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Postgraduate research

There are two types of research degree for which students may register within the department. 

A PhD is awarded to students who produce a substantial piece of original research in the form of a thesis of up to 100,000 words. Candidates for PhD are normally registered for three years full-time, with submission within four years, or four to seven years part-time. Students must remain registered and paying an appropriate fee until submission.

An MPhil is awarded for original research and submission of a thesis of up to 55,000 words. Candidates must normally be registered for two years (full-time) or four years (part-time).

The overwhelming majority of our research students are PhD students. Research students are registered for the MPhil degree initially and are later upgraded to PhD status, subject to satisfactory progress..

The department offers supervision leading to the research degrees of MPhil (minimum registration two years) allowing participants to complete a 40,000-55,000 word supervised thesis, and PhD (minimum registration three years) allowing participants to complete an 80,000-100,000 word thesis constituting a major piece of original research work. 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 the Research Centres described below. If you are interested in pursuing a PhD with us, please consult the research interests of members of our academic staff and how to contact them.

Why pursue doctoral education and research at Politics & International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London?

Our research community

We are a young and dynamic department that produces research that is wide-ranging and of world-leading quality.

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework recognised 72 per cent of the department's research as world-leading (4*) and internationally excellent (3*), placing it 10th amongst Politics and International Relations departments for Research Intensity.

Research students are central to our research community. They are encouraged to participate in our departmental research seminars, workshops and reading groups, and in the daily life of the department.

Our Research Centres support student initiatives and students, in turn, contribute organisational support for research events. There are five research centres based in the Department of Politics and International Relations:

The Centre for European Politics (CEP) focuses on comparative European and EU politics, European foreign, defence and security policy, and citizenship and participation. We also have a specialism in citizenship and youth participation in comparative context as well as wider themes of comparative politics in general. The centre is committed to an analysis of Europe as an actor in world politics, and so produces research on European politics that extends beyond the narrow confines of EU-level governance to European comparative politics and international relations. It has hosted a number of high-profile speakers and organised numerous research events. The CEP establishes collaborative links with academics, research institutes, and NGOs both in the UK and abroad.

The Centre for Global and Transnational Politics (CGTP) examines phenomena of governance and political change traversing local, national and transnational domains. Its Departmental researchers focus on two broad research areas. The first is regional, transnational, and comparative politics, including the politics of the South and East Asia, the Middle East, the EU, Africa and other regions; transnational governance, global development, borders in global politics, cosmopolitanism, and comparative and international public policy. The second area of interest covers international law, conflict, and security, including immigration and citizenship, new security challenges, human rights, and global legal and institutional networks.

The New Political Communication Unit (NPCU) is co-directed by Professors Andrew Chadwick and Ben O'Loughlin. Its research agenda consists of three strands. First: comparative and international political communication, including the internet's impact on political mobilisation, campaigning and identity; the complex interactions among older and newer media logics; the relationship between media, war, new security challenges and conflict; audience reception studies in the context of the proliferation of media; the dynamic between citizens’ changing uses of media and a transforming news environment; citizen journalism; technology and mobilities. Second: communication and comparative governance: e-democracy and the changing interface between representative institutions, public bureaucracies and citizens; changing organizational practices shaped by new patterns of communication. Third: comparative and international communication policy: Internet and new media governance and regulation; privacy, surveillance and security, the political economy of newer media; cultural diversity policy; digital divide and development issues.

The Contemporary Political Theory Research Group (CPTRG) focuses on issues concerning contemporary pluralism, liberalism, democratic theory and radical politics. It brings together staff working in contemporary Continental philosophy, normative political theory, and American pragmatism. Its postgraduate members include students working on normative concepts of responsibility in the context of globalisation, post-existentialist political theory, the event in Marxist philosophy, and the concept of meaningful work. The group also has ties to the College’s Philosophy Team and the interdepartmental Humanities and Arts Research Centre.

The Centre for Social Sciences (CSS) brings expertise in diverse methodological approaches to bear on the research of institutional change and public policy and provides social science research training for doctoral students, post-docs and academic staff.

Our Postgraduate research programme

Students enjoy a personalised learning experience that includes supervision and support at all stages of the doctoral programme. Students are supported by a range of courses, workshops, and professional development opportunities, including opportunities to gain teaching experience on undergraduate courses.

First year doctoral students attend compulsory training courses in quantitative methods, qualitative methods and the foundations of contemporary political theory. The department gained ESRC Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) status in 2010 as part of the South East DTC, and further advanced methods and specialist subject training is offered by the participating Units of the DTC consortium. First and second year doctoral students also attend a fortnightly research and professional development seminar that provides training and advice in writing book reviews, getting published, achieving impact, entering the academic job market and more, and in which students develop and present their research to one another and to staff. Through the support provided by these courses and seminars, participation in Unit research seminars and centre-organised activities, and participation in major conferences such as the PSA, BISA, APSA, ISA, ECPR, UACES and GSA, students leave the programme with established profiles that include peer-reviewed publications.

What some of our graduates have gone on to:

Sylvester Odion Akhaine graduated in 2004. He is a Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Lagos State University, Nigeria, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Centre for Constitutionalism and Demilitarisation. Akhaine’s research interest covers comparative politics and political economy. His latest work is Patrons of Poverty, IMF/World Bank and Africa’s Problems (2015).

Nick Anstead graduated in 2009. He was appointed Lecturer in Politics at the University of East Anglia in September 2008 and in September 2010 he became a Lecturer in Political Communication in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. His latest book, Youth participation in Europe: hope and disillusion, will be published by Palgrave in 2016.

Chris Perkins graduated in 2010. He is now a lecturer in Japanese in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. His latest book, The United Red Army on Screen: Cinema, Aesthetics and the Politics of Memory has just been published with Palgrave.

Isabelle Hertner graduated in 2012. She is now a lecturer for German and European politics at the University of Birmingham. She is also the deputy director of the Institute for German Studies and the director of the Graduate Centre for Europe. Isabelle is currently writing a book on centre-left parties and the European Union. 

Ruth Yeoman graduated in 2012 and is now a Research Fellow at the Saïd Business School and the Centre of Mutual and Employee-owned Business, Kellogg College, University of Oxford. Her research centres on the values of mutuality and meaningfulness, drawing upon business ethics, political theory and organisational behaviour. Her book, Meaningful Work and Workplace Democracy: a philosophy of work and a politics of meaningfulness, is published by Palgrave.

Nathan Coombs graduated in 2013. He is on a three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh, working on the sociology of finance.  He has recently published a book, based on his PhD research, called History and Event: from Marxism to contemporary French theory with Edinburgh University Press. 

Niklas Rolf graduated in 2014 and is now a a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Society and Economics at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. His research is on the domestic analogy in IR, and he has published in Ethics & Global Politics and International Relations.

For information on the programme, contact Dr Julia Gallagher, Director of Graduate Research, julia.gallagher@rhul.ac.uk

For students who wish to commence their PhD in September 2016, and to apply for funding through the College, there are two formal deadlines:

1. For applicants wishing to be considered for an ESRC or TECHNE award, the deadline is 26 January 2016.

2. For applicants wishing to be considered for one of the College studentships, the deadline is 3 May 2016.

Otherwise, students can apply at any time during the year.

The department welcomes applications from suitably qualified and highly-motivated candidates. The application process for our postgraduate research programmes is an interactive one. We put great emphasis on matching prospective students to supervisors’ interests, building on our existing research activities. We are particularly keen to encourage applications in areas related to our research centres.

If you are interested in applying, please first refer to our website to get a good idea of the department's research foci, in particular our  staff pages and research pages

If you find a member of staff whose research interests match yours, we recommend that you approach them directly by email, sending them an idea of your research project and a short CV.

If the member of staff is interested in your research project, they will make suggestions on how to develop your ideas into a fuller research proposal. The proposal is usually 8-10 pages long and includes the key research questions, proposed methodology and a bibliography. 

Potential students may be invited into the department, or a meeting via Skype to refine the proposal and explore the possibilities of the research. The student-supervisor relationship is key to a PhD, and so it is a good idea to meet during the application process.

Promising candidates will be invited to submit a formal application online.
We suggest that you begin this process as early as possible, especially if you wish to apply for one of the available funding schemes. These are very competitive, and you should allow plenty of time to work on your proposal before you submit your formal application. 

Apply online for a place on our postgraduate programmes by clicking here.

Application information for the 2016 Open competition for ESRC awards is now available on the SEDTC (Southeast Doctoral Training Centre) website and for TECHNE awards from the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership, http://www.techne.ac.uk. Students who wish to apply to these schemes can access the forms there. 


Some of our current students' projects:

Declan Mcdowell-Naylor (PIR)

Towards an Ethics of Technology for ‘The Issue of Technology’ in Public Policy and The Political Use of Technology

The aim of my research is to advance towards an ‘ethics of technologies’ that can inform the practices and discourses of public policy, as well as the political use of technology more generally. I argue that by investigating the present values, particularly moral, in the use and governance of technologies from the methodological perspective of Actor-Network Theory, different and valuable insights can be gained and brought into Political Science. This project covers many emergent issues of technologies, such as driverless cars, large-scale information security and the internet of things. Within the specific context of my research, I explore broad topics such as governance, morality and enterprise. To gather my findings, I am conducting empirical fieldwork in ‘hackspaces’, with the Transport Research Laboratory on their GATEway project, and a forthcoming site, which will be a public body. I regularly write about my research, Science and Technology and other things political at polylarity.com.

Luuk Molthof (PIR)

The Causal and Strategic Role of Ideas: Germany and the Economic and Monetary Union

My thesis investigates the causal and strategic role of ideas in German European monetary policy. By empirically testing the hypothesis that ideas play an important causal role in explaining policy outcomes - in the context of Germany’s policy on European monetary affairs - I aim to make a contribution to the burgeoning literature on the role of ideas in economic, public, and foreign policy. In addition, I aim to provide a current account of the ideas and interests driving Germany’s position on European monetary integration.   

Emily Harding (Philosophy)

I am working on the nature and possibility of novelty in thought, and how it is possible for this to emerge immanently from current conditions rather than as the result of a complete break or rupture from what has gone before. My research focuses mainly on Nietzsche and post-Nietzschean thinkers such as Deleuze, who draws heavily upon Nietzsche’s ideas on overcoming and eternal return in his own engagement with the issue of novelty. I am concentrating in particular on Nietzsche’s writings on music and dance, artforms he frequently references when he explores both the way we think now, and the possibility of that we could think differently. I will develop these ideas by focusing on contemporary music and dance practitioners, and showing how their work can elucidate the role of important concepts such as repetition and gravity within the idea of eternal return. 

Taught Courses

First and second year research students must attend the Department’s in-house professional development course, PR9000 Professional Development and Research Seminar, which meets on a fortnightly basis. New research students also attend, where appropriate, the quantitative, qualitative, or political theory research methods courses taken by MSc students, which are supplemented by further specialist research training courses for MPhil/PhD students, some of which are linked to our membership in the Southeast DTC. The Department is committed to research skills training for its research students, and to that end encourages participation in the Research Skills Programme provided by the College through the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Further details can be found here.

Teaching Opportunities

Opportunities to undertake paid undergraduate seminar tutoring may be available for suitably qualified research students, normally in years two and three of full-time registration. Postgraduate teacher training is provided by the College for this purpose, and the Department has an established 'Teaching Circle' where postgraduate student teachers and academic staff share teaching experiences and experiences of good practice.

The Department is part of the Southeast UK Doctoral Training Centre (DTC), which was established in collaboration with social science departments at Royal Holloway, Reading, Kent, and Surrey Universities. Through this our doctoral programme is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and we have access to ESRC +3 studentships allocated to the consortium. Application forms and information are available at  http://southeastdtc.surrey.ac.uk/apply

We are also recognised for ESRC +3 CASE studentships and welcome proposals for CASE studentships from individual students and third-party organisations. There is strong competition for these prestigious awards and applicants who wish to be considered should begin early to locate a potential supervisor in the Department and begin working on a project application. Details of the Doctoral Training Centre and its studentships can be found here.

Those intending to study for PhD in the department are able to apply for Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) studentships (stipend and fee waiver) offered through the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership (http://www.techne-research.co.uk) which is led by Royal Holloway and comprises six other universities in London and the South East. The internal deadline for applicants wishing to be considered for funding from both College studentships and TECHNE is January 27, 2015. Information is available at http://www.techne.ac.uk.

For applicants wishing to be considered for an ESRC or TECHNE award, the deadline is 26 January 2016.

In addition there are a small number of College scholarships available, ranging from fee waiver awards to maintenance awards. The College’s most prestigious research student award, the Reid Studentship, covers Home/EU tuition fees and provides a maintenance award of £15,590 for three years. Further information about these opportunities for funding can be found here.

For applicants wishing to be considered for one of the College studentships, the deadline is 3 May 2016.


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