typically developing peers. This lack of attention to the development of sexual knowledge in students with these conditions has likely increased the risk of harm (such as sexual abuse) for this population. As a result, they often have negative sexual identities. This PhD study would investigate how students with intellectual disability and/or autism are informed about sexual relationships, diverse sexual identities, and how they are prepared for their future life living with as much autonomy as possible, including living with a partner and becoming parents.

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Supporting Education Focused careers in research intensive Universities

Supervisor: Prof Stephen Marshall

There are a growing number of research-intensive universities throughout the world who have introduced education- or teaching-focused academic positions as an alternative to the research and teaching or research only appointments that such institutions have traditionally made. While the overall number of individuals appointed to such positions remains small, it is steadily growing, raising a number of critical career progression and development issues for the individuals themselves, their line-managers and their institutions. This study seeks to identify and explore these issues, with a view to determining: (a) how well current career development policies and practices within research intensive universities encourage, enable and support career progression along an education focused career pathway, and (b) how current HR policies and practices need to change to better enable and support education- or teaching-focused academic careers.

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Doctoral writing in Multilingual Contexts

Supervisor: Prof Sue Starfield

Globally, the number of students writing a doctoral thesis or dissertation in English continues to grow, raising many challenges for students, their supervisors and institutions. Thesis and dissertation writing varies according to context, although there are certain conventions and expectations which hold across disciplinary and geographical borders. I am keen to supervise projects that go beyond the text to examine texts within the contexts in which they are being produced, circulated, received and responded to. I am interested in how multilingual writers in diverse contexts across the globe negotiate their identities in their thesis writing, the kinds of relationships that support or hinder their writing and the ways in which their knowledge of the thesis genre develops over time. I am also interested in ways in which doctoral writing and the doctoral genre are evolving in response to the diversity of contexts in which these texts are being written, and the impact of new technologies on thesis and dissertation writing. Potential themes for candidates include: Building doctoral genre knowledge in multilingual contexts; Constructing and negotiating voice, identity, agency in doctoral writing in multilingual contexts; Mentoring relationships in doctoral writing; and the impact of new technologies on thesis and dissertation writing.

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School Reform in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia

Supervisor: A/Prof Scott Eacott

Across the world there is a socio-geographic performance gap between metropolitan and regional, rural and remote areas. This disparity gap has many varied influences. Traditional interventions for reducing the gap have tended to be designed from afar and rarely take into account the contexts in which they will be implemented. Theoretically informed by Eacott’s relational approach and drawing from many disciplines (e.g., education, geography, sociology, management/leadership, organizational studies, and social theory) this work seeks to build a robust empirical foundations for interventions aimed at improving outcomes in regional, rural and remote locations.

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Key research questions and directions of the Vitalities Lab

Supervisor: SHARP Prof Deborah Lupton

Key research questions addressed by the Vitalities Lab include:

  • What vitalities and capacities are generated with and through more-than-human worlds?
  • How are agencies opened up or closed off in more-than-human worlds?
  • Which individuals and social groups benefit most from these agencies – and who may be subject to risks or harms?
  • How can marginalised groups be given a voice and better agency?
  • What methods can be used to access people’s multisensory experiences and the affective forces that flow between the actors in more- than-human entanglements?
  • How do ethics and practices of care come into play?
  • What are the futures of more-than-human worlds?

Initial research streams include:

  • Critical digital health studies: addressing the ways in which people use digital technologies for health, and identifying potential harms or  exclusions from access as well as benefits
  • Living digital data: focusing on people’s everyday understandings, experiences and practices related to their personal digital data

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America's Studies

America's Studies is a broad interdisciplinary area of study that includes research on historical, societal, cultural and global aspects of the western hemisphere from pre-history to the present.

America's Studies at UNSW encompasses:

  • pre-European cultures
  • colonialism and imperialism
  • development
  • foreign relations
  • labour
  • immigration and emigration
  • religious, cultural, artistic, linguistic, and literature studies

Our higher degree research students undertake to produce original, exciting research that extends the frontiers of the already existing world body of knowledge of studies of the Americas.

Supervisors in this area

Asian Studies

Asian Studies is an interdisciplinary area of study focusing on modern Asian societies and cultures, and their historical traditions. Asian Studies brings together various perspectives and approaches from specialists in areas such as History, Politics, International Relations, Social Policy and Health, Philosophy, Cultural Studies and Media, to explore the changes that have shaped the Asian region over the last century, the integration and impact of Asian countries in the global environment, and Australia's place in the region. 

Visit the Asian Studies discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

Assessment and Evaluation

Assessment and Evaluation at UNSW focuses on investigating and teaching current issues in assessment and evaluation, and in supporting the development of quality assessment and evaluation at the individual, school and system level. Our ultimate goal is to provide better assessment tools for teachers and to promote more effective student learning, hence we are also interested in testing and selection and system-wide accountability.

Broadly, our discipline includes the areas of:

  • Assessment for teaching and learning
  • Assessment for selection and certification
  • Measurement of student performance, achievement, attainment, competence, and growth
  • Factors influencing student achievement
  • Setting objective, criteria, and standards for student learning
  • Large-scale, national and international testing programs
  • School-based program evaluation.

Our goals are achieved through a range of research and approaches, including detailed case studies of effective policy and practice, collaborative action-oriented research and large scale survey and experimental research.

Supervisors in this area 

Australian Studies

Australian Studies is a broad interdisciplinary field, covering studies of Australian history, culture, politics and society from its first settlement by Aboriginal people until the present.  

Australian Studies explores the greater questions of human experience and dilemmas: the nature of polity, of citizen’s rights and obligations; the extent, power and limitations of shared ethical and cultural beliefs, and how these work in practice; how inclusion also works to exclude; and how the past informs the present. These questions play a crucial role in the development of an informed and critically engaged citizenship and foster analytical and creative engagement with Australia in its global relationships.

Visit the Australian Studies discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

Biopolitical Studies

The Biolopolitical Research Network is established across the Faculty, and includes researchers in HAL, SoSS, SAM, and the Law Faculty (see the network website here). As this website states, the researchers in the Biopolitical Studies Network have published over 45 sole or co-authored books and 25 edited or co-edited books with leading international publishers; and over 160 articles in refereed journals. Members of the Network regularly collaborate with prominent researchers from top ranked universities in the Americas, Europe and Asia. They serve on the editorial advisory boards of more than 10 international journals. Several researchers in the Network currently hold or have held ARC grants and prestigious international research grants.

We propose to invite more researchers into that network, to broaden its reach across the Faculty and the recognition of biopolitics as an area of study and research.

Supervisors in this area

Centre for Social Research in Health

The Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH) is a specialist research centre based in UNSW Arts and Social Sciences. Our staff work on social and behavioural science research in health that informs and strengthens knowledge, policy and practice. We are particularly focused on issues affecting people living with blood borne viruses and viral hepatitis and the risk practices they engage in.

For more information, visit the Centre for Social Research in Health.

Supervisors in this area

Chinese Studies

Chinese Studies includes a number of high-performing staff, researching in Chinese language and linguistics, politics, literature, film, culture, and philosophy. Chinese Studies in HAL has its own seminar series, and staff within Chinese Studies have received ARC grants (Kowallis, Lai, Donald). Professor Edwards is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and the Hong Kong Humanities Academy.

Supervisors in this area

Where are they now 

Our higher degree research students have gone on to work at leading universities and in important government and industry positions:

  • Lina Tao is a graduate of the Master of Arts in Research.  Her thesis was on Migrant children in China and their representation in online and paper-based media.  Lina is now working in the Education division in the British Embassy in Beijing.  Since graduating she has also completed a translation of a book about architecture authored by the Cambridge based architect Nick Ray.  

Creative Writing

Our Creative Writing program encourages students to experiment with a range of writing strategies and techniques in order to produce innovative literary works which challenge the generic boundaries of mainstream literature while being critically aware and socially engaged.

Creative writing at UNSW focuses primarily on fiction, poetry, fictocriticism, non-fiction and creative non-fiction. Located in the discipline of English studies, the program provides interdisciplinary links with media, film studies, theatre and performance, dance and music in the larger School of the Arts and Media. Research candidates in the Creative Writing degree have access to supervisors and co-supervisors with a range of academic expertise who can bring new perspectives to their work.

Our Creative Writing higher degree graduates produce a dissertation conveying a flexible connection between the creative and the critical components: a complementary and dialogic relationship, rather than a supplementary and explanatory one.

Visit the Creative Writing discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area


Criminology is an interdisciplinary field devoted to the study of crime, deviance, social control and the legal system. At UNSW our contemporary criminological scholars investigate a broad range of topics including justice, conflict, risk, security, insurance, policing, governance, regulation and the complex interactions amongst systemic, social, community and individual factors that are integral to the area of law, crime and the criminal justice system.

Our criminologists tackle ‘real world' social problems including offending, discrimination, victimisation, youth offending, drug addiction, community safety, indigenous justice, organised crime, state crime, cyber-crime, international crime and corrections. Key concerns include the nature of crime, what is defined as crime and how crime is measured, media reporting and portrayal of crime, why people commit crime and how societies might respond.

Criminology at UNSW is recognized as a Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Research Strength.

Criminology is shaped not only by scholars in law, philosophy, psychology, policy and sociology, but also those in history, politics, economics, architecture, cultural studies, and other interdisciplinary fields as well as by professionals in medicine, social work and education.

Our network spreads across five Faculties at UNSW and brings together prominent national and international experts, creating critical mass of leading scholars that makes UNSW an outstanding destination to study and research criminology in Australia.

Visit the Criminology discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

Critical Childhood and Youth Studies

This emerging area comprises scholars working across the Faculty working to engage critically with discourses on childhood and youth as they operate in society and culture, and in relation to a variety of areas including film, policy, social work, health, migration, history, gender, philosophy, and literature. Researchers in this area have received multiple ARC grants and fellowships and Leverhulme Trust funding, held workshops, and published widely (including books). Professor Aggleton previously founded the Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth at Sussex University, and this area is gaining a great increasing attention in the UK and Europe.

Several of the FASS members have international research relationships with academics in the field (Middlesex, Sussex, Sheffield, and Cambridge), which may form the basis for supervision collaboration.

Supervisors in this area

Cultural and Literary Studies

An international approach to arts, cultures, and media is essential to twenty first century intellectual life and scholarship. Likewise, a sophisticated and globally inflected grasp of cultural theory, transnational literature and history underpins the creation of new knowledge in a complex world. Researchers in the School of Humanities and Languages include specialists in classical and contemporary literature, cinema, ethnomusicology, intellectual history and cultural studies in Latin America, Europe, North and East Asia.

Visit the Cultural and Literacy Studies discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area


Dance is a specialised field, the study of which may involve advanced practical skills.

Dance research at UNSW focuses on contemporary styles of choreography and composition and the embodiment of somatic and kinaesthetic experiences. It is closely linked to performance studies and gesture, and probes the creative dimension of movement and expression. It is enriched by interdisciplinary collaborations with music, film and the visual arts.

Research students in Dance can either write a full-length thesis, or undertake practice-based research. The former’s output is written prose; the latter’s output is a portfolio that includes a dissertation. Both involve the investigation of a significant problem within the discipline

Visit the Dance discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

Development Studies

Development Studies covers a wide range of issues concerning theory, policy and practice concerning human and national development and its measurement.

Research is concerned with processes of change and transformation and the challenges posed by widespread poverty and inequalities. Our scholars draw on a range of disciplines to examine the development process, its content, the actors and organisations involved, and the broader context in which development takes place.

Cross-cutting issues concern:

  • human rights
  • gender
  • culture
  • politics (political economy)

Current areas of emphasis and study include foci on refugees and forced migration, international aid, conflict and peacebuilding, civil society and advocacy, environment, urbanisation, global health, humanitarian emergencies, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, international development planning and policy, food security and livelihoods, disaster governance, environmental justice, political ecology and environmental sustainability, and equity.

Our higher degree students undertake empirical studies which examine important global, national and local dimensions of “development” and to contribute constructively to critiquing, informing and enhancing policy and practice.

Our staff are actively engaged in research and relationships with a wide range of agencies, governments and organisations – we welcome enquiries and opportunities to explore and shape with your higher degree aspirations.

Visit the Development Studies discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

Educational Policy and Leadership

The Educational Policy and Leadership research group engages with educational politics, policy, organisations and leadership from a broadly critical perspective.

The group conducts educational research informed by theoretical frameworks and developments from a wide variety of fields (e.g. political theory, social and cultural geography, sociology, cultural studies, psychoanalytic theory, analytic and continental philosophy). This research aims to analyse, challenge and enrich debates about current and historical initiatives in education policy, politics, organisations and leadership in Australia and globally. This research group makes explicit the connections between the process and practices of education policy, politics, organisations and leadership, and other areas of public and social policy.

We undertake research on various levels of education, broadly conceived to include both formal sites like schools and universities, and also other forms of educational arenas like community groups. Our work includes: a focus on how education policy converges and overlaps with other policy areas, such as social policy and urban policies; how education policy relates to equity and inclusion; critical perspectives in educational leadership and organisations; and, the relation of policy to subjectivities and practices.

Supervisors in this area are:

Educational Psychology

The Educational Psychology Research Group, led by Professors Andrew Martin and Slava Kalyuga at UNSW, focuses on research into cognitive, motivational, and social processes relevant to learning, achievement, teaching techniques, and instructional design. Cognitive load theory is an instructional theory derived from our knowledge of the evolutionary bases of human cognitive architecture and has generated a large range of instructional effects that can be used by teachers, instructors and researchers. Research into motivational and social processes in education focus on theories and factors relevant to the student and his/her context that impact learning and achievement.

Supervisors in this area


Both national and international in its focus, English and Literary Studies at UNSW adopts a wide range of critical and theoretical approaches to understand texts from different cultural contexts and historical periods from the Renaissance through to the present moment. Higher degree research students in English and Literary Studies undertake original research that seeks to intervene in and influence major disciplinary debates about national identity, place, culture, narrative and aesthetic achievement.

Particular strengths of English and Literary Studies at UNSW include:

  • contemporary literature
  • modernism
  • Victorian literature and culture
  • Renaissance literature
  • Irish literature
  • Amerinca literature
  • Australian literature
  • pot-colonial literary studies
  • global and transnational literatures
  • women’s writing
  • poetry and poetics
  • cognitive literary studies
  • the novel and narrative
  • comparative literature
  • film and literature
  • psychoanalysis and literature
  • literary juvenilia and the child writer

Visit the English Discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

Environmental Humanities

Environmental Humanities is an emerging interdisciplinary area of international research and teaching that addresses contemporary environmental challenges in a way that is historically, philosophically and culturally informed.

Environmental Humanities at UNSW has developed a distinctive approach to this field, bringing together a uniquely interdisciplinary group of scholars with a grounding in history, philosophy, cultural studies, literature, science and technology studies (STS) and social theory, focused on the ways in which environmental problems are irreducibly entangled with social and cultural practices and questions of politics, knowledge, meaning, value and ethics.

Utilising cutting-edge qualitative, ethnographic and historical methods our higher degree research students undertake original research on topics such as: the politics of environmental knowledges, the development of bio-nano technologies, climate change, species loss and modes of multispecies entanglement.

Visit the Environmental Humanities discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

European Studies

European Studies is an interdisciplinary area of study and research focusing on modern European politics, societies and cultures, past and present. European Studies brings together the perspectives and approaches of disciplines such as History, Philosophy, Cultural, Literary and Film Studies, Politics and International Relations, to explore modern Europe. European Studies staff are experts on a range of European countries and regions spanning the entire continent – from Ireland to Russia, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia – and work in a number of interdisciplinary fields such as intellectual history, memory studies, and transnational issues such as religion, minorities, and governance. European Studies students are encouraged to learn a European language, and UNSW offers courses at various levels in French, German, Greek, Italian and Spanish.

European Studies prepares students not only for globalized intellectual engagement but also for the global market. Graduates have pursued careers in politics and diplomacy, EU institutions, Australian Federal Government, international business, NGOs, media, trade, teaching and research.

Visit the European Studies discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area


Film Studies is a rich and dynamic area of study in the contemporary humanities that involves the investigation of film and other moving image forms from a variety of critical, theoretical and historical perspectives.

Film Studies at UNSW offers research specialisations in film and aesthetics, film and philosophy, film ethics, cinematic performance, national, regional and global formations of cinema (including Australian, Iranian, American, French and German cinemas), psychoanalytic approaches to film, feminist screen cultures, teen cinema, film sound, theories of film time, television cultures, the history of film and other moving image forms, specific genres (including documentary and film comedy), as well as classical and contemporary film theories.

Situated in a multidisciplinary School that fosters dialogue between disciplinary fields and between theorists and practitioners in the performing and media arts, higher degree research candidates in Film Studies produce original research on various aspects of screen culture and contribute to the dynamic developments in film and moving image studies.

Visit the Film Studies discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

Gifted Education

Gifted Education is a broad field covering studies of high ability individuals, and the multiple approaches to meet the educational and related needs of these individuals. Members of the Gifted Education disciplinary hub form an integral part of GERRIC, the pre-eminent office of gifted education research in the southern hemisphere.

Our scholars regularly attract prestigious grant funding from bodies such as the Australian Research Council and the US-based John Templeton Foundation, and our research has been published in many major international and national journals in the field.

Our higher degree research students undertake contemporary research in areas including acceleration/ability grouping, career development, differentiating curriculum and pedagogy, decision-making, disadvantaged and culturally diverse populations, highly gifted populations, identification, indigenous populations, mathematics education, motivation, multi-literacies, science education, socio-emotional development, technology-enabled learning, twice exceptionality and underachievement from early childhood to tertiary contexts.

Supervisors in this area

Higher Education

Higher Education at UNSW focuses on building knowledge and skills and investigating issues related to the governance, management and practice of higher education. In particular our scholars concentrate on issues related to the assurance and improvement of quality processes and outcomes in learning, teaching and research education.

Areas of our research include:

  • university governance
  • academic leadership and management
  • quality assurance and improvement of learning, teaching and research education
  • analytics to support quality processes and outcomes in learning, teaching and research education
  • educational evaluation
  • academic development
  • curriculum innovation and change (in particular the role of technology in learning, teaching and assessment, and learning and teaching approaches at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels)

Supervisors in this area


History is the study of humanity in all its dimensions; historians draw out broad patterns and trends from the bewildering variety of evidence from the past, focusing on the web of human contact and conflict in our shared world; we look into many pasts to try to understand today’s world

History is the study of humanity in all its dimensions; historians draw out broad patterns and trends from the bewildering variety of evidence from the past, focusing on the web of human contact and conflict in our shared world; we look into many pasts to try to understand today’s world.

Historical research at UNSW extends from ancient to contemporary times and focuses on such key areas of colonialism, transnational movements, gender, migrants, national histories, the family, cultural and religious identities, the environment, world history and much more.

Our higher degree research students undertake original historical research that critically engages with an immense range of subject areas and with the main themes that are relevant to the human condition in an environment noted for breadth and innovation.

Visit the History discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

Where are they now 

Our higher degree research students have gone on to work at leading universities and in important government and industry positions:

  • John Solomon graduated with a PhD in History.  His thesis was on Tamil Migration to Singapore and the diaspora.  He is currently working at the National University of Singapore in the School of History and is on a tenure-track.  

Human Geography

Human geography involves studying the interactions between humans and their environments. A key feature of geographical work – one that often distinguishes it from other cognate fields in the humanities – is its focus on place, space and the environment. Human geographers focus on describing and exploring the places and spaces in which people live in, move to and move from, and the cultural, social and environmental modifications humans make to their environments. Much of the investigative work in human geography is field-based; methodological innovation, especially with qualitative and ethnographic methods, is a standout feature of much of the research (academic and doctoral) conducted by members of this group.

An enduring feature of human geographers is their capacity to ask, answer and critique big questions and to couch these inquires in appropriate milieu. Such questions may relate to humans and nonhuman relationships within different biophysical, social and cultural contexts. They also require a focus on both geographical (local, national, global, supranational) and temporal (past, present future) scales.

Human geography is profoundly interdisciplinary. It draws and seeks knowledge from the natural and physical sciences as well as from the social sciences and the humanities. Human geography has a several key sub-disciplines: cultural, social and political geography; urban geography; environmental geography and political ecology; geographies of education and rural geography.

Human geography is represented by major international scholarly societies, including the Association of American Geographers (AAG), The Institute of British Geographers/Royal Society of Geography (IBG/RGS), and the International Geographical Union (IGU-UGI). Within Australia the field is represented by the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG), and the State branches of the Geographical Society including the Geographical Society of New South Wales, the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia, the Australian Geography Teachers’ Association, the Geography Teachers’ Association of New South Wales, the Geography Teachers’ Association of Queensland, the Geography Teachers’ Association of South Australia, the Geography Teachers’ Association of Victoria and the Geographical Association of Western Australia.

UNSW has a long term and well-established track record with human geography, with leading research enterprises in social, cultural and urban geography. With a series of recent appointments and staff transfers there is now a significant research strength in the field within the faculty of Arts and Social Science, and significant cross faculty linkages with scholars working in in the Faculties of Science and the Built Environment, in addition to scholars based at UNSW Canberra.

The faculty has fourteen human geographers located in HAL, SOSS, SPRC and Education. In recent years researchers working in human geography have generated significant grant success and research profile. As such, formalizing Human Geography as an area of PG supervision will help to consolidate this field in the Faculty. There are also strong connections between human geography and existing areas of faculty research strength in Development Studies, Environmental Humanities, International Studies and Area Studies. With its emphasis on interdisciplinary exchange and societal.

Supervisors in this area

International Relations

International terrorism, the threat of nuclear war and large-scale conflict threaten peace and security. Political structures and processes shape international trade, international production and investment. Key environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity and deforestation are transnational in their causes and impacts. Thus it is not an exaggeration to claim that world politics is a matter of life and death. The discipline of International Relations seeks to understand world politics in an era of globalization. It tries to make sense of change in world politics and to understand emerging trends in politics, economics and culture.

The academic study of International Relations includes the study of:

  • Foreign policy and diplomacy
  • War, violence and conflict
  • Conflict management and peace building
  • Non-traditional security issues
  • International political economy
  • International organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
  • Globalization
  • Theories that seek to explain global politics
  • International history
  • Norm Dynamics
  • Politics of International Law

The study of international relations equips future policy-makers (as well as concerned citizens) with the tools to understand the complexities of the world. The study of international relations is concerned with understanding the theories, main actors, institutions, and contemporary issues in world politics. In a globalized world, it is imperative to try to understand the factors underlying decisions made by governments, international organizations, transnational corporations, and international non-government organizations. Students of International Relations are introduced to issues related to international security, the global economy, international law, human rights and international institutions.

Supervisors in this area

Interpreting and Translation

Interpreting and Translation Studies covers the study of oral interpreting and written translation.

Research in both these broad areas is interdisciplinary, underpinned by different theoretical frameworks, and using a variety of research methods.

Interpreting and Translation Studies research at UNSW focuses on applied research that can inform the practice and the education and training of interpreters and translators and users of their services. Our staff primarily specialise in Legal Interpreting research and Text Analysis for Translation. However, other areas such as conference and community interpreting and translation assessment and pedagogy are also explored.

Our higher degree research students undertake original research with the supervision of internationally recognised experts in the field.

Visit the Interpreting and Translation discipline hub to find out more.

Supervisors in this area

Japanese Studies

Academics working in Japanese in HAL have hosted three large conferences and small seminars and symposiums periodically, often with the Japan foundation. Past speakers and visitors include Prof Makino of Princeton University, Prof Tohsaku of UCSD, Prof Kataoka of Cal State Long Beach, Professor Fukunaga and Professor Noyama, both from the National Institute of Japanese Language (Japan). They are co-hosting a symposium with Dr Sato of Princeton University (and Prof Miyazaki of Waseda University, as well as Dr Marie of UMelb, tentative) in September. Staff have been awarded grants from the Japan Foundation, Shoyu Club, Hakuho foundation and such regularly, and an ARC Linkage 2007-2010.

Supervisors in this area

Korean Studies

Staff in HAL research in Korean language and linguistics, literature, culture, and religion, and host 2-3 events a year - public lectures, language teachers’ workshops or guest seminars. They have received external grants, from Australian and Korean government agencies for research and development projects, ranging from $30,000 to $500,000. They have strong connections to other researchers across the university, who could be invited to be included in a Korean Studies supervision area, including staff from the School of Social Sciences and the Korean Research Institute in the School of Business.

Supervisors in this area

Language and Literacy Education

Language and Literacy Education, including Teaching English to speakers of other Languages (TESOL), at UNSW focuses on the learning and teaching of English, languages other than English and English as a second or additional language or dialect (EAL/D), and the implications for pedagogy, curriculum design, and assessment and evaluation in schools, community organisations and higher education institutions.

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Language Learning and Teaching

Intercultural communication, irrespective of the languages involved, has become an essential part of daily life. Language skills, cross-cultural understanding, and an ability to engage with people from other countries and cultures will give you an enriching global perspective and prepare you for an international career. The School of Humanities & Languages offers Chinese Studies, French Studies, German Studies, Japanese Studies, Korean Studies, Spanish and Latin American Studies as well as Greek and Italian.

Visit the Language Learning and Teaching discipline hub to find out more.

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Linguistics is the scientific study of language, its structure and functions. Linguists are concerned with the phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics that are the basis of all languages.

We apply linguistic theory to understand how languages are acquired both as first and second languages, and bilingually; the relationship of language and mind and how the mind processes language; the historical development of languages; the relationship between language use and social contexts; the study of discourse, and the use of language in multicultural and inter-cultural contexts of interaction.

Visit the Linguistics discipline hub to find out more.

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Maths and Science Education

Science and Mathematics Education at UNSW focuses on increasing the students’ pedagogical content knowledge to enable them to teach effectively in these discipline areas. This is intended to address the decline in student uptake of science and mathematics at senior secondary and tertiary education levels. Students are required to critically analyse current research findings and theories related to scientific and mathematical literacy, and the role of the teacher as mediator and facilitator of students’ knowledge construction. Students learn about contemporary approaches to teaching and learning, the role of ICT in science and maths education, formal and informal education; inclusive education, technology-society and trends (national and international) in school curriculum and assessment. Approaches to research in science and maths education range from experimental studies though to qualitative case studies, ethnographic research and participant inquiry.

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Media and Communications

Media and Communications is a significant, multi-faceted and interdisciplinary area of study. Media research at UNSW covers the broad spectrum from journalism, advertising, public communication and public relations to digital, mobile, social and networked media.

Higher degree candidates in media at UNSW may conduct practice-led or theoretical research.

Media researchers at UNSW investigate the professional, social, cultural, political, ethical and philosophical aspects of contemporary media technologies and practices. Researchers examine these phenomena from a range of perspectives, using qualitative, quantitative, practice-led and digital research methods. Higher degree candidates work with academics who are international leaders in their specialised fields, which include:

  • Asian media cultures
  • Media theory and cultural theory
  • Discourse analysis of media
  • Linguistic and semiotic analyses of media
  • Media and affect; media and trauma
  • Game studies
  • Transdisciplinary media and communication
  • Media and communication for development and social change
  • Media ethics
  • Digital and networked cultures (from selfies, to gaming, to online cultures of bullying and aggression)
  • Intermedial composition in creative practice
  • Media approaches to the transnational
  • Media and climate change; media and the environment

Visit the Media Studies discipline hub to find out more.

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Music at UNSW brings together composition, performance, musicology, pedagogy, and theory to research musical practices internationally.

Key areas of research include:

  • anthropology of music and ethnography (the traditional and popular musics of Australian migrants, North India, Southeast Asia and Ghana)
  • musicology
  • empirical approaches to music perception and cognition
  • emotion in music
  • musical performance
  • composition (including sonic arts)
  • performance pedagogy
  • western art music

Research students in Music can either write a full length thesis, or undertake practice based research. The former’s output is written prose; the latter’s output is a portfolio that includes a dissertation. Both involve the investigation of a significant problem within the discipline.

Visit the Music discipline hub to find out more.

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Where are they now 

Our higher degree research students have gone on to work at leading universities and in important government and industry positions:

  • Daniel Bangert is a graduate of the PhD porgram in Music.  He is now working as a Project Officer of Library Repository Services for Digital Humanities at UNSW.
  • Jennifer Butler is a graduate of the PhD program in Music.  She is now a Senior Editor of the Oxford University Press in the Melbourne Offfice
  • Christopher Coady is a graduate of the PhD program in Music.  He is currently working as a Lecturer in the Sydney Conservatorium at the University of Sydney.  
  • Amanda Harris is a graduate of the PhD program in Music.  She is now working as a Research Associate at the University of Sydney (PARADISEC).


Philosophy at UNSW is one of only few philosophy programs internationally covering three major traditions of philosophical thought: continental European, analytic, and Chinese. Drawing on the wealth of wisdom and insights in these three traditions, we ask fundamental questions concerning the nature of reality, knowledge, society and human existence. This is what you will learn to do as well when you study philosophy with us.

Philosophical questions are at the core of politics, history, law, business, peacemaking and warfare, the creative arts, literature, science and technology; and to really understand and engage with the key issues of any of these human endeavours you will need skills that philosophy specialises in. The capacity to gather, critically evaluate and organize large and complex bodies of information is ever more important in complex contemporary societies and nothing teaches you to do this better than studying philosophy.

Visit the Philosophy discipline hub to find out more.

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Politics is a broad field concerned with the study of political action, ideas, institutions and a wide variety of government and non-government actors and of how these factors interact in local, national and international arenas.

Politics research and research supervision at UNSW focuses on:

  • human rights
  • sex and gender
  • freedom of speech
  • ethics in public life
  • religion and politics
  • political theory and history of political thought
  • rhetoric and theories of political language
  • propaganda
  • political satire and humour
  • Australian politics
  • political leadership
  • public diplomacy
  • edemocracy
  • international relations theory
  • theories of war and peace
  • sovereignty
  • international institutions and law
  • ethnicity
  • religion
  • nationalism
  • citizenship
  • Indigenous political culture
  • public policy
  • federalism
  • legal theory
  • democratic theory
  • modern and contemporary continental philosophy
  • literary theory
  • business and politics
  • resource politics

Visit the Political Science discipline hub to find out more.

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Science and Technology Studies

Science and Technology Studies (STS) is a relatively new academic field within the social sciences and humanities that aims to explore, observationally or historically, how society shapes and in turn is reshaped by scientific and technological innovation.

The social sciences and humanities historically developed alongside the emergence of new industrial orders, which were based upon the novel technologies of steam based power, the railways and the factory system. Marx analysed this new technological society as it unfolded around him in mid-nineteenth century Britain. However, during the twentieth century, social science has often struggled to keep pace with new and emerging technologies. It was slow to provide intelligence and reflexive analysis of such central new features of social life as personal automobility, the splitting of the atom, and computing.

The field of science and technology studies takes the governance of science and technology as a central concern, in order to provide insights that are relevant to ongoing scientific, technological and social change. However, analysis of all ‘technosocial orders’ presents significant challenges to existing modes of social science and humanities scholarship, especially in seeking to examine a categorically social realm as distinct from physical and material elements. Historically, the academic literature has framed new scientific knowledge and technology as ‘black-boxed’ and self-sufficient, with an independent asocial logic that results in ‘impacts’ or ‘effects’. Social questions are often narrowly framed as ‘impacts’ or ‘risk’ issues, placing the site of social science inquiry firmly ‘downstream’ of innovation processes. However, the development of a series of approaches in STS have shown how technologies are part and parcel of constitutive social relations. ‘Technical’ processes often make implicit assumptions about the social uses to which the technology will be put: under what conditions, by which kinds of actor, and with what aims. Work across STS suggests that any technology is its heterogeneous, hybrid mix of material, social and discursive relations, pure and applied sciences, and social expectations or assumptions, which may assume prescriptive force. A similar argument can be made about science as an instrument in world-making and re-making that often supports existing social relations, or alternatively may disrupt them.

The field of STS is represented by major international scholarly societies, including the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S), the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST), Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA), IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology, Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), History of Science Society (HSS), British Society for the History of Science (BSHS), American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM), Japan Association for Science, Technology & Society (JASTS), Asia-Pacific Science Technology & Society Network (APSTSN), Sociedad Latinoamericana de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia (ESOCITE), Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS), Network for Science and Technology Studies in Africa (STS-Africa) and the Society for the Promotion of S&T Studies (India).

The field is also represented by committees and working groups in major international scholarly associations, including the American Sociological Association (Section on Science, Knowledge, and Technology - SKAT), American Sociological Association (Section on Environment and Technology - SKAT), International Sociological Association (Research Committee 23 - Sociology of Science and Technology), British Sociological Association (Science & Technology Studies Study Group), and American Association for the Advancement of Science (Section L, History & Philosophy of Science).

STS is widely regarded as one of the most vibrant areas of the contemporary social sciences and humanities, and has had an unparalleled influence on theoretical, conceptual and methodological advances across a broad range of fields, including the Environmental and Medical Humanities, the sociology of markets and economic sociology, cultural studies and human geography. STS is also a uniquely interdisciplinary field, drawing social science and humanities scholarship into conversation with research in the physical and natural sciences, medicine and engineering. Researchers in STS are engaged in matters of pressing public importance and policy interest whilst at the same time innovating novel forms of public engagement and deliberation around science and technology.


UNSW has a long term and established track record with STS. More recently STS scholarship has been consolidated within the Schools of Humanities and Languages and Social Sciences with eleven active researchers based in the faculty of Arts and Social Science. More broadly STS researcher are also based in the schools of Education, Arts and Design, Public Health and Community Medicine and Law.

In recent years researchers working in STS have generated significant grant success, and developed cross-faculty collaborations with engineering, science and medicine in a range of areas of scientific research and innovation.

With its emphasis on interdisciplinary exchange and societal engagement, on matters of timely public importance, STS is also ideally placed to contribute to UNSW’s 2025 strategy.

UNSW’s profile in STS research will also be consolidated by hosting the 2018 meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S), co-hosted with the Asia-Pacific Science Technology & Society Network

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Social Research and Policy

Social Work

Sociology and Anthropology

The fields of Sociology and Anthropology study the social and cultural realities, conflicts and challenges of life in its many forms.

Sociology and Anthropology at UNSW is known for its expertise in critical theory, feminist theory, and classical and contemporary social theory along with its concern for community engagement, social justice and ethical praxis.

Our higher degree research students produce original research on questions to do with Indigenous Australia, political communication and media sociology, the ontological ground of the ‘social’ and the ‘human’, human rights and citizenship, cinema and cultural sociology.

Visit the Sociology and Anthropology discipline hub to find out more.

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Special and Inclusive Education

Special Education at UNSW is particularly interested in addressing issues in special education across the lifespan of people with disabilities.

Theoretical frameworks from the fields of education, disability studies, assistive technology, and the behavioural sciences inform research and teaching at all levels of teacher education.

This group aims to enrich the lives of children, adolescents and adults with disabilities by providing evidence-based supports to help them succeed in inclusive environments at school, home and in the community.

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Where are they now 

Our higher degree research students have gone on to work at leading universities and in important government and industry positions:

  • Saira Hossain completed a Masters of Education by Research.  Her thesis was on students' subjective wellbeing and school satisfaction.  She is now a Lecturer for the Department of Educational Psychology and Guidance at the Institute of Education & Research at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh.  

Teacher Professional Learning

Teacher Professional Learning aims to work alongside colleagues in the teaching profession to enhance their learning across the continuum from teacher education student to lead teacher. Most of their research projects are undertaken collaboratively with schools and we are connected to a wide virtual network.

Current research projects include a focus on mentoring and supervision in professional experience and professional learning, developing robust classroom observation protocols and instruments for all teachers, and establishing transformative agendas in teacher education with our partner schools.

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Theatre and Performance Studies

Theatre and Performance Studies investigates the live arts in all their diversity, and how they reflect and shape our sense of who we are. It explores both theatre and performance history and current trends, and all aspects of performance, including rehearsal, production and reception.

Research in Theatre and Performance Studies at UNSW focuses on contemporary theatre, including live arts, dance and media-enhanced performance. It also addresses theatre history, playwriting and popular entertainment, and is enriched by interdisciplinary collaborations with film, literature, media studies, music and the visual arts. This research is also enhanced by the Creative Practice Lab, a specialised unit in the School of the Arts and Media that hosts a wide variety of productions and closely supports practice-led experimentation.

Research students in Theatre and Performance Studies can either write a full-length thesis, or undertake practice-based research. The former’s output is written prose; the latter’s output is a portfolio that includes a creative work and a dissertation. Both involve the investigation of a significant problem within the discipline.

Visit the Theatre and Performance Studies discipline hub to find out more.

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Visual and Performing Arts

Visual and Performing Arts Education at UNSW encompasses the discrete disciplines of Visual Arts and Design, Music, Dance and Drama as articulated in school and teacher education.

As dynamic areas of research and scholarship in the UNSW School of Education they make distinctive and diverse contributions to teacher education. Necessarily, research practice and teaching in each of these disciplines is shaped by theoretical frameworks from the fields of education, philosophy and the fields of art and design, music, dance and drama.

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Women's and Gender Studies

Women’s and Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that seeks to understand and articulate how gender makes a difference - in the lives and experiences of women, as well as men; in the practices and institutions of human societies; and in the cultural products of societies, such as art and literature.

Women’s and Gender Studies at UNSW brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars offering supervision in a broad range of fields, including history, philosophy, language/linguistics, politics, anthropology, social and cultural studies.

Our higher degree research students are situated on the cutting edge of critical scholarship in their engagement with feminist, queer, critical race and other theory.

Visit the Women's and Gender Studies discipline hub to find out more.

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Social Policy Research Centre