Politics & International Relations - Research

Programme Overview
We offer a structured PhD programme that includes (1) training in research methods, (2) coursework in two subject-areas of politics and international relations, (3) regular contact with a Doctoral Studies Panel composed of academic staff with expertise related to the students interests, and (4) the writing of a doctoral thesis based on original research.

All students must designate primary and secondary subjects of specialization within politics and international relations and complete PhD seminars covering each subject's core scholarly literature.

Conditional upon approval by the Doctoral Studies Panel, a student's second subject seminar may be taken in a cognate discipline beyond the School. Students will also take courses in research design, and qualitative and quantitative methods. In addition, students have the option of auditing additional postgraduate modules (in SPIRe, the College of Human Sciences, and in neighbouring institutions) in order to deepen their substantive knowledge and/or methodological skills.

Subjects taught

In addition to writing the PhD thesis, SPIRe PhD students in Politics and International Relations must complete 50 credits of coursework, at least 40 of which should be completed by the time of the transfer to Stage II, which takes place within 12-18 months on the program.

Of these 50 credits, 30 will be devoted to required methodologically oriented courses (focusing on research design, quantitative methods and qualitative methods). The remaining 20 required credits (and any additional credits beyond 50) can be filled with modules selected in consultation with the student's supervisor.

There is a wide range of modules available across the College of Social Sciences and Law and the student may register for these, dependent on their research theme, with the permission of their supervisor.

UCD/TCD Collaboration
SPIRe collaborates with the Department of Political Science in Trinity College Dublin (TCD). We currently share modules on quantitative and qualitative research methods. In addition, TCD operates a Maths and Coding Bootcamp for incoming students, as a preparatory course for Quants I.

Students enrolling on the Politics and International Relations programme are strongly encouraged to attend one or both camps.

These usually take place prior to the start of term.

Entry requirements

Applicants to our research degree programmes must have completed and earned a minimum of a 2.1 grade (GPA: 3.6) in a taught Masters (MA, MSc, MLitt, etc.) programme in the area of politics and international relations or a cognate field and articulate a research interest that fits with the expertise of SPIRe’s academic staff. If you are interested in exploring your research plans further with a member of staff, please feel free to contact us individually.

A list of SPIRe academics and their research profiles can be found at: https://www.ucd.ie/spire/research/academicresearchareas/

Application dates

When Can I Apply?
There are three application deadlines for the Politics and International Relations programme:

1. Applicants to the Iseult Honohan Doctoral Scholarship: 9th February 2024
2. IRC Government of Ireland Doctoral Scholarship 2025 applicants: 8th September 2024
3. All other funded applicants: a rolling deadline between 1st October 2023 and 31st July 2024 (for non-EU applicants the deadline is 30th June 2024)

Note: The Politics and International Relations PhD programme only accepts students who have a Honohan Doctoral scholarship, an IRC scholarship or alternative external funding, to include a full fee remission and appropriate living expenses. Self-funded applicants are not eligible.

Application Procedure
Applications will be considered when the documentation below, including references, has been emailed to (opens in a new window)dara.gannon@ucd.ie
Note: Applicants must have a minimum grade of 2.1 (GPA: 3.6) in a relevant Master's degree.

- Application Form (fillable word doc)
- Cover letter, stating reasons for interest in Politics and International programme.
- Thesis proposal (1,500-2,000 words maximum)
Please note that SPIRe requires the proposal to be submitted as a separate word or pdf document using the following headings. Proposals may not be accepted if they do not comply with this requirement.
provisional thesis title
a statement of the research question
a brief literature review that points to research gaps the PhD project could address
an outline of theoretical approaches considered
a brief discussion of the proposed methodology

- Copies of ALL Academic Transcripts (Undergraduate and Postgraduate)
- C.V. or Resume (2 pages maximum)
- Evidence of English language competence, where non-native English speaking applicants have NOT obtained previous university degrees from a university in an English-speaking country.
Applicants must provide a cert that complies with UCD Minimum English Language Requirements and the certificate should be no more than 2 years old.

- Two academic references: These should be sent directly by the referees to (opens in a new window)dara.gannon@ucd.ie with the applicant's name in the Subject field. If sent by email, they must be from an institutional email address and ideally on institutional headed paper. SPIRe reserves the right to verify all references. Sending only the contact details of referees is not sufficient.

This documentation should be emailed to Ms Dara Gannon (School Manager) at (opens in a new window)dara.gannon@ucd.ie
Applications will only be considered if all of the above has been included.

The submission of original academic transcripts and other documentation will be required as a condition of the final award of a place on the programme.

How does the application process work?
- Once all documents, including references, have been received, the application will undergo an initial evaluation by the review committee to assess that it satisfies the minimal requirements in terms of academic achievement and language skills

- Once it has been confirmed that the applicant is, in principle, eligible to join the SPIRe PhD programme, the application gets circulated among the SPIRe academic staff to determine if a potential supervisor is available and interested in taking on the applicant.

- If someone is potentially interested in supervising / co-supervising, a Zoom/Skype call is usually arranged between the potential supervisor(s) and the applicant so that further questions on the project can be asked. The PhD Director will often sit in on the call to ask general questions and/or provide more information on the programme.

- Following the call, if the potential supervisor(s) is willing to take on the applicant as a student, the registration process is initiated by the PhD administrator.

- If an application is not deemed suitable, a letter will be sent to the applicant informing them of the decision. SPIRe does not provide individual feedback.

Please note that the application review process does not take place until after the the relevant application deadline. For Honohan Scholarship applicants the application deadline is 9th February 2024 and for 2025 IRC candidates the deadline is 8th September 2024.

There is a rolling deadline for other externally-funded students.

Honohan Scholarship Applicants
The Honohan Doctoral Scholarship covers a full EU/non-EU fee remission, plus an annual stipend of €25,000. The deadline for applications is 9th February 2024.

IRC Applicants
The (opens in a new window)Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme, funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) covers EU fees plus a stipend. The 2025 call will open in September 2024. The application process is highly competitive so collaboration with a local supervisor to develop the application is recommended. See this page for more information. If the IRC fee/stipend allowance does not match that of the school's Honohan scholarship, the school will provide a 'top up' payment.

Please note: If you wish to work with a SPIRe supervisor and use that supervisor's name on your IRC application, you must go through the school application process first, even if the SPIRe academic has indicated his/her willingness to work with you.


3-4 Years Full Time.

Enrolment dates

Entry to the programme is in September only.

Post Course Info

The programme is designed for all those whose career plans require a capacity for independent and rigorous research, a broad understanding of political structures and processes, and expertise in a particular area of political analysis.

Career Support
Current and recently graduated, UCD Graduate Researchers (PhDs and Research Masters students), can book a 60 minute appointment with a dedicated Career & Skills Consultant to discuss:

Individual Career Planning
Academic and non-Academic Career Options
Job Applications
Interviews and Presentations

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Doctoral (Level 10 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Daytime

  • Apply to

    Course provider