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MPhil in International Relations and Politics

Course Description

Among graduate courses in international relations and politics at British universities, the Cambridge MPhil in International Relations and Politics is distinctive in its multidisciplinary approach and breadth. Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminars in theory, politics, history, economics, law, security and various regional and area studies, as well as individual thesis supervision. The taught part of the course aims to familiarize you with the range and variety of disciplines required for a thorough critical understanding of the field in all its complexity and of the means and methods that have been devised to understand it better.

The programme is suitable both for students who have just completed their first degree and for mature students from, for example, industry, teaching, the civil service or the armed forces.

See the website http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/hspimpirp

Course detail

The fields of study for the one-year course of study in International Relations and Politics currently consist of the following:

- Comparative Politics of Western Europe
- Politics of Africa
- Comparative Politics of Religion
- Middle East and North Africa
- International Relations Theory
- International Organization
- International Security
- International Political Economy
- International Constitutional Law
- Globalization and Development (from the Centre of Development Studies)
- Urban Governance and Development (from the Centre of Development Studies)
- Research Methods

This list is subject to change.

Candidates take three courses without restriction as to field of study, and write a 20 -25,000 word dissertation over 10 months. In addition, there is a research-methods and thesis writing training element. Candidates may seek a special subject designation if the majority of their work has fallen within one field of study (e.g. European Studies, International Politics etc.)

The department is looking to attract between 60-70 highly qualified candidates for the MPhil programme each academic year.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course participants will have:

- Developed a critical view of the contribution made by the subject of International Relations, and its related disciplines, to social science more broadly conceived and to practice.
- An in-depth knowledge of specific subjects and themes in Politics
- Have become familiar with some of the main themes of the contemporary analysis of International Relations and Politics.
- Have tested their ability to produce a piece of advanced scholarship in conformity with the scientific methods, research techniques, standards of argument and accepted style of presentation of an academic discipline. They will thus be prepared to continue, if necessary, with research at the doctoral level.


Such knowledge and understanding are developed through the lectures and seminars associated with the various course options, of which students study three; and by writing three mandatory practice essays, one for each of their chosen taught course options, in preparation for the examinations or course essays. Research skills are developed through a research methods course offered by POLIS and quantitative methods modules taught through the Social Sciences Research Methods Course (SSRMC). These research skills are assessed through an essay in which students reflect on specific methods relevant to their dissertation research .


The dissertation is an important element of the MPhil. The examination process and criteria for assessment are accordingly more stringent than on many Master’s programmes. In particular, there is a requirement for originality, which must be met either by research using primary sources (documents, interviews, official publications, or the like) and/or by developing a fresh approach to an existing debate or literature. This supports the general aim of the dissertation, which is to develop advanced skills of research and expression.

Each student is required to submit an original thesis on an approved topic of between 20,000 and 25,000 words in length.

Examination of individual course-options will be EITHER by a three-hour invigilated examination OR a 5000 word long research paper.


MPhil students are registered as ‘MPhil one-year only’. Those who hope to read for a PhD at Cambridge immediately after the MPhil will need to obtain support from a potential supervisor. This need not be the same person who supervises your MPhil thesis. However, in view of the early deadlines, you will need to work extra hard to let the potential PhD supervisor see substantial work that you have written, in addition to your draft thesis proposal, at an early stage in the academic year.

Once you have applied for the PhD a definite decision will only be taken once your performance in the MPhil can be fully assessed. That is to say, the Committee will set conditions for you related to the entry requirements of the PhD - one of which is a distinction in the MPhil. If you do not achieve these targets, it is unlikely that you can continue to read towards a PhD at POLIS.

How to apply: http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/applying

Funding Opportunities

Funded by the Cambridge Trust and the Potter Foundation, there is a studentship available for one student from Africa on the MPhil in International Relations and Politics course in 2016-17.

Applicants who are interested in studying an aspect of Anglo-American Relations or US foreign policy should also be aware of the following sources of funds run out of Magdalene College; The Donner Scholarship, The Halper Bursary , The Roosevelt Scholarship.

The Gabrielle Sacconaghi Bacon Scholarship is available to applicants in 2016-17 who are either final year students at McGill who are currently enrolled in the International Relations Programme; or alumni of the Page Programme (House of Commons or Senate) in Canada. Further information, including the criteria and how to apply, is available through Hughes Hall.

Those wishing to be considered for the limited funding opportunities available should take note of the early deadlines.

General Funding Opportunities http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/finance/funding

Visit the MPhil in International Relations and Politics page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Ian Pryde

What can one say about Cambridge that hasn't been said already? It was all very enjoyable, as well as intellectually stimulating, and of course the city is magnificent. The course was relatively small and all the staff were very friendly and accessible. I was at Trinity Hall, which as one of the smaller colleges, was also very convivial. I was in the first cohort that had to take exams on the MPhil course, rather than "just write a thesis" and the courses I took in Strategic Studies, International Relations Theory and International Law have proved invaluable ever since.

(Student Profile)

Courtney Albini

As I grow older, I recognize the critical difference between an education and a learning experience. A number of academic institutions offer opportunities for excellent educations: students attend classes, take exams, earn degrees, and leave, eventually. However, Cambridge is different. Within the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), I was immersed in an experience. Consequently, though I left Cambridge, the Cambridge experience never left me.

The professors and students that populate the POLIS community were not interested simply in examining theory. Instead, the Alison Richard Building brims with passionate individuals motivated to challenge the status quo. Although influenced individually by our unique experiences, backgrounds and beliefs, individuals at POLIS are united in their unquenchable desire to bridge the lessons in the classroom with the broader realities of a dynamic, globalized world.

I send my heartfelt thanks to my POLIS professors and classmates for challenging me to take the intellectual risks necessary to grow, and for assisting me to embrace education as an eternal experience.


Entry Requirements

Applicants for this course should have achieved a UK First class Honours Degree. A background in international relations, politics, law, economics, security or history is a definite asset but is not a requirement. Applicants from the USA, Canada and Hong Kong will be expected to obtain/have obtained a GPA of 3.85.

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