DPhil in Politics

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.

With the exception of those who complete the MPhil first, candidates for the DPhil normally proceed through Probationer Research Student status to DPhil status.
DPhil students are expected to present aspects of their work at the relevant research seminars at Oxford. This will help you to develop presentational skills, and to give and receive feedback. You are also encouraged to present your work at seminars, conferences etc. outside Oxford (e.g. PSA, APSA, ECPR etc.).
You may submit your thesis up to 12 terms after the date of your admission as a graduate student. Any additional time required beyond that must be applied for through the Graduate Studies Committee.
The maximum length of a DPhil thesis is 100,000 words, excluding the bibliography. This maximum is taken seriously and permission to exceed it is rarely given.

The examiners of a DPhil thesis are asked to certify that:

  • you possess a good general knowledge of the field of learning within which the subject of the thesis falls;
  • you have made a significant and substantial contribution in the particular field of learning within which the subject of your thesis falls;
  • it is presented in a lucid and scholarly manner;
  • you have presented a satisfactory abstract of the thesis.
  • DPhil examiners are asked to bear in mind that their judgement of the substantial significance of the work should take into account what may reasonably be expected of a capable and diligent graduate student after three or at most four years of full-time study.

Successful Theses

  • Resuscitation of German Strategy
  • Economic Reforms in Saudi Arabia: Transformation of the Rentier State
  • On Cultural Rights
  • "This is People's Water!": Water Services Struggles and the Emergence of the New Social Movements in Mpumalanga, Durban; 1998 2005
  • Chinese Nationalism and Chinese Foreign Policy Making: A Camouflage?
  • The Quest for Land Reform: Forced Removals, Land NGO's and Community Politics in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, c.1950 to 2000
  • Property and the Power to Say No: A Freedom based Argument for basic income
  • Bringing Desert into Liberal Egalitarian Justice
  • Blame Avoidance and the Politics of Public Inquiries in the UK 1984 2003
  • A Justified Claim? Reparations, Historical Injustice and the Case of American Slavery
  • The Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Union and its Agenda Setting Powers
  • Social Democracy in Latin America. The Post Transition Politics of the Left in Chile and Uruguay
  • Islamic Doctrines of Citizenship in Liberal Democracies: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus
  • Immigration Policy and Party Organization: Explaining the Rise of the Populist Right in Western Europe
  • Anarchism and Political Theory: Contemporary Problems
  • Magic Numbers? Women, Men and the Representation of Women in the British Parliaments
  • The Political Economy of the Budget Making Policy in Venezuela, 1974-1999
  • New Party Success and Failure in Japan: The Experiences of the Liberal Party, 1998 2003
  • The Concept of Luck and Responsibility in Contemporary Theories of Justice

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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