PhD programme

in the Department of International Relations

All applicants for MPhil/PhD who wish to be considered for school scholarships for entry in Michaelmas Term 2018, need to apply by 8 January, 2018.

Self and externally funded applicants are strongly encouraged to apply by 8 January, 2018, but applications will be accepted throughout the academic year until 8 June 2018.

We provide supervision for research leading to a PhD degree across the range of international relations fields. You should define your research interest as precisely as possible when you apply. MPhil/PhD International Relations applicants are normally required to have a master's degree in a subject relevant to their proposed research. UK/EU students may wish to apply for the MSc International Relations (Research) or MSc International Political Economy (Research), as appropriate, with a view to applying for an ESRC 1+3 research studentship. If successful in obtaining an ESRC grant, a student would be entitled to continue to the MPhil/PhD programme upon completion of the master's at a satisfactory level.

In the first year of your research you attend the International Relations Research Methods Training Seminar 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 research students are also expected to attend the International Relations Research Design Workshop; this is to help you in designing a well thought out and manageable thesis.

You will also have access to courses in general social science methodology offered by LSE's Department of Methodology. One of these forms part of the two International Relations research master's courses: Foundations of Social Research, comprising three modules in Quantitative Analysis, Fundamentals of Research Design and Qualitative Research. If you have not already taken a Research track master's degree you will need to attend Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher and Information Skills.

During the first year we encourage you to take part in at least one of the department's thematic research workshops and in the International Relations Seminar for Staff and Research Students. These are primarily for established researchers but provide a useful context.

You will also find it beneficial to attend the weekly editorial board meetings of Millennium: Journal of International Studies, the student-run journal.

Your progress is reviewed by a Research Panel and you would normally be upgraded from MPhil to PhD status by the end of your second year. This requires submission of an outline and three draft chapters of your thesis to your supervisor and the subsequent approval of your supervisor and the panel. You need to make sufficient progress to be allowed to re-register. Please see FAQs Qn 5.

More information on our current PhD students and their areas of expertise

Careers of many PhD students

How to apply

Applications and supporting documentation

An offer of admission is based upon the quality of your research proposal, references, prior academic and/or professional achievement, and the relevance of your proposed research topic to the research interests of members of the Department.

Personal statement

Researching for, and writing, a doctoral thesis is an enjoyable intellectual experience, but also a demanding one. It is crucially important, therefore, that you embark on this process, starting with the application, with realistic views of what doing a PhD actually consists of, as well as with a good sense of what your reasons are for doing it. Your personal statement should state clearly your motivation, academic interests and your purpose and objectives in applying for the MPhil/PhD in the Department of International Relations. The statement should be between 1000 and 1500 words.

Research proposal

To be eligible for admission for admission to the MPhil/PhD programme, you need to have more than a vaguely defined research topic. Your research proposal should be written as clearly and concisely as possible and should address the following questions:

  • What is your general topic and how is it located with the study of international relations?

  • What question do you want to answer?

  • What is the key literature and its limitations?

  • What are the main hypotheses you wish to explore and the argument you intend to develop?

  • What methodology do you intend to use?

  • What are your case studies, if any, and what are your case selection criteria?

  • Which member(s) of the department might be suitable supervisors and why?

This proposal will allow us to assess the potential of the proposed project and especially the availability of appropriate supervision within the Department. The quality of the written proposal is very important as it will play a central role in determining whether or not we decide offer you an interview for a place on the programme and will form the basis for much of the interview itself.

The length of your research proposal should be between six to eight pages, single spaced. In addition, you should include a brief abstract (200 words maximum) of your proposed research topic.

You may wish to contact a member of staff by email prior to your application to discuss your research proposal and its relevance to their research interests, though the Department cannot guarantee that all members of staff will be able to respond. If you have discussed your proposed research with a member of the Department's academic staff, you should indicate their name in your proposal.


You should nominate two referees who are familiar with your academic work and, ideally, who are able to comment on your proposed field of research. It is your responsibility to make contact with your referees promptly to allow your application to be completed in time.


All applicants for MPhil/PhD who wish to be considered for School Scholarships for entry in MT 2018, need to apply by 8 January, 2018.  Self funded applicants are strongly encouraged to apply by 8 January, 2018, but applications will be accepted throughout the academic year until 8 June 2018.

First year MPhil/PhD students are expected to register from the beginning of the Michaelmas term in order to attend compulsory research training courses. Applicants who wish to register from the beginning of the Lent term will need to have a strong case for doing so which is supported by the prospective supervisor.

If you are thinking of applying to the IR research programme, please see our FAQs for prospective MPhil/PhD IR Students. If you have been accepted for the IR MPhil/PhD programme, please see our FAQs for new MPhil/PhD students.

Funding your PhD

Postdoctoral fellowship funding

The IR Department does not have any dedicated postdoctoral fellowship funding.

Applicants with existing funding or who wish to apply through the LSE for postdoctoral funding from UK or EU funding councils should contact the Doctoral Programme Administrator in the first instance.

Applicants whose research is related to a field of IR practice may wish to check out details of the DINAM Fellowship (David Davies of Llandinam Research Fellowship).

Information on the LSE Centre for International Studies