School of Social and Political Science

PhD Politics

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The deadline to apply for September 2024 entry is Monday 1 July 2024.

We warmly invite candidates to apply for a PhD in Politics

We are delighted that you are interested in doctoral research in our programme. We would like to highlight what's special about doctoral education in Politics (and/or) International Relations - or PIR - at the University of Edinburgh.

Our staff

Approximately 60 members of PIR academic staff enjoy international reputations for their research and have won numerous teaching, research and advising awards. Their scholarship covers a diverse range of research areas on Scotland, Europe, and the world, and is published in highly-rated journals and books.

The department has a strong tradition of advising, informing and debating policy with key decision-makers at Scottish, UK, European and international levels, and has a notable concentration of political theorists.

Our Politics and International Relations department at the University of Edinburgh is one of the leading centres of research excellence in the UK, ranked in the top 10 in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We are one of only three Politics and International Relations departments in the UK to achieve 100% 4* (the top ranking) for research environment. Amongst UK universities, we placed 7th in the 2022 QS World University Ranking by subject.

Our stimulating intellectual community

We have a large, vibrant, diverse, and international community of postgraduate students. We direct active research institutes, including:

PhD research in Politics and International Relations at Edinburgh is located in the School of Social and Political Science. The School benefits from the broader University of Edinburgh community of world-class researchers. A flourishing programme of events, seminars, and research groups complements our postgraduate courses and doctoral supervision.

Our dedication to students

We are deeply committed to our students at all levels and offer individualized supervision, mentoring, and support at all stages of the doctoral programme. Many postgraduate students work closely with staff on research and themselves publish independent papers. The department warmly welcomes the participation by our postgraduate community in our research, our working groups and centres and in the daily life of the department.

Our students are further supported by a range of courses, workshops, and professional development opportunities sponsored by the School of Social and Political Science and the Institute for Academic Development:

Programme overview

The degree is based on three to four years of full-time research. Each student follows an individual training programme designed with their supervisor and the Postgraduate Adviser. This programme is reviewed and updated on an annual basis.

In the first year, students acquire a wide range of research skills and formulate their research question and related design, under the guidance of their supervisors. At the end of their course of study students submit a thesis and are examined in an oral examination (viva voce) by two examiners (usually one internal to the University, the other external).

The thesis is a long piece of research on a topic of particular interest to the student and makes an original contribution to the field of politics and international relations.

Research training

All new research students follow a programme of research training, drawn from the MSc by Research courses coordinated by the School of Social and Political Science and Politics and International Relations-specific training.

The programme equips students with professional training to a high standard. After graduating you can expect to be a strong candidate for careers in a wide variety of contexts, including academia, the media, the private sector and a diverse array of public services. Nearly everyone needs good researchers!

Politics and International Relations helps you gain a range of transferable skills above and beyond those required by their specific projects, such as:

  • organising seminars and conferences
  • learning how to apply for research jobs in and out of academia
  • learning how to deliver professional seminar presentations 

Postgraduate researchers also have access to the University and College-wide programme of training in transferable skills and other aspects of professional development, such as specialist careers advice.

Supervisors and topics

PhD students in Politics and International Relations are allocated a supervisor and a co-supervisor, who will advise on the entirety of the research process, from reading and assembling ideas, to fieldwork, analysing empirical or theoretical materials, writing up chapters, completing the thesis, to the viva which rounds off the process. 

Although the first supervisor is based in Politics and International Relations, the second one may be from another discipline in the School or the wider University. This decision depends wholly on your topic and the availability of supervisors.

There is a regular progress review, discuss ideas, review progress and provide help and support where necessary. The Postgraduate Advisor in Politics and International Relations is also available to provide advice. The supervisors and the Postgraduate Advisor facilitate a supportive framework and promote an active and sustaining research culture for our PhD students.

You are encouraged to contact staff with similar interests to yours and discuss ideas prior to application.

Postgraduate community


Politics and International Relations postgraduate researchers significantly contribute to the academic community, productivity and acclaim of Edinburgh. Our PhD students are involved in a range of initiatives within the University and beyond, including government and non-profit programmes.


Evidence of the quality and dedication of our students is clear from the awards they receive.  Here are a few examples:

  • Judith Sijstermans – UACES & James Madison Charitable Trust Scholarship for fieldwork
  • Lukas Slothuus – ESRC Studentship
  • Francesco Bertoldi – ESRC Studenship
  • Louis Fletcher – Robert L. Platzman Fellowship from the University of Chicago library for archival work
  • Kathy Dodworth – Inaugural BISA African Affairs Postgraduate Paper Prize
  • Sayra Van Den Berg – ESRC Studentship
  • Alexandra Remond – ESRC Studentship
  • Tom Charman – ESRC Studentship
  • Kathy Dodworth – ESRC Studentship
  • Cera Murtagh – ESRC Studentship
  • Coree Brown – Principals Career Development Scholarship; Edinburgh Global Research Scholarship

Recent publications

Past and current cohorts of postgraduates in Politics and International Relations have actively sought to publish their innovative research drawn from PhD studies, related work, and collaboration with other academics and organisations.

Some examples of published writing include:  

  • Yue Liu (2017) “UK’s participation in the One Belt & One Road Initiative” (Ying Guo Bu Gan Que Xi Yi Dai Yi Lu), World Vision Journal, 2017 NO.22.
  • Yue Liu (2017) “The fourth election of Merkel: It is not the God’s preference” (Mo Ke Er Neng Si Lian Ren Bing Fei Shang Di Pian Ai),, 26 September 2017.  
  • Victor Gigleux (2016) Explaining the diversity of small states’ foreign policies through role theory, Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal, 1:1, 27-45. 
  • Francesco Bertoldi (2016), Change beneath the surface: the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly election, Regional&Federal Studies
  • Murtagh, C. (2016) ‘Civic Mobilization in Divided Societies and the Perils of Political Engagement: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Protest and Plenum Movement,’ Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 22(2), 149-171.

Conference papers and presentations

A number of our PhD students attend workshops and conferences at universities and other events.

Examples of conference papers include:

  • Francesco Bertoldi (2017), Segregated Narratives: Communal Separation and Political Campaigning in Northern Ireland, presented at the PSA Annual Conference, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow .
  • Yazmin Morlet Corti (2017) “Data protection a mixed public policy model in Mexico".  AMIC Conference  "Communication and democratic crisis in Mexico".  Guanajuato, Mexico.
  • Lukas Slothuss (2017), 'Disobedience Reinforcing the Status Quo? A Critique of Dominant Accounts of Civil Disobedience, Empire, Capital, and Transnational Resistance: Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics 12th Annual Conference, University of Brighton.
  • Jeremy Armon (2016), "Ethiopian Political Economy: Current Features, Possible Futures", presentation delivered at the Royal College of Defence Studies, London.
  • Ritumbra Manuvie (2016) "Politics of Disaster and Mobility in Assam' paper presented at the 9th International Geographical Union Conference, New Delhi.
  • Jeremy Armon (2016) "Can political settlements analysis help us better understand change in Africa?", Africa Working Group Workshop, University of Birmingham.

Many of our postgraduate researchers also undertake a number of professional and voluntary positions outwith the University. 

Examples include:

  • Lukas Slothuus – A member of the Research School on Peace and Conflict at PRIO, Oslo.
  • Anthony Salamone – Local Organising Committee Member, Council for European Studies – 24th International Conference of Europeanists (Glasgow 2017)
  • Cera Murtagh – Research Assistant to Professor Fiona Mackay, Gender Politics, University of Edinburgh.
  • Anthony Salamone – Lead Educator, Towards Brexit? The UK's EU Referendum (University of Edinburgh free online course), May-June 2016
  • Sayra Van Den Berg – Member of the Research School on Peace and Conflict, Peace Research Institute, Oslo
  • Francesco Bertoldi – European Relations Policy Support Officer, Scottish Government
  • Jeremy Armon – Senior Governance Adviser, UK Department for International Development
  • Ritumbra Manuvie – Visiting Scholar, National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam, India.


Applying for this PhD

  1. Identify potential supervisors suited to your research interests
  2. Write a draft research proposal
  3. Contact the Postgraduate Advisor with your research proposal and list of potential supervisors
  4. Once discussed with the Postgraduate Advisor, formally submit your application on EUCLID

Postgraduate Advisor

Programme advisor: Dr Sarah Liu