The Department of Public and International Affairs  The Department of Public and International Affairs

Research Degree Program

Developing your Application
PIA Requirements

If you want to study in our department, we ask all students to develop a 4-5,000 words proposal. This proposal should cover: (1) a general introduction, (2) the research question and its significance, and (3) a brief review of the relevant literature as well as general argument as to where (and why) your question and thesis might be located. Any sources should be appropriately referenced. 

The purpose of this proposal is to get you thinking seriously about doing a PhD. A PhD can be great fun. You get the chance to spend three years doing a focused piece of research that really interests you. However, before you start a PhD, you need to show that you have thought about the topic and have a good basis for developing a substantial thesis. At the same time, we need to see that you have thought about the topic and that you have the necessary research skills to undertake a doctoral thesis. We would urge you to get an early start on this stage and try to have a draft completed by the September of the application year.

Once you have a draft proposal, you need to contact a potential supervisor. On the section "Finding a Supervisor", we have listed all potential supervisors and their areas of interests. If you cannot identify a supervisor then, once you have a draft, please contact the Research Degree coordinator directly. As a general rule, faculty members will only supervise students whose background and thesis proposal falls into their areas of research.

The earlier you can get a draft proposal to a potential supervisor, the greater chance there can be one or more rounds of revisions ahead of your submission. The better developed the proposal, the more favorably it is likely to be reviewed.

In addition to the proposal, we ask that students have an IELTS minimum of 6.5 in ALL categories or an equivalent result for TOEFL (90-95 on the TOEFL iBT, 576-588 TOEFL PBT, 232-241 CBT) or have graduated from a degree program where the medium of instruction of the first degree was English.

PIA only admits PhD students. We no longer admit MPhil students.

The Process

Okay, so you submitted your application. Now what? All the proposals are initially reviewed by a small group of faculty members. Also considered at this stage are the academic credentials, referees letters, and other application documents. On this point, entry into PhDs at CityU are highly competitive. A standard that has emerged over the years is a minimum of a 3.5/4.0 CPGA or a First-class Honours Degree.

If the departmental committee approves your application, the applications go back to the potential supervisors for an interview with you. This can take place by Skype, over the phone, or face-to-face. You can expect to be asked questions relating to your proposal and your general knowledge of the field.

The results of the interview are then fed into an evaluation of your application that is sent up to the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) for a second-tier evaluation. At this level, your application is ranked against all the applications for all the other CLASS departments.

The results of that evaluation are then forwarded to the University for a third-tier evaluation. At this point, what happens to your application diverges.

If your proposal is deemed competitive for the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scholarship, then your application is forwarded to the Research Grants Council (RGC). If your application goes to the RGC then, regardless of the outcome, you will be offered a PhD scholarship; either a HKPFS award or a CityU PhD award. Every year since its inception, PIA has consistently attracted high quality HKPFS awardees.

If the University evaluates your application as good but not HKPFS eligible, then your application goes back to CLASS for consideration for a general (main) round of PhD scholarships.

The results of your application should be known by March of the calendar year in which you would start.

At every stage of the process, your nominated supervisor or the Research Degree Coordinator are available to discuss any concerns you might have.

PIA is great place to do your PhD. You will be immersed into a research culture that is supportive and internationally recognised for its excellence. At the end of your time in the department, you will have an excellent set of research, analytical and communication skills (as well as a PhD) that will set you up for life. You will have made some life-long friends and colleagues and been exposed to cutting-edge research in a truly interdisciplinary environment. We look forward to reading your application and welcoming you into our department.

More Information

Beyond what is on these pages, please refer to the School of Graduate Studies website for more information on admissions procedures Where there is a discrepancy between the PIA and general application standards, the higher standard applies.