Politics PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates:
April 2024
July 2024
October 2024
January 2025

Part-time - 8 years

Start dates:
April 2024
July 2024
October 2024
January 2025

Why choose this programme

The Department of Politics at the University of Surrey is a thriving space for cutting-edge research and advanced training in a range of political areas. The department has an active PhD community pursuing leading research around several major political themes. Our students have the opportunity to work closely with their supervisors and other members of the academic community, in an active research environment.

Our department has two well-established research centres bringing together our students, members of staff and visiting researchers:

The Department of Politics is particularly interested in promoting a lively and active community between doctoral students and members of staff, and we hold regular social events. Here at Surrey, you’ll join a cosmopolitan, multilingual and multicultural community of students and scholars. We consider doctoral students to be junior academics or researchers, and an integral part of the Department.

We belong to TECHNE, an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded doctoral training partnership, which provides access to comprehensive academic and professional training programmes, as well as the possibility of funding for your studies.

The University of Surrey is 33rd in the UK rankings for overall research quality by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. Eighty-three per cent of the research submitted by the Department of Politics is now rated as being world-leading or of internationally excellent quality, with 100% of our impact case studies being considered by REF as having outstanding and very considerable impact in terms of their reach and significance.

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

What you will study

Exactly what you'll study will depend on the topic of your PhD. We can supervise a wide range of areas relating to European politics, government and opposition, security and conflict – please see the ‘themes and facilities’ tab for a full list.

During your first year you will undertake two modules in quantitative and qualitative research methods. You will also attend a series of seminars providing training and advice on research and professional development, as well as becoming a member of one of our research centres.

Our PhD students undertake research in the following areas:

  • Comparative politics
  • British politics
  • International relations
  • EU studies
  • Political conflicts and interventions
  • Parties and elections
  • Public policy
  • American politics
  • Public opinion
  • Area studies.


Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.

Research support

The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College, which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate careers and employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.

We have a package of development opportunities that will boost your research and teaching skills and put you in the best position to secure employment at the end of your course.

Research assistant opportunities

During your PhD, you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside your research supervisor and other members of staff as a paid research assistant. You will be involved in activities such as: conducting literature reviews, helping with data analysis and interpretation for current research projects. You will play an active role in the research community of the Department and research centres.

Teaching opportunities

During your PhD you will be offered the opportunity to take on a range of paid teaching activities, fully supported by your academic colleagues. These teaching opportunities will further reinforce your personal and academic skills and help to enhance your understanding of your subject area as well as enhancing your CV significantly.

Graduate Certificate of Higher Education

In the first year of your PhD, you will have the opportunity to enrol on the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education programme offered at Surrey by our own highly regarded Surrey Institute of Education. You will learn about pedagogy, practise your teaching skills and receive an internationally recognised teaching qualification that will allow you to become a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Research themes

European politics

  • European foreign and security policy
  • The role of the EU as an international actor
  • European integration theories
  • European equality policies and social policy
  • Regionalism and area studies
  • Area studies
  • Environmental policy
  • Opposition to the EU.

Government and opposition

  • Electoral behaviour
  • party politics and patronage
  • Campaigns and elections
  • Citizens’ impressions of parties and their leaders
  • Social movements, opposition and resistance
  • Populism and radicalisation
  • Social media
  • Social, political and gender theories
  • Public opinion analysis.

Security and conflict

  • Human rights and humanitarianism
  • Nuclear non-proliferation
  • Security and defence
  • Foreign policy analysis
  • International intervention
  • Foreign policy
  • Post-conflict reconstruction and stabilisation.

Our academic staff

See a full list of all our academic staff within the Department of Politics.

If you have any questions about the PhD course, please email politics@surrey.ac.uk.

Research facilities

The Department and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences continually invest in improving their research facilities and equipment. Surrey is home to research centres and facilities which promote specialised and interdisciplinary research.

During your PhD, you’ll have the opportunity to attend a series of seminars organised by the Department of Politics alongside training supported by the Doctoral College.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a minimum of an upper second-class (2:1) UK degree and a masters degree with a minimum of a merit from a UK university or overseas equivalent in a relevant discipline.

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academics: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

These are the English language qualifications and levels that we can accept. 

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Application requirements

Applicants are advised to contact potential supervisors before they submit an application via the website. Please refer to section two of our application guidance.

Research proposal

Before applying, please refer to our research proposal guidance for information on submitting a suitable research proposal.

After registration

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants:

  • Meeting the expected entry requirements
  • Being shortlisted through the application screening process
  • Completing a successful interview
  • Providing suitable references.


Start date: April 2024





Start date: July 2024





Start date: October 2024


To be confirmed


To be confirmed

Start date: January 2025


To be confirmed


To be confirmed
  • Annual fees will increase by 4% for each year of study, rounded up to the nearest £100 (subject to legal requirements).
  • Any start date other than September will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

View the list of fees for all postgraduate research courses.

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey.


A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

Apply online

We actively encourage visiting PhD students from other universities around the world.  If you are interested in coming to Surrey as a visiting PhD student you may submit your application via the Doctoral College.

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, please provide details of the project instead of a research proposal.

Read our application guidance for further information on applying.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to follow our policies and procedures, student regulations, and terms and conditions.

We provide these terms and conditions in two stages:

  • First when we make an offer.
  • Second when students accept their offer and register to study with us (registration terms and conditions will vary depending on your course and academic year).

View our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) for the 2023/24 academic year, as a guide on what to expect.


This online prospectus has been published in advance of the academic year to which it applies.

Whilst we have done everything possible to ensure this information is accurate, some changes may happen between publishing and the start of the course.

It is important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read our full disclaimer.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey Admissions

Contact Admissions Team


University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH