Research overview

The School of Politics and International Relations has long been respected for the quality of its research and teaching. We have strong links with leading institutions in the UK and overseas and a diverse teaching team and student body. You will study in a dynamic research environment that will allow you to explore the political landscape by focusing on a specialism of your choice. 

You will be encouraged to play an active role in our research centres and institutes as well as the activities of the school.

You will be assigned two supervisors. You must ensure that we have at least one supervisor who has expertise in your proposed area of research before applying and name that person in your application. Ideally, you should contact your proposed supervisor before applying.

We offer supervision in most subject areas within international relations and security, British and comparative politics, and political theory.

Potential PhD projects

The School of Politics and International Relations invites expressions of interest from suitably qualified candidates to undertake a PhD in Politics or International Relations.

Successful applicants will join a team of PhD researchers in the School of Politics and International Relations. You can find out more about our staff, their research interests and current doctoral supervision, as well as the pages of individual academics.

Prospective candidates are welcome to outline their own doctoral research topic, but we have identified a number of priority topic areas where we believe a PhD project would be particularly cutting-edge and where we strongly welcome expressions of interest. The topic areas are:

International Relations

  • Covert economic influence
  • Britain and proxy wars
  • Struggles over water commodification
  • Alternative trade policy
  • The EU and the global South
  • Intelligence assessment and policymaking
  • Intelligence and diplomacy
  • Environmental disasters
  • British foreign policy
  • Britain and the Middle East
  • UK/China Relations

British Politics and Comparative Politics

  • The changing nature of election campaigns
  • Federalism and the management of ethnic conflict
  • Gender and political representation in Asia
  • Public administration in post-communist Europe
  • Anti-corruption in developing countries
  • Intersectionality, Identity and Representation in Political Careers
  • Taiwanese politics
  • Chinese digital politics
  • Forced marriage/honour-based abuse policies
  • Authoritarian party politics and democratic backsliding in Asia and Africa
  • Labour precarity and changing labour politics across the Global North and South
  • Majoritarian Nationalisms (and their impact) in Asia
  • Hybrid Regimes in South and South-East Asia
  • Federalism and Public Policy

Political Theory

  • Conceptions of Liberal Socialism
  • Post-truth politics/populism
  • Eco/techno-ideologies
  • Left, right and centre in UK and European History
  • Concept development (eg freedom, authoritarianism, etc)

Course content

You must complete a written thesis of up to 100,000 words, with support and advice from your academic supervisor(s). You will also take a verbal examination called a viva voce, where you explain your project in depth to an examination panel.

You will also be required to take 20 credits of methodological modules offered by either the School of Politics and International Relations or relevant modules offered by other schools. During your first semester, you will also enrol in the school's Professional Development module.

As a research student in the school, you will also develop skills needed in a future academic career through taking training courses offered through the Researcher Academy. You are required to take five training points during the first and second year of studies.  


Full-time students should meet with their supervisors at least 10 times each year. This would be at least six times in the same period for part-time students.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.


Masters (or international equivalent) in a relevant discipline, with an average of 60% or above, and 2:1 at undergraduate level (or international equivalent)


Masters (or international equivalent) in a relevant discipline, with an average of 60% or above, and 2:1 at undergraduate level (or international equivalent)

International and EU equivalents

We accept a wide range of qualifications from all over the world.

For information on entry requirements from your country, see our country pages.

IELTS7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)
English language requirements

As well as IELTS (listed above), we also accept other English language qualifications.

This includes TOEFL iBT, Pearson PTE, GCSE, IB and O level English.

Meeting our English language requirements

If you need support to meet the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional English course. Presessional courses teach you academic skills in addition to English language. Our Centre for English Language Education is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

If you successfully complete your presessional course to the required level, you can then progress to your degree course. This means that you won't need to retake IELTS or equivalent.

For on-campus presessional English courses, you must take IELTS for UKVI to meet visa regulations. For online presessional courses, see our CELE webpages for guidance.

Visa restrictions

International students must have valid UK immigration permissions for any courses or study period where teaching takes place in the UK. Student route visas can be issued for eligible students studying full-time courses. The University of Nottingham does not sponsor a student visa for students studying part-time courses. The Standard Visitor visa route is not appropriate in all cases. Please contact the university’s Visa and Immigration team if you need advice about your visa options.

We recognise that applicants have a variety of experiences and follow different pathways to postgraduate study.

We treat all applicants with alternative qualifications on an individual basis. We may also consider relevant work experience.

If you are unsure whether your qualifications or work experience are relevant, contact us.


Find a supervisor


Applicants are strongly encouraged to make contact with possible supervisors prior to their application. You should look at the areas of supervision offered by staff in the school to identify who they may be. If you do not indicate a possible supervisor in your application, this may well affect its success. 

Once an application has been received, applicants who are not already known personally to the potential supervisor will be contacted for a short interview to discuss the intended topic of your research. This interview can take the form of face-to-face interview, via Skype or over the telephone. 

The Postgraduate Research Tutor will then make a decision on offering a place of study in the school.


Applicants interested in applying for entry October 2024 should contact Benjamin Holland, providing an expression of interest including the following:

  • a CV
  • a one-page note on your preparation and motivation to conduct research to PhD level on a topic in politics and international relations
  • a 2,000-word outline of your proposed research topic

View our further guidance PDF on how to write a convincing and compelling research proposal. We can advise on your eligibility and the fit of your proposed research with our interests and expertise.

Our step-by-step guide contains everything you need to know about applying for postgraduate research.

How to apply


Home / UK£5,100

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles which could cost up to £120.

Please note that these figures are approximate and subject to change.


There are many ways to fund your research degree, from scholarships to government loans.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


Professional Development Module 

You will study this module in your first year of study. It will outline the diverse challenges and opportunities provided by doing a PhD in politics and international relations.


We run a weekly colloquium for postgraduate research students, giving you the opportunity to present your work in front of other research students and staff with similar research interests. 

Organised by students and facilitated by the Director of Postgraduate Research, it acts as a supportive forum for presenting your work, testing your arguments, ideas and approaches, and developing your research design. 


Students also run their own annual postgraduate research conference which attracts researchers from across the UK and internationally.

Research seminars

We offer research seminars for staff and postgraduate research students through our research centres and institutes. Each centre runs a full programme of workshops, reading groups, talks and conferences. 

Teaching experience

Suitably trained second and third-year research students can acquire paid teaching experience by delivering undergraduate tutorials. Free courses on teaching methods are on offer, though teaching is subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. 

Researcher training and development

The Researcher Academy is the network for researchers, and staff who support them. We work together to promote a healthy research culture, to cultivate researcher excellence, and develop creative partnerships that enable researchers to flourish.

Postgraduate researchers at Nottingham have access to our online Members’ area, which includes a wealth of resources, access to training courses and award-winning postgraduate placements.

Graduate centres

Our graduate centres are dedicated community spaces on campus for postgraduates.

Each space has areas for:

  • studying
  • socialising
  • computer work
  • seminars
  • kitchen facilities

Student support

You will have access to a range of support services, including:

  • academic and disability support
  • childcare services
  • counselling service
  • faith support
  • financial support
  • mental health and wellbeing support
  • visa and immigration advice
  • welfare support

Students' Union

Our Students' Union represents all students. You can join the Postgraduate Students’ Network or contact the dedicated Postgraduate Officer.

There are also a range of support networks, including groups for:

  • international students
  • black and minority ethnic students
  • students who identify as women
  • students with disabilities
  • LGBT+ students

SU Advice provides free, independent and confidential advice on issues such as accommodation, financial and academic difficulties.

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Where you will learn

University Park Campus

University Park Campus covers 300 acres, with green spaces, wildlife, period buildings and modern facilities. It is one of the UK's most beautiful and sustainable campuses, winning a national Green Flag award every year since 2003.

Most schools and departments are based here. You will have access to libraries, shops, cafes, the Students’ Union, sports village and a health centre.

You can walk or cycle around campus. Free hopper buses connect you to our other campuses. Nottingham city centre is 15 minutes away by public bus or tram.


Whether you are considering a career in academia, industry or haven't yet decided, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Expert staff will work with you to explore PhD career options and apply for vacancies, develop your interview skills and meet employers. You can book a one-to-one appointment, take an online course or attend a workshop.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Career destinations for our graduates include economists, management consultants, researchers, statisticians and university lecturers. Companies and organisations our graduates have gone to work for include the BBC, Channel 4, the European Union, GCHQ, Reuters, and the Thailand National Police Department.

100% of postgraduates from the School of Politics and International Relations secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation.*

* HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. 

Thomas Eason
The school has been a great place to work on my PhD. In addition to providing a top-quality supervision team and essential office space, the school has fostered a very welcoming environment for PhD students. I have also found the press office to be a valuable resource. It has put me in direct contact with journalists from around the world, allowing me to gain important experience in public outreach and media management.
Thomas Eason, PhD student

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Research Excellence Framework

The University of Nottingham is ranked 7th in the UK for research power, according to analysis by Times Higher Education. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a national assessment of the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

  • 82% of the school's research is ranked as world-leading or internationally excellent
  • 90%* of our research is classed as 'world-leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*)
  • 100%* of our research is recognised internationally
  • 51% of our research is assessed as 'world-leading' (4*) for its impact**

*According to analysis by Times Higher Education ** According to our own analysis.

This content was last updated on 01 February 2024. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.