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Research Excellence Framework, 2014: Department 10th in the UK for Research Intensity

The Department of Politics & International Relations has been recognised for its commitment to high quality research in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). The periodic assessment exercise, the biggest in the world, is intended to review the quality of academic research being carried out in UK universities.

The Times Higher Education placed the department as 10th in our field in the U.K. in terms of ‘research intensity’. This is considered by many scholars to be the most rigorous measure of research excellence because it takes into account the proportion of staff from the department who are active researchers. 72 per cent of the department’s research is judged to be world-leading (4*) and internationally-excellent (3*), placing it 18th among Politics and International Relations departments for this measure. This proportion has increased from 30 per cent at the last assessment in 2008, and reflects our successful growth from a very small department founded just 10 years ago. For 'outputs', which means the 'originality, significance and rigour' of the research submitted, the department comes out 13th for 4* and 3* quality. Moreover, more than three-quarters of the submissions made were judged to have ‘outstanding’ or ‘very considerable impacts’ in terms of their reach and significance.

Head of Department, Professor Sandra Halperin said: “Since the last research assessment review in 2008, the Department of Politics and International Relations has seen major developments. We have nearly doubled in size and, with major increases in the quality and quantity of our research, have reached a new level of world-leading and internationally-excellent results.

“In less than 10 years the department has become a solid presence in the discipline. We are now entering into a period of accelerated growth as we look forward to a further expansion in size and to the roll-out of new research centres based on the expansion of existing, and the development of new, clusters of research excellence within the Department.  As our young researchers continue to produce work of internationally recognized quality in the coming years we expect that they will have a significant impact on politics and international relations. PIR submitted its entire research staff to the REF2014 and we are delighted to see that excellence across the department has been indicated in our REF2014 result.”

The REF also confirmed that Royal Holloway as a whole sits within the top 25% of universities in the UK for research which is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent.’


Our Research Centres

Our departmental research centre and units provide strong foci for much of our research. Each brings together internationally regarded researchers and a growing community of PhD students, and seeks to build networks with other research centres in the national and international spheres.


The Centre for European Politics

Led by Giacomo Benedetto, the Centre for European Politics produces research in two principal areas: the study of democracy in Europe, and Europe as an actor in world politics. 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 CEP has particular strengths in:

  • comparative European politics
  • the theory and workings of the European Union
  • Europe’s global role
  • and European political theory and philosophy.


Centre of International Public Policy

New in 2017, the Centre of International Public Policy, led by Professor Andreas Goldthau and Senior Lecturer Michelle Bentley advances the study of transnational policy challenges. The 21st century is witnessing novel forms of international security threats related to terrorism, food supply, climate change (adding to mounting migratory pressures across the globe), emerging resource geo‐politics, and a power shift in the international political economy challenging traditional order. These challenges are complex and multi‐level in nature, rendering policy solutions problematic.

Members of the centre provide research expertise in the following areas:

  • US foreign policy and arms control (Bentley)
  • Security and defence policy (Dyson)
  • International terrorism and diplomatic security (Eroukhmanoff)
  • Global energy policy (Goldthau)
  • Refugee policy and migration (Jones)
  • Development policy and food security (Petrikova).

 The Centre offers a new taught Masters stream in International Public Policy and PhD supervision in a range of different areas.



Centre for Islamic and West Asian Studies (CIWAS)

The Centre for Islamic and West Asian Studies (CIWAS) is the product of an exciting new collaboration between Royal Holloway, University of London and the Imam Sadr Foundation (ISF) and affiliated donors. While based in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, CIWAS provides an institutional base for Royal Holloway scholars whose research relates in some way to Islamic and West Asian studies, including researchers in the departments of History, Music, Geography, Theatre, English, and Economics, and in the School of Law and the School of Management.

Our Mission is to foster an exchange of ideas and knowledge among students and scholars from East and West, and across disciplines, on Islam, Islamic societies, and West Asia. Its aim is to contribute to the conversation being carried on, in London and around the world, on the future of West Asian societies by considering how Islam might contribute to the search for solutions to problems faced, both by contemporary West Asian societies, and by humanity more broadly.


Centre for Politics in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East (AAME)

New in 2016, AAME, led by Julia Gallagher, brings together scholars working on the politics of Africa, south Asia, China and the Middle East in PIR. The Centre seeks to investigate common themes across parts of the world that together cover more than 60 per cent of the world’s population.

The key research themes include:

  • The politics of representation and recognition
  • The politics of migration, belonging, identity and citizenship
  • The historical sociology of global development
  • Elite politics and foreign policy
  • Authoritarian politics
  • South-South international relationships

The Centre offers a new taught Masters stream in Politics of Development and PhD supervision.


The Contemporary Political Theory Research Group

Founded in 2009, the Contemporary Political Theory Research Group brings together staff working in contemporary Continental philosophy, normative political theory, and American pragmatism. The group organizes its activities collectively, and its work focuses on issues around contemporary pluralism, liberalism, democratic theory and radical politics. The main PIR academics involved in the group are Prof Nathan WidderDr Jonathan Seglow, and Dr Michael Bacon. The group also has ties to the College’s Philosophy Team and the interdepartmental Humanities and Arts Research Centre.


Democracy and Elections Unit

New in 2017, the Democracy and Elections Unit led by Oliver Heath and Kaat Smets is a multi-method research group of political scientists specializing in the empirical study of democracy and elections. Liberal democracies, including Britain, are facing challenging times. Support for key institutions appears to be declining, elected representatives are distrusted, mainstream parties are finding it more difficult than ever to appeal to voters, and the appeal of populist insurgents is growing. For all these reasons, elections have become increasingly unpredictable. From the 2015 UK General Election to the 2016 US presidential election, voters’ choices have shocked and surprised pundits and politicians alike. The Unit’s main goals are to analyse and offer robust empirical evidence on these trends, and to advance public understanding of their origins and impact on contemporary democratic politics.

Members of the Unit carry out research in the following areas: 

  • Electoral behaviour and political participation: (Heath, Smets, Sloam, Vaccari)
  • Political engagement and disaffection: (Allen, Heath, Sloam, Smets, Vaccari)
  • Parties, politicians, institutions and policy: (Allen, Benedetto, Hacket, Heath, Sloam, Smets, Vaccari)
  • Empirical analysis and data collection: (Allen, Heath, Smets, Vaccari)

The Unit offers a new taught Masters stream in Elections, Campaigns and Democracy and PhD supervision.


The New Political Communication Unit

The New Political Communication Unit is a distinctive and internationally recognized centre for the study of media and politics. Its research agenda consists of three strands:

  • Comparative and international political communication: the internet's impact on political mobilization, 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.
  • Communication and comparative governance: online democracy and the changing interface between representative institutions, public bureaucracies and citizens; changing organizational practices shaped by new patterns of communication.
  • Comparative and international communication policy: internet and new media governance and regulation; privacy, surveillance and security, the political economy of newer media; the digital divide and development issues.

It offers a taught Masters stream in Media, Power, and Public Affairs and PhD supervision in its areas of expertise.

Recent Publications 

Recent publications by the Department's researchers


The latest from our research centres


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