Politics PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates

April 2023
July 2023
October 2023
January 2024
Part-time - 8 years

Start dates

April 2023
July 2023
October 2023
January 2024

Why choose this programme

The Department of Politics at the University of Surrey is a thriving space for cutting-edge research and advanced training on 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 supervisor and other members of the academic community, in an active research environment.

The University of Surrey is 33rd in the UK rankings for overall research quality by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. The University is now ranked in the top 20 in the UK for the overall quality of research outputs – research papers and other published works. Forty-one per cent of Surrey’s research is rated as world-leading, the highest possible rating, up from 22% when REF last took place in 2014. 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.

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

  • Centre for Britain and Europe
  • Centre for International Intervention.

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.
Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

What you will study

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.

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.

Research assistant opportunities 

During your PhD, you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside your research supervisor and other members of staff as a 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 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 Graduate Certificate of Higher Education programme offered at Surrey by our own highly regarded Department of Higher Education. You will learn about pedagogy, practice your teaching skills and receive an internationally recognised teaching qualification that will allow you to become a member of the Higher Education Academy.


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.

The Department of Politics actively encourages 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.

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.

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 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 bachelors degree with a minimum of 2:1 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.

View the other English language qualifications that we 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.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.

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


You must submit the following documents when you apply:

  • Research proposal/research statement
  • Degree certificates and transcripts (if the originals are not in English, certified translations must be provided)
  • English language qualification (where applicable)
  • CV
  • Two academic references – including one from your most recent university (or you may provide contact details and we can contact them).


Start date: April 2023





Start date: July 2023





Start date: October 2023


To be confirmed


To be confirmed

Start date: January 2024


To be confirmed


To be confirmed

For fees payable in 2022/23, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October 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).

Overseas students applying for 2022 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Additional costs

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


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

How to apply

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.

More information on the application process.

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 of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) for the 2022/2023 academic year as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very 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