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MPhil Politics (Comparative Government)

The MPhil in Politics (Comparative Government) is an advanced two-year (21 months) postgraduate degree, which provides training in research techniques and methodology suitable for those who later wish to embark upon doctoral research. The course enables students to acquire substantive knowledge in a key sub-area of the discipline.

The degree emphasises the research-led study of government and political institutions from area-specific and comparative perspectives. Students will receive a range of different types of teaching in order to develop their written and oral communication skills as well as other technical skills.

The course asks some of the most compelling and important questions facing political scientists today, including how social movements (such as the ones that have recently taken to the streets in Brazil, Egypt, and Turkey) emerge; how stable democracies can be built out of authoritarian regimes; why parts of the world suffer from endemic conflict and whether democracy is necessary for development.

The MPhil in Politics (Comparative Government) will provide students with a solid foundation for a wide range of careers, including academic, professional, commercial, diplomatic and government positions.

The Department is internationally recognised as a leading centre for teaching and research in comparative government and empirical political science. It counts among its members a number of acknowledged authorities within this discipline. For further information see the pages dedicated to MPhil Politics (Comparative Government) on the university website

Student profiles

Sample Reading List

Component Assessment
Year one Core course in Comparative GovernmentWritten Examination in Comparative Government at the end of the first year
Research Methods TrainingSubmission of coursework and a research design essay as preparation for your thesis
Year two Two optional coursesWritten examinations in your chosen two subjects
Research and write thesisSubmission of a thesis no more than 30,000 words


In the first year, as an MPhil in Politics (Comparative Government) student you would have to:

  1. attend a twenty-week core seminar in Comparative Government, and sit a written examination in this core subject at the end of your first year.
  2. submit research methods training coursework and a research design essay as preparation for your thesis.

At the end of the course, you would be required:

  • to sit two written examinations in the optional papers of your choice (please see the list below).
  • to submit a thesis of not more than 30,000 words.

Optional Courses

The courses offered vary from year to year, depending on students’ research interests and the availability of faculty. The Department cannot guarantee, therefore, that a particular course will be run in any given year. In recent years the following courses have been offered:

Second-year Optional Subjects

  • The Politics and Government of the UK
  • The Politics and Government of the USA
  • The Politics and Government of France
  • The Politics and Government of China
  • The Politics and Government of Japan
  • The Politics of Democracy in Latin America
  • Comparative Political Economy
  • The Political Economy of Inequality and Democracy
  • Comparative European Parliaments
  • Political Sociology of Post-Communist States

Research Methods Options

Research Methods Options

  • Intermediate Social Statistics
  • Qualitative Methods in Political Science
  • Formal Analysis
  • Archival Research
  • Causal Inference
  • Content Analysis and Word Scoring
  • Multilevel Modelling
  • Panel Data Analysis


The MPhil thesis is a substantial piece of research presented in a 30,000 word thesis, which demonstrates a grasp of a particular sub-field, a set of design and methodological issues, and the ability to develop and sustain an independent line of argument.
To give you an idea of the range of topics studied by MPhil candidates, below are some titles of recent successful MPhil theses:

  • How can changes to rules for the election of the leader of the Conservative Party be explained?
  • A Theory of Bargained Conventions: Explaining Presidential Nominations in the US Democratic Party National Conventions of 1912, 1924, and 1932
  • Single Non-Transferable Vote in Japan and Taiwan: Cox Revisited
  • Intervention, International Cooperation, and Democratization in Cambodia: 1992-present
  • Dragon Learning a New Dance: Grassroots Governance Reform in Urban China
  • Political Fig-Leaf or Great Leap Forward? Legal Development and Institutional Change in Post-Mao China
  • Invisible Constitutions: The Political Construction of Constitutional Norms of Behaviour in North America
  • The Impact of Political Culture on Democratisation of the Czech Republic and Bulgaria
  • Une Doctrine dangereuse? Left Liberal Intellectuals in France, 1980-2002
  • The Performance of the United Kingdom Independence Party at the 2004 European Elections
  • The Role of the United States Supreme Court in the American Polity: Reaction to Brown v. Board of Education in the State of Alabama, 1954-1964
  • Predictable Shocks: Drought and Institutional Change in Local Water Management Institutions
  • Political Corruption and Citizens’ Behaviour
  • The Local Budget Deficit Phenomenon: Rethinking the 1994 Fiscal Reforms and the Co-Evolution of Local Government Constraints and Choices in Jiangxi and Zhejiang
  • The Politics of the California Electricity Crisis
  • Ethnic Cleavages and Party Systems: A Comparative Analysis of Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia
  • Symbolic Policy: Evaluating the Role of Signalling and Instrumental Functions in US Immigration Legislation
  • Windows or Curtains? The Design and Dress of Election Governance Institutions in New Democracies
  • The Influence of Doctors in Health Politics: The Case of the Separation of Prescribing and Dispensing (SPD) in Korea
  • Taxation, Power and Representation in Developing Countries: The Case of China
  • Why has the House of Lords been rejecting Government Legislation? A Case Study of Government Defeats in the British Parliament, 1999-2003
  • How is the Federalism Cake made? Congress and the Politics of Decentralization in the US
  • Perceptions of Corruption: A Case Study in Shanghai, China

Read more about Government and Politics at the Department of Politics and International Relations