Brussels School of International Studies

PhD Programme

Brussels is an excellent place to do doctoral research. Host to hundreds of international organisations, of which the European Union and NATO are the most prominent, PhD students do research literally around the corner of important places of decision-making. This offers an array of opportunities to attend conferences with high-level policy-makers, to consult the specialised libraries of institutions like the European Commission, or to interview diplomats. The Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) seeks to create an environment not only of academic reflection, but also one where researchers and practitioners meet and exchange views. This creates a stimulating research environment for all topics in the broad field of international studies.

Degrees and practicalities

The University of Kent offers the following PhD degrees at BSIS:
• PhD in International Relations
• PhD in International Conflict Analysis
• PhD in Comparative Politics
• PhD in Political and Social Thought
• PhD in Law

All programmes can be done full-time or part-time. New PhD students enrol either in September or January. Full-time PhD students can be registered for up to a maximum of four years on a doctoral programme, but are expected to submit their doctoral dissertation as soon as possible following the completion of the third year.

Research Seminars

At the heart of the PhD programme is the weekly research seminar (during terms). In these sessions one PhD student presents his/her research findings or latest chapter. Other PhD students and staff members give feedback. On a regular basis visiting researchers are invited to present at the research seminar. Because of the different PhD programmes and backgrounds of the academic staff, this fosters an interdisciplinary approach.

What is required to obtain a PhD?

Candidates undertaking PhD degrees must submit for examination a dissertation which demonstrates their ability to undertake an original investigation, to test a hypothesis, and to understand the relationship of the theme under investigation to a wider field of knowledge. A PhD thesis is normally between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Candidates must successfully defend their PhD dissertation in a Viva.

A thesis submitted for the award of doctorate must be an original contribution to knowledge or understanding in the field of investigation. Originality is a prime requirement of a PhD thesis. This may be construed in a number of ways. It may be the application or testing of a known theory to a novel case, the utilisation of sources of information hitherto unused, the development of theory or the introduction of a new approach, or the creation of a new theoretical synthesis.

The doctoral programme, as a postgraduate research programme, combines formal research training and individual supervision, with regular interaction between students and academic staff.


The capability to do autonomous research, leading to an original contribution to scholarship, is key to a successful PhD. Supervisors provide guidance to PhD students in their research process. Each PhD student has two supervisors, a main supervisor and a second supervisor. Often the expertise of both supervisors is complementary and guarantees a broad spectrum of advice. Students and supervisors meet regularly. By the end of each year, a supervisory panel evaluates the progress made by a student and formulates recommendations in a more formal end-of-year review.

All permanent academic staff members of the Brussels School of International Studies may act as supervisors. Occasionally academic staff from the main campus in Canterbury will act as second supervisors

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Research Training

The research seminars are an integral part of the PhD programme and take place weekly (during term time). Each student takes turns in presenting their research and discussing the progress they have made, whilst taking questions from colleagues and academic staff. This leads to the annual review. Training is also delivered in conjunction with the Graduate School in Canterbury who deliver workshops on tutoring, ethics and global skills.

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PhD Students

BSIS PhD students come from a variety of countries. Most of them have studied in different countries, taking along their own experience and approaches. This creates not only a dynamic research environment, but also a pleasant social atmosphere. Many PhD students engage in extra-curricular or social activities with MA students. Often they are invited to tutor a number of seminars for MA modules. PhD students are stimulated to present papers at international conferences and to publish. The combination of a solid research experience, an international network, publications and teaching experiences offers fresh doctors the best chances to obtain a good position in or outside the academic market.

Our current PhD student rep is Raphael Wolff. "Being in Brussels to carry out my research offers me the opportunity to see the intricate mechanics of EU decision-making up close. BSIS is a small-scale school with an intimate atmosphere. This means there is ample opportunity to interact with the staff and fellow students.  In other words, there is always someone to discuss your research with. The wide variety of topics that people work on make for very productive and illuminating discussions."

Find out more about our current PhD students and their topics. Click here.

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How to Apply

Applications to the PhD programme follow the regular procedure (see Admissions page), but also require the submission of a research proposal of around 3000 words. We recommend trying to align your research proposal with the research interests of one of our academics. It is not necessary to contact a supervisor before submitting your application.

In this proposal the candidate presents the research topic, research question and/or hypotheses, the theoretical framework and methodology envisaged, as well as a brief bibliography. Through the research proposal candidates demonstrate their research skills, their acquaintance with the field and its most salient debates. They aim to convince the Admissions Committee of their potential to make an original contribution to scholarship and of the feasibility of their research project. The research proposal is not a blueprint for the next years of research, but serves as a starting-point. In the interaction between supervisors and students, it will inevitably undergo change.

The following documents need to be submitted:

  • Application form
  • University transcript(s)
  • Letters of reference
  • Proof of English (where applicable)
  • Personal statement
  • PhD research proposal of 3000 words

While there is no strict deadline, it is recommended to submit the application a couple of months before the date you wish to start the PhD programme (September or January).

For entry, we generally require a bachelor and master degree in a relevant field with a strong academic performance. All applications will be evaluated individually and entry is dependent on strong academic merit and a relevant research proposal.

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Fees and Funding

The Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) award approximately €130,000 worth of scholarships each year, including scholarships for students reading for a doctorate. Successful applicants will be registered as full-time students and pursue a thesis topic in an area of research strength of the school. We particularly welcome research proposals in European Public Policy, International Relations, International Conflict and Security, International Political Economy, International and Economic Law, Migration, International Development and Political Strategy and Communication. Applicants should normally have obtained, or be about to obtain a relevant Master’s degree at merit or distinction level. These scholarships are open to students of all nationalities.

You can find more information about the application process and cycle here


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BSIS, University of Kent, Espace Rolin, Boulevard Louis Schmidt 2a, 1040 Brussels, Belgium

General Enquiries: +32 (2) 641 1721

Last Updated: 02/08/2017