FAQs for prospective MSc International Relations Theory applicants

1. Could you please send me information about your MSc IRT programme?

Request a hard copy of the Graduate Prospectus.

For more information please see Graduate Admissions, Department of International Relations, read the MSc IRT programme [PDF] or watch the introductory video.

2. How do I apply online?

3. Does the School or IR Department hold an Open Day for prospective MSc IR Theory 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.

4. Will I be expected to attend an interview?

No. Decisions are normally made on the basis of the application form, transcripts and references.

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


6. What are the residency requirements for the course?

For queries regarding School regulations, please visit Information for International Students.

7. What qualifications are required for admission to the MSc IR Theory?

We normally require an Upper Second class first degree (3.5 GPA) or equivalent in International Relations or a related discipline, e.g. History, Politics, Philosophy, Law, Sociology, etc.

8. I don't have an educational background in IR or a related discipline but I have a first-class degree in another field and have a keen interest in international affairs. Is it worthwhile my applying?

Yes. Most of our students have backgrounds in relevant social science subjects, although this varies from undergraduate experiences of IR to history, law, philosophy and sociology. Acceptance for the MSc IR Theory course depends both on the quality of the application overall and on the demand for places in any given year.

If you do decide to apply, you need to explain what form your interest in theoretical questions about international relations takes.

9. I don't have an educational background in IR but I have a first class degree in another field and have work experience in an IR-related field. Is it worthwhile my applying?

Yes.  Most of our students have backgrounds in relevant social science subjects, although this varies from undergraduate experiences of IR to history, law, philosophy and sociology.  Acceptance for the MSc IR Theory course depends both on the quality of the application overall and on the demands for places in any given year. 

If you do decide to apply, you need to explain what form your interest in theoretical questions about international relations takes. It would also be advisable to explain the nature and extent of your IR-related work experience.

10. I have a poor first degree in IR/related discipline, but I have an MSc in a different field. Is it worthwhile my applying?

This would very much depend on how well you did in your MSc and whether you have any relevant experience in IR. The fact that your first degree is poor will be a disadvantage.

11. I have no academic background in International Relations or related disciplines but I do have IR-related work experience. Is it worthwhile applying?

Although relevant work experience is taken into account, your academic background will be considered of most relevance. If you feel you can make out a strong case, you may decide that it is worth applying, but you should be aware that you will be starting from a disadvantageous position.

12. Do I have to sit the GRE or GMAT tests?


13. Where can I find information about subjects available to study on the MSc IR Theory programme?

You will find a description of each course in the online IR-prefixed Graduate Course Guides or the relevant introductory videos

See also the Programme Regulations for the MSc IR Theory degree structure

14. Are all courses that are listed in the Graduate Prospectus offered each year?

No. Normally, a few are 'Not Available' due to staff absences on sabbatical leave.  You can view the list of updated programme information for more details or see Question 5 of the FAQs for offer holders: taught course graduate students.

Course suspensions for 2019/20 will be listed as details become available.

15. I want to list MSc IR Theory as my second choice. Will this damage my chances of admission?

No. However, it is advisable to address fully why you wish to study IR Theory (albeit as a second choice) in your application statement.

16. I would like to know more about how the IR Department and MSc IR Theory programme operates. Where can I find such information?

You may find the FAQs written for those accepted onto the 2018/19 programme of interest, though please note that some details may be subject to change for 2019/20.

17. I would like to know more about the content of the compulsory course 'Theories of International Relations'. Could you provide this?

Please see the IR436 Course Guide and watch the IR436 introductory video

18. What are the methods of assessment?

Apart from the 10,000 word Dissertation, IR courses may use unseen examinations during the Summer Term or make use of mixed modes of assessment and require an assessed essay along with a final examination. There are also some courses that are assessed solely on the basis of an assessed essay.

Please see the relevant IR Graduate course guides.

19. Am I required to be here after the exams finish?

Your 10,000-word Dissertation has to be submitted in August. Once your exams have finished you are not required to stay in London as you can upload your Dissertation electronically by the deadline.

20. What is the difference between a half unit and a full unit course?

A half unit runs either in Michaelmas Term or Lent Term. A full unit course runs through Michaelmas and Lent Terms. Two half units may be taken in place of one full unit with the approval of your academic mentor and the teachers responsible for the courses.

21. How much are the tuition fees?

22. Are there any scholarships available for those applying for the MSc IR Theory programme?

Please see the School's Financial Support Office for details.

23. I would like to meet the selector or another member of the academic staff to find out more about the MSc IR Theory programme. Can this be arranged?

Given the popularity of the IR Department's taught MSc programmes, we cannot meet prospective applicants.  However, the online Graduate Prospectus, the Financial Support Office website and the IR Department's online FAQs for Prospective and Incoming Students should address most concerns and enquiries. 

See also the MSc IRT introductory video

If you have read these sources of information and still have an enquiry, please email the relevant member of Professional Services Staff.

24. What is the deadline for MSc IR Theory applicants?

As the programme is popular, it is advisable to apply by April or May to gain admission in the following September.

25. Can I apply to take the MSc IR Theory part-time? If so, how long does it take and are lectures and seminars held in the evenings?

We have a small number of part-time places in any given year. The part-time course takes two years. Part-time MSc IRT students normally take the compulsory paper, Theories of International Relations, and one option in year 1 and the second option and the 10,000-word Dissertation in year two. Lectures and seminars are normally held during the day.

However, as a part-time student, we would certainly be sensitive to your timetabling needs and, where a choice of seminar groups exists, we would allocate you to one that was most convenient to you.

26. What is the difference between the MSc IR Theory and the MSc International Relations?

Both of these programmes explore the relationship between the real world of international relations and the theoretical frameworks employed to understand it.

The MSc in International Relations Theory, however, is a more specialist programme in which the focus on the theoretical dimension of the subject is more concentrated. Students on the MSc International Relations Theory programme take a specialist core course ('Theories of International Relations') which has three main components: the examination of IR as a distinct academic discourse; the exploration of the relationship between IR and other social sciences; and the examination of the connections between the theory and practice of international relations.

IR Theory students also choose from a menu of theoretically focussed courses for their second paper before taking a third course from either the IR Department, or certain other departments around the School.

27. What is the difference between the MSc IR Theory and the MPhil/PhD?

The MPhil/PhD is a research degree programme leading either to the MPhil or PhD. All our research students register initially for the MPhil but the vast majority are upgraded to the PhD. Occasionally, a student applies for the MPhil with no intention of going on to the PhD. Applicants to our MPhil/PhD research programme are normally expected to have an MSc qualification in IR or a related discipline.

Please see our Information for prospective MPhil/PhD International Relations applicants for further information about applying for the MPhil/PhD.

The MSc IR Theory, by contrast, is a 12-month taught postgraduate degree course, albeit one that students often use as a gateway to an MPhil/PhD.

28. If I am rejected for the MSc IR Theory (e.g. because it is full) but am accepted for my second choice, will I be able to transfer to the MSc IR Theory on arrival at the School?

You would be most unwise to accept a second choice offer in the expectation of switching. This would only be possible if: (a) the MSc IR Theory intake target was not met; (b) the selector was willing to accept you; and (c) your second choice department was prepared to release you.

29. If I am offered a place on the MSc IR Theory but on arrival decide that I would like to transfer to the MSc IR, would this be possible?

No - it is extremely unlikely that this would be possible.

30. Is it possible to defer an offer of a place on the MSc IR Theory to the following year?

We expect applicants to apply in good faith to begin the course in the academic year indicated. However, if you are made an offer for 2019 entry and circumstances arise which result in your wishing to defer to 2020, you should contact Graduate Admissions (see below) at the point when you realise that you will not be able to take up the offer in 2019.

Deferral is not automatic and will require the approval of the selector. 

See How to respond to your offer for further details.

31. If I have a query about the application process, can I raise this with the Department instead of the School's Graduate Admissions office?

No, I'm afraid all queries must be dealt with by the School's Graduate Admissions office.

32. If my application is unsuccessful but I would like to reapply next year, how can I get feedback on why I was not accepted?

If your academic background or first degree grades/predicted grades do not reach the standard noted in FAQs 7-11 above, this will undoubtedly form part if not all of the explanation for your rejection. Unfortunately, competition is fierce for IR Department courses and detailed feedback is not possible.

33. Does the International Relations Department have any special arrangements with other universities?

Yes, LSE and the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University in Washington, DC have entered into an arrangement whereby LSE graduate students and recent alumni are eligible to apply to take the Elliot School's Master of International Studies (MIS) degree program in one rather than the usual two years. The MIS is a multidisciplinary, academic dual degree program that is designed to complement your studies at LSE with an intensive year in Washington DC.

Please see Master of International Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University for further details. 

The MSc IR or MSc IPE also form Year Two of the two-year Sciences Po-LSE Double Degree in Affaires Internationales and IR/IPE.