Postgraduate Research Course

PhD Government

PhD Government


The details
October 2022
5 years
Colchester Campus

Our four-year integrated PhD Government follows the MA Politics programme for year 1 before beginning the PhD study programme within the department in year 2. By opting for our four-year Integrated course, you will benefit from guidance and training to develop the research mind set needed for your PhD studies. On the first year of your studies you will receive training in research methods, followed by advanced research training and as your course progresses, expert supervision to reach your full potential, as well as access to top quality research facilities.

A PhD at Essex makes you a member of a department that has always been the highest-rated Politics department in the UK (REF2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014).

We are renowned especially for our expertise in the areas of:

  • Political Behaviour
  • Comparative Politics
  • Ideology and Discourse Analysis
  • International Relations
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Political Theory

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 may never have ordinarily connected 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, or the results of the elections.

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.
  • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, we were once again ranked highest in the UK for research in Politics & International Relations – indeed, we have been the highest-rated politics department in the country ever since national assessments began.
  • 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.
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

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 discuss 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 coming months.

Our dedicated staff present findings at international conferences and they have published in acclaimed political journals such as the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, the British Journal of Political Science, World Politics, International Organization, Electoral Studies, International Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the Journal of Peace Research, the Journal of Education, and many more. They have also won a number of prestigious prizes for their work.

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

Your future

Our department provides a number of training opportunities and support services to aid your studies and to help prepare you for employment:

  • Professional Development Seminar: 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.
  • Research Design Seminar: We offer a research design module to our PhD students to sharpen their skills to develop high-class research.
  • Weekly discussion seminars: Each of the department’s research divisions hosts a weekly research discussion workshop, where students discuss their progress with their peers and members of staff.
  • 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.

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, Glasgow, Munich, Mannheim, ETH Zürich, 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 in the armed forces, finance, and business.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

You will need a 2.2 honours degree in a relevant social science.

Our four year integrated PhD, allows you to spend your first year studying at Masters level in order to develop the necessary knowledge and skills and to start your independent research in year two.

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 select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, then we require you to have IELTS 6.5 (5.5 minimum component score)


Course structure

The first year of the PhD (Integrated) programme follows the structure of the MA Politics programme.

Progression to the second year of the programme requires a merit (60% or higher) across the MA modules and the dissertation.

Starting the second year, the programme follows the structure of the three-year programme for the PhD Government degree.

Teaching and learning disclaimer

Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.

The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.

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


MA Dissertation

Your dissertation gives you an opportunity for independent learning on a topic of your choice, with one-to-one supervision from a member of staff. You write a dissertation of up to 10,000 words, which is due at the end of the summer.

View MA Dissertation on our Module Directory


Advanced Research Methods

Master the quantitative methods that are essential for testing hypotheses. You will study hypothesis testing, linear regression models, and more advanced regression models ubiquitous in political science, accompanied by data science and R programming skills.

View Advanced Research Methods on our Module Directory


Theory and Explanation in Political Science

This module outlines a series of topical issues in political science research. Using a positivist paradigm the module explores a variety of methodological approaches to answer substantive questions. This module seeks to provide students with an overview of how political scientists study the social world and the types of questions they ask. You will learn become familiar with current research in the discipline and learn how to synthesise and extrapolate core concepts from it.

View Theory and Explanation in Political Science on our Module Directory


Government option(s) from list


Professional Development Seminar


Research Design


Choose 1: GV990, GV970, GV971, GV975


Choose 1: GV990, GV970, GV971, GV975


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


International fee


Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

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.

2021 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday, November 13, 2021


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 the Graduate Director within your chosen Department.

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.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to 15,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.


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.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

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 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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