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 September 2019 must submit their application by the funding deadline - this is usually in early January and will be updated here once it is published by the School. 

Self- and externally-funded applicants are strongly encouraged to apply by 9 January 2018, but applications will be accepted until Friday 8 June 2018.  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 on the ESRC Studentships webpage. 

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

No - the LSE only has one intake of students in September each year.

4. How do I apply online?

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 approximately 10 new MPhil/PhD students for the 2018-19 academic session.  New MPhil/PhD students will join an existing cohort of about 70 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 IR staff list on the IR Department website (where those not available to supervise research students are indicated).  From there you can view individual profiles and research interests.

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. There may be more than one appropriate supervisor within the Department for a proposed topic and it is 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. 

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

There are no on-campus graduate open days or evenings, but there are many ways to make contact and discover the LSE, for those thinking of applying for graduate study. 

See Meet, Visit and Discover LSE for more details.

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 PhD programmes which have not already been answered by the Graduate Prospectus or this FAQ page may be emailed to

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 give you some feedback.

The Department's People webpage links to profile pages which contain the research interests of faculty members, which will help you decide who 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 by telephone or Skype.  The Department will offer a range of times for you to choose from.

More information on How to Apply.

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

Full time students are registered 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. 

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 at LSE are initially registered with MPhil status and are upgraded to PhD upon satisfactory progress being made in their research.

Your progress will be reviewed annually by a Research Panel made up of members of academic staff, other than your supervisor.  You should normally be upgraded to PhD status by the end of your second year. 

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.

MPhil/PhD International Relations applicants must have a Masters degree in a subject relevant to their proposed research.

You must 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, and are upgraded to PhD status according to the Department's standard policy (see Question 13 above and FAQS for offer holders and current students - 1st Year MPhil/PhD 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 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, however, in almost all cases, 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 People webpage and studying the profiles of the faculty which contain details of their research interests.

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 be provided in English (an official translation is acceptable).

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, the department does not allow students to combine full time work with PhD research.

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

No, the School requires all PhD students to be resident in London for the majority of their PhD programme. 

For more information about residency, please contact Graduate Admissions.

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 contact 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 which cover 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 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 (including consideration for ESRC funding) in order to be considered for these awards. This page will be updated when new deadlines are released.

More information on Fees and Funding.

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. 

For further information please see ESRC Postgraduate Training Guidelines and the LSE's Financial Support Office webpage on Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) studentships.

Applicants wishing to be considered for ESRC funding should ensure that they have submitted a complete application - including transcripts and references - early in the application cycle. This page will be updated when new deadlines are released.

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 department's Research Methods Training and Research Design courses.

Other courses will be recommended to you and 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. 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, 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.