Department of Political Science


Contingent of Nepalese Peacekeepers arrive in Juba, South Sudan (Photo credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy)


MPhil/PhD programme

About this programme

There are two programmes leading to a PhD in Political Science. Depending on your political science background at the time you apply, you will be admitted to either:

  • 3 year PhD Programme Students are registered as an MPhil student for Year 1 and upon successful upgrade, as PhD in Years 2 and 3.


  • 1+3 PhD Programme Students are initially registered as a MSc or MA student for one year. Upon completion of the MSc/MA degree, the student must fulfil the criteria to be admitted onto the research programme.

Programme summary

Programme title MPhil/PhD

1+3 Programme:
Full-time: 1 year MSc/MA + 3 years MPhil/PhD + 12 months Completing Research Student status.

+3 Programme:
Full-time: 3 years MPhil/PhD + 12 months Completing Research Student status.

Cost 2019/2020 Fees
UK/EU full-time: £5,210
Overseas full-time: £20,170
Application deadline 30th April 2019 (31st December 2018 for those applying for funding)
Programme Director Dr Lauge Poulsen

The 3-year PhD Programme

For the duration of the 3-year PhD programme students are required to attend weekly PhD research seminars either in political science or political theory. All UCL PhD students are jointly supervised by two members of academic staff in a structured process of regular meetings.

Year 1

The doctoral programme has a strong emphasis on research methods. During the first year, students will complete the core modules that form the research methods sequence. For students undertaking empirical political science research the core modules are: Advanced Qualitative Methods and either Introduction to Quantitative Methods or Advanced Quantitative Methods (depending on prior statistical training). Students undertaking research in political theory take the political theory methods seminar. Additionally, the supervisors may require a student to attend additional substantive or methodological courses where appropriate. 

In addition to their methods training, both empiricists and theorists will be part of a PhD course discussing concepts, theories, and analytical strategies in a series of ‘big books’ from political science and its various sub-disciplines.

Students are required to complete two 8,000-word pieces of assessed work during their first year: Literature Review Paper (due end of Term 2) and Methodology Paper (due end of Term 3). 

Initially PhD students are registered for the MPhil degree. If they wish to proceed to a PhD, their registration must be changed accordingly following the upgrade procedure, usually at the end of Year 1. 

Years 2 and 3

Students continue writing their thesis. They normally present completed research at internal and external seminars and conferences, with the funding often provided by the department or other funding bodies. Students may also take additional, specialised modules and courses where appropriate (e.g. ESRC Summer School, modules offered by other departments). Progress is monitored through a combination of supervisory meetings and presentations at the PhD Research Seminar. 

After three years, students may apply for additional 12 months (full time) to finish writing up their thesis. During this period students receive the Completing Research Status (CRS). There are no student fees for CRS but students have full access to UCL facilities and services during this time. 

The 1+3 PhD Programme

MSc/MA Year

In the first year (also called the M-Year) of the 1+3 programme the student is registered on one of the MSc or MA degrees and is awarded a masters degree if the requirements for the MSc/MA have been met at the end of the academic year. The student must comply with all the procedural requirements for the MSc/MA including the dissertation. For further details regarding the MSc/MA degrees, see www.ucl.ac.uk/political-science/teaching/masters.

On admission, students are allocated a supervisor who guides a student through various stages of preparation for the PhD programme.

PhD: Years 1, 2 and 3

Students will follow the same structure as the 3-year PhD programme from this point. The only difference is that students in the empirical political science stream are not required to study the core modules in Year 1, unless this is specifically requested by the supervisors. Modules from other programmes may be substituted in their place.

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