Established in 1978, the Department of Political and Social Change (PSC) is a centre for teaching and research on the study of Asian politics and society.

Our faculty include leaders in their field on the political and social dynamics of Indonesia and China, and we have the highest concentration of academic staff and PhD students specialising in Indonesian politics outside of Indonesia itself.

The Department offers world-class graduate research programs focusing on political science but also drawing upon the diverse disciplinary backgrounds of our academic staff, including sociology, history and anthropology.

Our specialisations include democratisation, national and local politics, gender, conflict and conflict resolution, religious politics and political theory. We also teach courses in a range of undergraduate programs.

We regularly co-sponsor conferences, seminars, and workshops with other centres and departments, including the Indonesia Update conference, which has been held annually since 1983, and the update conferences on Vietnam, Burma/Myanmar and the Philippines. 

Research

Our experts provide regular national and international commentary on recent events and long-term trends in the region. Through to 2020, PSC edited The China Journal, currently the number-one ranked Area Studies journal in the world in impact. From 2021, The China Journal has been edited out of the Australian Centre for China in the World.

We host the New Mandala blog, a leading forum for academic and policy outreach on Southeast Asia which attracts an audience of around 2 million readers each year. Faculty of the department also publish a wide range of books, research articles in scholarly journals and commentaries and thinkpieces. 

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Asian politics is both intrinsically fascinating and of significant importance for Australia’s place in the region. The Department of Political and Social Change (PSC) provides policy relevant research and training on a wide range of topics and countries in Asia. Our faculty and students take on challenging and timely research projects from ethnic cleansing in Myanmar to the resurgence of populism in India, as well as regime change, corruption, political party development and gender politics across the region. The Department has been awarded numerous research grants to investigate important issues like the parliamentary elections in Timor Leste, civil society education efforts in Indonesia, urban transformation in China, presidentialism in Indonesia, and money politics in Southeast Asia – among many other topics.

Education

The Department of Political and Social Change (PSC) is a leader in the training of the next generation of scholars in the field of Asian politics in Australia. Drawing upon the diverse disciplinary backgrounds of our academic staff, our academic specialisations span democratisation, national and local politics, gender politics, conflict and conflict resolution, religious politics and state-society relations. 

We offer world-class graduate research programs, including the nation’s only Master of Political Science program in collaboration with the ANU School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR).

For those who do not meet the admission requirements or unable commit to the Master program, the Graduate Certificate of Political Science is a pathway option for this degree. This 24-unit (6 months, full-time) certificate provides an introduction to the immersive Masters experience and an option for an early exit. Upon completion, students will receive credits towards the Master degree.

Our PhD graduates have made major contributions to advanced research on society and politics in Asia, with many of them becoming leading scholars in their fields, taking up university posts in Australia, the region, and further afield. Others have taken leading roles in government, international agencies, civil society organisations and elsewhere.

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Partnership in Islamic Education Scheme (PIES) program

PSC was proud to host the Partnership in Islamic Education Scheme (PIES) program funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) from 2008 to 2021. Under the program, the Department trained six Indonesian PhD candidates from Islamic higher education institutions for two semesters. The students received specialist supervision from Australian academics to enhance human resources in the Islamic Higher Education Sector, particularly in regional areas. Graduates of the program continue to rise through the ranks at their universities, publishing and teaching a new generation of Islamic scholars. Many of them have been involved in research projects associated with the Department, enhancing our academic networks and contributing to our knowledge of myriad aspects of Islam in Indonesia.

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Graduates of the program continue to rise through the ranks at their universities, publishing and teaching a new generation of Islamic scholars. Many of them have been involved in research projects associated with the Department, enhancing our academic networks and contributing to our knowledge of myriad aspects of Islam in Indonesia.

Head of Department

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Professor Edward Aspinall is head of the Department of Political and Social Change. 
His research focuses on politics in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, with interests in democratisation, ethnicity, and clientelism, among other topics.