International Relations (MPhil)
About the course
The MPhil in International Relations is a two-year (21-month) course which offers intellectually rigorous training in the recent history of world politics, and in the theoretical or conceptual study of international relations, as well as the appropriate research methods.
The MPhil International Relations course equips you with the skills you require to undertake research and study at an advanced level and also to undertake many forms of professional work in the field. This MPhil is a very popular course, attracting students from the world’s leading institutions. Entry is competitive and students come from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities.
The department is internationally recognised as a leader in research in the field of international relations and is home to the Centre for International Studies.
The objective of the course is to give you, in your first-year, a thorough mastery of the major facts, methodologies and perspectives in the field, as well as to develop research skills. This is supplemented in the second year by specialised course work on two optional subjects and a 30,000-word thesis.
In the first year as an MPhil in International Relations student, you must complete core classes in the development of the international system and contemporary debates in international relations theory, and a course on research design and methods in international relations, which includes the writing of a research design proposal in preparation for the MPhil thesis.
At the end of your first year, you have to sit two three-hour written examinations, with questions in the first drawn from the compulsory subject and questions in the second from the research design and methods course. Progression to the second year is conditional on satisfactory performance in these examinations.
In your second year you will write a thesis and complete two specialist optional papers. Options offered in recent years have covered European international history since 1945, strategic studies, the international relations of the Middle East, and Classical theories of international relations.
At the end of the course, you are required to sit two three-hour written examinations in the optional papers of your choice and submit a thesis of not more than 30,000 words.
Graduate work in international relations will prepare you for an academic career in the field, either in Oxford or elsewhere, but the department also celebrates the substantial number of its graduates working in government, in diplomatic services, and in senior positions in the private sector.
The department is committed to engaging with its alumni community. The alumni programme is now underway and includes an annual publication (‘Inspires’), a website forum, alumni networks and tailored events.
Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18
Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:
1. Academic ability
Proven and potential academic excellence
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in political science or international relations, or in a closely related discipline (eg economics, history, philosophy, sociology, law, etc).
Nonetheless, each application will be assessed upon its own merits, and so candidates with a degree in an unrelated discipline should demonstrate the relevance of their academic background to their proposed subject or topic of study.
Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See ‘How to apply’ for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview(s)
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
Publications are not expected, but a demonstrably peer-reviewed publication in political science or an allied discipline may be taken as prima facie evidence of aptitude for research, and may advantage an application.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
Research or working experience that is relevant to your proposed study and that provides further evidence of your academic ability may be an advantage.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.
3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places
The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- The ability of the Department of Politics and International Relations to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work
- Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford’s research and taught programmes.
The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:
- The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department of Politics and International Relations and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff
- Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Politics and International Relations.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.
4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties
Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.
Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.
Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
6. Other information
Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.
The department provides an excellent research environment in which you can pursue your interests beyond the formal demands of the syllabus.
Many of the academic staff who teach and supervise on the programme also organise extracurricular research seminars for graduate students, such as the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, the Cyber Studies Programme and the IR Research Colloquium which takes place weekly throughout term.
The department also hosts a wide range of research centres and programmes which actively seek to develop collaborative research activity via conferences, workshops and other academic events, and which include graduate students in their activities.
Research centres provide opportunities for you to present your own work in research seminar series and at conferences in the department and beyond. The research centres have an established and popular visitors’ programme which has allowed many scholars of international repute to participate in the department’s research activities.
The department contains around 100 open-plan workspaces for the use of graduate students. Two thirds of these are allocated workspaces assigned for use by a particular individual and the remainder are unallocated hot desks that any graduate student may use on a casual basis. Each desk has one active Ethernet point to which you may connect your laptop once it has been registered with the Manor Road Building’s IT Support Office. Nearly half of the workstations are fully equipped with a thin client, monitors and adjustable monitor arms. They give you access to all of the major social science software packages, including STATA, and to the internet, email, file storage and other facilities.
All students are given access to the department and to the open-plan workspace during working hours and regular users may submit an application for twenty-four hour access, subject to satisfactory completion of a health and safety induction.
The Social Sciences Library is also located within the Manor Road Building. It houses an extensive collection of literature in all aspects of the Social Sciences and comprises more than 120,000 books and approximately 1,000 journal and series subscriptions.
You also have access to the Bodleian Library, which is one of five copyright libraries within the UK and as such is entitled to receive a copy of every work that is published or distributed in the UK. It also contains an extensive collection of manuscripts and original source materials. Books cannot be borrowed from the Bodleian and must instead be consulted within one of its reading rooms. In addition, nearly 100 college, institute and departmental libraries fall under the auspices of Oxford University Library Services.
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
A number of Research Council awards are available each year from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Annual fees for entry in 2017-18
Total annual fees
The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.
Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).
For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.