Political Science and International Studies PhD by distance learning

Course details: Details | Fees and funding | Entry requirements | How to apply | Academic staff research interests.

Our distance learning MPhil and PhD degrees in Political Science and International Studies offer the opportunity to pursue original research under the guidance of an academic supervisor in a more convenient manner for those unable to live and work on campus on a regular basis. We are able to supervise a wide range of topics, in line with the research interests of staff.

In broad terms our research work is focused around eight research groups: Asia; Diplomatic Studies; European Politics; International Political Economy; Political Theory; Security Studies; International Relations Theory; and Political Sociology.

The only attendance requirements are that the student visits the university for two weeks each year for an organized programme of research training and/or supervision and is also present on campus for their final viva examination. Travel and accommodation costs for these events must be borne by the student.

Distance learning does present challenges and applicants need to have a high capacity to work independently and in a disciplined fashion to pursue their research goals. However, the supervisory team are there to assist you and will draw up a training plan for each student to ensure you have the skills and knowledge to complete your thesis.

Learn more about the research interests of our staff and how to contact them.

The School of Government and Society brings together academic staff, research fellows and doctoral researchers across the Social Sciences. The School is one of the leading UK and international centres for Politics, International Relations, International Development, Sociology and European Studies.

Course details: Fees and funding | Entry requirements | How to apply | Academic staff research interests.

The Department offers supervision leading to the research degrees of MPhil (minimum registration two years) allowing participants to complete a 40,000-word supervised thesis, and PhD (minimum registration three years) allowing participants to complete an 80,000-word thesis constituting a major piece of original research work. These can be studied on a full or part time basis.

We are able to supervise a wide range of topics, in line with the research interests of our teaching staff.

In broad terms our research work is focused around eight research groups:

  • Asia
  • Diplomatic Studies
  • European Politics
  • Political Economy
  • Political Theory
  • Security Studies
  • International Relations Theory
  • Political Sociology

Fees and funding

PhD by distance learning 2018-19
Fee band Full time Part time
Home/EU students £4,270 £2,135
Overseas students (Band D) £15,720 £7,860

Learn more about fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships may be available, please contact the Department directly.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

For more information visit studenthelp.bham.ac.uk.

Entry requirements

Applicants for the distance learning PhD/MPhil must provide evidence of prior research experience and/or training suitable for their intended programme of study. When they apply, they are expected to consult with their supervisor who can assess their skills, background and capacity to undertake independent study at a distance.

Besides formal qualifications, a key factor determining whether the Department decides to accept a candidate for either degree is the quality of his or her research proposal and its relevance to our own interests. Successful completion of a research thesis demands a high level of self-discipline, motivation and commitment to the subject of research. Great importance is placed on work experience, when relevant. Please contact the Department for more details.

Learn more about entry requirements and see our General Guidance for PhD Applications (PDF 190KB).

International students:

We accept a range of qualifications from different countries – learn more about international entry requirements.

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

You will contact your supervisor approximately monthly (every 2 months for part-time students) over the course of your study. Supervisors are experienced in managing the research process and are chosen to complement your area of interest. You will discuss your research with a panel annually. The panel is chaired by an experienced researcher from the department, and includes your supervisor and another member of staff. It provides an important opportunity to present progress on your research and to have a wider discussion about your work.

Your supervisor will read and comment on drafts of your thesis before it is finally submitted. An external and an internal examiner (who will not be your supervisor) will then examine it, and will meet with you for a viva. They will judge whether your thesis demonstrates:

  • Knowledge of the relevant academic literature
  • Skill in use of research methods
  • Independent investigation
  • Clear presentation of information
  • Arguments presented in a coherent and appropriate form

MPhil students must show original work of merit that is worthy of publication. The requirement for PhDs is that the work is an original contribution to knowledge that is worthy of publication.

Research interests of staff

Dr Stephen Bates
Email: s.r.bates@bham.ac.uk  

  • Political change
  • Political representation
  • Public engagement
  • Political economy of the life science industries
  • Philosophy of the social sciences

Professor Peter Burnham
Email: p.burnham@bham.ac.uk

  • British politics (especially economic policy using National Archives material)
  • Radical approaches to IPE
  • State theory and Marxism

Dr David Dunn
Email: d.h.dunn@bham.ac.uk  

  • American foreign and security policies
  • Security studies
  • Diplomacy

Dr Christopher Finlay 
Email: c.j.finlay@bham.ac.uk  

  • Theory and ethics of political violence
  • Contemporary political theory
  • History of political thought, particularly Enlightenment political thought.

Dr Adam Quinn
Email: a.j.quinn@bham.ac.uk  

  • American foreign policy
  • American history
  • Ideology
  • International relations
  • Security

Dr Julie Gilson
Email: j.a.gilson@bham.ac.uk  

  • East Asian politics and political economy

Dr Peter Kerr
Email: p.kerr@bham.ac.uk  

  • British politics
Cerwyn Moore

Email: c.moore.1@bham.ac.uk  

  • Political violence
  • International Relations theory
  • post-Soviet and post-Communist Security
  • interpretive approaches to global politics
  • Chechnya

Dr Jill Steans
Email: j.a.steans@bham.ac.uk  

  • International relations theory
  • Feminism

Asaf Siniver
Email: a.siniver@bham.ac.uk  

  • Security studies
  • Military change

Dr David Bailey
Email: d.j.bailey@bham.ac.uk  

  • European Union

Dr Richard Shorten
Email: r.c.shorten@bham.ac.uk  

  • History of political thought
  • 20th century political thought

Dr Nicola Smith
Email: n.j.smith@bham.ac.uk  

  • Political economy of globalisation
  • European integration

Professor Peter Preston
Email: p.w.preston@bham.ac.uk

  • Political sociology
  • Southeast and East Asian comparative politics
  • Social theory
  • Philosophy of social science

Professor Colin Thain
Email: c.thain@bham.ac.uk

  • Role of economic institutions
  • Politics of UK economic policy-making
  • Comparative budgeting
  • Comparative central banking
  • Role of the G7

Professor Mark Webber
Email: m.a.webber.1@bham.ac.uk

  • NATO
  • European security
  • Security studies

If I gain a postgraduate research degree in this area, what are my career prospects?

The University of Birmingham has recently been ranked 9th in the UK, and 55th in the world, for post-qualification employability in a global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

This PhD programme is run by the University’s Department for Political Science and International Studies. Over the last five years, 91.4% of our Political Science and International Studies postgraduates have been in work and/or further study six months after graduation.

Birmingham’s Political Science and International Studies graduates develop transferable skills that are useful in many occupations. These include familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large and diverse quantities of information; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; judging and evaluating complex information; and making reasoned arguments, both orally, in tutorials and presentations, and in written work. There are many careers where a political science and international studies degree is useful and past graduates have entered areas including commercial management, finance, administration, politics, and even the armed forces. Some of our PhD graduates also continue onto successful careers in academic research and teaching.