Department of Politics and International Studies

PhD Degree: Politics and International Studies

Key information

Three Years (Full-time)
Attendance mode
Full-time or part-time
Russell Square, College Buildings

Home student fees (full-time): £4,860 per year
Home student fees (part-time): £2,430 per year
Overseas student fees (full-time): £22,490 per year
Overseas student fees (part-time): £11,245 per year

Please note that fees go up each year. 
See research fees for further details.

Entry requirements

We normally require a 2.1 bachelor's degree (or its equivalent) plus a Merit-level Masters degree in Political Science or a related discipline. We also require a minimum of one reference. In exceptional cases we may accept applicants who do not meet these criteria if they show evidence of a strong Masters degree and/or appropriate level of relevant work experience. International applicants should also see Doctoral School English language requirements

Course overview

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 research scholarships information for the deadlines.

Why study PhD Degree Politics and International Studies at SOAS?

  • We’re ranked 5th in the UK and 17th worldwide for Politics (QS World University Rankings 2023).
  • We're ranked 3rd globally for academic reputation (QS World University Rankings 2022).

Recently Completed PhD Dissertations in the Department

  • Maria Ambrozy, ‘Interrogating Education Policymaking in the Rwandan Developmental State: The Politics of Changing the Language of Instruction and the Higher Education Merger’ (Phil Clark)
  • Sheenah Kaliisa, ‘Opening Borders: The African Passport, Free Movement of Persons and the Integration of States’ (Phil Clark)
  • Hangwei Li, ‘Global China, African Agency and the Prism of Soft Power: Media Interaction and Newsroom Politics Between China and Africa’ (Stephen Chan)
  • Moudwe Daga, ‘Identity, Belonging and State Formation in Chad’ (Professor Julia Gallagher)
  • Calum Fisher, ‘Doing Democracy in Malawi: MPs and Their Constituencies’ (Dr Alastair Fraser)
  • Anna Evelyn Kensicki, ‘Jerusalem Narratives: A Phenomenological Analysis of Space and Time in 21st Century Conflict’, (Dr Hagar Kottef)
  • Dwi Kiswanto, ‘Centre-Periphery Relations: The Politics of Fiscal Transfers in Indonesia’ (Dr Michael Buehler)
  • Leon Kunz, ‘Deliberative Democracy in Social Movements in Taiwan and Hong Kong’ (Professor Julia Strauss)
  • Magsud Mammadov, ‘The State Selfie in International Politics: Ontological Insecurity, Role Making, and Nation Branding in the case of Azerbaijan, 2008-2018’ (Dr Bhavna Dave)


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).

Graduate Teaching Assistant

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.

Teaching and learning

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. 

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.

In addition to the training programme noted above, 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.

Language training

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.

For more information about the PhD programme in the Department of Politics and International Studies, see the MPHIL/PHD research handbook.

SOAS Politics & IS Research Handbook-2023-24.pdf

PDF document, 455.33KB

Important notice

The information on the website reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. The modules are indicative options of the content students can expect and are/have been previously taught as part of these programmes.

However, this information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability is subject to change. 

Fees and funding

Fees for 2023/24 entrants per academic year

  Home students Overseas students
Full-time £4,860 £21,630
Part-time £2,430 £10,815

Please note that fees go up each year.

See research fees for further details.


In the last REF cycle (2014-2020), about a quarter of our PhD graduates embarked on successful academic careers, taking up positions in universities in the UK and across the world, including the LSE, University of Cambridge, University of Birmingham, Queen Mary University of London, Lahore University of Management Sciences, the American University in Beirut, Korea University, Abu Dhabi University, Sabanci University, the American University of Sulaymaniyah, University of Freiburg, Sciences Po, Leiden, and the Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin.

Many of our PhDs have found employment in non-academic institutionsincluding the Crisis Management Initiative, the Open Society Foundation, the Institute for Druze Studies in Haifa (Israel), the Institute for Security Studies in Dakar (Senegal), the Centre for Alternative Policy Research and Innovation in Freetown (Sierra Leone), the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi (India) and the Centre for International Digital Policy at Global Affairs Canada. Other PhD graduates have gone on to work as foreign-policy officials in the UK, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria, South Korea and Egypt