Prospective PhD Students
The POLIS PhD: PhD Research Degree (3 Years)
The Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) is dedicated to individual and collective research at the highest level. Its members maintain a very substantial output of publications and participate in, or lead, international collaborative research ventures with a global reach. The department maintains research groups amongst its staff and PhD students in most of the major areas of politics and international studies. Candidates for the PhD also benefit from a number of topical seminar series and other events within the Department and the wider University.
The Department considers PhD students for a variety of topics within the field of Politics and International Studies. Available topics depend on the research interests of the academic staff acting as PhD supervisors within the Department. A more detailed listing of these can be found here. In the past, these have included subjects such as:
- Foreign policy analysis
- Security and strategic studies
- War and conflict
- Peace-making, conflict transformation, state-building
- International political economy
- International trade and development
- International organization
- Global/international politics (Anglo-America, Europe, China, S. E. Asia, Middle East, Africa, Latin America)
- International law (rights of peoples, ethnic conflict regulation, use of force, environment)
- Aspects of migration, diaspora and political identity
- Political theory and its history
- European integration, history, politics, policies
- International history and the history of geopolitics
- History of international relations
- Political parties, democratization
The PhD Course
The full-time PhD course lasts for a minimum of nine terms (three years), up to a maximum of twelve terms (four years). Candidates must submit within that time-frame, unless they can invoke truly exceptional grounds (for instance a medical emergency) to justify deferring submission. Under certain circumstances, it is possible to spend time away from Cambridge to pursue research. Candidates on the three-year course are expected to devote themselves full-time to their studies. While a part-time degree is available over five years this is generally only available to candidates who have completed the part-time Masters of Studies Programme offered by the University at the standard equivalent to a first class degree.
The PhD programme consists of three elements. In the first year, there is a focus on training in research methods and transferrable skills. Throughout the programme, there are also PhD seminars and other events, allowing candidates to benefit from presentations covering a number of areas relevant to their work, to present their own work, and to prepare to enter the job market. The essence of the Cambridge experience remains, however, the work with the PhD supervisor. Each candidate is assigned a principal supervisor. He or she will help develop the thesis project through discussion and the review of draft materials presented by the candidates. There is also a second supervisor who also supports the work of the candidate. Ordinarily, the second supervisor will offer an additional perspective to the candidate, although he or she will not be as involved in the on-going work as the first supervisor.
All candidates for the PhD programme are not at first registered for the degree, as they have to pass a registration exercise towards the end of the first academic year of study. This exercise is conducted by the second supervisor and an additional assessor, either drawn from within the University or from outside. The registration exercise aims to ensure that the candidate’s project is viable, that an appropriate methodology is being applied, and that the candidate is capable of carrying the project through successfully. Failure to pass the registration (which may be repeated only once) will result in removal from the course.
The Application Process
The PhD in the Department of Politcs and International Studies is supervised by the Degree Committee of the Faculty of Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies (PPSIS). The Faculty, in turn,operates under authority of the Board of Graduate Studies of the University. All applications for the PhD are handled by the Board of Graduate Studies’ Admissions team, which also issues the relevant application documents. General admissions queries should therefore be directed towards the Board.
Only applications that have been received within the stipulated deadlines, and that are complete, including references, research proposal, transcripts, etc., will be forwarded by the Board to the Department of Politics and International Studies for consideration. Candidates are reminded to submit a detailed research proposal of up to 2,500 words outlining the subject of the thesis, with a working title, and including an indication of the methodology to be adopted and the sources to be used. Applications without a research proposal cannot be considered, and the research proposal is taken very seriously by the admissions committee. It is the responsibility of applicants to ensure that complete applications reach the Board in a timely way.
The Department is looking to attract around 20 highly qualified candidates for the PhD programme per academic year. All incoming applications that are complete and were received within the deadlines will be considered for compliance with the admissions requirements (below). Those applications meeting the threshold are ranked by the Admissions Committee competitively for the limited number of places available. Candidates selected in this way will then be considered by potential supervisors, who may require an interview with candidates. If a supervisor is found, a conditional offer of a place may be made by the Board of Graduate Studies. Conditions placed by the Board on admissions will normally include acceptance by a College, meeting financial requirements, completion of any outstanding degrees at the required standard, etc, as per the entry requirements below.
Making an Application
Applications for any of these programs must be submitted through the general Cambridge postgraduate application procedure, administered by the Board of Graduate Studies. Do not apply directly to POLIS. Only when the Board of Graduate Studies are in receipt of full information will they pass the application file to the Department, and failure to adequately provide all the relevant information may significantly delay your application, or disqualify it.
Full details of the application process and application forms can be found at the Board's website, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/gradstud/admissions/.
- 1st class undergraduate degree from a UK university or equivalent/GPA of at least 3.85 or equivalent from a non-UK University
- A Masters Degree in a relevant subject, with a mark equivalent to a distinction/ GPA of at least 3.85 or equivalent from a non-UK University
- Two academic references.
- Full transcripts of your academic record at university.
- A detailed research proposal of up to 2,500 words outlining the subject of the thesis, with a working title, and including an indication of the methodology to be adopted and sources to be used. Applications without a research proposal cannot be considered.
- If your first language is not English or the instruction at your university was not in English, then you must take a language proficiency test. For IELTS we require an overall score of 7.5 with no element below 7; for a TOEFL, paper based test, a score of 637 and at least 5.5 in the test of written English; for a TOEFL internet based test, a score of 110 with no element below 25
- You may also include a CV, sample of recent work, and further references.
As was noted above, a part-time degree is not normally available. However, those who have completed the part-time Masters of Studies Programme offered by the University at a standard equivalent to a first class degree may be considered. For the part-time programme, we require confirmation from an employer (where there is one) stating they are happy to allow the candidate sufficient time off throughout the duration of the course at times when the University requires the presence of the candidate in Cambridge. This confirmation needs to cover a research plan submitted by the candidate, stating when he or she proposes to be in Cambridge, at least during the first year. Part-time candidates also must have an interview with the prospective supervisor, in some instances in the presence of the admissions co-ordinator.
All applicants should note that they are normally expected to be resident in Cambridge during term time particularly, and that they should be able to attend the Department, their College, and meet their Supervisor(s) whenever required. You are, in short, expected to engage as fully as possible with the academic life of the University as a whole. The Board of Graduate Studies therefore reserves the right to reject applications where insufficient evidence has been given to satisfy this point. Overseas applicants should also note that visas will not be granted to candidates who intend to reside in the UK undertaking a part-time course of study.
The Department of POLIS has two deadlines for doctoral applications:
- 30 November For those wishing to be considered for funding they might be eligible to compete for, the deadline for applications is 30 November, for courses beginning the following October. (However, applicants from North America seeking Gates funding will need to apply already by 15 October.)
- 31st January For all other applicants, the deadline is 31st January, for courses beginning in October of the same year
As the principal induction events,and important aspects of the taught part of the course concerning methodology are held in Michaelmas Term candidates may only commence their studies in October.
If you have general questions concerning the applications process, please kindly contact the Board of Graduate Studies, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more specific queries relating to the POLIS programme specifically, please kindly contact the Graduate Secretary in POLIS by email in the first instance: email@example.com