School of Social Sciences

Politics and International Relations

PhD Political Studies


Subject to our ability to provide appropriate supervision, we invite scholars to join our PhD Programme who wish to study in any of the key areas of politics and international relations, including political theory, political economy, comparative politics, security studies, public policy, regional studies, conflict analysis, diplomacy, and so on.  Thus the scope of any accepted application is potentially broad, but it is our intention that any research undertaken should be geared to the enhancement and general development of Kurdistan and the region.

There are good reasons to commence PhD study in our Department.  The UKH is the top university in the region.  We operate on western academic professional principles, and our international faculty members are established and well-respected academics in their field.  We deliver a quality education and are thoroughly committed to maintaining the highest academic standards. 

Applications are considered on the basis of: a.) a general correlation between the student’s proposed research area and a potential supervisor’s research background and interests; and b.) an assessment of the applicant’s educational experience, qualifications and overall suitability for advanced study.  Each application is judged on its merits on a case by case basis.

It is important for would-be PhD researchers to appreciate that studying for a PhD involves a very serious undertaking.  A PhD by Research degree is based on the production of a minimum of an 80,000-word thesis that makes an original and substantial contribution to the field of study.  This commits the student to producing written work of a standard fit for immediate publication, within a specific timeframe.  UKH will offer full support and guidance throughout, but applicants must be prepared to take full responsibility for their own projects, work hard, remain self-motivated and cope under pressure for the duration of their research.  All applicants will be assessed on their suitability to meet these demands. 

Our PhD graduates will enjoy numerous career options, including government, public managerial roles in state and private sectors, journalism, consultative work, and so on.  However, the award of the title of Doctor of Philosophy is generally regarded as the first step toward a career in academia.



Candidates registered for M.Phil., shall undergo and pass a minimum of four credited modules within the first year.  The pass mark for each module is 60%, and the final CGPA shall not be less than 70%.  Candidates who fail to obtain the necessary final CGPA shall leave the programme. No resit exams are permitted.  Candidates are expected to attend all of their classes, but at least a minimum of 80%.  Failure to comply will lead to the capping of the overall course assessment in each case at the lowest passing mark.  Further courses that are seen as relevant to the research project that either the supervisors or the student may propose, can be designed and made mandatory for the student to complete successfully.  Again attendance and passing any such courses would be considered mandatory.


Final Exam.

Candidates who attain a CGPA of 70% from their taught modules shall be eligible to undergo a final comprehensive written examination with specific reference to their individual subject specialism.  The passing mark is 70%.  Candidates who fail to achieve the passing mark shall be required to leave the programme.  No resit for the final comprehensive exam is permitted.


Transfer to PhD.

Successful applicants shall be firstly enrolled during Year One as candidates for the degree of M.Phil.  All candidates will be allocated a supervisory team which will have extensive academic experience and knowledge in the field of study.  Having successfully fulfilled the requirements for the degree of M.Phil. (as detailed above), candidates wishing to progress to PhD study are required to ‘Register for Transfer’ in writing to the Registrar as soon as is practicable, but no later than 28 days before the transfer deadline (to be announced).

During the first two semesters, the supervisory team will guide the student in developing his/her research proposal to contain a clear description of the research project, a detailed up-to-date review of the related literature, a justification of the need for conducting the proposed research, together with an outline of the expected originality and contributions to knowledge.  This is expected to develop the initial research proposal in the format of a full proposal making around 40 to 60 A4 pages of font size 12.

On submission of their transfer proposal, candidates shall undergo an oral presentation of their research proposals to selected members of the Department/School in the form of an academic seminar.  Candidates must be prepared to explain their proposal thoroughly, set out their research plans, field questions and be subjected to intense scrutiny.  The oral presentation shall be assessed, and graded by the Department members present.  The minimal grade for the oral presentation shall be 70%.

Upon reaching a satisfactory outcome of the full requirements of the first year, candidates will be registered for the degree of PhD and shall complete their studies and further requirements within the designated period.  The duration of study in the PhD programme, including the M.Phil registration period, is currently set by the Ministry of Higher Education at not be less than four and not more than six years. 

As the UKH PhD programme is a full-time course of study, candidates are expected to be on campus 36 hours per week.  Note: employees of government or other agencies or companies nominated/recommended for admission are required to take study leave after gaining admission to the programme.  Failure to produce proof of an official ‘leave request’ approval document within one semester of enrolment will result in the cancellation of admission.

Admission Criteria

Admissions are usually conducted in the fall semester once in an academic year. If a candidate fails to complete enrolment within one month of the published cut-off date, her/his admission shall be cancelled. 

 Note: applicants dismissed for any reason from any university, school or college will not be considered.

The number of PhD candidate opportunities is limited, and thus applications are subject to a competitive points-based system.  Points are accumulated on applicant strengths based on the following criteria:

1.   Academic qualifications;

2. Thesis proposal and interview;

3. Entrance Exam.


Admission Criteria.

The medium of instruction is exclusively English.  Prior to admission, applicants shall have obtained a score of at least 65 in a Pearson Test of English (Academic) for the social sciences, or 7.0 IELTS or 95 iBT-TOEFL, including UKH or any other English based universities

An applicant must have an MPhil/MA/MSc from a recognised institution with a minimum score of 70% or an equivalent CGPA, and majoring in the same area, or extremely close, to the proposed research topic area.  All applicants are required moreover to have a minimal final grade of 70% (classed as ‘good’ at UKH, 2:1 UK or international CGPA of 3.0) in their bachelor’s degree from a recognised institution, again majoring in the same area, or extremely close, to the proposed research topic area.


Thesis Proposal.

Applicants must submit a research proposal in the format of intended research aims and literature review of no less than 2500 words, 1.5 spaced in a font size of 12 Arial, following the specific form provided by UKH Registry Office under the title of “Outlines of the Proposed Research Topic".  On receipt of the proposal, selected applicants shall be subject to a rigorous interview in which the candidate’s suitability for higher research shall be judged.  Successful applicants shall be firstly enrolled during Year One as candidates for the degree of M.Phil.  All candidates will be allocated a supervisory team which will have extensive academic experience and knowledge in the field of study.


Entrance Exam.

All applicants shall undergo a written entrance examination. Assessment shall be made according to a.) the general academic competence exhibited by the candidate; and b.) subject expertise in the applicant’s proposed research area and educational background.  The passing mark is 60%, which must be attained in both categories a. and b.

Tuition Fee

USD 6,000 per academic year