Postgraduate Research

The Social Policy Research Centre offers you a unique opportunity to explore and extend the theory and practice of social policy, both locally and globally, and to make a very real difference to people's lives.

At the Centre, you'll enjoy a rich, collegial culture in a stimulating and supportive environment, and the benefit of studying with a research centre internationally recognised for its excellence in social policy research and its engagement with other academics, policymakers, service providers and communities, forging effective partnerships and networks.

Our researchers are nationally and internationally recognised as the best in their field and supervise postgraduate students in a range of disciplines such as:

  • policy studies
  • political science
  • economics
  • political economy
  • law
  • public health
  • sociology
  • social work
  • education
  • cultural studies
  • gender studies


You can choose to complete a Doctor of Philosophy (Phd) or Masters by Research.

Doctor of Philosophy Produce a high quality thesis in your field of interest throughout your 3 to 4 year candidature.

Masters by Research Combine coursework with the development of a research thesis as part of this 2 to 4 year program.

How to apply

If you are interested in studying social policy at SPRC, you will need to firstly submit an expression of interest. This allows us to complete a preliminary assessment of your application and to identify whether an appropriate supervisor and resources are available.

Submitting your expression of interest:

Step 1

Ensure you satisfy the admission criteria (find out if you're eligible).

Step 2

Email our Postgraduate Coordinator with the following information:

1. A research proposal of approx. 1000 words (excluding references) which includes all of the following:

  • brief outline of the research questions you intend to address (and why they are important and original)
  • methodology you intend to use, including a short description of your theoretical approach 
  • brief critical review of the relevant literature and how your project fits within it
  • outline of the research materials you will use
  • potential costs/research resources that you anticipate you may need in the course of the proposed project and where you expect to obtain them.

2. A detailed CV which pays particular attention to your academic qualifications and whether there were any substantial independent research components in your undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Your CV should also outline your record of employment.

3. Evidence that you can meet the minimum requirements for admission, including transcripts that detail your qualifications and their grades (including the research or thesis/dissertation component), as well as information on grading systems at the awarding institutions, and evidence of your English language eligibility if relevant.

4. Sample of your written work. If you have completed a thesis/dissertation, please include this. If not, please provide copies of a published research article or long-form research essay.

5. Statement about why you wish to undertake your studies at SPRC, and to which members of staff you see your research field being most closely related.

6. Complete the Expression of Interest in Research form (PDF) [309 Kb]Note, you can send your research proposal in a separate document if it doesn’t fit in the form.


Being granted entry into the SPRC Postgraduate program does not automatically imply that you will be eligible for a competitive scholarship. For more information on fees and scholarships, see the information on the Graduate Research School website. In particular, there is a self-assessment tool which can be used to evaluate your likelihood of obtaining a scholarship.

Next steps

If we are satisfied that all of the requirements have been met, and supervision and resources are available, you will be invited to submit a formal application to the UNSW Graduate Research School.

It is important to note that an invitation to apply does not constitute an offer for admission to study at UNSW.

Application deadlines

  • Semester 1: 31 January

  • Semester 2: 30 May

Please note that late applications may be accepted.


Choosing a supervisor is an important decision.

The ideal supervisor is knowledgeable of the topic on which you plan to undertake your research, has good research skills and experience and is someone you feel you can work with.

Available supervisors and research interests

Dr Elizabeth Adamson: early childhood education and care; the social and political economy of formal and informal care; gender, migration and care. 

Dr Megan Blaxland: Australian and comparative family policy analysis. 

Dr Hazel Blunden: Housing policy, housing affordability, homelessness, inequality, the economy and treatment of real estate ownership, alternative housing forms and tenures.

Associate Professor Bruce Bradbury: measurement of living standards; child poverty and wellbeing; income support and labour market policies; consumer equivalence scales. 

Dr Natasha Cortis: organisation, delivery and evaluation of human services; social and community services sector; not-for-profit organisations; women's economic security.

Professor Lyn Craig*: time impacts of children, care and social reproduction; motherhood, fatherhood and gender equity; the division of domestic labour, work-family balance and comparative family and social policy.

Professor Karen Fisher: services in the community; disability and mental health services; project and service evaluation.

Dr Gianfranco Giuntoli: social study of health and illness, focusing on connections between wellbeing, poverty and employment transitions; how social and policy factors affect people's intra-personal and interpersonal experiences of wellbeing.

Dr Myra Hamilton: retirement incomes policy; welfare reform; the service needs and experiences of people with caring responsibilities; the perceptions and management of social risks over the lifecourse. 

Dr Fiona Hilferty: the organisation, delivery and evaluation of human services with regard to early intervention, child protection and the community services workforce.

Professor Kelley Johnson*: researching with people with disabilities, with particular interest in gender, deinstitutionalisation, community living, and sexuality and relationships. 

Professor Ilan Katz: parenting; child protection; youth justice; early intervention, prevention and family support; children and communities; social inclusion and child outcomes; comparative child welfare systems; adoption; migration; race and ethnicity; children of parents with mental illness.

Professor Susan Kippax*: sexuality; illicit drug use research; the interface between social aspects of health and illness and clinical practice.

Associate Professor Bingqin Li: urbanisation, rural-urban linkage, social inclusion and social integration, intergenerational support, rural-urban migration, technological innovation and social innovation, governance, housing policies in China and Asian countries.

Dr Marilyn McHugh: child welfare areas, specifically foster and kinship care and early intervention programs for vulnerable families.

Dr Christiane Purcal: the organisation, implementation and evaluation of social policy programs regarding informal and formal care provision.

Professor Peter Saunders: poverty and income distribution; household needs and living standards; social security reform; comparative social policy and ageing; social protection in China. 

Professor Sheila Shaver*: sociology; social policy.

Associate Professor Xiaoyuan Shang: social welfare and child protection in China. 

Dr Jen Skattebol: policies relevant to the lives of children, young people and their families. 

Dr Ciara Smyth: social policy; sociology; parenting culture.

Dr kylie valentine: impact of human services policies and programs; application of methods and concepts from the sociology of knowledge to new areas and concerns, with a special focus on social disadvantage and exclusion. 

Dr Melissa Wong: causes and consequences of poverty and income inequality; the application of social policies in developing economies; trade-poverty linkages; interactions between growth and international trade; the effects of trade on human capital accumulation and economic policies. 

*Honorary staff. Can be secondary supervisors.