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POLIS Introduction

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 of 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, while a new Centre of European Studies  is about to be launched.

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 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:

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Professor Jude Browne is the inaugural winner of the Aaron Rapport prize in 2020