The Study of Philosophy in Australia

Australian philosophy programmes are well-respected globally. Mark Colyvan and Alan Hájek detail the structure of these programmes and how international students can apply.

Australian philosophy has had a distinguished history. A number of antipodean philosophers - among them J.J.C. Smart, David Armstrong, Frank Jackson, Graham Priest, and David Chalmers - have had a major influence internationally. Indeed, it is often said that Australia ‘punches above its weight’ in philosophy; its relatively small population belies just how much impact its philosophers have made.

The study of philosophy in Australia

“Most Australian departments have a healthy research environment with regular graduate and staff seminars and reading groups”

According to The Philosophical Gourmet Report (2014-15), a guide to choosing a philosophy graduate programme and rankings of the major programmes in the English-speaking world, the top philosophy graduate programmes in Australia are among the best in the world. In specialist areas Australian departments again are prominent among the best in the world, especially in philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, moral and political philosophy, metaphysics, philosophy of probability and decision theory, feminist philosophy, philosophical logic, and philosophy of cognitive science.

Australian graduate programmes tend to follow the British model of having no coursework, the MA and PhD degree typically being awarded solely on the basis of a thesis. Even the few departments that have some coursework components do not place nearly as much emphasis on it as American programmes do. This can be both a disadvantage and an advantage. On the one hand, students often benefit from the broader training that an American coursework degree typically offers. On the other hand, it adds a substantial amount to their completion time. Australian PhDs, for example, are typically completed a couple of years faster than their American counterparts. This is especially attractive for students who already have strong backgrounds in philosophy, or who have a good idea of their area of specialisation going in, or who are simply keen to finish their studies quickly. Most Australian departments have a healthy research environment with regular graduate and staff seminars and reading groups. This goes a considerable way towards closing the gap on the advantage resulting from the US coursework system.

Foreign students wishing to pursue a research degree in Australia will usually need to apply for various foreign student scholarships. Some of these can be sought in their home country while others are Australia-based. There is a link at the end of this article to where some of the Australia-based foreign student scholarships can be found. Students often supplement their income with tutoring work.

International undergraduate students can also study in Australia, often on exchange or ‘semester abroad’ programmes.

The Australasian Association of Philosophy is the primary organisation serving the interests of philosophers 'Down Under'. Its annual conference is one of the best of its kind, a major five-day event attracting and showcasing the work of philosophers from Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore in the first instance, but also philosophers from around the world. The Australasian Journal of Philosophy is the region’s flagship philosophy journal and one of the leading philosophy journals in the world.

AAP information about graduate study:
List of Australasian philosophy departments:

Written by Mark Colyvan and Alan Hájek (2010, updated 2016)

Professors of Philosophy

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