School of Politics and International Relations

School History

The subject of politics was first taught at the University of Nottingham in 1959. At this time a single lecturer, Eric Rowe, based in the Department of Social Science, contributed to a joint degree in Politics and Economics.

Change and expansion throughout the next 5 decades gradually brought us to the large and vibrant school that we are today.

Through the Years

Click on a date below to learn more.




In 1965, the University of Nottingham established a Department of Politics, based in the old Engineering Building, and appointed Richard Pear as its first Professor of Politics.


1971 - 1981

During the 1970s, the Department was a vibrant place but remained relatively small, taking in approximately 30 undergraduates each year. In 1971 the Municipal Mutual Insurance Company endowed the Sir Francis Hill chair, allowing the University to appoint Frnak Stacey, an expert in local government.

Following his death in 1977, he was succeeded by David Regan. In 1979 the geographical range of the department expanded with the arrival of Anthony Kemp Welch, whose research included Soviet politics, however the Department's main focus remained on British and European politics together with Political Theory.

In 1981 Richard Pear retired and was replaced by Denis Kavanagh, who focused on British political parties and elections. For many years he was author of the Nuffield studies of British Elections, together with David Butler.


1986 - 1988

The Department had now moved to the Orchards building and was led by Denis Kavanagh and then David Regan. The late 1980s were a period of innovative new degrees. An MA in Political Economy and Political Culture and a joint BA in Politics and History were both introduced in 1986 and the latter still remains one of the University's most popular degree schemes.

A more radical departure occurred in 1988 with the launch of a MA in International Relations, which saw the arrival of an increasing number of MA students, many of whom were from overseas. This in turn led to a modest influx of new staff and the development of expertise on the Middle East and Asia.



The retirement or departure of many of the original staff in the mid-1990s prompted the University to consider the future of the department. It chose vigorous expansion. In 1995, Paul Heywood, a specialist in European politics and democratic transitions was appointed as Head of Department and was asked to develop a new strategy. Over the next five years, the Department more than doubled in size, launched innovative masters programmes and developed a substantial corpus of PhD students. There was an increased emphasis on research, focused in part around a weekly research seminar.

The department was now able to offer a broader curriculum to its students, which included substantial choice in its main sub-fields of Political Theory, Comparative Politics and International Relations. By 1999 the departments was too small for the Orchards building and moved to the nearby Law and Social Sciences building, where it was co-located with Law and Sociology.


2000 onwards

Continued expansion allowed the Department to become the School of Politics in 2000, later changing its name to the School of Politics and International Relations in 2005 to reflect its full remit.

There were more joint initiatives with cognate schools, including a new joint degree in Politics and American Studies. Ian Forbes, Chris Pierson, Richard Aldrich, and Simon Tormey all served as Head of School between 2000 and 2008. The arrival of several RCUK fellows continued the schools expansion into new areas, including overseas development, and by September 2007 the School boasted some fifty colleagues, making it one of the largest and more research active in the UK. 

This included over forty academics and research fellows together with an invaluable team of administrative staff led by the School Manager, April Stevens. Paul Heywood began his third spell as Head of School in 2008, followed by Vivien Lowndes in 2011.


Research Centres and Institutes

Over the last twenty years, the expansion of the School has also been characterised by the formation of successful research centres and institutes. In 1986 David Childs led the creation of the Instutute of Asia-Pacific studies and in the late 1990s it launched the Centre for the Study of European Governance.

This trend continued with the arrival of: 

  • Methods and Data Institute under Cees van de Eijk in 2005
  • the creation of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice in 2006
  • the Centre for International Crisis Management and Conflict Resolution, under Stefan Wolff in 2007
  • and the Centre for British Politics, under Steven Fielding in 2008. 

CONCEPT the Centre for Normative Research, under Mathew Humphrey and David Stevens, added to the complement of centres in 2010, followed by the Centre for Conflict, Security and Terrorism, under Wyn Rees and Bettina Renz in 2011.

The School has also worked closely with the University and colleagues in other Schools in the development of further research institutes focused on China and the Middle East.


In the Research Assessment Exercise of 2008, it was ranked in the top 10 departments of Politics and International Relations in terms of its overall research power.

School of Politics and International Relations

University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4862
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 4859
email: politics-enquiries@nottingham.ac.uk