MPhil/PhD International Relations

  • Graduate research
  • Department of International Relations
  • Application code M1ZR
  • Starting 2020
  • UK/EU full-time: Closed
  • Overseas full-time: Closed
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

This programme offers you the chance to be part of one of the world's leading departments in the study of international relations while you undertake a substantial piece of work that is worthy of publication and which makes an original contribution to international relations. You will begin on the MPhil and be upgraded to PhD status after passing a research panel no later than at the end of your second year.

The Department is organised around four Research Clusters: International Institutions, Law and Ethics; International Theory; International Political Economy; and Statecraft and Security. You will belong to at least one of these clusters during your studies and attend its weekly events. You will also have the chance to participate in the editing of a student-run journal Millennium: Journal of International Studies, which has a major role in the discipline.

The Department has particular strengths in international relations theory, security studies, international political economy, and European studies. As well as Europe, its specialist areas cover Russia, Central, Northeast and Southeast Asia, the USA, South America, the Middle East and Africa. Other areas of research strength include foreign policy analysis, nationalism, religion, historical sociology, international environmental politics and strategic and war studies. Many individuals contribute to more than one of these subjects, and there is interdisciplinary work with colleagues in the Departments of Government and International History, as well as through the many research centres at the School.

Teaching and learning in Michaelmas Term 2020 
Information on how LSE will deliver teaching and learning in Michaelmas term can be found here.

Programme details

Key facts

MPhil/PhD International Relations
Start date 28 September 2020
Application deadline 10 January 2020
Duration Three to four years (minimum two) full-time
Tuition fee UK/EU: £4,435 (for the first year) - provisional
Overseas: £19,368 (for the first year)
Financial support LSE PhD Studentships (deadline 10 January 2020)
ESRC funding (deadline 10 January 2020)
Minimum entry requirement High merit (65+) in Master’s degree in a relevant subject with high merit (65+) in the dissertation element or equivalent
GRE/GMAT requirement None
English language requirements Research ('see Assessing your application')
Location  Houghton Street, London
For more information about tuition fees and entry requirements, see the fees and funding and assessing your application sections.

Entry requirements

Minimum entry requirements for MPhil/PhD International Relations

The minimum entry requirement for this programme is a high merit (65+) in a master’s degree in a subject relevant to the proposed research with high merit (65+) in the dissertation element, or equivalent. We will not consider applications which do not meet these criteria (or do not expect to do so on completion of any pending qualifications).

Competition for places at the School is high. This means that even if you meet our minimum entry requirement, this does not guarantee you an offer of admission. 

If you have studied or are studying outside of the UK then have a look at our Information for International Students to find out the entry requirements that apply to you.

Assessing your application

We welcome applications for research programmes that complement the academic interests of members of staff at the School, and we recommend that you investigate staff research interests before applying. 

Please note: Prospective candidates are not expected to contact potential supervisors in advance of their application. Due to the high volume of enquiries, potential supervisors are unlikely to be able to provide feedback on enquiries and outline proposals. Individual academic members of staff are not able to make commitments to supervise prospective students outside of the formal application process.

We apply our entry criteria rigorously, so if you do not already meet or expect to meet them with any pending qualifications, you will not be successful. We carefully consider each application on an individual basis, taking into account all the information presented on your application form, including your:

- academic achievement (including existing and pending qualifications)
- statement of academic purpose
- references
- CV
- outline research proposal as detailed on the Department MPhil/PhD webpage
- sample of written work.

See further information on supporting documents

You may also have to provide evidence of your English proficiency. You do not need to provide this at the time of your application to LSE, but we recommend that you do. See our English language requirements.

When to apply

The application and funding deadline for this programme is 10 January 2020. See the fees and funding section for more details.

Programme structure and courses

In addition to progressing with your research, you will take courses in methods and research design. You may take courses in addition to those listed and should discuss this with your supervisor.

(* denotes half unit course)

First year

Training courses

Compulsory (not examined)

Methods in International Relations Research 
Familiarises students with the principal approaches to contemporary research in the main branches of International Relations and to help students identify the appropriate methodology for their project. 

Compulsory (not examined)
Research Cluster Workshops*

Second year

Training courses

Compulsory (not examined)
International Relations Research Design Workshop

Compulsory (not examined)
Research Cluster Workshops*

Third year

Compulsory (not examined)
Research Cluster Workshops*

Fourth year

Compulsory (not examined)
Research Cluster Workshops*

Optional (examined/not examined)

Research Cluster Workshops to be selected from:
International Relations Theory
Security and Statecraft
International Institutions, Law and Ethics
International Political Economy

The subject workshops offered by the International Relations Department comprise international relations theory; security and statecraft; international institutions, law and ethics; international political economy. You are expected to attend one of the International Relations Research Cluster workshops.

Relevant courses provided by the Library, the Teaching and Learning Centre and the Methodology Department in agreement with your supervisor, which can include:

Bayesian Reasoning for Qualitative Social Science: A Modern Approach to Case Study Inference*

Fundamentals of Social Science Research Design
Introduces the broad range of design options and to foster an appreciation of these alternatives for particular research objectives.

Qualitative Research Methods 
Prepares students to design, carry out, report, read and evaluate qualitative research projects. 

Introduction to Quantitative Analysis* 
The course is intended for students with no previous experience of quantitative methods or statistics. It covers the foundations of descriptive statistics and statistical estimation and inference. 

Multivariate Analysis and Measurement
Introduces the application of modern multivariate methods used in the social sciences, with particular focus on latent variable models for continuous observed variables, and their application to questions of measurement in the social sciences. 

Special Topics in Quantitative Analysis: Quantitative Text Analysis*
The course surveys methods for systematically extracting quantitative information from text for social scientific purposes, starting with classical content analysis and dictionary-based methods, to classification methods, and state-of-the-art scaling methods and topic models for estimating quantities from text using statistical techniques

Department of Methodology Seminar

Transferable skills courses: 

Workshop in Information Literacy: Finding, managing and organising published research and data (Year One)

At the end of your second year, you will need to satisfy certain requirements and if you meet these, will be retroactively upgraded to PhD status.

For the most up-to-date list of optional courses please visit the relevant School Calendar page.

You must note however that while care has been taken to ensure that this information is up to date and correct, a change of circumstances since publication may cause the School to change, suspend or withdraw a course or programme of study, or change the fees that apply to it. The School will always notify the affected parties as early as practicably possible and propose any viable and relevant alternative options. Note that that the School will neither be liable for information that after publication becomes inaccurate or irrelevant, nor for changing, suspending or withdrawing a course or programme of study due to events outside of its control, which includes but is not limited to a lack of demand for a course or programme of study, industrial action, fire, flood or other environmental or physical damage to premises.

You must also note that places are limited on some courses and/or subject to specific entry requirements. The School cannot therefore guarantee you a place. Please note that changes to programmes and courses can sometimes occur after you have accepted your offer of a place. These changes are normally made in light of developments in the discipline or path-breaking research, or on the basis of student feedback. Changes can take the form of altered course content, teaching formats or assessment modes. Any such changes are intended to enhance the student learning experience. You should visit the School’s Calendar, or contact the relevant academic department, for information on the availability and/or content of courses and programmes of study. Certain substantive changes will be listed on the updated graduate course and programme information page.

Supervision, progression and assessment


You will be assigned a lead supervisor who has the necessary expertise to oversee your reseearch work. Lead supervisors guide you through your studies and are your main support contact during the PhD programme.

During your first year you will attend and contribute to the Methods in International Relations seminar, the Department Research Cluster workshops and research training courses. These are designed to strengthen your methodological skills, language skills or background knowledge of specific topics related to your research. 

During your second and third years you will also attend and contribute to the the Department Research Cluster workshops.

You will also be assigned an adviser, a member of the International Relations faculty who will be familiar with your progress but will not necessarily be an expert in your research area. Your adviser will be involved in the review and upgrade process.

Progression and assessment

Each PhD thesis is unique, but the time frame everyone has to complete their thesis is four years.

All MPhil/PhD students at LSE are initially registered with MPhil status. Continued re-registration and upgrade are dependent on satisfactory progress being made. 

Progress will be reviewed annually by a Research Panel made up of members of academic staff other than the supervisor. Students are normally upgraded to PhD status by the end of the second year. The Annual Progress review may result in a decision allowing progression to the next academic session, conditional progression to the next academic session, or a recommendation of de-registration.

By the end of your first year, you will be required to submit a statement of research including a research outline and one draft chapter of no more than 10,000 words. The proposal, which should illustrate your command of the theoretical and empirical literature related to your topic, will be a clear statement of the theoretical and methodological approach you will take.  This should demonstrate the coherence and feasibility of the proposed research and thesis. The submission will also include a timetable to completion, which should identify any periods of fieldwork necessary to your research. Panels will normally take place in week 2-4 of the Summer Term.

For the second Panel, normally scheduled in week 2-4 of the Summer Term, which will decide on the question of upgrading from MPhil to PhD, you will be expected to submit two additional draft chapters. The two chapters should be substantially new work, but may include revised material from year one. If you have not made sufficient progress to be converted from MPhil to PhD registration by the end of your second year, you will normally have re-registration made conditional on further progress (details to be decided by the Panel) or may, exceptionally, not be authorised to re-register.

Students in their third year of registration will be required to submit an annual progress report at the end of June, including a timetable to completion clearly setting out the work completed and remaining on the student’s research. These will need to be approved by the supervisor and reviewed by the Doctoral Programme Director. 

Preliminary reading

  • The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning your PhD into a Job. Karen Kelsky  (Three Rivers Press, 2015)
  •  How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. Paul J. Silvia (American Psychological Association, 2007)


Students who successfully complete the programme often embark on an academic career. Recent doctoral graduates have also gone into careers in consultancy, education and teaching, NGOs and charities, international organisations and to roles within the public sector and government.

Graduate destinations for this programme

Hear from some recent graduates

Heidi Ning Kang Wang-Kaeding
Assistant Professor in Asian Politics, Department of Political Science, Trinity College Dublin

Mark Kersten
Research Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto; Director of Research, Wayamo Foundation

Elisabetta Brighi
Lecturer in International Relations, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster

Check our recent completion page.

Support for your career

Many leading organisations give careers presentations at the School during the year, and LSE Careers has a wide range of resources available to assist students in their job search. Find out more about the support available to students through LSE Careers


Student stories

Uzzi Ohana

Mexico City, Mexico


I like the fact that, because of the structure of the programme, I do not feel overwhelmed, a situation that allows me to further my research and, at the same time, attend interesting seminars, lectures and conferences. 

I chose LSE not only because of its academic standards and international reputation, but also because of the great opportunity it represented to be supervised by one of the most important scholars in IR in the world, who also happens to be one of the authors of the core theory I'm relying on in my research. The expertise of my supervisor, as well as of the rest of the IR academic staff, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Above all, I reckon myself fortunate to be at LSE because I just feel I am at 'the' place, where things happen and where knowledge is created on a daily basis.

Joe Hoover

JoeHoover.170 x 230jpg

I chose my subject based on my research interest and the LSE based on the faculty, as my preferred supervisor was in the international relations department. Also, the LSE offered more financial support than other universities where I was accepted.

My time at the LSE has been very helpful thus far, in part this reflects the quality of the education I received, but it also reflects the quality of the people with whom I formed professional relationships. Also, the reputation of the LSE has been an advantage in the job market.

Fees and funding

Every research student is charged a fee in line with the fee structure for their programme.  The fee covers registration and examination fees payable to the School, lectures, classes and individual supervision, lectures given at other colleges under intercollegiate arrangements and, under current arrangements, membership of the Students' Union. It does not cover living costs or travel or fieldwork.

Tuition fees 2020/21 for MPhil/PhD International Relations

UK/EU students: £4,435 for the first year (provisional)
Overseas students: £19,368 for the first year

The fee is likely to rise over subsequent years of the programme. The School charges UK/EU research students in line with the level of fee that the Research Councils recommend. The fees for overseas students are likely to rise in line with the assumed percentage increase in pay costs (ie, 4 per cent per annum).

Fee status

The amount of tuition fees you will need to pay, and any financial support you are eligible for, will depend on whether you are classified as a home (UK/EU) or overseas student, otherwise known as your fee status. LSE assesses your fee status based on guidelines provided by the Department of Education.

Scholarships, studentships and other funding

The School recognises that the cost of living in London may be higher than in your home town or country, and we provide over £13 million in scholarships each year to graduate students from the UK, the EU and outside the EU.

This programme is eligible for LSE PhD Studentships, and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding. Selection for the PhD Studentships and ESRC funding is based on receipt of an application for a place – including all ancillary documents, before the funding deadline.  

Funding deadline for LSE PhD Studentships and ESRC funding: 10 January 2020. 

In addition to our needs-based awards, LSE also makes available scholarships for students from specific regions of the world and awards for students studying specific subject areas. 

External funding 

There may be other funding opportunities available through other organisations or governments and we recommend you investigate these options as well.

Further information

Fees and funding opportunities

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