Introduction to DPIR Graduate Research Degrees
DPIR is the proud home of leading thinkers in the study of government and politics, international relations, and political theory and philosophy.
If you want to complete doctoral research in politics at Oxford, you can choose from two DPhil (PhD) courses: either Politics or International Relations. As an Oxford DPhil student you will be a member of a distinguished academic community renowned for its cutting-edge research and intensive and individualised teaching and supervision. It is a community from which you will draw support and guidance, but which will also learn from your contribution to its work.
This year, DPIR is joining the University of Oxford’s continuing pilot on selection procedures for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly. For all DPIR graduate programmes, socio-economic data (where it has been provided in the application form) will be used to contextualise applications at the different stages of the selection process. For more information, see the initiatives to improve access to graduate study.
How DPhil degrees work
Both the Politics DPhil and International Relations DPhil are intended for three or four years of full-time doctoral study, or six to eight years of part-time study. You can read more about key milestones for DPhil students on the University's website.
Applicants are admitted to the DPhil with Probationer Research Student (PRS) status. As a PRS, you will develop your research proposal and skills, complete a programme of assessed research methods coursework, and produce a draft section or sections of the thesis, in order to apply for the Transfer of Status that will end your probationary period as a research student. The Graduate Studies Committee will require satisfactory completion of this training programme as a condition of your change of status from PRS to DPhil.
Once you have been admitted to full DPhil status, you must achieve confirmation of that status by the end of your ninth term as a full-time doctoral student, or by the end of your eighteenth term as a part-time student.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Politics and International Relations and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Supervisors are usually selected from the academic staff within the Department of Politics and International Relations. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Politics and International Relations.
You will conduct your own research under the guidance of a University supervisor. You must be prepared to work on your own a good deal, and will need considerable personal motivation. Once you have agreed a suitable programme of research training with your supervisor, you should review progress on an annual basis with your supervisor, as part of the process of continuous personal development.
Successful completion of an Oxford DPhil requires an intense and sustained level of personal motivation and focus within a world-class research and teaching environment.
As a doctoral student of the Department, you will have access to outstanding library and computing resources within the Social Sciences Division, elsewhere in the University and, in most cases, in your college.
Doctoral theses will normally require substantial original research, often involving archives, fieldwork, interviewing or other forms of data generation and collection.
Once you have completed your thesis, you will be examined orally in a Viva.
Accordingly, the standards set for award of the degree are appropriately high. The University’s regulations require that a candidate meet two criteria for the DPhil to be awarded: first, that in her or his thesis, it should be clear that the candidate possesses a good general knowledge of the particular field of learning within which the subject of the thesis falls; and second, that she or he has in the thesis made a significant and substantial contribution in the particular field of learning within which the thesis falls.
The Social Sciences Division runs network events to enable DPhil students to meet their colleagues not only within Politics and IR but with other social science disciplines. For doctoral students nearing completion of their thesis, the Division also runs career development events and training.
The department also offers website profiles to DPhil students, which can be tagged and flagged for potential recruiters as 'Job market candidates'. In 2021 the Department set up termly 'DPIR Alumni Career Conversations'; virtual panel discussions and Q&As with alumni who have gone on to various careers of interest around the world. You can read more about DPIR alumni careers in our 'Life after DPIR' alumni interview series.
In the following video our academics share their opinions about why students should apply to postgraduate study at DPIR.