DPhil in International Relations

The DPhil programme is a full-time three-year programme of doctoral study in Politics or International Relations. The programme is designed primarily for those intending to pursue an academic career: the end product of the programme is the writing of a thesis.

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.

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.

Student profiles

The opportunities at Oxford for acquiring and refining that general knowledge and developing that significant and substantial contribution are extensive. The research communities in the Department of Politics and International Relations and of associated departments and institutes within the University specialising in particular sub-disciplines and area studies are large and vibrant. As a DPhil student, you will be at the heart of the Department’s research community. You will have rich opportunities for connecting with fellow-students, postdoctoral fellows, temporary and permanent academic staff involved in disciplinary and cross-disciplinary research programmes. Some of the fruits of those programmes become apparent in multiple seminar programmes within the Department and in associated departments and institutes featuring invited speakers from Oxford and from other major research universities throughout the world.

You will be assigned an expert Academic Supervisor who will advise and guide you as you progress through the different stages of your doctoral research; your college will also assign you an adviser upon whose general pastoral advice and support you will be able to call.

In the early phases of your research programme, your University supervisor will work with you to identify the particular research training needs that you will have and which the Department will provide. By way of example, those DPhil students whose chosen research methods are quantitative or formal in kind will be supported with the appropriate statistical training; for those who need to do primary research in foreign languages, appropriate training will be given wherever possible; and special courses are run by expert members of staff for those requiring training in the use of archives or in the employment of case-studies.

As a doctoral student of the Department, you will have access to outstanding library and computing resources within the Social Sciences Division (of which the Department of Politics and IR is a major part), elsewhere in the University and, in most cases, in your college. The Division runs network events to enable DPhil students to meet and network with 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. For more information see: Centre for International Studies.

Recent Successful DPhil Theses in International Relations

  • Constructing South East Europe: The Politics of Balkan Regional Cooperation, 1995-2003.
  • Reagan’s ‘Democratic Crusade’: Presidential Rhetoric and the Remaking of American Foreign Policy.
  • Transnational Activism and its Limits: The Campaign for Disarmament between the Two World Wars.
  • Passion, Politics, and the Past: The Role of Affect in U.S. Decision-Making during the Korean War.
  • Continuity and Change in Soviet and Russian Missile Defence Politics, 1969-2002.
  • Azerbaijan’s Foreign Policy: Perceptions and Strategic Choices of a Small State in Great Power Politics, 1991-2003.
  • Ruling Global Cyberspace: Institutions, Interests and Non-State Actors in the Creation of Rules for Electronic Commerce.
  • Russian Arms Transfers in the Post-Cold War Era: China, India and Iran, 1992-2002.
  • Explaining Change in Russian Foreign Policy towards the West, 1994-2004: The Impact of Collective Ideas.
  • Russia as an Aspiring Great Power in East Asia: Perceptions and Policies.

A full list of IR theses may be found here.

The majority of graduates from our DPhil programmes move on to careers in academia. But there are other career paths: some proceed to careers in the law; in public service, whether with national civil services or international organisations; in thinktanks or NGOs; management consultancy, the media, banking, and business. Whatever the career choice that those who gain a DPhil make, the combination of intense preparation, closely-focussed analytical abilities, rigorous research methods, and clarity of exposition are qualities which are as desirable in many other demanding professional careers as they are necessary in academia.


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