MPhil International Relations

The MPhil in International Relations is a two-year (21-month) course which offers intellectually rigorous training in the recent history of world politics, theoretical approaches to the study of IR, and a plurality of research methods.

The course equips students with the skills they require to undertake 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 competitive and students come from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities.

The Department is internationally recognised as a leader in research in International Relations and is home to the Centre for International Studies.

Click here to contact current students with any questions.

Component Assessment
Year one A 20-week core course on the Development of the International System since 1900 and in Contemporary Debates in International Relations TheoryA written examination on the core course at the end of the first year
Research Design and Approaches to Research in International RelationsA test in quantitative, formal and qualitative methods, as well as the submission of coursework and a research design proposal as preparation for the thesis
Year two Two optional coursesWritten examinations in your chosen two subjects
Research and write thesisSubmission of a thesis of no more than 30,000 words

The objective of the course is to give students, in their 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 30,000-word thesis.

The MPhil course has both substantive and research methods training elements:

  • A core paper, on which a written examination is held at the end of the first year.
  • A programme of research methods training.
  • Two optional subjects, leading to written examinations at the end of the second year.
  • A thesis of not more than 30,000 words. A complete list of successful theses in International Relations since 1971 may be found here.

At the end of your first year, you’ll be required to pass the First Year Examination. Failure to do so means that you cannot proceed to the second year’s work. The First Year Examination has two parts:

  • A three-hour written examination paper, with questions drawn from the core paper in IR, as taught in the first twenty weeks. This exam is taken at the end of Trinity Term.
  • Three short departmental tests based upon the 'Research Design and Approaches to Research in International Relations' course, as taught in the first twenty weeks, including questions on Research Design and Methods in International Relations and Statistical Methods.


The courses offered vary from year to year, depending on students’ research interests and the availability of faculty. The Department cannot guarantee, therefore, that a particular course will be run in any given year. In recent years the following courses have been offered:

Second-year Optional Subjects

  • United States Foreign Policy
  • International Political Economy
  • The International Relations of East Asia
  • Classical Theories of International Relations
  • The International Relations of the Developing and Post-colonial World
  • The Making of Modern International Society
  • Collective Political Violence
  • The European Union in Crisis

Research Methods Options

  • Intermediate Social Statistics
  • Qualitative Methods in Political Science
  • Formal Analysis
  • Archival Research
  • Causal Inference
  • Content Analysis and Word Scoring
  • Evolutionary Approaches to International Relations
  • Panel Data Analysis

The MPhil thesis is a substantial piece of research presented in a 30,000 word thesis, which demonstrates a grasp of a particular sub-field, a set of design and methodological issues, and the ability to develop and sustain an independent line of argument.

Some recent thesis titles include:

  • Fragmentation & Consolidation in the Shadow of External Powers: Lebanese Identity and Foreign Policy, 1991-2005
  • Explaining Lithuania's Policy on EU Accession, 1991-2002
  • The Politics of the World Bank Inspection Panel
  • Costly Brotherhood: How to Explain Russia's Relationship with Belarus in 1994-2004
  • Stalemate: U.S. Policy Toward Iran, 1979-2001
  • The capacity of conditionality to empower: the streamlining of IMF and World Bank conditionality and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals
  • ‘Securitising’ the asylum-seeker? A study of official discourse on asylum in the UK and Australia since 9/11
  • "The Beijing Consensus on Growth: China's Newest Export?"
  • The Currency of Defeat: Asymmetric Warfare Theory and Israel's Loss of the War in Lebanon
  • ASEAN Intervention in the Cambodian Conflict, 1978-1998
  • From the NPT to Ottawa: the Changing Face of Multilateral Arms Control
  • The Balance of Power and Security Order in Post-Cold War Asia
  • ‘YOU SAY TOMATO’ An enquiry into the relationship between collective preferences and trade
  • The Meaning, Evolution, and Implementation of the Responsibility to Protect, 2001-2005
  • Suicide from fear of death”? The changing logic of preventive war 1945-2004
  • Pursuit of a Doctrine: The First Clinton Presidency 1993-1997

 A complete list of successful theses in International Relations since 1971 may be found here.

Read more about International Relations at DPIR