PhD in International Relations, Politics, Conflict or Law
Brussels is an excellent place to do doctoral research. Host to hundreds of international organisations, of which the European Union and NATO are the most prominent, PhD students do research literally around the corner of important places of decision-making. This offers an array of opportunities to attend conferences with high-level policy-makers, to consult the specialised libraries of institutions like the European Commission, or to interview diplomats. The Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) seeks to create an environment not only of academic reflection, but also one where researchers and practitioners meet and exchange views. This creates a stimulating research environment for all topics in the broad field of international studies.
Degrees and practicalities
The University of Kent offers the following PhD degrees at BSIS:
- PhD in International Relations
- PhD in International Conflict Analysis
- PhD in Comparative Politics
- PhD in Political and Social Thought
- PhD in Law
All programmes can be done full-time or part-time. New PhD students enrol either in September or January. From the academic year 2011-2012 on, students register directly onto a PhD programme. Full-time PhD students can be registered for up to a maximum of four years on a doctoral programme, but are expected to submit their doctoral dissertation as soon as possible following the completion of the third year.
At the heart of the PhD programme is the weekly research seminar (during terms). In these sessions one PhD student presents his/her research findings or latest chapter. Other PhD students and staff members give feedback. On a regular basis visiting researchers are invited to present at the research seminar. Because of the different PhD programmes and backgrounds of the academic staff, this fosters an interdisciplinary approach.
What is required to obtain a PhD
Candidates undertaking PhD degrees must submit for examination a dissertation which demonstrates their ability to undertake an original investigation, to test a hypothesis, and to understand the relationship of the theme under investigation to a wider field of knowledge. A PhD thesis is normally between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Candidates must successfully defend their PhD dissertation in a Viva.
A thesis submitted for the award of doctorate must be an original contribution to knowledge or understanding in the field of investigation. Originality is a prime requirement of a PhD thesis. This may be construed in a number of ways. It may be the application or testing of a known theory to a novel case, the utilisation of sources of information hitherto unused, the development of theory or the introduction of a new approach, or the creation of a new theoretical synthesis.
The doctoral programme, as a postgraduate research programme, combines formal research training and individual supervision, with regular interaction between students and academic staff.
The capability to do autonomous research, leading to an original contribution to scholarship, is key to a successful PhD. Supervisors provide guidance to PhD students in their research process. Each PhD student has two supervisors, a main supervisor and a second supervisor. Often the expertise of both supervisors is complementary and guarantees a broad spectrum of advice. Students and supervisors meet regularly. By the end of each year, a supervisory panel evaluates the progress made by a student and formulates recommendations in a more formal end-of-year review.
All permanent academic staff members of the Brussels School of International Studies may act as supervisors. Occasionally academic staff from the main campus in Canterbury will act as second supervisors.
Formal research training is provided through the MA course ‘Fundamentals, Dissertation and Research’ and other MA modules open to PhD students. On top of that, specialised training sessions are organised for PhD students specifically. Subjects covered range from methods, over academic publications to career planning. Students can also take online courses offered by the university’s Graduate School and may occasionally attend training sessions in Canterbury. BSIS cooperates with the University of Ghent at the level of doctoral programmes. This provides both for joint doctoral training events, exchange of researchers and the development of researcher networks in certain fields.
BSIS PhD students come from a variety of countries. Most of them have studied in different countries, taking along their own experience and approaches. This creates not only a dynamic research environment, but also a pleasant social atmosphere. Many PhD students engage in extra-curricular or social activities with MA students. Often they are invited to tutor a number of seminars for MA modules. PhD students are stimulated to present papers at international conferences and to publish. The combination of a solid research experience, an international network, publications and teaching experiences offers fresh doctors the best chances to obtain a good position in or outside the academic market.
How to apply
Applications to the PhD programme follow the regular procedure (see Admissions page), but also require the submission of a research proposal of around 3000 words.
In this proposal the candidate presents the research topic, research question and/or hypotheses, the theoretical framework and methodology envisaged, as well as a brief bibliography. Through the research proposal candidates demonstrate their research skills, their acquaintance with the field and its most salient debates. They aim to convince the Admissions Committee of their potential to make an original contribution to scholarship and of the feasibility of their research project. The research proposal is not a blueprint for the next years of research, but serves as a starting-point. In the interaction between supervisors and students, it will inevitably undergo change.
The following documents need to be submitted:
- Application form
- University transcript(s)
- Letters of reference
- Proof of English (where applicable)
- Personal statement
- PhD research proposal of 3000 words
While there is no strict deadline, it is recommended to submit the application a couple of months before the date you wish to start the PhD programme (September or January).
Applications will be considered by an Admissions Committee. Candidates are selected on the basis of their academic and other relevant background (MA degree in relevant field), academic merit (a First Class or solid Upper Second class in the British system or equivalent), knowledge of English, the quality of their research proposal and references. The Admissions Committee will also take into account whether the topic fits within the research scope the School and whether the necessary capacity is available to guarantee optimal supervision.
Fees and Funding
BSIS offers a limited number of scholarships per year in the form of a tuition fee waiver. If you wish to apply for such a waiver, please add a letter to your application, explaining why you wish to be considered. Occasionally other scholarships may be announced for very specific study fields. Such announcements are always posted on our website.
Last updated August 31, 2015