Two new BCEC PhD scholarship opportunities available for 2020

ContactsAlan Duncan, Director
Michael Dockery, Principal Research Fellow
Published15 June 2020

The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) is pleased to offer two fully funded Higher Degree by Research (HDR) research scholarships under the Research Training Program (RTP) scheme.

We are looking for talented Australian domestic PhD students with backgrounds in applied economics, public policy or other disciplines related to the project themes.

The successful candidates will be joining one of the most reputable economics research groups in Australia, with exceptional opportunities for research development and collaboration with economics researchers nationally and internationally. Each HDR scholarship offers a full fee offset and an annual stipend of $37,362 per annum, as well as an allowance to support relocation and ancillary research costs.

Closing date for applications: 29 June 2020

Project 1. Optimal taxation, welfare policy and pensions design in Australia

This project will combine theoretical and empirical innovations in behavioural tax/welfare policy evaluation and household decision modelling to improve the quality and effectiveness of tax/welfare policy design. The project will address the critical policy imperative to ensure that reforms to personal taxation, pensions, payments, family assistance and child-care support – in isolation and in combination – are designed in the most cost-effective way to target specific objectives.

The research will seek answers to important policy questions that should ideally guide public spending decisions – for example:

  • How cost-effective are employment tax credits in promoting employment and alleviating poverty among the working poor, compared with, say, active labour market policies or wage subsidies?
  • How could public spending on labour market policies be optimised to promote employment?
  • What taxation structures are optimal under alternative efficiency, equity or employment criteria?
  • How should family support policies and childcare subsidies be co-designed to better address the financial barriers to optimise employment outcomes for women or for other equity groups?

Candidate requirements
The candidate should have a tertiary degree at Honours I or higher, with evidence of expertise/aptitude in data analysis, econometric modelling and computer programming. An awareness of tax and public policy issues is also strongly desirable.

The successful PhD scholar will be supervised by BCEC’s Professor Alan Duncan, Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells, Dr Silvia Salazar and Dr Richard Seymour.

Read more about this project

Project 2. Australia’s higher education sector in a global perspective

Higher education has become a truly globalised industry. International education is one of Australia’s top service exports, estimated to be worth $32.4 billion to the economy in 2017-18 (ABS 2018) and supporting over 130,000 jobs in cities and regions throughout Australia. In this environment, competition between universities is intense and institutions are placing increasing weight on various forms of accreditation and on world university rankings as signals of university quality. Marketing material from universities and agents to attract students focuses on improving employment outcomes through an investment in education. This is supported by market research showing the number one reason international students choose to study is linked to improved employability after graduation (AUSTRADE, 2019).

This project will address two critical but under-explored aspects of the international market in
higher education:

  • The return to higher education for returnee international graduates – while there is an extensive economics literature on the returns to education, with the bulk of empirical contributions grounded in Becker’s (1962) Human Capital Theory, there have been few studies on the benefits experienced by international graduates returning to their home countries.
  • The role of university quality and university rankings – university rankings provide an imperfect proxy for the quality of education provided by universities (Dale and Krueger 2002; Black and Smith 2006), however, they are critical to graduates’ perceptions of quality and strategic behaviour by institutions. University rankings and costs of tuition are used by students and their families as proxies of the employability of universities’ international graduates. In turn, rankings affect university pricing decisions, graduate selection, and can confer a reputational effect that impacts upon employment and earnings outcomes. A number of studies have analysed university quality effects within domestic markets (for Australia, see Carroll 2014; Dockery, Koshy & Seymour 2016; Li & Miller 2013), yet few have assessed the correlation between university rankings, tuition costs and graduate outcomes in the context of
    the global labour market.

The lead supervisor for this project is Professor Mike Dockery.

Read more about this project


Each research project will be supported by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), the Faculty of Business and Law and the Graduate Research School to deliver successful outcomes.

  • The basic scholarship is supported through the 2021 Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship scheme at Curtin University, and provides a living allowance and tuition fees for up to four years.
  • BCEC will provide the successful applicant with a 33% top-up over and above the standard RTP stipend rate.
  • The successful PhD scholar will be provided with desk space within the Centre to co-locate with BCEC researchers.
  • The Graduate Research School will meet the standard provision of research funds for PhD students in the form of consumables and travel.
  • The Faculty will provide a laptop, shared workspace and research training.
  • BCEC will meet any further requirements for IT hardware, software, data or administrative support, as is the case for all BCEC PhD Students.


Further enquiries about either research project, or the Centre, can be directed to the respective supervision teams.

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