Key information



Types of study

Full time / Part time


Full-time: normally 3-4 years / Part-time: normally 6-8 years

Start date

February or September each year

Programme overview

The PhD in International Studies is a programme of doctoral study for students who would like to undertake advanced research in preparation for an academic or related career. The PhD programme can be taken full-time over 3 years (for primary research) plus up to one year for writing up of the thesis, or part-time over 6 years for primary research plus up to 2 years for writing up. If admitted to this degree, students will conduct their own research under the guidance of a team of academic supervisors, including members based at the University’s China campus and/or the UK campus. Progression is subject to passing successfully an annual review. Graduates will be awarded a University of Nottingham UK degree, which is also recognised by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

Taking a research degree allows you the freedom to study a topic of interest in-depth, with the help of two academic supervisors. The School's international environment and its world-class research provide an ideal home for postgraduate research.

PhD students are encouraged to play an active role in the School's activities and events, as well as in the School-based Centre for Advanced International Studied, the Global Institute for Silk Road Studies, and the cross-campus Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies (IAPS). They also develop professional skills through dedicated training, as well as student-led presentations and a yearly PhD symposium.

The School of International Studies facilitates exposure to cutting-edge research in the form of talks, lectures, and seminars led by staff, Visiting Fellows from other leading universities, and guest speakers from across the globe, as well as a wide range of events, conferences and workshops.

Research interests

The School of International Studies welcomes applications from prospective PhD students in the areas of expertise of current staff: 

  • International Relations
  • IR theory
  • History
  • Comparative History and Politics
  • International Public Policy
  • International Security
  • Peace and conflict studies
  • Area Studies (East, South-East, and South Asia; Europe and Eurasia; Africa; Middle East; and the Americas)
  • World, Transnational, and Global History
  • History of Empires and Colonialism
  • Social and Political History 
  • Human and Political Geography
  • Cultural and Historical Heritage
  • Economic History
  • Intellectual History
  • History of Christianity
  • Refugee and Migration History
  • History of Childhood and Youth

Details on areas of supervision offered by current staff members of the School of International Studies can be found on staff personal webpages.

We are also open to interdisciplinary research supervision, conditional to availability of co-supervisors in other Schools.

Programme structure introduction


In the course of their PhD, students will not only complete an academically recognised work of independent research, they will also gain a large set of academic and transferable skills, such as world-leading expertise in a specific field and particular methodological techniques. Supervisors will discuss training needs with each research student at the start of their studies and draw up a programme of individually tailored training which will be reviewed and revised during their research degree. The University's Graduate School offers a broad and comprehensive range of research training courses and Doctoral Training Centres based at the University provide more specific events and training opportunities. The School of International studies also participates in the Faculty-level PhD Short Training Course, which offers training in a variety of methodological approaches and techniques.

Postgraduate Research Seminar and Symposium

A monthly Postgraduate Research Student Seminar runs during term time and brings the research student community together on a regular basis. Organised by students and facilitated by the Doctoral Programme Director, it provides a supportive forum for presenting work in progress and advancing students’ research. Students also convene a yearly PhD symposium. 

Career Prospects and Employability

Those who take up a postgraduate research opportunity in the School of International Studies will not only receive support in terms of close contact with supervisors and specific training related to their area of research. This include teaching as graduate teaching assistants. Students have also access to training organised by the Graduate School and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Individual guidance appointments, career management training programmes, access to resources and invitations to events including skills workshops are just some of the ways in which they can help students develop their full potential, whether they choose to continue within an academic setting or are looking at options outside of academia.

Entry requirements

Applicants for research programmes would normally be expected to a bachelor degree at Upper Second Class level and have graduated or be about to graduate from a Masters degree (at Merit level) in a relevant subject, with an average of over 60% (or its equivalent). 

English language requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 (minimum 6.0 in all elements)
  • PTE Academics: 71 (minimum 65)
  • TOEFL (IBT): 90 (minimum 19 in Writing and Listening, 20 in Reading and 22 in Speaking) 

* Grades/scores are valid for a maximum period of two years prior to the date of registration.

Applicants from the following countries or have studied for a degree there (excl. split site degree programmes) are NOT required to submit any further evidence of English language ability:

  • Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; The Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica;
  • New Zealand; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; United Kingdom; United States of America.

How to apply

The step-by-step guide prepared by our Graduate School contains everything you need to know about applying for postgraduate research.

The School of International Studies considers preliminary expressions of interest all year round. For your pre-application to be evaluated, send to the Doctoral Programme Director:

  • Scans of your undergraduate and postgraduate transcripts and degree certificates (with grades)
  • A current Curriculum Vitae highlighting professional and/ or academic relevant experience
  • A research proposal on the topic you want to develop, if admitted to the programme.

The research proposal should include:

  • Title
  • Topic
  • Review of existing literature and gap to fill
  • Research question (your puzzle)
  • Methodology
  • Sources (esp. archives, if the research is on History).
  • Timescale

Fees and funding


Tuition fees are adjusted annually and are set for each individual degree. Please follow the Graduate School's fee information for details.


Scholarships are available on a competitive basis in the Faculty and University. Please see the University's PhD scholarships pages for further information. Note that competition is very strong and students are advised to explore additional external sources of funding.

More information

If you are considering applying to the School’s PhD programme please contact the Doctoral Programme Director, Dr Rosaria Franco (Email: to discuss areas of research. Please, consult staff expertise on the School webpage first.

Student Recruitment and Admission Office (before application submission)

Room 231, Trent Building
University of Nottingham Ningbo China
199 Taikang East Road, Ningbo, 315100, China

T. +86 (0) 574 8818 0182

Graduate School (after application submission)

Room 451-2, Trent Building
University of Nottingham Ningbo China
199 Taikang East Road, Ningbo, 315100, China