Postgraduate Research Course

PhD Government

PhD Government


The details
October 2024
3 - 4 years
Colchester Campus

A PhD at Essex makes you a member of the best political science department in the UK. We are renowned especially for our expertise in the areas of political behaviour, comparative politics, ideology and discourse analysis, international relations, and conflict resolution. Whatever the field, politics at Essex is all about moving from opinions to evidence. Always seeking out cause and effect, in our research we cast light on important questions across the political range, and also some that you might never ordinarily connect to politics or government.

Our PhD programme provides you with advanced research training and supervision by globally leading scholars. We work with you to analyse and explain significant political outcomes such as war and peace, transitions to democracy, the way governments shape the economy, and the results of the elections.

Our dedicated staff don't just teach you politics; they teach you how to think and write about politics, and our PhD students are successful as a result. They present findings at international conferences, they have published in acclaimed political journals such as the Journal of Politics, International Organization, Electoral Studies, International Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the Journal of Peace Research, and the Journal of Education. They've also won a number of prestigious prizes for their work, including the Peace Science Society's Stuart Bremer Award and the Cedric Smith Prize for Conflict Research).

Why we're great.
  • Our department at Essex was one of the first of its kind in the UK, and has throughout its fifty years been recognised as setting the highest standard for both the scientific and critical study of politics.
  • 2nd in UK for research outputs in politics and international studies (Grade Point Average, REF 2021)
  • As one of our PhD students, you're part of an active and prolific research team. Our students attend seminars, present at conferences, question speakers, and debates often continue in the common room, the café, or the bar.

Our expert staff

The support provided by your supervisor is a key feature of your experience as a research student. Your supervisor – or, in some cases, co-supervisors – guides you through the different stages of your research degree. Initially they help you to develop your research topic and plan, and then you participate in regular one-to-one meetings to comment on drafts, resolve problems and to maintain progress on your research.

Twice a year you have a supervisory board meeting which provides a more formal opportunity to discuss your progress and agree your plans for the next six months.

Specialist facilities

We have desk space available for all our PhD students through shared offices and hot desks, with additional office space provided for all those involved in teaching undergraduate classes.

You also get exclusive use of a shared computer laboratory of fourteen networked computers feature extensive software for political analysis. Our university library provides access to a variety of political journals and multiple copies of textbooks, e-books, and other materials to support your learning.

Your future

Many of our graduates secure post-doctoral research or teaching positions within universities. For example, recent graduates are now research fellows and academic staff at Oxford, University College London, Mannheim, ETH Zurich (Switzerland), Amsterdam, and Duke University in the US.

Other graduates go on to enjoy influential careers in British, European and international politics. This includes working as political lobbyists or researchers for MPs and MEPs. Our graduates also work in the Civil Service and in local government, for the World Bank, the United Nations, NATO, YouGov, or work in the armed forces, finance, or business.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

You will need a good honours degree and a Masters degree in a relevant social science. A well-developed research proposal is also essential.

You will normally be required to attend an interview/Skype interview for acceptance, and acceptance is subject to research expertise in the department.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please contact our Graduate Admissions team at to request the entry requirements for this country.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, then we will require you to have IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component


Course structure

A research degree doesn't have a taught structure, giving you the chance to investigate your chosen topic in real depth and reach a profound understanding. In communicating that understanding, through a thesis or other means, you have a rare opportunity to generate knowledge. A research degree allows you to develop new high-level skills, enhance your professional development and build new networks. It can open doors to many careers.

We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We'll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website and in line with your contract with us. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, we'll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.

Components and modules explained


Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.


Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

HR 100  4  FY

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number. 

The UK academic level of the module.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.

A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.

A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.

The term the module will be taught in.

  • AU: Autumn term
  • SP: Spring term
  • SU: Summer term
  • FY: Full year 
  • AP: Autumn and Spring terms
  • PS: Spring and Summer terms
  • AS: Autumn and Summer terms


Professional Development Seminar

This module focuses on writing and presenting a research proposal for the thesis, as well as other significant aspects of socialization into the discipline of political science. We aim to help PhD candidates develop a wide range of professional skills, providing the capacity to complete your PhD and compete for academic jobs. The primary focus is the academic profession. We therefore practise a number of specific skills such as drafting research proposals, presenting results, and publication strategies. However, many of the sessions are also highly relevant for the other kinds of professions in which PhD graduates often find employment. Whatever your target, we aim in this seminar to provide a constructively critical atmosphere in which to hone various skills.

View Professional Development Seminar on our Module Directory


Research Design


Choose 1: GV970, GV971, GV975, GV990, GV992


Government - Research


Choose 1: GV970, GV971, GV975, GV990, GV992


Government - Research


The main way that PGR students engage with academic staff and with their research is through one-to-one meetings. PGR students meet with their co-supervisors, separately or together, at least once per month in one-to-one sessions. This is the main way that PGR students receive guidance on their PhD research and dissertation projects. It is during these meetings that students and supervisors discuss any areas for additional methodological and substantive training, as well as identify any modules or courses that can meet these needs. Students also meet with their Supervisor Panels twice per year. Supervisor Panels check that student progress adheres to yearly milestone targets (outlined in departmental documents), in terms of research and dissertation progress, as well as with methodological and substantive training progress.


Our department maintains a lively, friendly, and supportive atmosphere for research. We also provide a number of training opportunities and support services to aid your studies and to help prepare you for employment:

  • Professional Development Seminars: First-year PhD students are invited to a seminar focusing on writing and presenting a research proposal for your thesis, developing confidence in the presentation of academic papers, learning how to write and submit journal articles, and developing skills in time management and the use of technology.
  • Skills training: The Essex ESRC Doctoral Training Centre offers training courses for doctoral students, including both advanced subject-specific training and a transferable skills programme.
  • Teaching Opportunities: Our department offers paid opportunities for both Graduate Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants.


In your completion year you should be revising and rewriting chapters. You submit your approved thesis to an internal reader for comments, and then submit your final thesis before the end of the academic year.

We expect our PhD students to complete their PhD within four years of entering, so you are monitored regularly to ensure you are progressing.

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee

£4,786 per year

International fee

£18,750 per year

What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, graduate employability, student support and more
  • talk to our Fees and Funding team about scholarship opportunities
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

2024 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday 21 September 2024 - September Open Day
  • Saturday 26 October 2024 - October Open Day


You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we'll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We encourage you to make a preliminary enquiry directly to a potential supervisor or the Graduate Administrator within your chosen Department or School. We encourage the consideration of a brief research proposal prior to the submission of a full application.

We aim to respond to applications within four weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply' information.

A sunny day with banners flying on Colchester Campus Square 4.

Visit Colchester Campus

Set within 200 acres of award-winning parkland - Wivenhoe Park and located two miles from the historic city centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded development. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

View from Square 2 outside the Rab Butler Building looking towards Square 3

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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