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Course Details


The MPhil in International Relations and Politics is a ten month full-time course offered by the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS). It is designed to meet the needs of all those who wish to enhance their understanding of International Relations and Politics at a graduate level. It is appropriate for those who wish to embark upon an academic career, in the first instance through pursuing doctoral research, but also for those looking to embark on careers in the media, politics, law, public administration, the civil service, finance, teaching, and the charity sector.

The programme aims to offer an overview of the academic study of International Relations and Politics. It will provide you with a critical understanding of the international political system and methods for studying it. You will gain an understanding of the diverse approaches to this topic.

The course will include:

  • International Theory
  • International Politics
  • International Political Economy
  • Foreign Policy and Security Studies
  • International Law and the History of International Relations.


Among graduate courses in international relations and politics at British universities, the Cambridge MPhil in International Relations and Politics is distinctive in its multidisciplinary approach and breadth. Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminars in theory, politics, history, economics, law, security and various regional and area studies, as well as individual thesis supervision. The taught part of the course aims to familiarize you with the range and variety of disciplines required for a thorough critical understanding of the field in all its complexity and of the means and methods that have been devised to understand it better.

The programme is suitable both for students who have just completed their first degree and for mature students from, for example, industry, teaching, the civil service or the armed forces.

The department is looking to attract between 50-60 highly qualified candidates for the MPhil programme each academic year.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course participants will have:

  • Developed a critical view of the contribution made by the subject of International Relations, and its related disciplines, to social science more broadly conceived and to practice.
  • An in-depth knowledge of specific subjects and themes in Politics
  • Have become familiar with some of the main themes of the contemporary analysis of International Relations and Politics.
  • Have tested their ability to produce a piece of advanced scholarship in conformity with the scientific methods, research techniques, standards of argument and accepted style of presentation of an academic discipline. They will thus be prepared to continue, if necessary, with research at the doctoral level.

Teaching and Learning Methods

Such knowledge and understanding are developed through the lectures and seminars associated with the various course options, of which students study three; and by writing three mandatory practice essays, one for each of their chosen taught course options, in preparation for the examinations or course essays. Research skills are developed through a research methods course offered by POLIS and quantitative methods modules taught through the Social Sciences Research Methods Course (SSRMC). These research skills are assessed through an essay in which students reflect on specific methods relevant to their dissertation research.

Course Structure

Candidates take three course options of their choice over the first two terms. In addition they follow a mandatory course in Methods and Research Design which provides a graduate-level introduction to empirical research in politics and international studies.

Examples of the fields of study available on the course (subject to change each year):

  • Comparative Politics and Religion
  • Crises and Challenges in European Foreign Policy
  • The Politics and International Relations of the Middle East
  • International Security
  • Transnational Violence: Terrorism, Piracy, and Crime in Global and Historical Context
  • Organizing International Politics: Norms, Institutions, and Law
  • Global Transitions: Power Hegemony and the Ordering of the Global Political Economy
  • Geopolitics 1600-1871
  • International Constitutional Law
  • The Politics of Africa
  • States, Regimes, and Parties: Comparative Government in the 21st Century
  • Research Methods
Individual course options differ in how they are taught. Some options are taught by a combination of lectures and seminars; others are taught by advanced seminar. Each course option involves between one and a half to two hours of teaching per week during the first two terms.


Each student is required to submit an original thesis on an approved topic of 20,000 words in length.

The dissertation is an important element of the MPhil. The examination process and criteria for assessment are accordingly more stringent than on many Master’s programmes. In particular, there is a requirement for originality, which must be met either by research using primary sources (documents, interviews, official publications, or the like) and/or by developing a fresh approach to an existing debate or literature. This supports the general aim of the dissertation, which is to develop advanced skills of research and expression.


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