About the course
The DPhil programme is a full-time programme of doctoral research in the academic study of International Relations with an expected length of three to four years of full-time study or six to eight years of part-time study. Note that the part-time option is not a distance-learning programme; part-time students are required to attend face-to-face teaching in Oxford on up to three separate days each week during term.
As a DPhil student you will be a member of a distinguished academic community that is renowned for its cutting-edge research and its intensive and individualised teaching and supervision. The programme has received the highest level of recognition in UK national and global assessment exercises. It is a community from which you will draw support and guidance but which will also learn from your own contribution to its work.
You will have rich opportunities for connecting with fellow-students, postdoctoral fellows, and temporary and permanent academic staff involved in disciplinary and cross-disciplinary research programmes. The department attracts many of the world’s leading figures in International Relations (IR) - as visiting scholars, speakers in the regular IR Colloquium, and participants in research conferences and workshops.
Doctoral students spend the first year of full-time study, or the first two years of part-time study, in the development of, and early work on, the thesis topic; in improving knowledge of quantitative and qualitative research methods; in attendance at relevant lectures, seminars and classes; and in preparing to transfer from Probationary Research Student (PRS - the status at which you will normally be admitted - see Assessment) to full DPhil status.
An academic supervisor will advise and guide you as you progress through the different stages of your doctoral research. In addition to work for your supervisor, you will be required to take a range of coursework. In the first term this includes: Research Design and Methods (RDM) in IR, Research Design, and introductory or intermediate statistics, as well as attendance at the regular IR DPhil Research Seminar which runs through the year and at which doctoral students present their work. In the second term students continue with RDM in IR and take one course in Formal Analysis, Causal Inference or Qualitative Methods. In the third term, there are a series of short, specialised methods courses. For part-time students, these coursework obligations are distributed across six terms.
Exemptions from particular elements of the coursework can be sought on the basis of previous training. Subsequent years are largely devoted to the development of the thesis project.
Doctoral theses will normally require substantial original research, often involving archives, fieldwork, interviewing or other forms of data generation and collection. For the doctoral degree the most crucial requirement is that the thesis makes a ‘significant and substantial contribution to the field of knowledge within which it falls’. There are many ways of achieving this.
The department is committed to the rigorous use of a plurality of methods. There are many different ways of conducting research for a thesis. Any or all may be valid in a given case, depending on the subject of the research and the questions addressed. Some theses may involve an analytical-descriptive attempt at understanding different events, perspectives and traditions of thought. Others may have a strong historiographical element - exploring, for example, the relation between events and ideas, or involving an original and expert use of sources. Others may involve advancing a hypothesis about a subject and then testing it with a range of qualitative and/or quantitative approaches. Apart from meeting the highest scholarly standards, there is no set template. There is also a strong and successful tradition of normative and critical work. Oxford IR seeks to combine the best of North American political science with deep engagement with the international relations of different parts of the world and with the history of different traditions of thought on the subject.
As a doctoral student of the department, you will have access to outstanding library and computing resources within the Social Sciences Division (of which the Department of Politics and IR is a major part), elsewhere in the University and, in most cases, in your college. The division runs network events to enable DPhil students to meet and network with their colleagues not only within politics and IR but with other social science disciplines.
As a part-time student you will be required to attend classes, seminars, supervision meetings and other obligations in Oxford for a minimum of thirty days each year.
There will be limited flexibility in the dates and pattern of attendance. Attendance will be required during term-time at least one day each week throughout the first two years of your study on days determined by your class and seminar attendance and by your supervisor. Attendance will be required outside of term-time on dates to be determined by mutual agreement with your supervisor.
You will be required to attend fieldwork and training sessions on dates to be determined by mutual agreement with your supervisor.
Successful completion of an Oxford DPhil requires an intense and sustained level of personal motivation and focus within a world-class research and teaching environment.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Politics and International Relations and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Supervisors are usually selected from the academic staff within the Department of Politics and International Relations. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Politics and International Relations.
You will be assigned an academic supervisor who will advise and guide you as you progress through the different stages of your doctoral research.
Applicants are admitted to the DPhil with Probationer Research Student (PRS) status. As a PRS, you will develop your research proposal and skills, complete a programme of assessed research methods coursework, and produce a draft section or sections of the thesis, in order to apply for the Transfer of Status that will end your probationary period as a research student. The Graduate Studies Committee will require satisfactory completion of this training programme as a condition of your change of status from PRS to DPhil.
Once you have been admitted to full DPhil status, you must achieve confirmation of that status by the end of your ninth term as a full-time doctoral student, or by the end of your eighteenth term as a part-time student. Once you have completed your thesis, you will be examined viva voce.
International Relations has an outstanding placement record. The largest group of DPhil students go on to careers in academia or research. Many move on to post-doctoral fellowships in the UK, continental Europe and North America. Our doctoral students have a distinguished history of winning thesis and other prizes and of publishing their work in leading journals and with major university presses. The universities at which IR graduates have gained academic positions over recent years include: ANU, McGill, Waterloo, Sciences Po, Amsterdam, Groningen, The Graduate Institute Geneva, SAIS/JHU, ETH Zürich, The New School, Swarthmore, LSE, Oxford, Cambridge, King’s College London, University College London, Queen Mary London, St Andrews, Exeter, Reading, Warwick, PUC Santiago, and FGV São Paulo. Oxford IR DPhils also work at all levels in many of world’s leading think-tanks and research institutes in Europe and North America but also in Brazil, South Africa, and Singapore. Others still have moved to achieve leading positions in the policy and political world. The department runs regular courses on professional training, including on interviews, research grant applications and academic publishing.
DPIR is committed to engaging with its alumni community, through its Inspires alumni email newsletter and Alumni Career Conversations series of online talks.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
All graduate courses offered by the Department of Politics and International Relations
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a master’s degree at distinction level in international relations, or in a closely related discipline that has prepared you to undertake advanced graduate research on your chosen thesis topic; and
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in politics or international relations, or in a related discipline such as economics, history, philosophy, sociology or law.
Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a record of academic performance at first-class and/or distinction level.
Applicants without a master’s qualification will not normally be admitted for doctoral study.
Each application will be assessed upon its own merits, and candidates with a degree in an unrelated discipline should demonstrate the relevance of their academic background to their proposed subject or topic of study.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Research or work experience that is relevant to your proposed study may provide further evidence of your academic potential.
- Publications are not expected, but a peer-reviewed publication in international relations or an allied discipline may be taken as prima facie evidence of aptitude for research.
Part-time applicants will also be expected to show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and, if applicable, an employer's commitment to make time available to study, to complete coursework, and attend course and University events and modules in Oxford. Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project. As a probationer research student, coursework requirements will necessitate attendance in Oxford for at least one day per week during full-term. It is therefore likely that part-time students are either already resident in Oxford or will live within commuting distance of the city, such as via the strong transport links along the M4 corridor and between major cities to the north (including Birmingham) and south (including Southampton).
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
The DPIR provides a stimulating research environment in which you can pursue your interests beyond the formal demands of the syllabus.
Many of the academic staff who teach on the graduate programmes also organise extracurricular research seminars for graduate students, such as, the International Relations Research.
The DPIR also hosts a wide range of research centres and programmes which actively seek to develop collaborative research activity via conferences, workshops and other academic events, and which include graduate students in their activities.
Research centres provide opportunities for you to present your own work in research seminar series and at conferences in the department and beyond. The research centres have an established and popular visitors’ programme which has allowed many scholars of international repute to participate in the DPIR’s research activities.
At Oxford you have access to an extensive range of libraries, books, journals, online resources, manuscripts and more. The Bodleian Libraries is the main library service supporting the University of Oxford. The Bodleian Libraries include the Bodleian Library, which has been a library of legal deposit for 400 years, as well as the Bodleian Social Science Library. This is located on the ground floor of the Manor Road Building and houses the main collection for Politics and International Relations alongside a wide range of other social sciences resources.
SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) is the search engine for all library collections across the university. It provides access to information in over 100 libraries including college and departmental libraries as well as the Bodleian Libraries. Your Single Sign-On offers easy access to subscription resources through SOLO. The Politics and International Relations subject guide provides up-to-date advice and the contact details of your Subject Librarian for further support.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel and vaccination expenses, conference attendance, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs.
Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel and vaccination expenses, conference attendance, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students for full-time study on this course:
The following colleges accept students for part-time study on this course:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You are advised to review the profiles of academic staff before you apply as successful applications always depend on the DPIR's capacity to offer appropriate supervision. A supervisor should be a permanent member of the Department of Politics and International Relations. However, you are not required to make contact with any prospective supervisors before you apply, as the DPIR arranges supervision for successful applicants. General questions about the course should be directed to the course administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).
Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic (s) who you would like to supervise your research.
You can enter the names of up to two supervisors, either in order of preference or indicating equal preference.
Three overall, academic preferred
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Your application must be supported by academic references, ie each referee should be able to testify to your academic abilities, achievements and motivation. In most cases, the academics who have taught you or who have known your academic work during earlier university-level study will be best placed to testify to these capabilities. When that is not possible, a professional reference from a colleague who has worked with you in a research capacity or is otherwise able to comment on your academic capabilities is acceptable in place of a tutor’s reference.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
A minimum of 4,000 words to a maximum of 6,000 words
You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English, covering areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning.
These suggested lengths are provided for guidance only and you may exceed them. The research proposal should be written in English.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying to the DPhil programme
- the coherence of the proposal
- the originality of the project
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English
- the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the degree (a maximum of four years)
- commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- preliminary knowledge of research techniques
- capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.
It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.
Your proposal should focus on your research project rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
Two essays, a maximum of 2,000 words each
You may submit academic essays on any subject or theme within the discipline of international relations but preferably ones that relate to your proposed area of study.
The essays may be written specially for the application or may have been produced for other purposes, for instance as a coursework submission within a previous degree programme. Essays that comprise extracts or excerpted sections from longer pieces are acceptable but should be prefaced with a brief note that places them in context.
The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes. All written work should be in English.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct and defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression.