Politics and International Relations

PhD, MPhil

Politics and International Relations at Leicester offers supervision for the degrees of:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - full-time and part-time
  • Master of Philosophy (MPhil) - full-time and part-time

These degrees are available to study both on campus and by the PhD by distance learning.

Supervision and research areas

We offer PhD and MPhil supervision in Politics and International Relations in areas compatible with the research interests of our academic staff including:

  • International Relations and Security Studies
  • Political Theory
  • Institutions, Participation, Public Opinion, Parties, and Comparative Politics

Interested in a different research area?

It is important that the area you want to work in is broadly compatible with our research interests - otherwise we may not be able to accept your application.

However, please do not feel we will not be interested if there is not an exact match. It is sometimes possible to be flexible, so please contact us.

Entry requirements

You must hold a UK undergraduate (Bachelor's) degree with at least First-Class or Upper Second-Class honours or an equivalent qualification from a recognised overseas institution. Applicants are also normally required to hold a Master's degree in a relevant subject.

See academic entry requirements and the English language entry requirements.

How to apply

If you have any questions that are not answered below, please feel free to get in touch with Dr Tara McCormack, Postgraduate Research Tutor for Politics and International Relations.

  1. Before you apply, please search our staff research interests.
  2. Once you have done this, please get in touch with the relevant supervisor to ask them if your research would be something they could undertake and if the proposal sounds viable. Please note: it is not the role of the lecturer to comment in depth upon a proposal.
  3. Download and save the Research Proposal Form, complete all sections using the guidance below and on the form. When you are ready to apply for your place you will need to upload the form to the Research Proposal section of your online application form.  Draft a research proposal. A research proposal needs to be substantive and in depth. It is on the basis of the proposal that we (mostly) make the final decision. 
    Some general points to think about:
    • A PhD proposal needs to be in-depth and focused
    • Begin with your ‘research puzzle’. What is your starting point for the research?
    • What is the main literature (academic and/or policy) in your field?  A PhD must make an ‘original contribution to knowledge’ as broadly understood. In order to do this, you must to situate your research proposal in an academic and/or policy field and explain how your work corrects/contributes to/builds upon  the field.  This means that there must be some substantive discussion of the main literature in the field
    • Think about your research question/s. They need to be focused and specific
    • How will your chapters work towards answering your question/s?
  4. You might be interested in signing up for our 5 week online course Discovering Your PhD Potential: Writing a Research Proposal. The course is offered through FutureLearn where you can register your interest for the next available course.
  5. Prepare your supporting documents - with your application you need to include proof that you meet the academic entry requirements and the English language entry requirements:
    • Include all relevant certificates/diplomas and transcripts
    • International applicants must provide official copies of their entire course transcripts including explanations of the mark schemes used
    • Supporting documents not in English must be provided with a certified English translation
    • CV
    • In addition to uploading the above documents please enter contact details for two academic (not personal) referees who can comment on your suitability for the research degree programme or upload letters of reference if already available
    • Personal Statement

Submit your online application using the Apply button at the bottom of this page. Upload your supporting documents and completed Research Proposal Form.

When to apply

We have intakes in January, April, July and September each year.

You should try to submit your application as far in advance of your preferred start date as possible. If you are an international applicant and require a visa to study in the UK you should submit your application at least three-to-four months before the proposed start date.

After you have submitted your application, it will take a minimum of six weeks for you to receive a decision about your application.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees vary according to your fee status (whether you live in the UK, EU, or international) and the mode of study (full-time or part-time). For clarification, please contact pgradmissions@le.ac.uk.

UK/EU Campus-based

*UK fees will rise each year of study in line with UKRI rates.


  • Starting in 2020/21 academic year: £4,407 per year
  • Starting in 2021/22 academic year: £4,500 per year


  • Starting in 2020/21 academic year: £2,203.50 per year
  • Starting in 2021/22 academic year: £2,250 per year

International Campus based


  • Starting in 2020/21 academic year: £15,520 per year
  • Starting in 2021/22 academic year: £15, 520 per year


Please note that owing to UK visa restrictions, part-time campus based registration is not normally available to international applicants.

Distance learning

UK/EU distance Learning

  • Starting in 2020/21 academic year: £20,825 (Total course fee)
  • Starting in 2021/22 academic year: £20,825 (Total course fee)
International distance learning
  • Starting in 2020/21 academic year: £24,930 (Total course fee)
  • Starting in 2021/22 academic year: £24,930 (Total course fee)

Paying for distance learning

The fees quoted are the total fee for the PhD distance learning programme and can be paid by the following options:.
  • Total course fee paid in full before first registration
  • Total course fee split into four annual payments with first annual payment made in full before first registration
  • Total course fee split into 12 equal instalments paid spread over years 1-4 of the study.  The first instalment to be paid before first registration
  • If study extends beyond the 4th year no further fees are required

A payment schedule will be sent with the offer letter.

The normal duration of a PhD programme is three years (full-time). PhD students may use the fourth year as a 'writing-up' year for which a reduced fee is payable if active research has been completed (currently £100). The maximum registration permitted is four years full-time or seven years part-time.


For a list of our available scholarships/studentships, please visit our funded opportunities pages.

PhD description

PhD students complete an independent research project under the guidance of a supervisory team. The research is normally completed over a maximum period of 3.0-3.5 years (full-time) or 6.0-6.5 years (part-time/distance learning).

A fourth year (full-time) or seventh year (part-time/distance learning) or the remaining part of this can be used to prepare the thesis for examination. The thesis should not normally exceed 80,000 words and must make an original contribution to knowledge and contain work of publishable quality. The thesis must then be defended in a viva voce (oral) examination before a degree can be awarded.

PhDs Explained