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Department of Politics and International Studies

PhD Degrees: Politics and International Studies

Overview

The Department of Politics and International Studies accepts students for research work leading to a PhD. The primary aim of the PhD programme is to train students to design, research and write a successful doctoral thesis. Those who have completed the doctorate will be familiar with the conceptual and methodological aspects of political research and qualified as experts in their field.

To be considered for entry into the PhD programme, applicants must possess a good advanced degree in Politics equivalent in level and content to the Department's MSc, although applications from individuals with related degrees in cognate disciplines will also be considered. Admission takes place on a rolling basis. The application cycle opens in November and closes on 30 June for entry in October. Applicants also wishing to be considered for a SOAS scholarship or an ESRC studentship are strongly encouraged to submit their application by 15 January.

The primary building block of the PhD programme is the relationship between student and supervisor. Students are admitted on the basis of the expressed willingness of at least one member of staff to serve as the main supervisor for the student's project. Thus, from the student's entry in the programme, the supervisor assumes primary responsibility for monitoring and supporting the student’s progress towards the completion of the degree. Every research student also has an associate supervisor, another member of staff with a close interest in the student’s region and/or sub-field of the discipline. The Department’s research tutor oversees the PhD programme and is available for discussing general problems.

Furthermore, research students are embedded in a structured training programme during their first year, attending courses dealing with research design, theory and methods. In addition, they may attend an MSc course relevant to their research. Research students are also encouraged to participate in the Department seminars, where invited scholars from other institutions give presentations, and they have access to many other seminars and lectures held throughout SOAS. The School’s language training facilities are also available for students to develop or improve research-relevant language skills. Since 2012, research students have exclusive access to the facilities and services offered by SOAS’ Doctoral School.

Most PhD students spend some time doing fieldwork in the regions of their research. The Department and the School, through their various connections with individuals and institutions in the universities and governments of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, facilitate this work with personal contacts and introductions as well as (limited) funding.

The Department usually has around 60 research students (MPhil and PhD level) at any one time. Please visit these links for profiles of current research students and a list of recently completed PhD theses.

Structure

The PhD programme at SOAS follows a three-year model, with the possibility to extend into a fourth year. The programme consists of research training and coursework in the first year, after which students must pass an upgrade from MPhil to PhD status. This is followed by primary research/fieldwork undertaken in the second year, and the writing (up) of their thesis in the subsequent year. Students should aim to be ready for submission by the end of the third year and must submit by the end of the fourth year at the latest.

Research Training Year 1
Students are expected to upgrade from MPhil to PhD student within 12 months of their registration. Progression requires successful completion of the Department’s training programme consisting of an Introduction to Research course (term one and two), Research Project Seminar (term two) and the Research Projects Conference (term three). Students also have the opportunity to take a course in quantitative methods. Most importantly, students will produce an upgrade paper that forms the basis of a viva, which students have to pass to gain PhD Student status.

Fieldwork Procedure
Students undertaking fieldwork will generally do so in their second year. A maximum of three terms’ fieldwork is usually permitted in a full-time PhD programme. Fieldwork of longer than 12 months has to be approved by the Associate Dean for Research.

Training Beyond Year 1
Throughout the process of research design, fieldwork, and writing, students are expected to maintain regular contact with their supervisors.  Writing the dissertation is the student’s work alone, supported by regular meetings with the supervisor(s) and participating in a write-up seminar for advanced PhD students. The Department strongly encourages students to participate in workshops offered outside SOAS and to attend and present at conferences organised by the major research associations in the field (limited funding available).  

Teaching is an important part of doctoral training for PhD students considering an academic career. The Department aims to offer advanced Research Students the possibility to work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) on one of the courses offered in the Department for a maximum of two years. Duties involve seminar teaching, holding office hours, and marking. Research students taking on a GTA post are expected to have completed a GTA training module offered by the Academic Development Directorate (ADD), usually offered in September. See also the Department’s GTA Handbook.

For more information about the PhD programme in the Department of Politics and International Studies, see the Research Handbook.

A Student's Perspective

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