How to look for information on the course

The definitive information about this course (including entry requirements) is on the University of Oxford Politics MPhil (Political Theory) webpage.

This webpage aims to give you a flavour of what you will learn on the course. You can also explore Political Theory research at DPIR, for an idea of broader themes and ideas explored by our academic community.

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, you must complete the core classes and tutorials in the theory of politics and a programme of research methods training, which includes core courses in reasoning in political philosophy and in approaches to the study of political theory.

  • Year two

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

    • Political Theories of Hegel and Marx
    • Mitigating Historical Injustice
    • Critical Theory
    • Contemporary Political Philosophy
    • Normative Political Economy: The Ethics of Economic Systems and Social Policy
    • Reasonable Disagreement and Political Argument

    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 Political Theory listing.

  • How we teach you

    A high proportion of the teaching for your course is designed and delivered by Oxford academics, highly respected for their research in Politics and International Relations.

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

    The majority of graduate teaching at DPIR takes the form of either one-to-one supervision meetings with your Academic Supervisor or tuition in small groups (as with classes and seminars). However, lectures are also used alongside small-group teaching in the delivery of some Research Methods training courses.

  • What you will learn
    • knowledge and understanding of the major topics and perspectives within Political Theory based on a broad critical knowledge and understanding of relevant scholarly literature;
    • an understanding of research skills appropriate to the subject, including analytical, critical, and historical skills, which are also deployed in the individual research thesis;
    • the spirit and practice of analytical and scholarly enquiry; 
    • experience of presenting and receiving critical reception of your seminar papers and essays.

Applying to Oxford

As the MPhil in Political Theory is a research degree, you should give some indication of the likely topic of your second-year thesis in your application. Do not worry if you do not yet have a detailed research proposal: the first year of the MPhil programme is intended to help you to develop this.

You are advised to review the profiles of academic staff before you apply as successful applications always 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 Political Theory Faculty at Oxford is very diverse, bringing together people working in normative, historical, and critical political theory.