It's well-known that the philosophy program at the Australian National University is one of the best in the world. (See e.g. the Gourmet Report, where ANU is ranked something like seventh internationally.) But as I've discovered since moving here, ANU doesn't receive remotely as many applications for its Ph.D. program as a comparable program in the US. Obviously many international students don't think about applying to ANU, partly because of distance and because of a different application schedule. But at the same time, this means that it presents students with a great opportunity to get into a strong program. This entry is part of an attempt to raise the visibility of the program as a destination for prospective Ph.D. students. (If you don't like advertising, feel free to stop reading now!)
First, the joys of the program. A look at the Gourmet specialty rankings will show that ANU is especially strong (i.e. in a tie for first or second internationally) in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of cognitive science, the philosophy of biology, and applied ethics. It is also very strong in metaphysics, meta-ethics, and political philosophy (top ten) and the philosophy of language, the philosophy of science, and decision theory (top fifteen). In addition, I think it's fair to say that for the philosophy of consciousness specifically, there is an unmatched group of people working in the area.
There are actually a number of different Ph.D. programs in philosophy at ANU, including one in RSSS (the Research School of Social Sciences, where I'm located), an associated Social and Political Theory program in RSSS, a philosophy program in the School of Humanities, and one in CAPPE (the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics). These programs share a common application process,
but you need to specify which program you are applying to. For most of
the areas mentioned above, the strongest program is in RSSS, but the
others also have areas of strength (e.g. in applied ethics and political philosophy, students should consider applying to CAPPE and SPT respectively). I should also note that some students in the
other programs have a fair degree of involvement with RSSS, so that the
boundaries are somewhat fluid.
The one major downside of the ANU program compared to an international program is that there is no coursework. It's a research-only degree lasting 3-4 years, as opposed to a coursework degree lasting 5-6 years. This is a significant factor, as coursework has an important role. But the associated upside is that for a student who already has a significant amount of coursework under their belt (say, a couple of years in a US Ph.D. or MA program, or even an Australian Honours degree), the ANU program provides an opportunity to complete a research degree in a superb department, without starting from scratch as one might have to if switching to a new coursework Ph.D. program. It's also worth pointing out that there are some courses available via the Honours program in the School of Humanities (e.g. Daniel Stoljar has just taught a course there), which RSSS students are able to take. There are also regular reading groups in all sorts of areas that play some of the role of graduate seminars, albeit more informally.
I should also note that the philosophy program in RSSS is famous for its liveliness. There's a well-attended morning tea and afternoon tea in a beautiful setting every day, at least two talks per week, regular conferences and workshops, along with the regular reading groups and other activities (not to mention copious amounts of food and drink). The faculty members are around and available, and there's also a regular stream of visitors (see here for the 2003 and 2005 lists), who often stay around for a long time and are very active in the life of the program. This provides a unique opportunity for Ph.D. students to interact with and learn from well-known philosophers.
Nuts and bolts: if you're interested in applying, the web page on ANU graduate studies in philosophy is a good starting point. If you want to receive a scholarship (covering tuition fees and living expenses), there are three main application deadlines. For applicants from Australia and New Zealand, the deadlines are June 17 (a few days away!), for the smaller mid-year round, and October 31, for the larger end-of-year round. For international applicants, the deadline is August 30, for international scholarships. If you have funding from some other source so that you don't need a scholarship, you can apply any time.
OK, enough advertising. If you're a student interested in relevant areas, think about applying. If you teach students who are interested in these areas, thinking about mentioning ANU to them. If you have any questions about this, feel free to e-mail me.