Course: International Relations MPhil
The MPhil in International Relations has not only helped to shape my interests, aspirations and career goals, but it has helped to shape me as an individual in ways I had not expected.
Oxford is one of the leading centres in Europe for graduate studies and advanced research in International Relations.
The MPhil in International Relations is a popular two-year (21-month) course, attracting students from the world’s leading institutions. It offers intellectually rigorous training in theories and methods of International Relations, based on current and historical developments in international affairs.
The course equips students with the skills they need to undertake research and pursue a wide range of professional careers. Entry is competitive and students come from various backgrounds and nationalities.
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.
By the end of the two-year programme, students will have completed advanced training in International Relations and research methods, and will have applied their new knowledge and skills to produce an original piece of research that contributes to the field.
The objectives of the course are to give you, in your first-year, a thorough mastery of the major theories and methods in International Relations, and to develop your research skills.
In year one 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. This includes writing a research design proposal in preparation for the MPhil thesis.
Methods training covers various approaches. It aims to provide you with the skills necessary to critically evaluate existing work and produce rigorous original research.
The first year’s foundation is supplemented in the second year by a 30,000-word thesis and specialised course work on two optional subjects. Options in recent years have included*:
- The Making of Modern International Society
- Strategic Studies
- The International Relations of the Developing and Post-Colonial World
- International Political Economy
- The International Relations of East Asia
- U.S. Foreign Policy
- The EU in Crisis
- International Law
*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.
- 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
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.
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.