How to look for information on the course

This webpage aims to give you a flavour of what you will learn on the course. Further information about this course (including entry requirements) is on the University of Oxford International Relations MPhil webpage.

You can also explore International Relations research at DPIR, for an idea of the research that our academic community pursues.

Course outline

The objective of the course is to give you, in your first-year, a thorough mastery of the major facts, methodologies and perspectives in the field, as well as to develop research skills. This is supplemented in the second year by specialised course work on two optional subjects and a thesis.

  • Year One

    In the first year as an MPhil in International Relations student, you must complete core classes in the development of the international system and contemporary debates in international relations theory, and a course on research design and methods in international relations, which includes the writing of a research design proposal in preparation for the MPhil thesis. Methods training spans a variety of approaches, both quantitative and qualitative, and is intended to provide the skills necessary to both critically evaluate existing work and produce rigorous original research.

  • Year two

    In your second year you will write a thesis and complete two specialist option papers. Options offered in recent years have included:

    • The Making of Modern International Society
    • Strategic Studies
    • The International Relations of the Developing and Post-Colonial World
    • The International Relations of East Asia
    • U.S. Foreign Policy
    • The USSR and Russia in International Relations
    • Main Themes in Israeli Society and Politics

    Please note, these options are illustrative only. Politics course options are subject to change year-to-year, and we cannot guarantee these options will be offered in the year you take the course.

    For information on how the course is assessed, please visit the University’s MPhil in International Relations listing.

  • What you will learn
    • Fluency in the major theoretical approaches in the field of International Relations, including both conventional and critical perspectives
    • A comprehensive understanding of current and historical developments in international affairs
    • The ability to critically engage literature in the field
    • A working proficiency in the fundamentals of research design and in different research methods
    • The ability to undertake rigorous and original research
  • How we teach you

    Graduate teaching and supervision at Oxford are provided by your academic department—in this case, DPIR—although some graduate teaching may take place on college premises.

    Most courses on the MPhil in IR are taught through seminars: small groups of students are led by a member of the faculty in sessions that focus on student presentations and discussion. In addition, students regularly meet with their Academic Supervisor, one-to-one or with one or two other students present, to discuss their coursework and research. In the delivery of some research methods courses, lectures are used alongside small-group teaching.

Applying to Oxford

The MPhil in International Relations is a program with a heavy emphasis on developing independent research skills. In your application you are therefore invited to outline the topic of your second-year thesis. Do not worry, if you do not yet have a detailed research proposal. The first year of the MPhil programme will teach you the skills to develop your ideas.

You are advised to review the profiles of academic staff before you apply as successful applications depend on the DPIR's capacity to offer appropriate supervision. However, you do not need to contact academic staff members before you apply

Please read about funding options and find links to further University guidance on our graduate fees and funding webpage.

Graduate stories

The MPhil teaches you much more than the great historical and contemporary debates in international relations. It provides a fantastic framework through which to view the world inside academia and equally outside of it, a platform upon which to develop and act on innovative ideas with brilliant coursemates.

IR MPhil students and alumni

Oxford's MPhil in International Relations has helped lay the foundations for over 500 students’ further doctoral research and careers over the last four decades. Many of those have since gone on to careers in international NGOs, government, diplomacy, law, policy-making, research and academia.