Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Course Structure

Undertaking a research project that spans at least three years can be a daunting task. While not as structured as a taught postgraduate programme, the PhD is segmented into four stages, each with distinct milestones to help you monitor your progress and pursue your research at the best pace.

Year 1

Your first year, during which you will register as an MPhil candidate initially, lays the foundation for your research. On the bespoke year 1 training module, Doctoral Thesis Writing in Politics and International Studies, you will develop doctoral researching skills and collaborate with your peers to overcome the challenges of PhD research. This seminar will also prepare you for the first year review, which takes place each May. This review, involving both written and presentational elements, is used to determine whether you are ready to upgrade from MPhil student to a full PhD.

Year 2

During your second year, you will continue to attend advanced training seminars in the department, on subjects ranging from interviews to academic writing for publication, whilst you fully explore your research. Many candidates use part of or all of the second year to conduct fieldwork elsewhere in the UK or abroad. The second year culminates in a review consisting of a written report on your progress, and a ‘Pitch to Peers’ workshop in which you’ll have 15 minutes to present and pitch your thesis, to your peers and a core panel of staff, followed by a short Q&A.

Year 3

While you should be in the habit of writing from day one, the process of tying your thesis together and finalising it for submission begins in earnest during year 3 and normally continues into the first part of year 4. A final progress check is conducted at the end of this year.

Year 4

Although you should aim to finish in year 3, realistically most students submit their thesis in year 4. All full-time students are initially registered for 4 years, and the fourth year does not incur a fee. The university does not normally allow an extension beyond year 4.

Submission and the Viva

You should aim to submit your finished thesis in the first six months of your fourth year. After you submit, you will defend your thesis in front of internal and external examiners as your final assessment for the degree (the Viva).