SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

PhD Degree: Politics and International Studies (2021 entry)

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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. Guidelines for research proposals.

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 should refer to the Scholarship information for the deadlines.

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.

For more information about the PhD programme in the Department of Politics and International Studies, see the 2020/21 Research Handbook.

Department Contacts:

Dr Matthew Eagleton-Pierce
Director of Doctoral Studies (Politics)

Professor Salwa Ismail
Doctoral Admissions Tutor (Politics)

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Entry requirements

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Fees 2021/22

UK fees:
Overseas fees:

Fees for 2021/22 entrants. The fees are per academic year. Please note that fees go up each year. Further details can be found in the Fees and Funding tab on this page or in the Registry Postgraduate Tuition Fees page


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 Doctoral Researchers must pass an upgrade from MPhil to PhD status through submission of an ‘Upgrade Paper’, examined by a viva exam. This is followed by primary research/fieldwork undertaken in the second year, and the writing up of their thesis in the subsequent year. Doctoral Researchers 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

Doctoral Researchers are expected to upgrade from MPhil to PhD status within 12 months of their registration. Progression requires successful completion of the Department’s training programme consisting of:

  1. Politics MPhil Methods course (terms one and two);
  2. an Upgrade Paper Workshop (term two); and
  3. participation in the MPhil Research Projects Conference (term three).

Doctoral Researchers also have the opportunity to take an additional course in quantitative methods (term two). Students will produce an upgrade paper that forms the basis of a viva, which has to pass to gain PhD status. In addition to the Department’s own training, the SOAS Doctoral School offers two complementary courses for all SOAS Doctoral Researchers:

  1. Research Project Management (term one), and
  2. Technology-Enhanced Research (term 2).

Fieldwork Procedure

For Doctoral Researchers who undertake fieldwork, most will generally conduct such activity 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 SOAS Pro-Director for Research and Enterprise. 

Training Beyond Year 1 

Throughout the process of research design, fieldwork, and writing, Doctoral Researchers 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 Doctoral Researchers to participate in workshops offered outside SOAS and to attend and present at conferences organised by the major research associations in their field (some limited funding available).  

Teaching is an important part of doctoral training for PhD Doctoral Researchers considering an academic career. The Department aims to offer advanced Doctoral Researchers 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. Doctoral Researchers taking on the responsibility of a GTA post are expected to have completed a GTA training module offered by the Doctoral School, typically in October. 

For more information about the PhD programme in the Department of Politics and International Studies, see the 2020/21 Research Handbook.

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Fees and funding

Tuition Fees

Full details of postgraduate research tuition fees can be found on the Registry's Postgraduate Research Tuition Fees page.

Fees for 2021/22 entrants. The fees below are per academic year. Please note that fees go up each year. 

Research Degrees Full-time  Part-time 
UK Overseas UK Overseas
MPhil/PhD £4,486 £20,000 £2,243 £10,000
Extension of Writing-up Status - 3 Terms £990 £990 £990 £990
Visiting Research Students (charged pro rata for termly attendance) £4,486 £20,000 -  -
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Studentships


Application Deadline: 2021-01-11 23:59

Elisabeth Croll Scholarship for fieldwork in China

Application Deadline: 2021-04-30 00:00

Felix Scholarships

Application Deadline: 2021-02-15 00:00

JRC Fuwaku Scholarship

JRC Fuwaku Scholarship

Application Deadline: 2021-04-20 00:00

Meiji Jingu Japanese Studies Research Scholarships

Application Deadline: 2021-04-20 00:00

SOAS Research Studentships

Application Deadline: 2021-04-30 00:00

Sasakawa Postgraduate Studentship

Application Deadline: 2021-03-08 00:00

Tibawi Trust Award

Application Deadline: 2020-06-05 15:00

For further details and information on external scholarships visit the Scholarships section


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