Comparative imaginations: how do cities think of each other?

In an increasingly connected urban age, global cities are inevitably asked to pay attention to each other. As they seek a place on the world stage and embark on ambitious urban development plans, cities draw ideas and inspirations from, but also see themselves in competition with, peers near and far. Yet how does this ‘comparative imagination’ work? What shapes the ways relate to each other? There might be today more than 200 networks of cities and an equivalent number of city rankings and indexes: how do these, and other forms of comparative thinking shape city leadership internationally? What ways of ‘seeing’ globally determine the way the governance of cities is evolving? Housed in the new Connected Cities Lab within the University’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning (ABP), this multidisciplinary PhD project will challenge an emerging scholar to research, and experience first-hand, the comparative dimension of urban policy, and its international underpinnings.

Applications open

1 Sep 2018

Applications closed

31 Jan 2019

Application type

Application required
How to apply

Benefit type

General allowance
Fee remission
Full benefit details

Citizenship requirements

Australian / domestic student

Total value

100% fee remission and up to $30,600

Applicable study areas

Architecture, building and planning

Number of scholarships awarded


  • Eligibility & selection criteria


    To be eligible for this scholarship, you need to:

    have an academic background in urban studies, international studies or international planning is desirable but other internationally-oriented disciplines will be considered. Perspective candidates are encouraged to propose a few possible ‘entry points’ to the politics of comparative thinking, going beyond the individual case study, and ideally in an interdisciplinary fashion.

    Selection criteria

    Expression of Interest – Information required in prior to being invited to submit a formal application:

    You will be asked to attach a 2-3 page research proposal (including research problem, key literature and international policy/practical audience the project speaks to), c.v., academic transcript, grading scale from your previous degree along with a copy of your IELTS or TOEFL Score (if applicable). In addition to standard information there will be an interview as part of the shortlist process.

  • Application process

    Lodge your expression of interest at

  • When will I know the outcome?

    Shortlisted applicants will contacted for a skype interview and invited to apply for graduate research candidature through the University of Melbourne.

  • Variations of this scholarship

    The key challenge for this PhD scholarship is in uncovering the politics, and prompting a better political-economic understanding, of how cities think of each other comparatively. It calls on a curious and internationally-minded researcher to join the Connected Cities Lab to unpack how ways of comparing (e.g. benchmarking, rankings, case studies, indexing, mapping) shape the ways cities are governed in an increasingly networked urban age, with particular attention for the influence of the private sector and think tanks in this dynamic.

    The PhD candidate will be supervised by the Faculty’s Chair in Global Urban Politics and director of the Connected Cities Lab, Professor Michele Acuto, along with a selected secondary supervisor from the Faculty and any other relevant scholar from within the University. Experience and demonstrated skills in conducting sound social scientific (qualitative or quantitative) research are essential, as is a keen eye for urban and international questions, and the willingness to work in a dynamic research group regularly engaged with multilateral actors but also an internationally-mobile private sector underpinning the built environment profession.

What are the benefits?

$30,600 p.a. for 3.5 years (indexed annually)
Standard fieldwork (up to $3600) and conference support.

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