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.
The Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR) is internationally recognised as a leader in research in the field of international relations. DPIR is ranked first for research overall in the most recent Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) global university rankings for Politics and International Studies, consolidating its position as one of the top four in the world which it has held in the QS rankings since 2017.
The MPhil in International Relations is a two-year (21-month) course which combines intellectually rigorous training in theoretical and conceptual approaches to international relations with the study of the recent history of world politics, as well as providing methodological training and personalised guidance for the production of high-quality original research.
The MPhil International Relations course equips you with the knowledge and skills you require to pursue further research and study at an advanced level and also to undertake many forms of professional work in the field. This MPhil is a very popular course, attracting students from the world’s leading institutions. Entry is very competitive and students come from a wide range of 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.