Research course

Political Science and International Studies

University of Birmingham · Department of Political Science and International Studies

Entry requirements

Applicants for the distance learning PhD must provide evidence of prior research experience and/or training suitable for their intended programme of study. When they apply, they are expected to consult with their supervisor who can assess their skills, background and capacity to undertake independent study at a distance.

Besides formal qualifications, a key factor determining whether the Department decides to accept a candidate for either degree is the quality of his or her research proposal and its relevance to our own interests. Successful completion of a research thesis demands a high level of self-discipline, motivation and commitment to the subject of research. Great importance is placed on work experience, when relevant. Please contact the Department for more details.

Months of entry


Course content

The Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) offers a vibrant and inclusive research culture.

POLSIS has established itself as a centre of excellence in political science, political economy, comparative politics, political theory, international, international relations theory and security and conflict. Our research is concentrated around various research groups and research clusters which carry out a series of collaborative research activities.

Our distance learning PhD in Political Science and International Studies offers the opportunity to conduct original research under the guidance of academic supervisors, leading to an 80,000 word thesis, for those unable to live and work on campus on a regular basis. You will take a number of research training modules in your first year and may attend further courses offered by the Department or the University that enhance your personal discipline-specific and transferable skills.

Distance learning does present challenges and applicants need to have a high capacity to work independently and in a disciplined fashion to pursue their research goals. However, supervisory teams are there to support students in acquiring the skills and knowledge to complete a thesis. In addition, you will be able to participate in an active research environment through a range of online and hybrid events.

Distance learning students are usually expected to attend one-week visit to the University (it is possible to request an exemption due to extenuating circumstances such as work commitments of caring responsibilities, for example). This visit will take place at the start of your studies during the College’s induction week (which usually takes place in the last week of September). This is a fantastic opportunity to attend a range of training sessions and networking events and meet your peers and supervisory team in person. The College of Social Sciences will make a generous contribution to your accommodation and travel. Your School will write to you to confirm the arrangements of your visit once you have confirmed your offer. Distance Learning students are not required to attend the University for the remainder of their studies but are welcome to visit at their own expense.

POLSIS is part of the School of Government, one of the leading UK and international centres for governance, politics, international development, and public management. As one of the largest Schools of Government, in the United Kingdom, it is home to more than 80 full-time academic staff, more than 1,200 undergraduate and taught postgraduate students, and more than 70 doctoral researchers.

The School of Government offers much more than a degree. As a doctoral student here, you have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of research events with staff and other doctoral students, including a PGR Colloquium and departmental speaker series. In addition, an individual training plan is drawn up to meet the needs of each student, covering coursework and skills development. As such, completing this research degree will cultivate specialist knowledge in your field and professional skills for a range of career settings.

We are able to supervise a wide range of topics, in line with the research interests of our staff. We are particularly interested in receiving applications on themes that fit with our research groups:

  • Asian Politics
  • British Politics
  • European Studies
  • Gender and Feminist Theory
  • International Relations and Security Theory
  • Parties, Voters and Elections
  • Political Economy
  • Political Theory

Applications to study for a research degree on either a full- or part-time basis are welcomed.

Information for international students

ou can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

  • IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band
  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 in Listening, 22 in Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: PTE Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    full time
    36 months
    • Online learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    72 months
    • Online learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details