International Relations


We welcome applications from prospective students interested in undertaking a PhD programme with an expert in the Department of International Studies. We are an active and engaged community that will provide you with leading-edge research opportunities.

Our programme, based at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, is a strategic research collaboration between XJTLU and the University of Liverpool. You will receive supervision from respected academics at both institutions. Upon successful completion of your programme, you will receive a University of Liverpool-issued degree, which is recognised by China’s Ministry of Education.

As a registered full-time PhD student, you may apply for a research visit to the University of Liverpool for up to six months. This travel option is typically undertaken during the second year of the PhD and is an opportunity to work with your Liverpool-based supervisor. If your application to travel is successful, XJTLU and the University of Liverpool will cover your accommodation and travel costs for this study abroad opportunity.

Our PhD students engage in a supportive research environment. The XJTLU Graduate School and the XJTLU School of Humanities and Social Science (HSS) work to foster this community through research seminars and conferences, as well as opportunities to acquire practical experience as research assistants and teaching assistants. This is in combination with training offered by the Doctoral College at the University of Liverpool.

Pursuing a full-time PhD typically involves three years of conducting research and one year of writing a thesis, supported by skills training and development. A full-time PhD student must submit a thesis within four years. A part-time PhD student must submit it in six years. XJTLU provides every registered PhD student with up to 16,500 RMB over the course of study for expenses related to attending academic conferences. The purpose of this fund is to support your academic experience and encourage the dissemination of research.

The PhD in International Relations offers supervision across a wide range of subjects, including most areas of international relations, area studies, history, international communications and politics.

Why should I do my PhD in International Relations at XJTLU?

The PhD in International Relations aims to produce scholars who will make an impact in their respective fields by virtue of their professionalism, disciplinary competence and ability to communicate ideas in a policy-relevant area. Our PhD candidates’ core studies are in areas including international relations theory, regionalism and regional integration, foreign policy analysis, international security, diplomacy, political economy, international communication, and cognate fields including area studies (countries or regions of Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas), international law, international development (governance, sustainability, capacity building), modern history, sociology and international business.

Our PhD programme will encourage interdisciplinarity in accord with its commitment to area studies. This ensures that graduates of the programme are able to work at different levels of analysis and connect local, regional and global processes in ways that illuminate complexity in the world as a product of multiple factors.

The programme may also produce specialist research in area studies, including Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa, that is historically and culturally informed, allowing meaningful and empirically informed comparisons. This will support region-specific knowledge that will enhance area specialism in China and abroad.

The overall aims of the PhD programme in International Relations are to:

  • support the development of expertise in relevant areas of international relations, international studies and cognate areas;
  • develop perspectives that enable effective analysis of China’s contemporary international relations or that of other countries;
  • enable students to obtain area specialist knowledge through independent research using relevant disciplines or an interdisciplinary approach. This includes the dynamics of social change in the area or region(s) studied, its geographical environment and its place within a global context;
  • promote the communication of ideas with clarity, coherence and persuasiveness;
  • enable the synthesis of information and the capacity to undertake critical appraisals and to develop evidence- or theory-based arguments; and
  • enable the conscious selection and application of appropriate methodologies and theories, and to understand their limits.

Research areas

We welcome proposals from students interested in relevant areas of expertise, including:

  • international relations in China, including security, policy and economy
  • international policies and relations in Africa, America, Asia-Pacific and Europe
  • international law
  • international political economy
  • approaches to restorative justice, peace and state-building
  • critical security studies
  • post-structural approaches to international relations
  • international development studies
  • international communication
  • foreign policy
  • social change
  • propaganda studies
  • soft power studies
  • the Cold War (international history)
  • intelligence studies
  • ethnic minorities studies

Research environment and facilities

XJTLU’s academic staff members include experts in disciplines such as political science, history, law, sociology, and business and economics, and are supported by grant opportunities and professional development. All supervisory teams for PhD students consist of at least one supervisor who has supervised a PhD to completion, who will support and mentor the co-supervisor. Additionally, supervising staff have access to supervisory methods training provided by the Academic Enhancement Centre and mentoring by the Departmental Graduate Studies Officer. Regular progress reports and reviews as outlined in the programme specifications ensure that both candidate progress and supervisory support will be monitored.

The PhD in International Relations programme will provide the core supervisors; scholars based at the University of Liverpool will serve as co-supervisors. These co-supervisors will be appointed based on the convergence of research specialisms and the PhD research proposal. Also, the programme will draw on specialists across the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) cluster where relevant.

Potential supervisors

School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Find potential supervisors from the Department of International Studies.


Apply for a postgraduate research scholarship with your own project:

If you are seeking doctoral funding opportunities, you can apply for a scholarship with your own project. There will be two application rounds for each academic year:

Application Rounds Application deadline Release of results
First Round 17:00 CST(UTC+8), 15 October End of December
Second Round 17:00 CST(UTC+8), 15 April Early July

The scholarship application is open only to applicants applying for full-time doctoral programmes. Detailed information please refer to Postgraduate Research Scholarships page.

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