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Welcome and overview

Welcome to the Crawford School of Public Policy in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

This handbook provides information on many aspects of your PhD candidature, covering everything from administrative and academic basics, to facilities and services, to health and safety on campus, and even Crawford PhD culture. Although the handbook is fairly comprehensive, you will still need to chase things up in more detail according to your particular question or situation. And you might like to read the handbook all of the way through. It's quite funny in parts.

Crawford PhD provides research students with more services and activities than is usual for PhD programs at the ANU, so we encourage you get involved in all that is offered, whether it be research seminars, public lectures, afternoon teas, or bushwalks. Your candidature will be what you make it, so make the most of your time in the School!

We trust that you will have a positive experience as a research student in the Crawford School.

The Crawford PhD ethic

The ultimate purpose of our work at Crawford PhD is to get you to finish your degree in the shortest time possible with the least hassle necessary. But that takes more than good admin and good supervision: it also takes good community members who look out for each other in an ethic of mutual care and responsibility.

So with good will and in good faith, get to know your fellow students -- get to know about their lives and their research, and if you notice that someone is struggling, take the time to have a chat or to tell someone about it. Anything discussed with a Crawford PhD staff member will be treated in confidence, so whether its your problem or someone else's problem, flag it with us. Problems left unattended only get worse (you already know this), so get help early.

This ethic also extends to less-humane considerations and to more prosaic, everyday ones. If you experience a problem with a printer, don't just walk away, report it; if the Common Room is a bit messy, straighten it; and if a copier is out of paper, order more. These little things are within all our power to do.

The Crawford PhD workplace environment

Let it be said at the outset that although the staff at Crawford PhD want to give you as positive and as smooth a PhD ride as possible, they do have their limits: academic staff are not only supervising you (and others), but also teaching graduate coursework, conducting their own research, sitting on committees, endlessly filling out forms (as you will be, too), writing, revising, publishing, applying for grants, doing their own photocopying, and, probably, running their own household; admin staff (aka 'professional staff') are not only helping in the administration of your degree but also the degrees of all the students in the entire College of Asia and the Pacific, and something similar can be said for professional IT and Facilities staff.

All this means that, depending on the kind of academic or work background you have come from, you might be surprised by how much isn't done for you at university in Australia, which is really just a way of saying that you will probably have to be quite pro-active during your candidature and that you will often have to help yourself. If, for example, a printer isn't working, don't leave it for Someone Else to fix, because there usually is no Someone Else: you are it. Instead, log a job with the ANU's IT Service Desk and ask them to address the problem. If you don't have building access, ask for it. If the building heating or airconditioning isn't working, report it.

You will experience hassles, frustrations, and problems along the way. But if everyone takes the Crawford PhD ethic seriously -- that is, if we all act according to some idea of mutual care and responsibility -- then you will have a much finer time of it.

Making the transition from work back to study

Most of Crawford's PhD students are mature-age students who have been out of the Academy for some time. You may have worked as a practioner in the public service, an NGO, a private firm, or similar and may have written quite a lot (reports, briefings, manuals, etc.) on your current area of research and indeed have achieved quite high status in your organisation or field. There are two main things to say, here.

The first is that, regardless of your background, you are starting all over again when it comes to the PhD. This can be a little confronting when you realise that you are a 'newbie' and that people aren't aware of your past work. To make matters worse, when you first arrive and are assigned a desk, you will likely be in a large office full of other first-year PhD students.

Secondly, a good number of students initially have trouble making the transition from practice back into research -- and there is a difference between practioner-based research and academic-based research. The former tends to focus on 'on-the-ground' solutions to practical problems, leading you to present a set of recommendations that seek to address those problems; this may even take the form of advocacy. The latter focuses far more on theoretical and conceptual conundrums that help us understand the problem better in an intellectual sense, and is never advocacy. Although recommendations are made in academic work, they are usually recommendations for future academic investigation, and not recommendations for how a policy needs to be modified, or how environmental outcomes could better be delivered. The difference might appear to be subtle, and in some cases it is, but in most cases there is a firm line between practice and academic work, between advocacy and intellectual problem-solving.

If you are struggling with this transition, talk to someone about how they've handled things, for example a later-year PhD student, or seek advice from your supervisor or the PhD Academic and Research Skills Advisor.

Some basic advice

Generally speaking, the students who succeed the most at their degree (that is, those who finish quickest with the least angst) are those who treat the PhD more-or-less like a job they are happy in: they work eight hours a day, five days a week, have a good relationship with their supervisor, make good use of the services supplied to them, have weekends off, and take recreation leave. And they are organised and have good time-management skills. Those who struggle the most are those who lack structure to their day and their week, who never take a break, who find the supervisory relationship difficult, and for whom the PhD becomes an all-consuming brute that seizes every moment of their waking and dreaming lives. Yes, this could be you if you are not careful. The former student is often confident, efficient, and effective. The latter student often feels directionless, overwhelmed, and anxious. Some basic advice, therefore, is:

Smart people will follow this advice. You are doing a PhD, so you are smart. You can work the rest out yourself.