MPhil/PhD International Relations

  • Graduate research
  • Department of International Relations
  • Application code M1ZR
  • Starting 2021
  • Home 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 within 18 months of initial registration.

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 2021 

LSE is committed to offering you the best possible teaching and learning experience within the constraints of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our expectation for the 2021-22 academic year is that all LSE students will be in London and studying on campus, where we will provide flexible teaching and learning which blends both in-person and online elements. This flexible approach has been informed by our student and academic community and builds upon the innovations and improvements we have put in place over the past year. If, due to events outside of our reasonable control, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to make any changes to the delivery of the programme in the 2021/22 academic year, we will provide as much notice as is reasonably practicable by updating this page and sending an email to all offer holders/students. 

For more information about LSE's teaching plans for 2021 and our Coronavirus FAQs for prospective students please visit our website.

Programme details

Key facts

MPhil/PhD International Relations
Start date 27 September 2021
Application deadline 14 January 2021
Duration Three to four years (minimum two) full-time. Please note that LSE allows part-time PhD study only under limited circumstances. Please see for more information. If you wish to study part-time, you should mention this (and the reasons for it) in your statement of academic purpose, and discuss it at interview if you are shortlisted.
Tuition fee Home: £4,500 (for the first year) 
Overseas: £20,136 (for the first year)
Financial support LSE PhD Studentships (deadline 14 January 2021)
ESRC funding (deadline 14 January 2021)
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 14 January 2021. See the fees and funding section for more details.

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 2021/22 for MPhil/PhD International Relations

Home students: £4,500 for the first year 
Overseas students: £20,136 for the first year

The fee is likely to rise over subsequent years of the programme. The School charges home 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 or overseas student, otherwise known as your fee status. LSE assesses your fee status based on guidelines provided by the Department of Education.

Further information about fee status classification.

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 generous 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: 14 January 2021. 

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

Information for international students

LSE is an international community, with over 140 nationalities represented amongst its student body. We celebrate this diversity through everything we do.  

If you are applying to LSE from outside of the UK then take a look at our Information for International students

1) Take a note of the UK qualifications we require for your programme of interest (found in the ‘Entry requirements’ section of this page. 

2) Go to the International Students section of our website. 

3) Select your country. 

4) Select ‘Graduate entry requirements’ and scroll until you arrive at the information about your local/national qualification. Compare the stated UK entry requirements listed on this page with the local/national entry requirement listed on your country specific page 

Programme structure and courses

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

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

(* denotes half unit course)

First year

Training courses

Methods in International Relations Research  - Compulsory (not examined)
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. 

Research Methods Training - Compulsory (examined)
You will be required to take compulsory assessed courses to the combined value of one unit from the range of quantitative and qualitative research methods topics listed below. 

Your selection of research methods should be agreed in consultation with your supervisor. You could take a different research methods course from those listed below, if this is better suited to your topic but this would need to be approved by their supervisor first.

Research Cluster Workshops - Compulsory (not examined)
Students will select from the below options:

  • International Relations Theory
  • Security and Statecraft
  • International Institutions, Law and Ethics
  • International Political Economy

Transferable skills courses

  • Workshop in Information Literacy: Finding, managing and organising published research and data - Aims to develop students' research skills and introduce the essential sources and tools when undertaking research, and the skills required to use them.
  • Relevant courses provided by the Library, the Eden Centre and the Methodology Department - Optional (not examined)

Second year

Training courses

Research Cluster Workshops - Compulsory (not examined)
Students will select from the below options:

  • International Relations Theory
  • Security and Statecraft
  • International Institutions, Law and Ethics
  • International Political Economy

Third year

Training courses

Research Cluster Workshops - Compulsory (not examined)
Students will select from the below options:

  • International Relations Theory
  • Security and Statecraft
  • International Institutions, Law and Ethics
  • International Political Economy

Fourth year

Training courses

Research Cluster Workshops - Compulsory (not examined)
Students will select from the below options:

  • International Relations Theory
  • Security and Statecraft
  • International Institutions, Law and Ethics
  • International Political Economy

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 research 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, one of the Department Research Cluster workshops and take research methods training courses to the combined value of one unit from the recommended list courses. These are designed to strengthen your methodological skills and background knowledge of specific topics related to your research. 

During the second, third and fourth years you will also attend and contribute to one of 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 first year, and no later than within 18 months of initial registration in line with Research Degrees Regulations. 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.


In order to progress to PhD registration, you must normally have met the progression requirements outlined below:

  • Achieved a mark of at least 50% in each of the required examined graduate-level course units in Research Methods training;
  • Have made satisfactory progress in your research: this will be assessed by a face-to-face review panel involving two academic staff members and including the views of the supervisor. Review panels will be formed in consultation with the supervisor.

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.

The material submitted  will be also discussed and commented upon at IR501 lab sessions.

•       Regular attendance at IR501 and the IR Research Cluster Workshop will be taken into account for progression: at least 80% attendance is expected.

In the unlikely event where a student is successful at passing the upgrade panel but requires a second attempt at completing the Research Methods Courses, they may be authorised to be upgraded but would be required to pass the course by the end of their second year in order to re-register.

Progress review

After the first year review panel, progress will be reviewed annually as per Regulations for Research Degrees.

In year 2, you will be expected to submit two additional draft chapters and a timetable to completion which will be reviewed by the same panellists as in Year 1. The two chapters should be substantially new work, but may include revised material from year 1. A virtual panel meeting will be scheduled in week 2-4 of the Summer Term and make recommendations on further progression based on progress made and quality of work submitted, as well as attendance at a Cluster Workshop.

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, as well as their commitment to a Research Cluster. These will need to be approved by the supervisor and reviewed by the Doctoral Programme Director in order to authorise re-registration.

Student support and resources

We’re here to help and support you throughout your time at LSE, whether you need help with your academic studies, support with your welfare and wellbeing or simply to develop on a personal and professional level.

Whatever your query, big or small there are a range of people you can speak to and who will be happy to help.  

Department librarians – they will be able to help you navigate the library and maximise its resources during your studies. 

Accommodation service  - they can offer advice on living in halls and offer guidance on private accommodation related queries. 

Class teachers and seminar leaders – they will be able to assist with queries relating to a specific course you are taking. 

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LSE Faith Centre – home to LSE's diverse religious activities and transformational interfaith leadership programmes, as well as a space for worship, prayer and quiet reflection. It includes Islamic prayer rooms and a main space for worship. It is also a space for wellbeing classes on campus and is open to all students and staff from all faiths and none.  

Language Centre– the centre specialises in offering language courses targeted to the needs of students and practitioners in the social sciences. We offer pre-course English for Academic Purposes programmes; English language support during your studies; modern language courses in 9 languages; proofreading, translation and document authentication and language learning community activities.

LSE Careers ­- with the help of LSE Careers, you can make the most of the opportunities that London has to offer. Whatever your future career plans, LSE Careers will work with you, connecting you to opportunities and experiences from internships and volunteering to networking events and employer and alumni insights. 

LSE Library  Founded in 1896, the British Library of Political and Economic Science is the major international library of the social sciences. It stays open late, has lots of excellent resources and it’s a great place to study. As an LSE student, you’ll have access to a number of other academic libraries in Greater London and nationwide. 

LSE LIFE – this is where you should go to develop skills you’ll use as a student and beyond. The centre runs talks and workshops on skills you’ll find useful in the classroom, offer one-to-one sessions with study advisers who can help you with reading, making notes, writing, research and exam revision, and provide drop-in sessions for academic and personal support.(See ‘Teaching and assessment). 

LSE Students’ Union (LSESU) – they offer academic, personal and financial advice and funding. 

PhD Academy - is available for PhD students, wherever they are, to take part in interdisciplinary events and other professional development activities and access all the services related to their registration. 

Sardinia House Dental Practice - offers discounted private dental services to LSE students. 

St Philips Medical Centre - based in Pethwick-Lawrence House the centre provides NHS Primary Care services to registered patients. 

Student Services Centre – our staff here can answer general queries and can point you in the direction of other LSE services.  

Student advocates and advisers– we have a School Senior Advocate for Students and an Adviser to Women Students who can help with academic and pastoral matters. 

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As a student at LSE you’ll be based at our central London campus. Find out what our campus and London have to offer you on academic, social and career perspective. 

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Want to find out more? Read why we think London is a fantastic student city, find out about key sights, places and experiences for new Londoners. Don't fear, London doesn't have to be super expensive: hear about London on a budget

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.

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.

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