2018 Scientia PhD Scholarships | Law

2018 Scientia PhD Scholarships

UNSW Scientia research recruitment

UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme 

The Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme directly underpins the UNSW Strategy 2025 goals and will enrol up to 700 new PhD scholars of exceptional quality over the next 10 years.

UNSW’s 2025 Strategy states that our aspiration is to be recognised as an international exemplar in equity, diversity and inclusion. Our aim is to achieve this by embracing the diversity and cultural richness of our communities; ensuring that our staff and students can achieve their full potential in a supportive and inclusive work environment. Our diversity commitment aligns to our strong sense of social responsibility and our belief that a diverse workforce enhances our ability to deliver world-class research, teaching excellence and thought leadership.  UNSW is committed to admitting and supporting candidates of high potential regardless of background. In particular, we aim to increase the intake and retention of indigenous candidates.

This scheme is for new PhD scholars of exceptional quality to work on research projects aligned with UNSW’s ten year strategy. These prestigious scholarships offer unique benefits, individualised support and guaranteed funding to reach your personal development goals. Candidates will be matched with our best researchers in targeted areas of research strength and with demonstrated excellence in supervision. Priority research areas are grouped under UNSW’s areas of research strengths. Interdisciplinary proposals linking two or more areas of research strength will be encouraged, as will research areas that incorporate engagement with end-users of research (knowledge exchange). Indigenous research areas have also been strongly encouraged. Indigenous applicants are encouraged to apply for any of the research topics listed. 

Both international and domestic applications are strongly encouraged. The split between domestic and international will be determined solely on excellence and meeting disciplinary and strategic selection criteria.

These prestigious scholarships include a stipend of $40,000 per annum for 4 years and a support package of up to $10,000 per annum awarded to provide support for development activities, international collaboration and other related expenses.


You can select from UNSW 2025 Strategy priority areas, or areas of UNSW research strength, for Law these are outlined below.

Strategic AreaTopicPrimary contact for supervision arrangements
Grand Challenges

1. Climate Change and International Protection of Biodiversity

This project will examine the implications of climate change for global regimes for the conservation and management of biodiversity focusing on issues of institutional/regime resilience, including: the structural limitations of international biodiversity regimes; factors affecting their institutional robustness; measures adopted by these regimes in response to climate change; and possible opportunities for the promotion of improved governance of biodiversity in a climate changed world. The project will contribute to the future design of adaptation and mitigation measures in the biodiversity context at both the national and international level.

Professor Rosemary Rayfuse

2. Aboriginal Activism and Law Reform

Since 1901, major constitutional and public law reforms with respect to Indigenous rights have come about as a consequence of Aboriginal activism, yet little has been done to properly map the direct link between activism and reform. This project will explore the constitutional and public law reforms that have been initiated and achieved as a consequence of Aboriginal protest and activism. By providing a better understanding of how protest and activism has achieved these reforms, the project will contribute to ongoing debates about how the Australian liberal democracy can best accommodate the interests of Indigenous peoples within existing political institutions and the adversarial mechanism of Parliament.

Associate Professor Gabrielle Appleby


3. Compulsory Racial Segregation, Rugby League and Aboriginal Identity 

Australia's period of compulsory racial segregation for Aboriginal people is a lesser known era in Australian history that profoundly shaped Aboriginal experience and identity. It involved complex statutory regimes of "care and protection" restricting Aboriginal freedoms. The introduction of rugby league into NSW and QLD provided an avenue for Aboriginal people to leave the confined boundaries of the reserve system, culminating in the annual NSW Aboriginal Knock Out: the largest gathering of Aboriginal people in Australia. As a PhD researcher you will explore the legislative conditions surrounding this earlier period that ultimately influenced the development of Aboriginal culture and identity.

Associate Professor Reuben Bolt


4. Supporting Economic Development on Indigenous Land

Over the last 50 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups have achieved property rights over about 30% of Australia. This research will explore the opportunities, risks and impediments to community-led economic development on that land, whether native title or statutory land rights. Those impediments include the way property rights are recognised, land ownership structures, planning regimes and the widespread use of informal tenure in residential communities. The project will contribute to a policy debate vital to Australia and the future of its First Peoples, including whether land-related reforms can help realise Indigenous aspirations for greater economic security and self-sufficiency.

Dr Leon Terrill

Interdisciplinary research

5. Gender and Constitutions

The project will investigate the way in which constitutions can work to shape democratic policies and politics that are more equal and inclusive from a gender perspective.  It will consider the role of gender-sensitive approaches to constitutional drafting, as well as the legal and political institutional structures that help promote the effective implementation of constitutional commitments to gender equality and justice.  To do so, it will engage cutting edge approaches in comparative constitutional law and politics, and combine gender theory and either large-n or small-n empirical work.  It will contribute to a broader research-agenda on the intersection of law, politics and gender.

Professor Rosalind Dixon

Interdisciplinary research

6. Law and Ethics of Decision Making in Digital Humanitarianism

This project addresses the problem of how to distribute humanitarian aid using data science without undermining equity or legitimacy, and how to reconcile decisions so made with legal and ethical considerations. This interdisciplinary research will focus on the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), investigating decision-making practices, related communications, and evidence used when OCHA decisions are informed by data science. The research combines qualitative social science methods (socio-legal, ethnographic techniques) and inquiry into the legal and other normative frameworks within which OCHA decision-making takes place.

Professor Fleur Johns

Interdisciplinary research

7. Business and Human Rights

In a global economy, companies often operate in jurisdictions where governments are either unable or unwilling to uphold even basic human rights. In this context, the question is why some companies promote human rights while others violate them; as well as what role(s) companies, governments and citizens can play in generating positive human rights outcomes. This project therefore examines issues within the regulatory framework that ground the business and human rights debate. The project highlights the business, legal and social challenges faced by companies, governments and citizens in improving respect for human rights. These issues include governance, transparency, accountability, remedy, international and domestic regulation and supply chain management. 

Associate Professor Justine Nolan
Interdisciplinary research

8. Regulatory Practices and'Subversive' Users of Urban Spaces

This project will investigate the relationship between'subversive' users of urban spaces (incl. street art,yarn bombing, rough sleeping,skateboarding,protesting, alcohol consumption, nightlife reveling) and the construction of'legitimate' public behaviours. The project will explore multiple dimensions of the construction of legitimacy, including state regulatory strategies ofcriminalisation, policing, and surveillance; the interventions of local government and the private sector in the night-time economy; and media and wider community perspectives. The relationship between 'subversion' and inclusive participatory democracy for marginalised groups will be a key focus of the project, as will the role of technology and media in the construction of 'virtual' public spaces. The project will involve a mixed methods research design including socio-legal research, field work/ethnography, and media and policy analysis around contested uses of public space in Sydney and other selected urban and regional/rural settings.

Professor Luke McNamara
Law, Business and Economics

9. China International Business and Economic Law

China’s complex participation in international economic legal order and its relationship with partners is crucial to the future of world economy and development. It is imperative to better understand the legal dimensions of this participation and relationship. Focusing on cutting-edge legal issues, this project aims to lead that effort around the world. UNSW Law’s CIBEL (China International Business and Economic Law) Initiative makes UNSW the world’s leading centre outside China for CIBEL matters, and will support wide-ranging research from the perspective of public and/or private law (e.g. international economic law relating to China, Fintech, and comparative corporate or financial law).

Associate Professor Charlie Xiao-Chuan Weng
Law, Business and Economics

10. Reinventing Intellectual Property

Innovation in the twenty-first century has, for the most part, progressed by work-arounds with respect to IP laws. IP categories and boundaries are being stretched as laws are asked to serve very different technological and information practices. Privacy, data security, telecommunications regulation, information ethics and human rights regimes also create additional pressures on those that seek to mobilise information flows for public and private purposes. Research into ‘reconceiving IP’ seeks to explore the transformation of the legal landscape that is occurring and our changing aspirations for laws that regulate science, technology and culture and impact knowledge creation and dissemination. 

Professor Kathy Bowrey
Law, Business and Economics

11. Social Business and Sustainable Development: Inequality and Governance in Implementing the SDGs

The project will explore alternative participatory approaches towards the implementation and evaluation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that maximise synergies and limit trade-offs between them. Research will focus on the potential of social business, preferably in the domain of either renewable energy or the contribution of clean water and sanitation to maternal health, to:  
i) Create or embed governance processes and design principles that address the structural or root causes of unsustainable development ii) Contribute to context-specific, evidence-based guidelines for an ‘action-to-knowledge’ framework for implementing and evaluating SDGs especially SDGs 3 (health) , 6 (water), 7 (energy) and 10 (inequalities).

Professor Bronwen Morgan
Law, Business and Economics

12. Social Media, Courts and Community

The successful candidate will critically analyse the impact of social media on the dispensing of justice and the daily workings of courts through a contemporary case study. Social media’s historically unparalleled potential to impact profoundly on the administration of justice and on courts’ relationship with the community has received little attention even though it has transformed traditional media, including at times displacing it. It is a dimension of technology that has pervasively, and sometimes perversely, impacted upon most sectors of society. This project’s pioneering study of social media within a legal framework is critical and timely.

Professor Jill Hunter
Law, Business and Economics

13. Supranational Criminal Law and its Application to Complex Criminal Trials

International criminal law (ICL) is often studied within its international legal context, with less attention being given to understanding ICL as a form of criminal law. This project addresses this gap by investigating how national justice systems can benefit from innovations in international justice systems, and vice versa. The project will contribute to a better quality of justice in national and international systems, particularly in complex trials (for example terrorism, mass atrocities, organised crime) and lead to improved fair trial rights for defendants, better procedural protections for victims, and enhanced justice outcomes for affected communities.

Dr Nicola McGarrity
Social Justice, Government and Health Policy

14. Security, Precarious Populations and the Neoliberal Age

Security has dominated politics in the Global North since the new millennium, and this has often had a major impact on precarious populations, including refugees and religious and ethnic minorities.  The rise of security politics has occurred at a time that political discourse and practice have also been heavily influenced by neoliberalism.  This project examines the reasons for the securitisation of politics and the state’s relation to marginal social groups in the neoliberal age.  It will do so by drawing on the insights of critical legal theory, and examining one or more relevant fields of law/policy (e.g. migration, counter-terrorism, crime).

Dr Daniel McLoughlin

Further information on these areas can be found on the FAQ page.

We encourage you to explore further how a career at Australia's global university can help make a difference to the lives of people around the world.

Apply for the UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme here.