FAQs for prospective MPhil/PhD International Relations applicants

1. Could you please send me information about your MPhil/PhD programme?

2. What is your application deadline?

All applicants for MPhil/PhD who wish to be considered for School Scholarships for entry in MT 2017, need to apply by 9 January 2017

Self- and externally-funded applicants are strongly encouraged to apply by 9 January 2017, but applications will be accepted until Friday 9 June 2017.  It is highly recommended that you apply as soon as you are able.

See the Financial Support Office website for more information. Prospective ESRC candidates should check: ESRC funding deadlines

3. Can I apply to start in the Lent Term (January) or Summer Term (April)?

No, this is not permitted.

4. How do I apply online?

To apply, click here.

5. How many MPhil/PhD students does the International Relations Department accept each year?

Under the School's new funded PhD scheme, the Department is likely to admit between 10-12 new MPhil/PhD students for the 2017-18 academic session.  New MPhil/PhD students will join an existing cohort of about 75 students.

6. Do I need to find a potential supervisor before I apply?

No, but it is important for you to indicate in your application the staff with research interests similar to your own.  You may do this by looking at the list of staff and their academic interests in the Graduate Prospectus, or LSE Experts, or on the IR staff list on the IR Department website (where those not available to supervise research students are indicated). 

Some members of staff may be willing to have a brief email exchange with you about your research plans. However, final decisions on supervisors are not taken until formal applications have been received by the Department from the Graduate Admissions Office. In a large department like this, there may well be more than one appropriate supervisor within the Department for a proposed topic.

Incoming students are allocated to supervisors with reference to current staff members' teaching and supervisory loads.  It is always possible that individual academic members of staff may not be available to supervise due to last-minute or unexpected absences. Individual academic members of staff are not able to make commitments to supervise prospective students outside of the formal application process.

7. What happens to applications once they reach LSE?

LSE Graduate Admissions Office processes all incoming applications. Applications are sent to the Department as they are processed. In the Department, the numbers and quality of competing applications and the availability of an appropriate supervisor are considered. If your application is shortlisted for consideration, an interview will be arranged with appropriate members of staff.  You will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible after the interview.  However, the whole process may take several months.

8. Does the School or IR Department hold an Open Day for prospective MPhil/PhD applicants?

The School holds an Open Evening once a year, normally in November, for those thinking of applying for graduate study. If you decide to attend, please read this FAQ page beforehand.

9. I will be in London soon and would like to visit the IR Department. Is there someone I can speak to for general information, or a member of the academic staff regarding my research proposal?

Unfortunately, due to the number of applicants for our courses, the International Relations Department can rarely provide arrangements for receiving visiting prospective students. Visiting students may visit LSE Student Services Centre for general enquiries and have a look around the School and the Department.

Questions specific to IR programmes which have not already been answered by the Graduate Prospectus or this FAQ page may be directed to Gabrielle To.

LSE offers at least one 'Open Evening' for prospective graduate students each year, which provides an opportunity to visit the School and to consult teaching staff from the Department.

More information

10. Can I make an appointment with or email an academic member of staff to discuss my research proposal?

We cannot offer formal arrangements for helping students with applications, but it may be possible for individual members of staff to offer some feedback to you. The Department's Staff webpage links to the research interests of faculty members, which you may use to decide whom to approach.

11. Will I be expected to attend an interview?

If you are shortlisted after making your application, you should expect to be interviewed, and to make yourself available for interview by telephone or Skype at a range of times offered by the Department.

More information

12. How many years does it take to complete a PhD?

The Department requires students to be registered full-time for a minimum of two years (six terms) and a maximum of four years (12 terms). Completion time often depends on the complexity of the topic, the amount of fieldwork required and the productivity of the individual student. Normally, students in our Department are expected to finish within four years.

In the last two years some 31 students have successfully completed PhDs.

13. Why is the programme called MPhil/PhD International Relations? I know I want to do a PhD. Can I start as a PhD rather than an MPhil student?

All MPhil/PhD students are initially registered with MPhil status and are upgraded to PhD upon satisfactory progress according to the procedures of their Department.

In the International Relations Department, your progress would be reviewed annually in the Summer Term by a Research Panel comprising members of academic staff, excluding your supervisor, and you would normally be upgraded to PhD status by the end of your second year. This requires submission of an outline and one complete chapter for approval to your supervisor and Year One Research Panel members, and two further draft chapters which show evidence of doctoral quality for approval to your supervisor and Year Two Research Panel members. PhD registration is applied retrospectively.

14. Can I apply for an MPhil International Relations only?

The MPhil/PhD International Relations is intended for students wishing to complete a PhD. All students are initially registered as MPhil students and are upgraded to PhD status upon completion of an introduction and two chapters of acceptable PhD quality. Students who do not wish to complete their PhDs or whose work is not of PhD standard, may elect to submit an MPhil thesis instead.

15. Can I apply for an MPhil/PhD if I only have an undergraduate degree? I know I want to do a PhD.

No. MPhil/PhD International Relations applicants are required to have a Masters degree in a subject relevant to their proposed research.

We require that you have been awarded the Masters with an overall 'Merit' (or its non-UK equivalent) and a strong 'Merit' (or its non-UK equivalent) on your Masters dissertation.

If your Masters degree is not recognised by the ESRC as including research training, we would expect you to follow a study programme which would be put together for you by your supervisor.

16. I'm already enrolled in a PhD programme at another university and I would like to transfer to your PhD programme. How do I do that?

LSE does not accept transfer of credits. All MPhil/PhD applicants, regardless of previous academic experience, are required to complete a formal application. Previous research will be considered, but all students are initially registered as MPhil students by the School, are upgraded to PhD status according to the Department's standard policy (see FAQ 13 above and Frequently asked questions (FAQS) for offer holders and current students Qn 8, and the Graduate Prospectus) and are required to fulfil the School's minimum registration requirements.

17. How do I know if my educational background is appropriate for an MPhil/PhD International Relations?

MPhil/PhD International Relations applicants are normally required to have at least one of their degrees in a relevant social science subject.

18. My undergraduate and Masters degrees are not in International Relations or Politics, but I have several years of work experience, including research in the area I want to study. Can I apply for the MPhil/PhD programme?

Relevant work experience can be an asset in undertaking a research degree. In almost all cases, however, previous academic training in subjects relevant to the area of research proposed will be necessary.

19. How do I know if my research topic can be supervised in your department?

Before applying, you should ensure that there are academic members of staff in our Department who have research interests similar to your own. You may do this by looking on the IR Department academic staff.

If your proposed thesis topic does not match the interests of at least one member of the Department, it will not be considered.

20. My research topic overlaps with other disciplines (eg. Development, Law). Can I still apply for International Relations and will there be adequate supervision for me?

We expect most supervision to take place within the Department.  If your topic is primarily an IR topic which encompasses other disciplines, then it may, in exceptional circumstances, be possible for your topic to be supervised in the Department with a joint supervisor from another department.

21. I've just started my Masters course and my professors don't know me very well yet. Do I need to provide an academic reference from my current course?

It is preferable to submit a reference from your current course of study. While we encourage early applications, there is sufficient time for current supervisors/teachers to get to know you during the first term of your Masters degree and for you still to be able to apply early enough.

22. Do I need to submit a writing sample with my application?

You should provide a piece of assessed work from your most recent programme of study to include any mark given and comments made where available.  This should be no more than 4,000 words in length. This should usually be provided in English (which can be an official translation).

23. Do I need to submit GRE or GMAT results to be considered for the MPhil/PhD International Relations?

GRE or GMAT results are not required for our MPhil/PhD programme.

24. I work full time. Can I apply to study part-time?

No, we do not offer part-time places.

25. Can I study part-time from abroad (eg. distance learning)?


26. What are the residency requirements for the course?

The International Relations Department expects its research students to participate in the research training programme for first- and second-year students. This requires attending several workshops at least one or two days a week.

For information on School regulations regarding residency please enquire with Graduate Admissions.

27. What are the fees for the MPhil/PhD International Relations?

28. What financial aid packages/scholarships does LSE offer and how do I apply?

The LSE offer a number of fully funded LSE Research Scholarships covering both fees and a maintenance grant. They are available to Home UK/EU and Overseas students undertaking full-time research at LSE with annual renewal subject to satisfactory progress. Along with other departments at LSE, the International Relations Department is allowed to nominate a very limited number of candidates for these awards.

The awards are made solely on the basis of outstanding academic merit and research potential. As there are always more applications than money available, these awards are highly competitive and each year many deserving candidates fail to receive funding. You are therefore encouraged to explore outside sources of funding as soon as you begin thinking about pursuing an MPhil/PhD degree.

For information on the opportunities available from the School please see the Financial Support Office. As the deadlines for financial support fall early within the admissions cycle, you should submit your completed application (including transcripts and all references) as early as possible and no later than 9 January 2017 (including consideration for ESRC funding) in order to be considered for these awards.

More information

29. Who are ESRC studentships awarded to?

ESRC studentships are awarded through designated Doctoral Training Centres (DTC). The LSE has DTC status and awards a total of 36 ESRC studentships spread across its departments and various doctoral programmes.  These awards are highly competitive with the International Relations Department receiving only one or two 1+3 or +3 awards per year. For further information please see ESRC Postgraduate Training Framework and the LSE's Financial Support Office webpage on Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding.

Applicants wishing to be considered for ESRC funding should ensure that they have submitted a complete application - including transcripts and references - by 9 January 2017. Applications received after this date will not be considered for ESRC awards.

30. What courses do I have to take during the MPhil/PhD International Relations programme?

In the first year, MPhil/PhD students are required to attend the International Relations Research Methods Training Seminar (IR501) which explores the theoretical and practical problems associated with a piece of major research. Study concentrates on epistemological and theoretical issues, with special reference to the context and literature of international relations, and time is also devoted to problems arising from source materials, methodology and normative dilemmas.

First year MPhil/PhD students are required to attend the International Relations Research Design Workshop (IR509): this is to help students in designing a well thought-out and manageable thesis. We also offer a separate IR509 workshop for second-year research students, where the emphasis is on preparing for the Research Panel at the end of the second year at which upgrade from MPhil to PhD will be decided.

All students also have access to courses in general social science methodology offered by LSE's Department of Methodology. Research students are expected to attend other research IR workshops and seminars relevant to their research during their course of study. Courses for research students are not examinable.

31. I've completed an ESRC-recognised research Masters. Can I be exempted from first-year research training courses?

All first-year MPhil/PhD students are expected to attend the International Relations Research Methods Training Seminar (IR501) and the International Relations Research Design Workshop (IR509).

Second-year PhD students are strongly recommended to attend IR509 (for second-year students only) and all IR students are expected to attend other IR research workshops and Department of Methodology courses relevant to their research as advised by their supervisors. This will be discussed with your supervisor at the beginning of your course of study. 

32. What are the career prospects for students completing a PhD in International Relations at LSE?

Successful PhD students from this Department are teaching in universities in Britain, the USA, Norway, Australia, China, and many other countries. Others are working in think tanks. Many have gone into government service, including international organisations; several are working for international newspapers, and a small number are working in the private business and financial sectors.

33. My application was unsuccessful but I would like to reapply for next year. How can I get feedback on why I was not accepted so that I can improve my application?

If your academic background or examination grades/predicted grades do not reach the required standard, we would discourage you from seeking feedback as this will undoubtedly form part if not all of the explanation for your rejection. We may also have to turn away good candidates if there is no suitable research supervisor available. Competition is also intense and many good students are not accepted. Unfortunately, detailed feedback is not possible.