Research degrees

Politics & International Relations

The Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR) hosts a large MPhil/PhD Programme, with over 30 high quality and motivated doctoral research students from around the world, with a broad spectrum of research interests. Reflecting the high standard of research at DPIR, several of our students have received scholarships from both British and overseas funding bodies, and some have been awarded prizes for their research work presented at international conferences.

The MPhil/PhD programme enjoys dedicated student facilities and a vibrant research culture. The Department’s research environment includes a range of academic seminars, international conferences and public lectures. Regular seminars are organised for our PhD students on research methodology and we hold an annual PhD conference, along with various social events.

Doctoral research proposals on any aspect of politics and international relations can be considered, though the main areas of PhD supervision fall within one of three research areas within DPIR: the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Security and International Relations and Emerging Powers.

Centre for the Study of Democracy

The Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) is a leading cross-disciplinary international research centre in the dynamic and fast changing field of the theory and practice of democracy and governance. Home of the Routledge book series Advances in Democratic Theory and the journal Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses, the Centre links closely with work done across the department and the Faculty as well as linking the political field with other disciplines from the natural sciences to sociology, law, human geography, cultural studies and architecture and the built environment.

Political theory

Staff research specialisms cover a wide-range of political theorists - from the nineteenth century to the present - and we are more than happy to supervise dissertations focusing on the study and/or application of the work of particular theorists (see individual staff research interests for further information).


Critical democratic theory

  • Political theory, including agonism, deliberative democracy and radical politics
  • Citizenship and political agency
  • Democratic theory and the dynamics of democratization in different regions of the world, such as Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
  • Policy analysis: power, complexity and democratic legitimacy
  • Critical work on agent-centred analyses of empowerment, resilience and capacity-building

    Democratic institutions and public policy

    • Democratic institutions, power and legitimacy, combined with a range of regional specialisms, ranging from British and European governance, to Asia, Africa and the Middle East
    • Participation, deliberation and institutional innovation
    • Governance, resilience, complexity, coordination and policy evaluation
    • Topics in political psychology generally, but also applications of social psychological theory to politics in a broad sense, particularly issues of organisational structure and their effect on subjectivity and cognition
    • The interface between political science and various forms of ‘new’ institutionalism and heterodox political economy

      Islam and Democracy

      • Multiculturalism; the politics of Muslim minorities
      • Terrorism and international politics
      • Islam and religious reform in the Muslim world, including the role of western Muslims in religious reform
      • The Palestinian/ Israeli conflict
      • Gender politics in the Arab world
      • Diaspora and identities, particularly in relation to Palestinian refugee communities

      Governance and Sustainability

      • Inter-relationships between governance systems, democratic institutions and the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development (including specialisations in climate change and renewable energy, planning and the built environment, Eco-Cities, metropolitan and regional development, natural resource management)
      • Sustainable communities, social sustainability; civil society/ third sector
      • Spatial and temporal variations in theory and practice of ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable transitions’
      • Metropolitan and regional governance (including inequality; core-periphery etc)

      Visit the website of the Centre for the Study of Democracy

      Security and International Relations

      • Humanitarian intervention/The Responsibility to Protect
      • Just War Theory and the ethics of war and peace
      • Statebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction
      • International law and the use of force
      • The contemporary role of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council and UN Peacekeeping
      • Security and Resilience, especially regarding the global energy system
      • Borders and Identities, with special focus on immigration and Europe, China-India border dispute, Muslim identities in Russia, majority-minority relations in India and China including the issue of Tibet

      Visit the Security and International Relations website.

      Emerging Powers

      The emerging powers programme brings together various theoretical and disciplinary approaches to analyse the emergence and significance of a range of nations of increasing global influence and power. The programme incorporates regional specialisms in Asia (including China, India, Pakistan, Russia and central Asia), the Middle East and Africa.

      Disciplinary approaches employed include critical international political economy, development studies, international relations, postcolonial theory, historical sociology and ethnography.

      The topics addressed include:

      • Politics of energy and resources in a range of regional contexts, including Middle East and South Asia
      • Majority-minority relations and Territorial conflicts in India, China and Pakistan including the issue of Tibet, Kashmir and Balochistan
      • International Political Economy and Development with particular focus on Africa and the Middle East
      • Social and revolutionary movements and political protests in Asia and the Middle East
      • Borders, territoriality and migration, including the China-India border dispute and migration and mobility in West Africa
      • Domestic politics and geopolitics of Iran and the Indian Ocean region
      • Concept and practice of development

      Visit the Emerging Powers website

      What next?

    • For queries or informal discussions about research degrees at DPIR, and to find out about potential supervisors, please contact:

Fees and funding

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How to write your research proposal

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