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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)



The MPhil in Politics and International Studies is a nine-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 advanced engagement with various aspects of the academic study of Politics and International Studies. It will provide you with a critical understanding of a range of issues involved in the study of these disciplines, primarily through a mixture of lectures and research-driven seminars.


Among graduate courses in international relations and politics at British universities, the Cambridge MPhil in Politics and International Studies is distinctive in its multidisciplinary approach and breadth.

Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminars in a range of advanced topics across a range of subjects in politics and international studies.

The taught part of the course aims to familiarise 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 around 50 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 contributions made by the study of politics and international studies, and their related disciplines, to social science more broadly conceived and to practice.
  • An in-depth knowledge of specific subjects and themes in politics and international studies
  • Have become familiar with some of the main themes of the contemporary analysis of politics and international studies.
  • 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 will study up to six; and by assessment via examinations or course essays.

Research skills are further developed through research methods courses offered by POLIS. These research skills are assessed through essays in which students consider specific methods relevant to their research interests.

Course Structure

Candidates take up to six courses options over the first two terms.

In addition they follow mandatory courses in Research Methods which provide a graduate-level introduction to a range of approaches relevant to broad-ranging research in politics and international studies.

Examples of the fields of study available on the MPhil in previous years (when it was called the MPhil in International Relations and Politics) have included the following (but please note that these are subject to change each year and cannot be guaranteed in advance):

  • Religion and Politics
  • International Relations and International Law: Theories and Histories
  • The Middle East in Global Politics
  • Non-State Actors in Global Governance
  • Architecture and Political Theory
  • Cultures of War
  • European Foreign Policy
  • Communication Technology and Politics
  • The political thought of Michel Foucault
  • The Politics of Peace-making in Africa
  • Religion and Politics: Islam, Secularism, Global Movements
  • Anthropocene and politics/histories of political theory
  • The crisis of party democracy: origins, consequences, remedies
  • Britain and the geopolitics of the Mediterranean, c. 1700 to the present
  • Research Methods
  • Feminist Political Thought
  • Decolonising Politics and International Relations
  • Norms of Humanity: Traditional and Critical Approaches
  • From the Printing Press to Facebook & Twitter
Further options may become available in due course. Please note that the courses above may be subject to change and to size limits.  We cannot guarantee that students will receive their first choice of modules.
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 over its duration.


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

The dissertation is an important element of the MPhil. There is a requirement for originality, which must be met by research using primary sources (documents, interviews, official publications, or the like) 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.

Get in touch 

If after you have read through these pages you have any further questions please feel free to email Antonia Shacklock at