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Welcome to POLIS

The establishment of the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) in January 2009 provided a new institutional focus at Cambridge for teaching and research on politics in all its dimensions; international and comparative, theoretical and empirical, abstract and practical. POLIS is one of three departments in the Faculty of Human, Social and Political Science, together with the Departments of Sociology, and Archaeology and Anthropology, and is one of nine departments which constitute the School of Humanities and Social Sciences

The Department offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. It has particular research strengths in international politics, including international history and international law, foreign and security policy, political economy, comparative politics and political thought. It has four Research Centres, the Centre of Governance and Human Rights, the Centre for Rising Powers, the Centre of International Studies, and the Cambridge Centre for Political Thought, which is run jointly with History. It is also closely linked to the Centre for the Study of the International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, and a new European Centre @ POLIS was launched in 2014.

The undergraduate teaching of the Department is organised through the HSPS Tripos (Human, Social and Political Science). Students intending to specialise in Politics and International Relations take the Politics paper and the International Relations paper in Part I with two other papers, and then in Part II take a range of papers in Comparative and International Politics, International Relations and Political Thought. The aim of the course is to explore the different meanings of the ‘political’ and the ‘international’, to understand the different contexts of national and international politics, and the importance of ideas, institutions and processes in shaping political developments and choices. At the postgraduate level the Department offers an MPhil in International Relations and Politics, an MPhil in Public Policy, and a part-time MSt in International Relations. It also has a thriving PhD programme, which admits twenty students a year, and is linked to the ESRC doctoral training centre. More than 200 students from over 30 countries are currently enrolled on graduate programmes. Members of the Department also make significant contributions to the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History and the MPhils in African, Development and Latin American Studies

There are close links between POLIS and many other Departments and Faculties at Cambridge, including History, Sociology, Psychology, Law, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and Social Anthropology. Since 2011 the Department has included the Area Centres of African Studies, Latin American Studies, South Asian Studies and Development Studies, and since 2014 the Centre for Gender Studies, all of which are housed together in the Alison Richard Building (ARB) on the Sidgwick Site.

The University invested £16m in the ARB which was specifically planned for the needs of the enlarged Department, and to encourage interdisciplinarity.  The building has brought research and teaching closer together, and has a vibrant postgraduate community. The co-location of POLIS with the Centres and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) has enabled colleagues to collaborate across conventional boundaries, creating synergies through frequent interdisciplinary conferences and workshops.

There is an active seminar programme, many conferences, and a regular flow of visitors, both practitioners and academics. The Department is a key part of the new Cambridge Public Policy programme, including the strategic research initiative for Public Policy which will link researchers in public policy across the sciences, social sciences and humanities. It has formed a strong partnership with YouGov ( to develop research on public opinion. It also hosts the journal, the Cambridge Review of International Affairs and there are a wide variety of student-run societies and events, including Cambridge International Studies Association (CISA), the PhD Colloquium and the European Society.

If you have any questions about the Department please email us:


How to find us

Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT.

We can be reached in ten minutes on foot from the centre of town (King's Parade). Nearby landmarks are the University library and the 'Backs', which are the gardens and parks running along the Cam at the back of the colleges.

 Sidgwick Site


By Bus

The Universal bus runs between Addenbrooke's Hospital and the West Cambridge site, stopping right outside our building. The service runs every 15 minutes from Mondays - Fridays, and every 20 minutes on Saturdays. The bus doesn't go as far as Addenbrookes at the weekends.

For details of the route map and timetable, see the links on the webpage below.


By Bike

For those wishing to cycle, there is a large covered bike shed alongside the Alison Richard Building, in addition to the numerous bike racks elsewhere on the Sidgwick Site.  

  • Did you know about the wonderful interactive online cycle map from CycleStreets? Find a safer, quieter or quicker route for you to cycle today:

By Train

Trains run regularly to Cambridge from both London King’s Cross and London Liverpool Street. If you are coming from the North, it is advisable to change at Peterborough. West Road is a 10 to 15 minute taxi ride from the railway station.

By Car

  • From Junction 12 of the M11
  • Drive for approx 1.5 miles into Cambridge (Barton Road)
  • Turn left into Grange Road
  • Turn 3rd right opposite the Rugby Club (West Road)
  • The Alison Richard Building is located towards the end of West Road, on the right hand side


We do not have dedicated parking for patrons. 

  • Pay & display parking on West Road: current charge is 20p per 10mins Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; free after 5pm and on Sundays; blue badge holders free.
  • 2 bays for blue badge holders are available on the Sidgwick Site.
  • The nearest unregulated streets are Herschel, Adams and Cranmer Roads.
  • If you are a speaker at a seminar or are visiting by invitation, a parking permit is available on request.