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PhD programmes – University of Reading

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PhD programmes

As a postgraduate research student in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Reading, you will be part of a large and vibrant community. You will work alongside a group of postdoctoral researchers who recently completed their PhDs.

Students come from all over the world to study for a PhD in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Reading. We are a lively and close-knit community: you can expect here to interact regularly with senior staff members as well as with your fellow students. Throughout the programme, you have opportunities to attend a range of seminars and workshops and at every stage your research supervisors provide invaluable guidance and support.

Postgraduate research students are at the heart of what we do: we are passionate about both teaching and research. We are keen to recruit new PhD students who share our desire to learn more about the world around us through rigorous and sustained inquiry. Our own expertise spans many aspects of political theory, comparative politics, and international relations. Our academics and students employ a diverse set of research methods, including cutting-edge empirical techniques, normative analysis, and theoretical, historical, and critical approaches.

Over 65% of our research overall was rated world-leading or internationally excellent in the latest Research Excellence Framework (2014). This ranged across all the Department's Research Clusters and included Dr Daphne Halikiopoulou's work on the far-right in Europe, Professor Alan Cromartie's contributions to our understanding of Hobbes and Dr Christina Hellmich's investigations of Al-Qaida's ideology.

What we offer

We offer flexible modes of study designed to fit with your needs. Our PhD is available for study on a full-time basis over three years and part-time over four to six years. Both full-time and part-time variants are available for study in Reading, or at a distance for students who live outside the UK.


All full-time students in the Department receive research training within their first year. This training covers a variety of research methods and philosophical issues in the social sciences, and meets ERSC requirements. This equips students to develop their project and to select the most appropriate methods to pursue it, as well as ensuring that they're conversant in a variety of approaches across the discipline.



“Beginning a PhD is a daunting task, but the Department of Politics and International Relations has helped enormously by making clear the process and the requirements, and helping me to break it down into manageable constituent parts.”

James Draper – PhD Researcher of the Year Winner 2019               

 Research in the Department

The Department of Politics and International Relations is a tightly focused, research-intensive, unit. Whether analysing politics at home or charting the rise of extremist parties abroad, research carried out within the Politics and International Relations Division addresses fundamental questions about how society is governed. Our academics employ cutting-edge empirical methods alongside normative, theoretical, historical and critical approaches and draw on a range of regional specialisms to conduct research into international relations, political theory and comparative politics.

Our ground-breaking work on global organisations such as the United Nations sits alongside research into international political economy, intergenerational justice and equality and we are leading the way with our focus on far-right parties in Europe.

The Division is home to the world-leading Leverhulme Programme in Climate Justice, which is providing us with the knowledge needed to develop and implement the policies required to address climate change. Our research has also attracted major competitive grants, such as the Liberal Way of War Major Research Programme, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and we maintain close and regular interaction with the policy community through, for example, work with the Department for International Development. In addition, many members of the Department have won prestigious personal funded Fellowships, for example:

  • Dr Georgina Holmes' research into how African female uniformed personnel are integrated into UN peace operations, funded by the Leverhulme Trust
  • Dr Sarah von Billerbeck's ESRC Future Research Leaders on "Self-Legitimation by International Organizations"
  • Professor Dominik Zaum's ESRC Public Sector Placement Fellowship in the UK Stabilisation Unit.

“My main reason for coming here is my supervisor Christina Hellmich, who has deep knowledge of my research focus into the politics of women empowerment and has been instrumental in focusing my proposal and my research in general.”

Nadia Al-Sakkaf – International PhD student

Further information

Modes of study

Both full-time and part-time variants are available for study in Reading, as well as PhD by Distance.

PhD by Distance students spend the majority of their time at another location and normally have a supervisor/mentor at that location. There must be an academic or financial rationale for this status to be granted and the University assesses each application on an individual basis.

Additionally, some of our PhD students are involved in interdisciplinary projects or projects with an external partner. In these cases they may be supported by a supervisor from outside the University, and interact with a wider range of staff.

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