PhD/Masters Scholarships for Hot Topics in Law, University of Tasmania, Australia

Publish Date: Mar 27, 2017

Deadline: Apr 10, 2017

PhD/Masters Scholarships for Hot Topics

The Faculty of Law is offering one or more scholarships for outstanding students to undertake a Masters of Law by Research or a PhD in one of the three areas of law listed below. Interested students should first contact the supervisors nominated for each topic. For general inquiries about postgraduate research enrolment with the Faculty of Law please contact our Graduate Research Coordinator, Dr Olivia Rundle: Closing date for "Paris Climate Agreement: Justice and Effectiveness" is: 10 April 2017


The following eligibility criteria apply to these scholarships:

  • The scholarship is open to Australian (domestic) candidates and to International candidates.
  • The PhD must be undertaken on a full-time basis.
  • Applicants must already have been awarded a first class Honours degree or hold equivalent qualifications or relevant and substantial research experience in an appropriate sector.
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong research and analytical skills.

Candidates from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply.  Knowledge and skills that will be ranked highly include:

  • Legal service delivery
  • Qualitative research methods, particularly in depth interviewing


These PhD scholarship are funded by the University of Tasmania.

Application Process:

Applicants should visit the Apply on the official website and complete an application via the University of Tasmania's Online Application System. Please indicate under Scholarship Support that you would like to be considered for a particular hot topic living allowance scholarship.

Tracing the Impact of Legal Education in Australia: The Nexus Between Legal Scholarship and Criminal Law and Practice

In the last sixty years one of the most important developments in law has been the movement of legal education into universities. And yet scholars have only just begun to investigate how this shift influenced the shape and practice of law.

Take, for example, Australia’s first substantial criminal law textbook authored by Peter Brett and Louis Waller (1961). It encouraged students to critically appraise Australia’s criminal laws and consider their moral underpinnings.  Based on strong liberal, progressive and reformist foundations it had the potential to change the criminal law and the model of a criminal lawyer. The book resembled some US criminal law textbooks that, scholars now argue, encouraged students to become policy advisors rather than criminal lawyers.

This highly original thesis will explore the nexus between legal education, and, criminal law and practice. It will investigate whether legal education and scholarship (a) led to substantial reforms based on new ideas of the concept of law and lawyering and (b) framed important issues such as the need for codification and the mental element in crime.

Expressions of interest are invited from outstanding law graduates with first class honours (or equivalent). The successful candidate will be assisted to produce high quality publications and to tailor their project to advance their career interests in academia or policy formation. Distance research is feasible (based outside of Hobart) depending on alignment between the candidate’s research skills and the topic.

Climate-Adaptive Law for Marine and Coastal Biodiversity and Resource Conservation

Climate change is projected to have profound effects on the marine and coastal environment, through warming waters, changes to ocean currents, coastal inundation and ocean acidification. Species distributions will change dramatically. For some their range will expand, for others it will contract. The interactions between these new species assemblages is difficult to assess and the impacts even harder to address in the dynamic marine context. A growing body of work has investigated the adequacy of terrestrial conservation policies and laws to address the threats from climate change. By contrast, there is little understanding of how well current approaches to regulating the coastal and marine environment - in Australia or elsewhere  - address the imperatives of climate change adaptation. This project would compare approaches to marine resource conservation law internationally to identify reform priorities for Australian coastal, fisheries, and biodiversity laws.

Fisheries Law and Governance

We are seeking high quality candidates interested in pursuing PhD studies in marine governance, to complement our work on climate change adaptation and the role of law and governance in promoting the resilience of Australia’s terrestrial and marine resources. These are priority areas within the Faculty of Law, the Centre for Marine Socioecology and the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of Tasmania.

The ideal candidate will have a background in Environmental Governance, Law, Policy or a related discipline, preferably with experience in, or knowledge of, quantitative and qualitative social research methods. They will have; (i) a proven ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment, (ii) strong written and oral communication skills and (iii) experience in managing research projects.  They will also have a demonstrated ability to work as a constructive and positive member of a team.

Interested candidates are encouraged to contact the research leads to discuss their individual ideas where they align with the broader themes of these positions: 

  1. Building capacity for the collaborative governance of marine resources

    Collaborative and networked approaches to environmental governance are increasingly recognised as an effective mechanism for enhancing the sustainable management of ecological goods and services.  For example, by improving stakeholder participation they facilitate learning, complex adaptive thinking and knowledge exchange among network members.  Collaborative governance approaches also allow decision-makers to capitalise on scale specific knowledge (e.g.- traditional and local knowledge) to develop management interventions that account for local worldviews, thus increasing their acceptance.   However, despite increased interest in collaborative approaches to governance, the features that influence their effectiveness and efficiency are largely unknown.  As such we cannot identify the conditions under which their application is most suited, or develop strategies to optimise their implementation. To address this knowledge gap this project will determine the individual, organisational, social, political, material, technical, practical and financial elements required to optimise collaborative governance processes.  This will be achieved through the in-depth evaluation of a range of collaborative marine governance case-studies. In so doing, this study will develop design criteria to enhance the success of collaborative governance processes.

  2. Understanding and managing issues of power in collaborative marine governance arrangements.

Despite the benefits offered by collaborative governance processes, they can be adversely affected by power imbalances among members of the network. For example, power imbalances can marginalise certain groups from participating in governance processes or steer groups towards predetermined and/or detrimental outcomes.  Thus, issues associated with power have the potential to undermine collaborative governance systems, resulting in inadequate and/or agenda driven decision-making processes with adverse downstream impacts to society (Juntti et al, 2009).   However, while the influence of power on environmental governance processes is well established, the mechanisms for mediating power imbalances are less certain.  To address this knowledge gap this project will seek to understand how power is conceptualised and manifested within collaborative governance systems, and the associated consequences for stakeholder interactions and the overall functioning of the governance network. This will be achieved via a series of in-depth case studies, utilising techniques such as powercube and similar power analysis frameworks (see Pantazidou, 2012).  Having identified specific power issues in selected case studies, the project will also identify, test and refine suitable options for managing issues associated with power in governance systems.

Restorative justice, diversion and cyber-sexual offending by young people

With the advent of the internet and cheap digital cameras new methods have emerged by which sexual offending can be perpetrated. In the context of young people, much attention has been paid to “sexting” and the boundaries between

  • the exploitative (such as using social media to distribute a photo of someone in a sexual pose without their consent), and
  • the consensual (such as young people sending images to their intimate partners).

Criticisms have been levelled at the criminal justice system for failing to properly navigate between the two categories. Different concerns have been raised by sexual assault practitioners about what are often loosely termed “restorative practices” in schools. Anecdotal reports indicate that schools may sometimes use their own restorative models to respond to exploitative cyber-sexual behaviours; it is claimed these models are ill-equipped to respond to the complexity of such behaviours and that, in some instances, the behaviours ought to be referred to police. This PhD will critically examine aspects of these dynamics with empirical and legal research methods.

Expressions of interest are invited from outstanding law graduates with first class honours (or equivalent). The successful candidate will be assisted to produce high quality publications and to tailor their project to advance their career interests in academia or policy formation. Distance research is feasible (based outside of Hobart) depending on alignment between the candidate’s research skills and the topic.

Science, International Law and the Global Commons: How Can we Make Scientific Rules More Effective in International Law?

This project considers the use (and misuse) of science in international commons law and governance; that is how science informs and defines international laws relating to the atmosphere, climate system, oceans and so on. Those with an interest in, and willingness to develop knowledge about international law, legal theory and philosophy of law and science are encouraged to apply.

The global commons are under significant pressure from human activity. This is despite comprehensive international laws whose objects are to protect and cooperatively govern these shared resources. There are a range of reasons for this, but one relatively unexplored legal problem is the challenging intersection of law and science within those regimes.

Science is key to identifying the nature, source and appropriate responses to anthropocentric risks to the global ecosystem. Yet science rarely yields definitive answers and, by its nature, is often subject to debate and disagreement. Indeed, as the recent ICJ Whaling Case between Australia and Japan shows, even the very notion of science – and how we distinguish it from other ‘unscientific’ activities such as commercial hunting – is unclear.

The rule of law requires that laws are clear, certain, predictable and capable of external adjudication. These outcomes can be undermined when the subject matter they rely upon is contested and nebulous. Legal obligations are only as certain as the decision making criteria and interpretative rules that define them. This project will consider how we can improve our approach to legal interpretation and adjudication of legal obligations that rely on science to protect the global commons.

Legal and Ethical Issues in Clinical Trial Governance

Clinical trials are essential for ensuring that patients receive safe and effective medical care. However, trials of new products and devices can pose risks to research subjects. In Australia, considerable frameworks are in place to ensure that research only proceeds where its benefits outweigh its risks. These include through initial review of all research involving humans by dedicated Human Research Ethics Committees in accordance with criteria set out in the National Health and Medical Research Council National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007). Once a trial commences, Data and Safety Monitoring Boards are often established to assess emerging safety or efficacy issues and recommend changes to the trial (or, sometimes, trial termination) to ensure ongoing acceptability. Much work remains to be done to ensure that these processes are functioning effectively.

The PhD project could address one of a number of topics in clinical trial governance including (but not limited to)

  • The role and functioning of Human Research Ethics Committees in assessing the ethical acceptability of clinical trials;
  • Regulatory frameworks for monitoring the risks and benefits of clinical trials
  • Strategies for assessing the ethical acceptability of trials using emerging technologies, such as synthetic biology and gene editing.

Candidates should have a first class honours or equivalent in law, philosophy or a related discipline. Medical or scientific knowledge is desirable but not essential. Distance research is feasible (based outside of Hobart) depending on alignment between the candidate’s research skills and the topic.

Putting the Trust into Land Administration via the Blockchain – Hyperbole or Hope?

Two types of land administration systems dominate global thinking. The first, a recording based system, establishes a process whereby the recording of a valid transaction establishes priority to that recording but does not validate an otherwise void transaction.  The second, registration based systems, not only prioritise the transaction but the act of registration is the moment at which the interest is created and given full legal effect. Both systems, however, require that the verification of the identity of the person selling the interest in the land is established; that the system authenticates that this person owns the interest, and, that this person controls the right to deal with that interest. Combined, these elements establish the trust needed in a land transaction. With identity fraud a major concern for land administration, for some, blockchains, the security protocols behind bitcoins, offer a process by which this trust can be established, or, conversely, it establishes a trustless sytem. Some countries have already moved in this direction with Sweden and the Republic of Georgia moving to integrate blockchains into their land administration. But is it hype or hope? The PhD project will interest people working in land administration, academia, or the private sector.

The Paris Climate Agreement: Justice and Effectiveness

The Paris climate agreement concluded in December 2015 contains non-binding (soft) obligations on parties to implement national mitigation pledges (so-called "nationally determined contributions"). While conclusion of the agreement has been greeted with considerable euphoria, there are serious questions about whether this form of agreement is likely to be effective in terms of its stated goal of keeping global warming between 1.5 or 2°C. While there has been a considerable literature on the relative effectiveness of hard compared to soft law, there has been little research done in this field since early 2000. Moreover, there is a paucity of literature addressing the question of whether it is necessary to have obligations in hard form to deliver justice - both international and intergenerational. Given the importance for the global ecological system - and humanity - of an effective global climate agreement, the time is ripe for conducting research on this vital question.

This project would involve an assessment of the justice and likely effectiveness of the Paris climate agreement. Justice would be considered to include both international and intergenerational dimensions. The research would involve: i) application of the existing climate justice literature, ii)  a careful analysis of the existing international relations literature relating to the relative effectiveness of hard cf soft obligations, and iii) a case study involving an empirical assessment of hard international treaties containing soft obligations (similar to the Paris agreement). 

Applicants with backgrounds in law, philosophy, or international relations are invited to apply. There is scope within this project for some of the research to be undertaken at the University of Tilburg, in the Netherlands.

The PhD experience will be based in the unique city of Hobart, Tasmania, an international centre for Oceans and Antarctic research and a leading place for environmental law research and teaching within Australia. Hobart is the home of the CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Divisions and the Australian Antarctic Division. Hobart is also the capital of Tasmania, home to a world-class art museum, centre of a flourishing local gourmet food culture and gateway to world heritage listed national parks in Southern Tasmania.

What Drives Lawyer Behaviour in Dispute Settlement?

The lack of clarity about what lawyers ought to be doing in consensus based dispute resolution processes can contribute to widely variable ideas about the boundaries of ethical behaviour in negotiation, mediation and other dispute resolution processes. Factors that influence lawyers' behaviour are likely to include: lawyers' professional identity, conceptualisation of their professional responsibilities, guidelines, client demands, time pressures, billing pressures, skills, training, and personality.

This project will fill an important gap in the research into drivers of lawyer behavior in dispute settlement. Understanding the practitioner's perspective would make an important contribution to the field of non-judicial dispute resolution.

Has Diversity Within the Legal Profession Changed the Character of Legal Knowledge?

In the second half of the twentieth century the size and composition of Australia’s legal profession grew considerably. For the first time women and minority groups held positions in law and could contribute to its operation within society. Despite a growing number of studies of diversity in law, few have considered the ways that this may have changed the character of legal knowledge and the way that law is taught and practiced. Generalisations are often made to suggest, for example, that while there has been some movement away from viewing law as an autonomous and largely doctrinal discipline, this has not resulted in radical changes. There is a need for more studies that provide detailed contextual analysis of the way that key figures, groups and movements have contributed to the content and boundaries of knowledge within law.

Outstanding law graduates with first class honours are invited to discuss a PhD topic that addresses this need. Candidates should have a strong interest in legal reasoning, legal and intellectual history and the role of lawyers in society.The project might consist of comparative studies, focus on an aspect of practice or legal education and address one or more kinds of diversity.

Relationships with Clients in Tasmanian Legal Service Delivery

The legal services industry is dynamic and there are significant changes occurring on an international scale in the way lawyers interact with their clients. This is largely driven by corporate client demand for more efficient and effective legal services, greater participation in dispute resolution, and a breakdown in the elite status of the legal profession. In Tasmania the legal services market is primarily comprised of small to medium sized firms who represent individuals and small to medium sized businesses. This could mean that lawyers tend to be in a powerful position as compared to their clients, and that there has not been as much pressure to alter traditional methods and manners of client engagement as has occurred in large multinational corporate legal environments. This project seeks to identify and analyse the ways that Tasmanian legal practitioners have traditionally interacted with their clients, consider whether that relationship is changing, or whether it must respond to changes in the market, law and society. This will be informed by the contemporary and future needs of the profession, clients and the administration of justice in Tasmania. Ideally the project will obtain the client as well as lawyers’ perspective on the lawyer-client relationship.

Case Management Practices in Tasmanian Civil Litigation

Case management strategies have been adopted by courts to proactively manage the timeliness and fairness of litigation practice. These include formal case management processes, greater use of cost penalties, court-connected dispute resolution, and alternative means of receiving evidence. In Tasmania subordinate legislation such as Magistrates Court (Civil Division) Rule 4, applying to the conduct of proceedings of the Magistrates Court, and Supreme Court Rule 414A, which only applies to case management procedures, apply to encourage a focus upon justice and efficiency in case management decision making. The Magistrates Court Rules also contain prescribed cost penalties for failing to make or accept reasonable offers. Prospective candidates are invited to explore a specific topic within the realm of case management. For example:

  • How do rules 4 and/or 414A influence the behaviour of litigation lawyers and/or judicial officers?
  • To what extent do Tasmanian litigation lawyers engage with case management goals when representing their clients in civil litigation matters?
  • What role do cost penalties play in promoting efficient and fair resolution of civil litigation in Tasmania?

It is anticipated that the specific topic will be developed in consultation with members of the legal profession and/or court as well as prospective supervisors.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Governance

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plays an increasingly influential role in shaping the environmental behaviour of business corporations. Their environmental activities are often not merely governed by legislation but also by the voluntary codes developed by industry groups, by individual corporate environmental policies and through relationships with local communities and other stakeholders. These trends have become particularly salient in Australia, such as in the mining sector as well as among financial institutions including banks. Amidst concerns about climate change, some Australian banks are under increasing pressure not to finance coal mining projects. In the biotechnology sector, CSR initiatives may lead to environmental improvements. The relationship between the private governance of CSR and public environmental regulation and company law is also a matter of growing scholarly debate and research.

The PhD project could address one of a number of topics in the field of CSR including:

  • governance of corporate branding and marketing to support environmental CSR;
  • responsible corporate management of biological cultural resources and technologies (traditional medicines, cultural agriculture and food production);
  • climate change mitigation technology innovations and intellectual property law;
  • socially responsibly investing to leverage positive change towards environmental sustainability;
  • plant variety and related intellectual property protection in CSR for agribusiness, biotech and other industries;
  • corporate hybrids (benefit corporations and community contribution companies) as a new means of CSR.

The project will interest candidates with a background in business law, intellectual property law or environmental law who are planning careers in Australia or abroad working in the corporate sector, government, non-governmental organisations and academia.

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below. 

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