Postgraduate study

Politics PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Politics

Approximately 60 members of PIR academic staff enjoy international reputations for their research and have won numerous teaching, research and advising awards. Their scholarship covers a diverse range of research areas on Scotland, Europe, and the world, and is published in highly-rated journals and books.

The department has a strong tradition of advising, informing and debating policy with key decision-makers at Scottish, UK, European and international levels, and has a notable concentration of political theorists.

Research in Politics and International Relations explores the theory, practice and ethics of politics and governance.

We cover a broad area of expertise, from local policy to global governance, political theory to empirical studies, constructivism to rational choice approaches.

Our Politics & International Relations group has close links with cross-disciplinary and internationally recognised research centres.

Major research focuses include:

  • sub-state and supranational dimensions of politics and public policy
  • the impact of devolution in the UK and elsewhere, and the constitution and governance of the European Union
  • international politics: changing relations, the new security agenda, transatlantic relations, political economy, migration politics and global governance
  • nationalism, democratic transition, civil society and institution-building
  • health, welfare, environment, competition, migrations and citizenship, and equal opportunities policies
  • political theory, especially war ethics, environmental ethics and theories of freedom

The degree is based on three to four years of full-time research. Each student follows an individual training programme designed with their supervisor and the Postgraduate Adviser. This programme is reviewed and updated on an annual basis.

In the first year, you will acquire a wide range of research skills and formulate their research question and related design, under the guidance of their supervisors. At the end of their course of study you will submit a thesis and will be assessed in an oral examination (viva voce) by two examiners (usually one internal to the University, the other external).

The thesis is a long piece of research on a topic of your particular interest and makes an original contribution to the field of politics and international relations.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhD3 YearsFull-timeProgramme structure 2021/22
PhD6 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2021/22

You will follow a programme of research training, drawn from the MSc by Research courses coordinated by the School of Social and Political Science and Politics and International Relations-specific training.

The programme equips you with professional training to a high standard. After graduating you can expect to be a strong candidate for careers in a wide variety of contexts, including academia, the media, the private sector and a diverse array of public services. Nearly everyone needs good researchers!

Politics and International Relations helps you gain a range of transferable skills above and beyond those required by their specific projects, such as:

  • organising seminars and conferences
  • learning how to apply for research jobs in and out of academia
  • learning how to deliver professional seminar presentations

Postgraduate researchers also have access to the University and College-wide programme of training in transferable skills and other aspects of professional development, such as specialist careers advice.

Research library and archive facilities in Edinburgh are outstanding.

You will be a member of the Graduate School of Social & Political Science, with full access to the Graduate School’s facilities in the Chrystal Macmillan Building.

Other library and archive facilities include the University’s Main Library, the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Records Office. Proximity to the Scottish Parliament and other institutions of national government provides further research opportunities.

These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.

A UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent, and a UK masters degree with an overall mark of 65% or its international equivalent.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: 70 overall with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

(*Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Application fee

This programme requires a non-refundable application fee.

  • £50

Your application will not be processed until we have received your application fee.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhD3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhD6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

For specialised guidance on submitting a competitive scholarship application, we strongly recommend you contact the Postgraduate Advisor for your Subject Area:

  • Postgraduate Advisors. You should advise which scholarships you intend to apply for and send your draft research proposal. The Postgraduate Advisor will then contact you with guidance.

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD
Programme start date Application deadline
12 September 2022 4 July 2022

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit two references with your application.

We encourage PhD applicants in particular to contact potential supervisors before applying to discuss their research proposal so we can ensure there is adequate supervision.

Application fee

A non-refundable application fee of £50 must be paid after you submit your application. Your application will not be processed until we have received your application fee.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD