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    Oct 07, 2022  
American University Catalog 2022-2023 
    
American University Catalog 2022-2023

International Relations (MPhil)


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Offered by the School of International Service , the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in International Relations is open only to students enrolled in the International Relations (PhD) . The program enables students to produce knowledge for careers in university teaching and research, government, and non-governmental organizations both in the United States and internationally. The curriculum provides training in international relations that is both multi-disciplinary and policy-relevant. The core courses in international relations, comparative social theory, comparative and regional studies, and methodology provide a foundation that allows students considerable flexibility to pursue additional coursework, research, and writing in international affairs. Major emphasis is placed on research and students are encouraged to present conference papers, engage in collaborative work with faculty members, and submit articles to refereed journals.

Admission to the Program


The International Relations (MPhil) degree is only awarded en passant to eligible students enrolled in the International Relations (PhD)  program. Separate application to the International Relations (MPhil) is not offered.​

Degree Requirements


  • 39 credit hours of approved graduate work
  • Minimum 3.00 GPA in all graduate work is required to remain in good academic standing and to earn the degree
  • Proficiency in a modern foreign language: Research competence in English and another modern foreign language relevant to the student’s career objectives must be certified
  • Satisfactory completion of two comprehensive examinations, each of which has a written and oral component
    • The first or qualifying examination is normally taken at the end of the first year. The qualifying exam requires the demonstration of competency in theoretical, epistemological, and methodological literature and issues in international relations, comparative social theory, and comparative and regional studies. These areas are addressed in the core seminars that students normally complete during their first year of residence, although the scope of the examination is not limited to topics covered in the seminars.
    • The second examination is in a student’s chosen field of specialization. The written and oral field examinations evaluate the student’s preparation in a major field of study selected by the student from the graduate concentrations offered by the School of International Service as PhD-level fields of study. With the permission of the SIS Director of Doctoral Studies and the advice of at least three qualified scholars, the student may also construct a special field. Two of these scholars must be members of the American University faculty; all three must agree in writing to serve on an examining committee. The written and oral field examination is normally given at the end of the second year and requires the demonstration of competency in the theoretical, epistemological, and methodological literatures from that field. To prepare for this examination, the student must have successfully completed three courses in the field of concentration, as well as master additional literature, as identified by SIS and associated faculty in that major field.
    • A student who fails a comprehensive examination may apply to the SIS Director of Doctoral Studies for one additional attempt. If approved, the retake of the exam should occur within six months of the date of the first attempt. Students who fail a retake attempt will be dismissed from the doctoral program.
  • Pass an oral defense of a dissertation prospectus: A student must write and successfully defend a dissertation prospectus that provides a justification for the dissertation research, reviews relevant literature, identifies relevant theoretical, epistemological, and methodological issues, and provides a detailed research design, including a timetable for completion of the work.
    • The SIS Director of Doctoral Studies chairs the prospectus defense. The examiners also include the student’s dissertation committee, which is comprised of a minimum of three members, one of whom serves as chair and as the primary supervisor of the dissertation research. It is the responsibility of the student to secure the agreement of a full-time tenured member of the School of International Service faculty to serve as the chair of his or her dissertation committee. At least two members of the dissertation committee must be full-time, tenure-line members of the American University faculty. The members of the committee must be approved by the SIS Director of Doctoral Studies and the American University Doctoral Council.
    • Students are normally expected to complete their prospectus defense no later than the end of the sixth semester after entering the program. For details on scheduling comprehensive examinations and examination procedures, consult the director of the PhD program or the SIS Graduate Office.

Course Requirements


Concentration (9 credit hours)


  • 9 credit hours in a major field of concentration from among those offered by SIS  or approved by the SIS Director of Doctoral Studies

Note: Specific course requirements as well as additional preparation for the field examinations are determined by each field. Fields of concentration include Comparative and Regional Studies; Global Environmental Policy; Global Governance, Politics, and Security; International Communication; International Development; International Economic Relations; International Peace and Conflict Resolution; and United States Foreign Policy and National Security.

Electives (6 credit hours)


  • 6 credit hours of coursework relevant to a student’s program of study and approved by the SIS Director of Doctoral Studies

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