The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Program in International Relations has a comparative advantage in training scholars to engage in cutting-edge, problem-driven, interdisciplinary research in international affairs and political science. Our doctoral research not only contributes to academic literature, but also to resolving pressing policy problems.
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The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Program in International Relations has a comparative advantage in training scholars to engage in cutting-edge, problem-driven, interdisciplinary research in international affairs and political science. Our doctoral research not only contributes to academic literature, but also to resolving pressing policy problems. Students engage in significant fieldwork grounded in rigorous methods and supported by a comprehensive theoretical framework, helping Fletcher doctoral candidates produce research that contributes to both theory and practice.
With approximately seventy students engaged in coursework or research, the PhD Program is an integral and vibrant component of The Fletcher School. After completing their degrees, our graduates go on to high-level careers in academia, research, non-profit organizations, government, and the private sector.
Like students in Fletcher’s master’s degree programs, those pursuing a Fletcher PhD create a program that reflects focus through selected Fields of Study, with the breadth that is characteristic of the interdisciplinary approach to international relations. PhD students may select from the full range of courses offered at Fletcher, in addition to some PhD student-only classes.
Shaping Your Degree
The Fletcher School provides many opportunities for students to supplement their education with coursework and research at our partner universities. Students may cross-register for up to one-quarter of their classes at one of the Tufts graduate schools or any of the Harvard graduate schools.
Exchange programs offer additional opportunities for students to individualize their Fletcher study. Fletcher offers exchange programs with some of the world's leading professional schools and graduate programs. PhD students may pursue an exchange program in Germany through Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.
PhD students complete two fields of study, requiring four courses each. They are also required to take a course in comparative politics (P201), a course in IR theory (P200 or H204), and three methodology courses (P210:Research Design and Methodology, E213: Econometrics, and a third course of their choosing).
Students who have received their master’s degree at another institution must pass a total of at least twelve courses. Additional courses may be required if the student’s master’s degree was in a field other than international relations, or did not require statistics study. Nine of the twelve must be Fletcher courses, while three can be pursued through cross-registration at another institution. Those who possess a MALD generally pursue an additional four courses, for a total of twenty courses for the two degrees, unless the student develops a plan of study best achieved through additional coursework.
Additional Graduation Requirements
To graduate, students in the PhD program must:
Fulfill the PhD breadth requirement – at least two courses in two of the three Fletcher Divisions, and at least one course from the remaining Division. (MALD recipients have already completed the breadth requirement.)
Demonstrate proficiency in a second language.
Submit a master’s thesis for evaluation by a Fletcher faculty member. For MALD degree holders, this is the MALD thesis. For other students, this could be a master’s thesis written prior to enrollment at Fletcher.
Pass a written comprehensive examination in each of the student’s selected fields of study, plus a one-hour oral examination that will focus on issues raised in the written examinations, and will integrate the fields of study. The comprehensive examinations test proficiency in the literature of the field.
Successfully propose, research, and write a dissertation. The completed dissertation should bear evidence of independent research and should constitute a substantial contribution to the subject.
Pass a public oral defense of the dissertation. This defense will be given after the dissertation has been accepted by the director and readers, and will cover the specific subject and general field of the dissertation.
PhD students whose master’s degree was earned at another institution are reviewed for PhD Candidacy after they have completed at least eight Fletcher courses, presented their master’s thesis, and completed Fletcher’s foreign language proficiency exam. To be granted PhD Candidacy, students must have Fletcher grades averaging at least 3.6. (MALD recipients are granted PhD Candidacy when they are admitted to the PhD program.)
Length of Time Required to Receive the PhD
Once they are granted PhD Candidacy, PhD students generally take an average of just over five years to complete the degree, but the exact time varies according to the scope of each candidate’s research, the amount of time devoted to PhD studies, and the time needed to write the dissertation.
The Ph.D. Research Colloquium is a bi-weekly venue for the resident Ph.D. community to share and discuss their ongoing research and receive supportive critiques by peers and Fletcher faculty. Presentations of research, conference presentations, and dry runs of dissertation proposal or dissertation defenses are all welcome.
All resident Ph.D. students are expected to attend the bi-weekly colloquium, which takes place each Monday from 12:30 to 1:45 PM in Cabot 102. Students who are not resident are encouraged to join remotely.