PhD in International Relations


A wide range of themes germane to the study of International Relations (IR) comes within the purview of the Department of International Relations. Broadly, these encompass mainstream theories, critical approaches and disciplinary histories of IR, global political economy concerns, and international normative political theory. Specifically, teaching and research is carried out by engaging in academic debates relating to security and strategic studies, geopolitics, Indian Ocean and Polar Studies, feminist IR, hydro-diplomacy, peace and conflict resolution approaches, the study of regional and international organisations, and identity politics. While we are not an Area Studies Department, we share a special and abiding curiosity with regard to all facets that have a bearing on the overall texture of politics in South Asia.



For this academic year, the Department is particularly interested in applications from students planning to conduct research in the following areas: peace and conflict resolution; gender and International Relations; multilateralism and global governance; migration and refugees; power transition theories; war in international relations; memory politics; transboundary environmental governance; Visuality in IR; postcolonial politics; geopolitics and border studies; transboundary water governance, Asian strategic thought and practice; diplomacy studies; networks and International Relations; geopolitics of the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific; and geopolitics of anthropocene and climate change.



For the PhD programme, students are required to complete two compulsory courses offered by the Department: Advanced Theory of International Relations, and Advanced Research Methods. Students are also required to attend a two-credit course on Introduction to South Asia that provides an overview of the various facets of the region (this does not apply to students who have already passed the course in the Master’s programme at SAU). To help students develop their areas of interest into dissertations, the Department offers a number of optional courses. Course descriptions may be accessed from within this website.


Minimum Eligibility


The minimum eligibility criteria to apply is as follows: 17 years of regular education (12 years of regular schooling + a 3-year Bachelor’s degree and a 2-year Master’s degree, or, a 4-year Bachelor’s degree + a 1-year Master’s degree.


The candidate’s Master’s degree should be in International Relations or related disciplines like Political Science, Economics, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, History, Philosophy, Geography, Law, Development Studies, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Comparative Literature and Comparative Religious Studies, from an institution recognised by the government of any of the SAARC countries, with a minimum of 50% marks, or an equivalent grade.


Admission Procedure will be in two phases. The first phase consists of an Entrance Test. The minimum marks required to clear the Entrance Test will be 50%. Those who are shortlisted for the second phase will have to submit a written research proposal, a statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, and also face an interview. The final merit list will be prepared by totaling the marks obtained in both phases.


Phase 1


Format of the Entrance Test Paper

The duration of the Entrance Test will be two hours, and the question paper will consist of multiple-choice questions that will test the applicant’s subject knowledge and general knowledge pertaining to South Asia and the world. All questions are compulsory.


Phase 2

Those who clear the Entrance Test and are shortlisted for interview will have to furnish two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a detailed research proposal, and face an interview.


Letters of recommendation (2) – These letters must be written by two individuals not related to the candidate who can, with authority, comment on the candidate’s suitability to study at the MPhil/PhD level in International Relations. They should address the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate’s academic background up to that point, his/her analytical and language skills, strengths and orientations in publications (if publications are available), creativity so far evident in the candidate’s chosen area of research etc. Though no marks will be allocated to these letters, these will guide the selection panel in making its decision. Please note that if the letters of recommendation are not received by the University by the specified date, the candidate’s eligibility to proceed further will be curtailed.


Research Proposal: Applicants are also required to submit a complete research proposal that outlines the process of the proposed research and, in general, includes the following points:

☆ The context within which the general topic of the proposed research has been conceived.

☆ Research questions, problems or hypothesis that the candidate hopes to explore.

☆ A clear analysis of the comparative sources that could be used to guide the proposed research (to indicate that the candidate has read the relevant material) as well as an analysis of the main approaches, findings and weaknesses of the key literature in that area.

☆ A description of the tools and methods for collecting information and data that are expected to be used, and why such tools are preferred. If required, new methods of research to overcome the limitations of existing methods can also be suggested.

☆ The conceptual models/categories and theoretical approaches to be employed and their justification.

☆ Case studies and samples that the candidate proposes to use and their selection criteria.

☆ Areas where fieldwork will be undertaken, if necessary, and the relevance of the location(s) to the proposed study.

☆ A brief explanation of how the proposed research might contribute to the existing knowledge.

☆ A tentative timetable for the proposed research.

☆ A complete bibliography using a referencing system acceptable in any of the social sciences.


The research proposal should establish the candidate’s creativity in presentation and conceptualization, analytical skills as well as versatility in language. It should not exceed 2500 words. It will be evaluated out of 25 marks. The Department takes plagiarism very seriously. Candidates should ensure that they follow ethical research practices and undertake standard plagiarism checks.


Statement of purpose: The statement of purpose is a narrative statement in which the candidate explains why s/he is motivated to undertake the proposed research, and why it should be undertaken. In writing the statement of purpose the candidate can garner information from the research proposal and the literature read so far; but it also can and should outline the personal and subjective considerations that may have led to the conceptualisation of the proposed research. This could include the academic history of the candidate as well as his/her personal history, and the social and political transformations experienced by his/her society where the research might be based. Essentially, this information will allow the selection panel to understand the approach the candidate is proposing and his/her background. The candidate can be creative and imaginative while writing the statement of purpose in terms of its conceptualisation and presentation. It should not exceed 1000 words and will be evaluated out of 15 marks.


Interview: Candidates up to four times the number of seats available will be called for the interview, either in person or via teleconferencing. The interview will focus on the information provided in the research proposal, statement of purpose and the letters of recommendation. The candidates will be evaluated on the basis of their oral presentation skills, ability to articulate complex ideas, response to hypothetical field problems that may be posed etc. The interview will carry a weightage of 10 marks.


50% of the seats are reserved for candidates from India. The remaining 50% seats are for candidates from SAARC countries other than India, taken together. Separate merit lists will be prepared for candidates from India and the other SAARC countries combined. Candidates should note that the final selection will be based on the compatibility of their proposal with the research interests of the members of the faculty.


Sample Questions for Entrance Test 2022


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