Politics, History and International Relations

Postgraduate study

How to apply

The University is responsible for making formal offers of admission to postgraduate research students. These are based on recommendations made by academics in the Department. The admission process usually takes between four and six weeks.

Applications made direct to the University are passed to the Department for comment and all proposals are evaluated by subject specialists. In order to ensure that supervision is available and that your proposal falls into an area of established expertise, you are strongly advised to contact the Director of Postgraduate Research before making an application. Contact details are listed at the bottom of this page.

If you are interested in inter-disciplinary research and you think you might like to work with supervisors located in different departments in the School, we are happy to pursue contacts with colleagues in Geography or Social Science on your behalf. To avoid confusion in the applications process and facilitate cross-School co-ordination, please let us know if you have established contact with other departments and/or prospective supervisors who are not based in Politics, History and International Relations.

Colleagues are usually happy to provide feedback on draft proposals by arrangement, but owing to the volume of applications the Department receives, research staff cannot give advice on applications made in connection with studentship awards.

We welcome applications from international students. Please check carefully the University’s English language entry qualifications before applying if you are not a native-English speaker.

Preparing a proposal

Your proposal will be assessed by subject specialists, but non-specialists are also involved in the admissions process and decisions made about studentship awards are likely to be taken by academics from different disciplinary backgrounds.  In all cases, you should ensure that the aims, structure and methods of the proposed research are comprehensible to a broad academic audience. If your research involves or is likely to be of benefit to external partners, (for example, government bodies (local, regional and national), media organisations, lobby groups, NGOs, grass roots or community organisations, museums or cultural associations) you should highlight this in your application. 

Proposals are likely to take different forms, but you will be expected to situate your research within relevant scholarly literatures and to provide a full bibliography.  Your proposal should also include:

  1. A statement of aims which outlines the purposes of the research with reference to the general field and/or problematic you wish to examine
  2. A rationale for the research which demonstrates why the intended contribution is interesting or valuable – if similar research has been done, why is a new approach necessary; if your research fills a gap in the literature, why should it be filled?
  3.  A discussion of the theoretical approach and/or the conceptual framework for analysis. You should indicate here what the primary structure of the research will be and what issues/concepts/ ideas/ policies or events will be discussed or analysed within it. If you intend to work to a hypothesis, you should state what this is.
  4.  A discussion of the sources – e.g. interviews/published or unpublished data/archival or policy documents. If you intend to conduct field work you should give details. In all cases you should be as specific as you can and assess the possibility of access to relevant sources.
  5.  A reflection on methodology which shows how the assumptions of the research will be addressed in the analysis and why they are appropriate to it.
  6. A discussion of the research methods you will use to analyse your sources – e.g. sampling, survey or interview design, data collection, discourse analysis, quantitative methods, relevant historiographical approaches..
  7. An indication of your study skills: necessary language competence, familiarity with interview techniques/data processing, ability to handle archival materials or other relevant source types etc.  
  8. A provisional chapter plan which shows how you intend to develop the argument of the thesis.
  9. A provisional research plan which indicates how you intend to schedule necessary research methods training/field or archival work/data design or collection.