PhD Political Science and International Studies

by Distance Learning

Start date
Full-time and Part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Distance learning

£4,500 FT (Home students)
£2,250 PT (Home students)
£18,450 FT (International Students)

More Fees and funding details.

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 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

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.

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.

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PhD by Distance Learning 2021-22

Home students

  • Full-time £4,500
  • Part-time £2,250

International students (Band D)

  • Full-time £18,450

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

We can confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who intend to start their studies in 2018 or 2019 will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time (may be subject to annual increases for inflation) for the duration of their course. The Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan will also be available to eligible EU students for the duration of their course. Visit our EU Referendum information page for more information.


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

Our Standard 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 Requirements

International Students

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 in Listening, 22 in Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): PTE Academic 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component


Dr Daniele Albertazzi

European populism and neo-nationalism in comparative perspective, party organisation, Italian politics, and political communication.

Dr Derek Averre

Russian foreign and security policy, Russia-Europe relations and arms control/non-proliferation issues in the USSR successor states.

Dr David Bailey

Social democratic parties, other forms of left politics, protest, and critical political economy - all especially within the EU context.

Dr Stephen Bates

Power and political agency, the politics of the body, Prime Minister's Questions and parliamentary agenda-setting and select committees

Professor Peter Burnham

British politics (especially economic policy using National Archives material), radical approaches to IPE and state theory and Marxism

Dr Tereza Capelos

Political emotions in international crises and political decision making, political accountability and trust, reputation management in institutional impression formation, political radicalization, engagement and political values and political tolerance and perceptions of minority groups

Professor David Cutts

Political and electoral behaviour, party campaigning turnout, civic engagement, populist parties, social media and politics. 

Professor David Dunn

US foreign and security policy, strategic and security studies, and diplomacy and statecraft.

Dr Rita Floyd

Environmental and climate security, the ethics of securitisation relating to the natural environment. 

Dr Guiditta Fontana

Ethnic, religious and national conflicts, conflict management and cultural institutions in fragile and divided societies.

Dr Emma Foster

Environmental politics, gender and international development, sexuality and international development, gender and representation and queer theory.


Dr Charlotte Galpin

European identities, European public sphere, Euroscepticism, the role of Germany or Britain in Europe, and Brexit

Dr Julie Gilson

Japanese foreign policy, East Asian regionalism, Inter-regionalism, Asia-Europe relations, civil society in Asia, transnational advocacy and rising powers and the BRICS

Dr Tim Haughton

The domestic politics of East-Central Europe, party politics and political campaigning. 

Dr Laura Jenkins

Feminist political theory, contemporary political theory and British politics.

Dr Deema Kaneff

Local politics and state building, property relations, postsocialist transformations and global capitalism, markets and moralities, transnational migration, and social exclusion and inequalities. (Bulgaria and Ukraine)

Dr Peter Kerr

British politics, state theory and theories of social and political change, UK party politics and party modernisation, political leadership and governing strategies in the UK, citizenship and political participation and political sociology


Dr George Kyris

International Conflict, especially with reference to unrecognised states and the role of international organisations, European Union and Sovereignty

Dr Richard Lock-Pullan

Strategic studies, especially in the areas of: Strategic theory, Military innovation, Strategic culture, conventional warfare, Counter insurgency, US military, US defence policy, the Vietnam War. International history, especially US foreign policy.


Professor Scott Lucas

US Foreign Policy from 1945 to the Present; US-Iranian Relations; US and the Middle East; British Foreign Policy; Politics, Film, and Television.

Dr Huw Macartney

International or Comparative Political Economy, banking and financial market governance, globalisation, and historical materialism. 

Dr Cerwyn Moore

Political violence, international relations theory, post-Soviet and post-communist security, interpretive approaches to global politics and Chechnya.


Dr Natascha Neudorfer

Causes of corruption, causes of civil conflict (specifically ethnic wars) and quantitative empirical research designs.

Dr Richard North

Any area of contemporary political philosophy, but particularly on justice and liberal and democratic political philosophy.  

Dr Julian Panke

European Union Politics, European Neighbourhood Policy, German foreign policy and Eastern European foreign policies (Poland, Slovakia).

Professor Patrick Porter

The interaction of power and ideas in the making of foreign and defence policy in the U.S. and U.K, and in shaping their conflicts, classical realism, strategic thought and great power diplomacy.

Dr Adam Quinn

American foreign policy, American history, Ideology, International relations and security.


Dr Richard Shorten

Totalitarian political thought, Political reactionaries, Cold War political thought, History of twentieth-century political ideas in Europe, Political ideology and rhetoric and Political religion.

Dr Asaf Siniver

International mediation and conflict resolution, The politics, diplomacy and history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, The international relations of the Middle East, Contemporary US foreign policy and Foreign Policy Analysis.


Dr Nicola Smith

Gender & Sexuality, Queer & Trans* Politics, Crip Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Biopolitics, Neoliberal Discourse & Governmentality and Commercial Sex.

Professor Colin Thain

Economic policymaking in the United Kingdom, The role of the Treasury, The role and power of the Bank of England, Comparative economic policy making, Comparative Central Banks, British Politics in general (ie role of PM, Parliament, devolution), The political economy of the G7 and Fiscal policymaking.

Dr Graham Timmins

Areas related to the external relations and foreign policy role of the European Union with specific reference to EU-Russia and German-Russian relations.

Dr Tsering Topgyal

Chinese foreign and security policy, Tibet and China’s Nationality Policy, Asia-Pacific security and politics, US-China relations, Sino-Indian relations and Security studies.


Dr Gerasimos Tsourapas

Migration, refugee, and diaspora politics, International relations and comparative politics of the Middle East and North Africa and Authoritarian regimes.


Dr Sevasti-Eleni Vezirgiannidou

International Environmental Politics, Climate change politics, Environment and trade negotiations, Environmental Regime effectiveness and compliance and The trade-environment debate.

Dr Marco Vieira

Rising powers and global order, South-South political cooperation/identity/institutions, South American/Latin American politics, Brazilian foreign policy and International relations theory.


Dr Robert Watt

Military History, power and networks. 

Dr Mark Wenman

Continental philosophy; contemporary political theory; the philosophy of the social sciences; the history of political thought.

Professor Nicholas Wheeler

Trust-building between adversaries, especially nuclear armed states, nuclear weapons and proliferation. 

Dr David White

Power and opposition in electoral authoritarian systems, State capacity and regime consolidation in electoral authoritarian systems, Post-communist political parties and party systems, Democracy and authoritarianism, Putin's 'fellow travellers' – the relationship between the Kremlin and right- and left-wing political forces in Europe and beyond. Russian political opposition in exile, Humour and social protest and popular music and protest.

Professor Kataryna Wolczuk

Domestic politics and international relations of the post-Soviet countries, especially with regard to the EU and/or Eurasian integration.

Professor Stefan Wolff

Ethnic conflict and conflict resolution, including post-conflict peacebuilding, state-building and international/humanitarian intervention, EU Common Security and Defence Policy and European security more generally and German history and politics, including former East Germany, reunification, and German relations with Eastern Europe.


Dr Christalla Yakinthou

Conflict transformation, particularly post-settlement, Transitional justice both in theory and practice, and transitions in the MENA region, The relationship between constitutional design and transitional justice, Power sharing, Cypriot, Lebanese, and Tunisian politics and conflicts and the right to truth in international law and practice, and issues around enforced disappearance and missing people during conflict.

Dr Sotirios Zartaloudis

 Europeanization, comparative welfare states and public policy and EU politics and policy.

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.

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

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.

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