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DRAFTApplying for a PhD

There are 3 essential elements to a PhD application in PAIS: writing a research proposal, finding a supervisor, and submitting your application.

Writing a research proposal

The research proposal is arguably the most important element of your PhD application. You need to submit a fully specified research proposal at this stage; while we fully acknowledge that your project will evolve as you conduct your research, you must submit a convincing proposal, worked up in full, which is sufficiently rigorous and of sufficient quality before you will be allowed entry onto our programme. The most important element of your PhD application is the research proposal. Please consult the notes of guidance(PDF Document) before you submit your proposal to ensure that you have included everything required to give your proposal the best chance for success. The notes also contain important information about the overall application process.

It is important to note that your proposal must be of sufficient quality, or your application will not be successful. A bad proposal will result in rejection, even if your qualifications and references are outstanding.

Visiting PhDs

PAIS can accept visiting PhD students for shorter periods of time. Prospective visiting students should check here for further details on how to apply.

Finding a supervisor

The relationship with your supervisor is of crucial importance to your research and progress as a PhD candidate. PAIS will normally allocate two supervisors, at least one of whom will be actively engaged in, or has had experience of, research in the field of your thesis. Your supervisors will be your guides and mentors as you design, research, and finally write up your PhD project.

Before you submit your application, you should ensure we have a member of staff who shares your research interests. You should consult our staff research directory to find out who is doing what in the department and identify potential supervisors. Applicants are encouraged to make contact initially via email with potential supervisors prior to submitting an application. While individual academics cannot make a decision to accept a given application, most successful applicants have contacted potential supervisors to ensure that there is an interest in supervising their particular research project. If you have an expression of interest, we strongly encourage applicants to speak with their potential supervisor as soon as possible as part of the process. You can do this by phone, Skype, or in person.

Please note that if the department does not have a member of staff in your specialist area, or if all academics in your area are currently at full supervisory capacity, we will not be able to make an offer no matter the quality of your application as a whole.

Also note that an expression of interest from a supervisor, or even their involvement in refining your proposal, is not a guarantee that your application will be successful—particularly if your submitted proposal is not up to scratch.

One of the primary reasons for unsuccessful applications is an inadequately specified research proposal which does not go far enough in convincing potential supervisors that the applicant has it within them to write a successful PhD. In order to get your prospective supervisor(s) to say ‘yes’, you really do have to submit an excellent proposal!


Don't forget to check out the funding options available if you do not already have a source in mind!

How to apply

Although there is no strict deadline for applications, you are strongly advised to submit your application at least two weeks before any funding deadlines, and no later than 31 July if you are not applying for university funding. Ideally you should aim to submit your application by April to ensure you receive your application results with enough time to organise the logistical aspects of your studies before the start of term.

You should apply using the online application form after you have written a proposal and identified a potential supervisor.

Please note that your application will not be considered until we have received all of your supporting documentation:

  • A good Master’s degree in politics or a related subject is required; however, applicants with an unrelated Master’s degree and academic experience relevant to their research proposal will be considered. You should include both your undergraduate and postgraduate transcripts with your application materials.
  • Two academic references. Please note that professional references will not be accepted unless you have been out of education for over two years.
  • English language proficiency. For non-native English speakers, please note that we require a minimum IELTS score of 7.0 or equivalent.

Questions about how to use the online application form should be directed to the Admissions Team in the first instance. They are available by email at or by phone on 44(0)24 7652 4585.


For questions about the programme in general, the PG Office is reachable at

You can also contact the Director of Research Degrees for Admissions, Dr Ed Page,