Postgraduate research courses in International Relations

The School of International Relations offers three research degrees:

  • MPhil, normally of two years duration. The first year comprises the taught components of an MLitt, and the second a dissertation of about 40,000 words followed by an oral examination.
  • PhD (Doctorate), normally of three years duration leading to a thesis of no more than 80,000 words and an oral examination.
  • Professional Doctorate, undertaken on a part-time basis, this degree is open to experienced professionals who are employed in any area of work, including those in emerging professions and disciplines.

Research supervisors

Applicants for research degrees in the School of International Relations are not required to determine a potential supervisor before applying. You are encouraged to express a preference in your application, but the allocation of applicants to supervisors is undertaken by the School's postgraduate committee. 

Applicants cannot be admitted to the research degree programme unless a suitable supervisor can be identified by the postgraduate committee. The committee must agree that the applicant’s research interests are viable and are a reasonable match with a prospective supervisor’s interests, who is willing to take primary responsibility for supervising the candidate.

The postgraduate committee takes account of the availability of a suitable supervisor for the chosen field of research in St Andrews. It is sometimes necessary to reject applicants solely because there is no suitable supervisor able to accept them in the year of application.


Students are required to be resident in St Andrews for the first year of their studies. First year emphasises training including taking IR5601 Research Methods in International Relations, Social Science modules, and GRADSkills workshops.

In very exceptional circumstances (and by explicit prior arrangement with the Director of Postgraduate Research only), it may be that a student is given permission to waive this residence requirement. Under these circumstances, it is vital to note that students will still be expected to take the introductory module IR5601 Research Methods in International Relations in full, and to complete all assignments associated with it.

When IR5601 is studied in a distance-learning format, it is the student’s principal supervisor who shall be responsible for arranging that all requisite course material is covered in an appropriate fashion and to an acceptable standard. Distance-learning students are thus expected to treat the IR5601 module as the foundation of their doctoral studies.


The offer of a University place to undertake study or research does not carry with it the guarantee of financial support. You will be required to support yourself or to apply to a grant-awarding body.

St Andrews scholarships

St Andrews offers a number of scholarships to research students. Find out more about available research scholarships.

Nicholas Murray scholarship in the History of War

The purpose of the scholarship is to assist postgraduate research (PhD) students undertaking research in the history of war 1700 to present at the University of St Andrews. Selection is based on academic merit. The scholarship has been made possible by a generous gift from Nicholas Murray, PhD.

St Leonard’s Research Widening Participation scholarships

Two fully-funded (fees and stipend) doctoral scholarships to support students in any discipline who hold a Bachelors degree from the University of St Andrews and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • been awarded a University of St Andrews means tested bursary at undergraduate level
  • been part of a widening access initiative at the University of St Andrews (such as a Sutton Trust Summer School)
  • joined the University of St Andrews under its contextual admissions arrangements

Preference will be given to applicants who meet two or more of the above criteria. The closing date for applications is 30th January 2019.

External funding opportunities

  • ESRC funded studentships are available for application by UK and EU residents, and are offered as part of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Doctoral Training Programme.
  • AHRC funded studentships are available for application by UK and EU residents, and are offered as part of the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities Doctoral Training Programme.
  • The Postgraduate Studentships website has a comprehensive searchable database of funding opportunities.
  • The Scholarship Times website provides a comprehensive searchable database of international funding opportunities.
  • The British Middle East Association offers both research student awards and master's scholarships, chiefly for students from the UK and the EU. Students should apply both to BRISMES and to the University of St Andrews, clearly marking their desire to be recommended for this scholarship.
  • Students from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine are eligible to apply for a scholarship to study at St Andrews from the Saïd Foundation. These are available for one or two year courses. Students need to apply to St Andrews separately.

Application deadlines

Applications to be considered for scholarship funding must be received by Friday, 13th December 2019. The deadline for all postgraduate research applications is Monday, 13th January 2020.

The School of International Relations aims to process applications within four to six weeks of receiving the application from the University. However, applications submitted before the deadline are not normally processed until after this period. If applicants have questions about the status of their application, they can contact the research postgraduate secretary, by emailing

How to apply

We require an IELTS score of 7.0 overall with an expectation of 6.5 minimum in individual sections.

The application portal will open on Tuesday 1 October 2019. Further details of entry requirements and application procedures are found on the postgraduate application page.

In-sessional English Language Service

Located within the International Education Institute, the In-sessional English Language Service offers you a variety of ways to develop your research communication skills and language proficiency. The Service runs parallel with your doctoral studies and is completely free to use.

You can sign up for bespoke one-to-one tutorials, in which you and a tutor work on your specific communication or language goals. These tutorials are particularly useful as a means to develop your writing skills at the start of your PhD programme and can be tailored to meet your individual needs as your research and thesis progress. They can also be used to practise and receive feedback on your speaking skills, particularly with regard to oral exams and interviews.

General workshops are available to help with academic writing, grammar, listening, pronunciation and speaking. These are complemented by workshops which address the specific needs of doctoral researchers, for example, writing conference abstracts and giving conference presentations. For more information, please visit the In-Sessional English Language Service webpage.