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Postgraduate study

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Welcome to the School of International Relations!

Welcome to the School of International Relations, one of the top Schools in the United Kingdom and the only one of its kind in Scotland. Our School was ranked first in the United Kingdom according The Guardian’s University Guide 2016. We are very happy that you have decided to join our thriving community and hope you will have an exciting and productive time in St Andrews.

It is a great time to join the School of International Relations. Our growing postgraduate programmes cover many fascinating areas of International Relations (IR), including international security, strategic studies, middle eastern and central Asian politics, terrorism, and international political theory. Our programmes are very competitive and attract excellent students like you from all over the world.

Studying IR provides a rewarding opportunity to understand the origins, causes, and implications of many challenges (such as protracted wars, refugee crises, terrorism, state collapse, famine, economic recessions, and environmental disasters) that face our world today. Our Mlitt programmes, including the core and optional modules that we offer, deliver the necessary theoretical frameworks, empirical cases, and methods to understand and explain these challenges. The Mlitt dissertation that you will write towards the end of the year will constitute a rewarding opportunity to specialise in a topic of your choice.

All International Relations modules taught on our MLitt programmes are distinctive options available only to postgraduate students. At the same time you are incorporated into the wider research life of the School, taking part in our regular lecture series organised by our various research centres.

I wish you a happy and productive year in our School.

- Dr Adham Saouli
  Director of Postgraduate Studies (Taught Programmes)


The postgraduate handbook 2016-2017 (Word, 69 KB) provides you with the key information needed to get you started.

The School handbook contains further essential information for all (undergraduate and postgraduate) students.


Taught Programmes

The emphasis at postgraduate level is on small group teaching, with modules exclusively designed for the programmes. Postgraduates are encouraged to take part in the wider research life of the School by participating in research seminars and the activities of the various research centres.

The taught degrees consist of several components:

Students take 120 credits worth of taught modules, normally four 30 credit modules or their equivalents. Each degree has one or more core modules that all students take. The balance is made up of optional modules chosen in conjunction with the programme co-ordinator. A 15,000 word dissertation, worth 60 credits, written over the summer months, adds a significant research element to the M.Litt degree. The coursework elements must be passed at a high standard before progression to the dissertation is allowed.

We have a steady stream of students who go on to do M.Phil and PhD degrees.

  • M.Litt in International Security Studies

The International Security Studies programme attracts candidates of varied backgrounds from all over the world, many of whom go on the careers in politics, diplomacy, the armed forces, international organisations and business as well as academic research.

  • M.Litt in International Political Theory

The International Political Theory programme has been designed to offer students the opportunity of further study in past and contemporary international political theory.

  • M.Litt in Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies

The Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies programme is designed to further the interdisciplinary study of the Middle East and Central Asia. The programme's scholarly disciplines emphasize the international security, comparative politics, economics, history, cultures and societies of this strategically significant and vast geographic area.

  • M.Litt in Peace and Conflict Studies

The Peace and Conflict Studies programme aims to provide students with an opportunity to work on peace and conflict theory, broader issues relating to peacebuilding and peace processes (including gender, development, etc), and on specific case studies in conflict analysis. Perhaps most importantly, it will provide a guided fieldwork experience for students in a post-conflict and development setting, in order to introduce them to both the physical and intellectual terrain of a peace process.

  • M.Res in International Relations

The M.Res in International Relations is based on a new initiative in the Social Sciences to provide interdisciplinary training in the social sciences plus advanced research training in International Relations. It is intended to provide the research and professional skills that are required to perform doctoral research successfully. This allows students to pursue a subsequent 3-year Ph.D. after obtaining the M.Res (this is described as a "1+3" programme).

  • MLitt / PgDip in Terrorism Studies

The Centre for the Study of Terrorism at the University of St. Andrews is pleased to offer an e-learning based MLitt in Terrorism Studies. Our ground-breaking new programme will seek to develop in its students an understanding on the latest thinking on terrorism.


Research Programmes

The School has a number of students working in a wide variety of fields towards M./Phil and PhD degrees.

  • PhD

The PhD is studied over 3 years and requires the production of a thesis of up to 80,000 words and an oral examination (Viva voce).

  • M.Phil

The M.Phil is normally of 2 years duration. The first year comprises the taught components of an M.Litt, and the second a dissertation of about 40,000 words followed by an oral examination.

New students begin as General Research Students. At the end of the first year if they have completed their research training and first year of research satisfactorily, they are upgraded to Ph.D. or M. Phil status. The postgraduate committee meets with all first year students in the spring to decide on this change of status. Although a recommendation to re-register as a PhD student is the norm for students who are planning to do a PhD or M Phil, it is not automatic.

Transfer to a PhD or M. Phil programme will depend upon satisfactory progress on your research (based on your supervisors recommendation), completion of IR 5601 (Research methods in International Relations), your Training Programme and of your research proposal.

Application Procedure

Details of the application procedures for postgraduate programmes.