Current PhD Students

For our new arrivals, welcome to the UCD School of Politics and International Relations (SPIRe), and for the others, welcome back! This page provides you with the necessary information to pursue your studies at our School. Since we are continually making improvements to our research degree programmes, the structure and requirements are evolving over time. The information below is designed to answer your basic questions about the school’s and university’s requirements and procedures for graduate study. For more information about the school and its staff, I recommend that you review both the College of Social Sciences and Law PhD Handbook for 2020-21 and the SPIRe Addendum for additional information specific to the school. In addition, the following website offers more information about college and university-level regulations and services for graduate students:

Graduate Studies Resource Hub

On the PhD programme, SPIRe collaborates with the Department of Political Science in Trinity College Dublin (TCD). From September 21st to 25th, incoming students will take a Maths Camp taught by TCD colleagues on the TCD campus.  This is an essential part of your research methods training and offers an invaluable foundation for your research.  

While studying at UCD, you will notice that there are fellow PhD students in a large variety of different specializations within SPIRe, as well as on specialized thematic PhDs that cross various disciplines. Within SPIRe, we have students working on British-Irish studies, European studies, political theory and human rights, development studies, nationalism and ethnic conflict, et cetera. SPIRe also houses students in thematic PhD programmes such as Quantitative Social Science, European Law and Governance, Global Human Development Studies, and Complex Systems and Computational Social Science. The course requirements for these students differ but overlap with those taking the PhD in Politics and International Relations. Therefore, some of the contents of the PhD handbook will apply only to students on the Politics and International Relations PhD programme, while other contents apply to all students with SPIRe supervisors. This will be made clear throughout.

If after reading this handbook you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or anyone listed under the contact details section.

Dr Alexa Zellentin

SPIRe PhD Programs Director

Graduate Research PhD Handbook 2020-21| SPIRe 2020-21 PhD Student Handbook Addendum|

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All students are required to undergo assessment in order to move from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of the PhD programme. Stage 1 is an initial period of advanced education, training and research. Stage 2 is largely dedicated to carrying out a body of original, publishable research required for the award of a PhD. In order to transfer to Stage 2 students are assessed by a Transfer Assessment Panel (TAP) who make a decision as to whether a student has made sufficient progress towards completion of the PhD research. The TAP will be convened by the School and will contain at least three members of academic staff; however, it will not include supervisor(s). At the discretion of the School, a supervisor may be present in a purely observational capacity. Stage Transfer Assessment will take place between months 12-18 of the initial date of registration (full-time) or months 18-27 (part-time).

In order to progress to Stage 2 of the PhD programme, SPIRe students must have:

  • Completed 40 credits of taught modules at the time of assessment, including all core modules, with a minimum of B average grade across modules undertaken. If students do not meet this requirement and the DSP agree that this should not be an impediment to transfer, the DSP must provide written notification to the TAP providing justification for same.

The following documents must be submitted to TAP

  • One piece of substantive written work which will comprise either a draft chapter or a draft paper. For those who apply to the Irish Research Council (IRC) for a grant (see below), a copy of the grant application will suffice as one of the two pieces.
  • An updated research proposal/work plan briefly stating the core research problem, relevant research questions, and research strategy, and including a detailed chapter structure and work plan (for as far as not covered by the inclusion of an IRC application). For those who apply to the Irish Research Council (IRC) for a grant (see below), a copy of the grant application will satisfy for this component and a short additional memo explaining thesis structure and planning will suffice
  • A copy of the student’s latest transcript.
  • A formal written recommendation from the Supervisor based on the advice of the DSP.

The School's Transfer Assessment Panel will, after careful review of the the documentation and a meeting with the candidate, make one of the following recommendations to the College Graduate Research Board (GRB):

  • Transfer to Stage 2 of the PhD program
  • Resubmission of revised materials at a later date, with a timeline agreed between the DSP and the TAP
  • Transfer to another graduate program, utilizing, where possible and where appropriate, the credits accumulated
  • Termination of the registration with a certificate for any modules for which credit has been awarded

The recommendation will have to be formally agreed by the GRB and any proposed transfer to another program will have to be agreed with that program. Students will be notified shortly hereafter of the outcome. If the recommendation is to progress to Stage 2, you will progress to the next phase of your PhD. If the recommendation is other than for progression to Stage 2, the options recommended by the assessment panel, and the potential for re-presenting to the assessment panel sitting, will be discussed with your DSP. Students have the right to appeal a decision of the TAP. For more information on the appeals process, go to

PhD Modules: Autumn Trimester, 2020-21

UCD term starts 21 September, 2020

POL 50070 Quantitative Methods I (CORE)
Dr Thomas Chadefaux
Mondays: 11am-2pm
Trinity College Dublin
10 credits

PhD Modules: Spring Trimester, 2020-21

UCD term starts 18 January, 2021

POL 50200 Qualitative Research Methods (CORE)
Assoc Prof Eva Wegner
Wednesdays: 10am-12pm
F103 (Art)
10 credits

CSSL50020 Social Science Methodology (CORE)
Dr Thomas Daubler
Thursdays: 2pm-4pm
G-09 (AG)
10 credits

POL50050 Quantitative Methods II
Assoc Prof Jos Elkink
10 credits

Additional Modules

SPIRe offers PhD students the opportunity to enroll in certain Graduate Taught modules (subject to availability).

The list for 2020-21 is appended below:

  • POL40140 International Political Theory (Autumn)
  • POL40370 International Political Econom
  • POL40610 EU Foreign & Security Policy
  • POL40950 Introduction to Statistics (Autumn)
  • POL41510 Middle East & North Africa (Autumn)
  • POL41920 Polictical Behaviour in Middle East
  • POL42000 Political Theory and the EU
  • POL42040 Gender & the Polictical System (Autumn)
  • POL42050 Quantitative Text Analysis
  • POL42070 Polictics of (mis-) information
  • POL42080 Global Classroom (Autumn)
  • POL41640 Qualitative Research Methods for Politics
  • POL42060 International Security

There are a range of additional modules across the college that are available to graduate research students. Click here to access these modules.

Module Registration

The module registration process for 2020-21 will be handled centrally by Graduate Studies. Registration is done via a Google Form. To access the form, click here.

Note that, outside of core modules, students must liaise with their supervisor before registering for any additional modules.

Auditing Modules

Students enrolled to any graduate programme at University College Dublin have the opportunity to enrol to a module for Audit from within the list of modules offered by the University. A student may audit a module if they wish to attend the module but not gain any credits for the module. This means that they do not receive a grade for the module, but the module will appear on the student’s transcript as having been audited.

Students must seek the permission of the relevant Module Co-ordinator in order to do this, as well as the Programme Co-ordinator for the programme in which the student is enrolled. 

The registration process for this will also fall under Graduate Studies.

Research Studies Panel (RSP)

In addition to your supervisor, your School will appoint a Research Studies Panel (RSP) within three months of the date of initial registration. Typically, RSP members are nominated by the School in consultation with the supervisor. It normally comprises of the supervisor(s), two advisors (one of which will act as the panel Chair) and the student. The purpose of the RSP is to support and enhance the supervisor-student relationship, to monitor progress during the course of the doctoral studies, and to provide advice and support both to the student and the supervisor. One of the nominated advisors will have academic expertise relevant to the student’s research work and also have experience in supervising doctoral students.

The RSP should have its first meeting within six months of the student’s initial registration in order to review the student’s research and professional development plan (RPDP). At least one additional meeting should be held in the first year of the student’s registration. Thereafter, it is recommended that students should have two RSP meetings per academic year. Students should be pro-active in arranging such meetings in conjunction with their supervisor. The student, or another member of the RSP, may convene a meeting of the panel at any stage if it is considered desirable or necessary to address any relevant issue(s) that may arise.

Research and Professional Development Plan (RPDP)

Meeting reports Records of the RSP meetings are maintained as part of the Research and Professional Development Plan (RPDP). Students should complete the 'Doctoral Studies Panel Meeting Record Report' (contained within the RPDP) after each RSP meeting, which should be signed by all RSP members. The signed RPDP should be submitted to the School Manager for central record keeping. It is strongly recommended that the key recommendations of RSP meetings are recorded. In most cases the report should be brief but, where there are issues relating to student performance/progress, the report should document the weaknesses/issues raised and recommendations for improvement. If there is a serious issue with student performance raised at an RSP meeting, the School Head of Graduate Studies or PhD programme coordinator should be notified.

  • The Research Plan – This provides the student with a clear research focus and a coherent research plan.
  • The Professional Development Plan – This enables the student to identify the skills important to their research and career.
  • The Doctoral Studies Panel Meeting Record – A mandatory outcome of the DSP meetings will be a formal record of the student’s research and professional plans and progress to date. This will also inform the transfer assessment.

For more information on the Research and Development Plan (RPDP), click on the links below.

Research and Development Plan

Use the Research and Professional Development Planning Form (Fillable PDF)

Tips on how to complete your RPDP 

Guide to Uploading Student-Supervisor Meeting Records on InfoHub 

Graduate Research and Innovations Fund

Research students are actively encouraged to take part in national and international professional associations, to present their work as soon as possible at conferences, and eventually to seek to publish their work in high-quality academic outlets. Your supervisor will advise you in these matters.

To enable you to present your work at conferences, or to acquire further professional training, you may apply to the competitive College of Social Sciences and Law’ Graduate Research and Innovations Fund (GRIF). At least two calls for applications under the GRIF are made each year (October and April) for grants of between €100 and €1000. More information can be found on the CSSL website:

UCD Seed Funding

UCD has a funding scheme available that is open to staff and research students to apply for relatively small grants, for example attendance at a conference or other dissemination costs. Procedures change year-on-year, but further details can be found here:

SPIRe Research Committee Fund

SPIRe has a very limited amount of money available to fund participation by its own postgraduate research students and postdoctoral researchers in Irish and international conferences and summer schools each year.

The amount of the grant is up to €250 for any single request and includes travel, accommodation, registration fees and subsistence. Applications will be reviewed tri-annually by the UCD SPIRe Research Committee and funding calls will be communicated via the SPIRe e-mail ListServ. 

SPIRe Research Committee Fund Guidelines

SPIRe Research Committee Fund Application Form

To produce their thesis, students should work closely with supervisor(s) to ensure that the research and presentation meets the standards expected of a doctoral thesis. Before submission, the primary supervisor is required to sign a form stating that the thesis is ready for submission or give approval for online submission. If you are of the opinion that such a statement is being unreasonably withheld, you can appeal in the first instance to the relevant School Committee, the Graduate School Director and, ultimately, to the Academic Council Standing Committee on Examinations.

All theses submitted must include a statement on plagiarism in accordance with the University's policy on plagiarism. The UCD policy on plagiarism is available here.

PhD theses can only be submitted if fees are paid in full and student registration is current. You should contact the Student Desk in advance of submission to ensure that your student record is in good standing.

PhD theses are examined by a PhD Examination Committee comprising of an external examiner, one internal examiner and a Chair. Please ensure to liaise with your supervisor to get your examination committee set up in advance of submission. The approval of the Examination Committee is by the ACCE and you should take note of their submission dates. Click here for the ACCE meeting schedule.

Please note the Examination Committee must first be approved by the Graduate Research Board. The GRB submission deadlines are generally a week prior to ACCE submission deadlines. 

eThesis or Hard Copy Submission

Students have the option to submit printed, physical copies of the thesis or to submit for examination electronically via the eThesis System

For more information on these two options, click here.

Additional information can be found via the Student Desk FAQ

Click here for Thesis Submission Deadlines 

Thesis Examination

In order to submit a thesis, all students must have transferred into Stage 2 of the structured PhD programme and have completed the mandatory 50 credits of taught modules satisfactorily. PhD theses are examined by a PhD Examination Committee comprising of an external examiner, one internal examiner and a Chair. The external examiner, who must be a recognised expert in the field, is nominated by the School, approved by the Graduate School Board and then ratified by the Academic Council Committee on Examinations (ACCE). The thesis is assessed in accordance with UCD guidelines. Particular account is taken of the following:

  • The originality of the work described and the theories developed in the thesis
  • The candidate's familiarity with the published work of other authors in related areas
  • The candidate's ability to summarise the work of other authors and to synthesise a theoretical framework within which to position the work described in the thesis
  • The methodology adopted by the candidate to address the research topic
  • Is it accurately and comprehensively described? Is it appropriate to the topic?
  • Is the candidate aware of alternative methodologies which might have been employed?
  • Is the candidate sensitive to any inherent weaknesses in the methodology?
  • Where a novel method has been developed, has it been tested and calibrated appropriately?
  • Experimental design
  • Presentation of the results of the research.
  • Are the results presented in a clear, accessible way?
  • Are tables, figures or plates, where included, adequately annotated and correctly referenced in the text?
  • Interpretation of results o Are the candidate's conclusions reasonable on the basis of the evidence presented?
  • Has the significance of the results been fully appreciated by the candidate?
  • Has the correct statistical analysis been employed (where appropriate) and justifiable conclusions arrived at?
  • Have theories formulated on the basis of the results taken into account relevant findings published by other authors?
  • Has the candidate identified any weaknesses or gaps in the evidence brought forward?
  • The bibliography
  • Is it comprehensive and up-to-date?
  • Are references to the published literature annotated accurately and consistently in a recognised citation style?
  • Presentation of the thesis - is it free of typographical and other errors?  

For more detailed instruction on thesis formulation, consult the UCD Academic Regulations and the Theses in Graduate Research Programmes policy

Students are examined orally in a viva voce examination where they must defend their work and the resultant conclusions (in the context of the foregoing criteria). After the viva voce the report of the examiners is considered by the ACCE. Some amendments to the thesis are usually required. In the event of a recommendation by the examiners that a PhD degree should not be awarded, the student can submit a revised thesis for re-examination subject to the conditions set out by the ACCE. On submission, the revised thesis must be accompanied by a statement from your supervisor that the thesis has been revised under their supervision. Students can also appeal a decision of the ACCE to the Assessments Appeals Committee.

The submission and examination procedures for research masters theses are the same as those described above except that an oral examination is not mandatory. An oral exam can be held on the request of the Head of School or one of the examiners.

Leave of Absence 

Students who, under unforeseen circumstances, need to take time out of the programme, can apply for a leave of absence (LoA). A LoA can be for up to a maximum of one-third of the length of the programme (four semesters for full time students and six semesters for part time students) and must be sought by week six from the start of term. After this time, retrospective applications are only approved due to extenuating circumstances. In the first instance, students should contact their supervisor, School or Graduate School on the process. A student on LoA cannot be active on the programme i.e. they cannot meet with supervisor(s), attend lectures, access the library or receive grants/scholarships. However, students will continue to have access to their UCD Connect account, including email, during this time.

For more information and guidance on the leave of absence policy, and to apply online click here

Please ensure to inform the PhD Administrator if you apply for a Leave of Absence online


If you are not continuing with your programme, you must complete and submit an official Withdrawal Form. Since August 2016, this form is now completed online and can be accessed via SISWebProgramme Services and ‘My Leave of Absence/Withdrawal Requests’

For more information and to access the Withdrawal policy, click here