PhD of Philosophy in International Relations

United States International University

Program Description

PhD of Philosophy in International Relations

United States International University

PhD of Philosophy in International Relations

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in International Relations Program is a scholarly research–oriented degree that is anchored on a student-centered curriculum. The Program is both course work-intensive and research-oriented, to be awarded on both full-time and part-time basis.

The core strength of the PhD program is in three areas: peace and conflict studies, development studies, and foreign policy and diplomacy. The study curriculum entails a participatory teaching and learning approach characterized by independent research and seminar presentation, interactive classroom discussions, case studies, small group discussion, reflective diaries, portfolio development and simulations.

Faculty will use a variety of teaching and testing techniques that will encourage students to be proactive, innovative, self-directed, reflective, and able to apply what they have learned. Effective use of ICT will be made.

The PhD program is designed to prepare candidates for positions in the academia, research institutions, government, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society, among others.


The full-time program is expected to be completed in a minimum of four years, while part-time should be completed in at least five years.

Starting Date: Fall 2013

Goal of the Program

The general purpose of the IR PhD program is to pursue and promote advanced knowledge production and dissemination through research, teaching, learning and publications in International Relations.

The following are the specific program goals:

  •     To equip candidates with the knowledge, skills and techniques for undertaking innovative academic and policy research at an advanced level, particularly in the areas of peace and conflict studies, development studies, and foreign policy and diplomacy.
  •     To produce a dissertation that makes original theoretical and practical contributions to the field of International Relations.
  •     To prepare candidates for positions in the academia, research institutions, government, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society, among others, in Kenya, the African region and beyond.
  •     To aspire to become a regional hub noted for cutting-edge research and publications in the areas of regional integration, development, democratic consolidation, conflict transformation, food security, and environmental and regional security.

Expected Learning Outcomes of the Program

The Program learning outcomes for the proposed Program are spelt out as follows:
By the end the program, the students will be able to:

  •     Generate and utilize  theoretical and practical knowledge of international relations;
  •     Apply knowledge of theory and process in peace-building and conflict transformation ;
  •     Evaluate various forms of public policy;
  •     Apply written and oral communication skills in issues of international relations;
  •     Employ relevant theories and methods to evaluate performance of actors in international relations.

Admission Criteria & Eligibility Requirements

The International Relations Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) shall be responsible for screening and shortlisting candidates suitable for the PhD program which they shall recommend to the University’s Admissions Office.

The criteria for admission to the PhD in International Relations program include

  •     A graduate degree,
  •     Demonstrated academic excellence at graduate level (minimum GPA of 3.20 on 4.00 point scale under the American system or an equivalent attainment in other grading systems).
  •     Submission of a mini-PhD research proposal of 4 – 6 pages
  •     One sample of a published work (if the candidate has one) as part of their application requirements.
  •     Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores* - scores from the past five years are acceptable.
  •     Relevant work or professional experience.
  •     Added advantage: Evidence of academic work published by the applicant.

Candidates with good social sciences degrees and relevant career experience (e.g. employment with diplomatic service, international organizations, inter-governmental institutions, etc.) are particularly welcome to apply.


  •     All registered students are required to take a total of 16 courses, including 12 compulsory core courses (36 credit hours) and 4 electives (12 credit hours). Core courses will be held in Fall and Spring semesters while elective courses will be offered in Summer semester.
  •     Students admitted without a background in IR/allied fields are required to start their program a semester earlier during which they have to complete four graduate degree courses, which include three core courses (9 credit hours) and one elective (3 credit hours).
  •     All the course nomenclature will be at 7000 level, ranging from IRL 7001 to IRL 7900.

Degree Requirements (PhD Coursework and Dissertation)

  •     Students will devote their first two years to coursework (three years for part-time students). This will involve a successful completion of the taught courses and 2 seminars in which they are required to achieve a minimum grade of 80% (B grade) in each of their assessed works.
  •     Most courses will be examined in a classroom setup with the exception of more practical/seminar courses, such as PhD Research Seminar and PhD Project Development & Fieldwork.
  •     A successful completion of the course work will be followed by a comprehensive written and oral examination as a prerequisite for progressing to doctoral research work. The pass mark of 80% (B grade) will apply to the comprehensive examination.

PhD Dissertation Research & Seminars

  •     During the second phase (subsequent two years) of the PhD program, students will have to concentrate on their dissertation research. A PhD dissertation should be an original research that makes a significant contribution to the subject of enquiry. A normal dissertation should range between 85,000 – 100,000 words, including references and appendices. The acceptable referencing method for doctoral dissertation is the Harvard style/APA and this should be emphasized in the PhD Research Seminar course.
  •     Students are required to make three seminar presentations during the research phase (in the following order): a PhD proposal, post-fieldwork or data collection progress report, and presentation of preliminary research findings. Each seminar presentation will be preceded by the candidate’s distribution of a narrative paper to all the members of the assessment panel to be constituted by the IR Graduate Committee.  Panellists will assess each presentation using a modified version of the dissertation evaluation instrument and a candidate is required to achieve an 80% grade (B grade) to proceed to the next stage of the study.

PhD Dissertation Supervision

  •     Each PhD candidate will be assigned one or two supervisors, depending on the nature of the research topic and the available supervisory expertise on the subject. Each faculty can only serve as principal supervisor for a maximum of three candidates and co-supervisor for one candidate at a time.
  •     All principal supervisors are members of the IR Graduate Committee, which coordinates and regulates graduate studies in the department.
  •     PhD supervision starts in year three of the program (i.e. after students’ completion of their coursework).

PhD Dissertation Assessment

Upon completion of the PhD dissertation (with the approval of his/her Supervisor), the student is required to submit 5 copies of his/her dissertation for viva (in light cover binding). The hard cover binding versions of the dissertation can only be submitted after the viva.

The dissertation will be assessed by a panel of three - the student’s principal supervisor and second marked by 2 other examiners (one of them coming from outside the International Relations program). The non-examining members of the PhD viva panel will include the Chair of the IR Graduate Studies Committee and the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The 3 key examiners will have to agree on a common grade, but if they are not able to reach an agreement, the final grade should be decided by the IR Graduate Studies Committee. A PhD dissertation will be graded at any of the following six different levels:

  •     Passed without any corrections.
  •     Passed with minor corrections to be overseen and certified by an internal examiner.
  •     Passed with major corrections to be overseen and certified by an internal committee of examiners.
  •     Passed with major corrections to be re-submitted to, and certified by the external examiner.
  •     Passed with major corrections to be represented in a repeat viva within six months.
  •     Failed with an option of repeating the study and preparing for an entirely fresh viva within 12 months.
This school offers programs in:
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Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Jan. 2017
4 years
Full time
Start date Jan. 2017
Kenya Nairobi
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Duration 4 years
Price Request Info