Who is the PhD programme for and what is its aim?
The doctoral study programme in Political science and Political science with a specialisation in Security and strategic studies (SSS) in the Department of Political Science at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Masaryk University is intended primarily for graduates of master’s degrees in political science and security studies, but also for graduates of related disciplines in the social sciences (international relations, European studies, sociology, journalism) and humanities (philosophy, history, religious studies) interested in political and security research topics.
The aim of the PhD programme is to produce highly qualified professionals in the field of political and security studies. It focuses on the analysis of contemporary political systems and regimes (taking different levels of analysis into account), electoral studies, comparative analysis of political parties, interest groups and movements, as well as the research of current trends in political theory, political philosophy, political methodology and political communication.
Within the SSS specialisation, studies focus on political extremism and terrorism, cyber security, security complexes, state and non-state security actors, security research methodology and other contemporary security phenomena.
The first step for those interested in studying on our PhD programme should be to formulate their own idea of what area of political science or security research they want to pursue. The chosen topic should take into account the research intentions of the department and the professional and thematic competences of their PhD supervisors. To help, a list of PhD supervisors at the department is available to interested students (link), which includes the topics they prefer, are researching, or for which grant-supported research is already underway. This may guide those interested in studying who do not yet have a distinct thematic orientation. In special cases, a proposal from a candidate with a different thematic focus may be accepted.
All prospective students are required to submit a PhD project proposal to the admissions committee (which meets twice a year, always at the end of the semester, in February and June). This will lead, if the applicant is admitted to the programme, to doctoral research and a future dissertation (the topic may be changed or refined during the course of the programme, subject to the approval of the subject board). The project details should be developed during the candidate’s consultations with the potential supervisor, which precede the date of admission into the Information System of Masaryk University. A project of high quality is a basic prerequisite for admission to doctoral studies.
The project proposal, which should be no longer than 10 standard pages, should include the following sections:
- Preliminary title of the project;
- An explanation of the relevance of the topic;
- A description of the state of knowledge in the field;
- Basic hypotheses or research questions;
- A list of anticipated applied methods and techniques;
- Description of the data to be worked with, including their accessibility;
- Formulation of how original the intention is, its contribution and how it advances knowledge.
When the proposal is submitted, an admission interview follows. The interview normally lasts about 20 minutes, and covers the following points:
- a professional discussion of the submitted PhD project, assessing both its professional level and its relation to the research plans and grant projects of the department;
- a discussion of how the candidate would be involved in the teaching and research activities of the department.
The dean decides on the admission to study on the basis of the recommendation of the admissions committee. The candidate can be admitted to study only if there is a specialist in the team of supervisors who is competent and willing to lead the proposed project.
Prospective students are advised to familiarise themselves with the topics of projects completed and dissertations defended in the department.
Every PhD student has a supervisor, some have a consultant. Supervisors, who are professors or associate professors in the Department of Political Science, are appointed by the dean following approval by the Faculty’s Academic Council. The supervisor supports the doctoral student throughout his/her studies and prepares a binding study plan with the student at the very beginning of his/her studies. In the course of the study, the supervisor consults with the student on the project, conducts evaluations with the student each semester, coordinates the student’s involvement in teaching in the first four semesters, resolves conflict situations, assists the student in selecting a workplace for a foreign internship, etc. The supervisor is also a member of the student’s committees for the state doctoral examination and for the defence of the project dissertation.
Consultants are members of the department with PhD degrees. Not every PhD student has a consultant. The Admissions Committee appoints a consultant when there is a suitable expert for the topic of the project in the Department, but he/she is not habilitated and therefore not on the list of supervisors. The consultant’s role is primarily to consult with the doctoral candidate on the dissertation.
The progress of the study is monitored and evaluated by the departmental board, appointed by the dean and approved by the FSS Academic Council. Twice a year (in February and June), the board conducts evaluations of all PhD students. The decision to proceed to the next semester is in the hands of its chairperson, based on the recommendation of the supervisor.
The organisational and administrative agenda of doctoral studies is managed by the Study Office.
Studying for a political science PhD in our department normally takes eight semesters. Study is managed more individually than for a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The student regularly consults with his/her supervisor or advisor (typically once or twice a month) and must complete required courses and fulfil other study obligations. For the vast majority of courses there is no classroom teaching, but on the basis of consultation with the course tutors, the required professional output is developed during the semester (elaborating the methodology, processing specific data, reviewing the literature, writing papers for publication in scientific journals, etc.).
Above all, in many areas, the student is expected to show significant personal initiative. This means that he/she is not only obliged to publish high quality papers and spend at least a semester abroad on a study or work placement, but in general to make decisions to achieve excellence in the chosen area of political science or security research: to participate in methodological seminars, to develop contacts abroad and to gain experience in academic activities such as writing reviews, participating in team research, attending conferences, popularising science, etc.
Study is generally divided into two parts. The first part culminates in the third semester with the confirmation of PhD candidature in front of a committee composed of supervisors and other members of the political science departmental board. In the dissertation project defence, students receive a critical response to their doctoral research project, with emphasis on its theoretical and methodological characteristics.
After the successful defence of the dissertation project, the student focuses on his/her own research activities. These consist primarily of the systematic writing of the dissertation, which is controlled by the compulsory courses in this part of the study – which the student must continuously complete – and the publication of scientific papers.
During the first four semesters of study, the student is involved in the teaching activities of the department. During regular full-time studies, the student receives a regular monthly stipend of 12,000 CZK.
In addition, the department encourages students to participate in the research activities of its members. In addition to participation in current projects, each year the department announces research fellowships (for one calendar year with the possibility of extension). A fellowship consists of intensive involvement in a research project and increased presence in the department. The amount of the fellowship depends on the current budgetary situation, reaching up to 10,000 CZK per month.
Participation in teaching is a compulsory, integral part of full-time doctoral studies, implemented within the framework of the Individual Study Plan I-IV (see also the previous text). This involvement consists of assisting in teaching in agreement with the supervisor and typically involves correcting written preparations and seminar papers and conducting seminars for two courses per semester.
Studies are completed by the state doctoral examination (an oral examination based on a list of 20 books approved in advance by the supervisor that takes place at the end of the sixth semester of study) and the defence of the dissertation (text of 150-250 standard pages).
A prerequisite for the dissertation defence is the acquisition of 240 credits (ECTS): 210 ECTS for the completion of the compulsory courses and 30 ECTS for the completion of optional courses
Graduates of the doctoral studies in political science at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Masaryk University will obtain qualifications enabling them to work as:
- researchers conducting basic political science or security research;
- scientific and pedagogical staff;
- experts and analysts with a relevant thematic focus.
Students are required to publish at least two scientific articles or papers during their PhD studies. One must be in a journal on the SCOPUS database and the other in a journal on the Web of Science database. One of the articles must be published by the fourth semester of study. In general, however, the department expects further, more frequent publication activities from each PhD student, especially in collaboration with his/her supervisor or consultant, and of course linked to the research projects in which the student is involved.
No, it is not. However, within the BSS specialisation, students can take an elective course which includes an internship with a security-related employer.
The destination and content of the placement are agreed between the student and his/her supervisor. It is possible to go on a research placement (focused exclusively on gaining professional excellence in the field corresponding to the research project topic) or a work placement (typically focused on gaining experience of running an institution working in the field corresponding to the project topic), always with a minimum continuous duration of three months. It is assumed that the placement is related to the student’s chosen topic. In terms of the choice of the destination, the student is generally offered a list of institutions with which the department or the faculty has an arrangement, but the student is free to find his/her own institution if preferred. The faculty offers mobility scholarship programmes to help with the costs of placements.
As for the rationale for this obligation: it is formally based on a faculty regulation, but generally reflects a consensus of opinion across the university that foreign experience is irreplaceable for young researchers.
However, overseas stays need not be thought of only in terms of obligation. There is the possibility of staying abroad for more than one semester, especially in the second part of the course, naturally with the agreement of the supervisor. Faculty-wide courses are directly intended for this purpose and credits can therefore be obtained in this way. The basic conditions are, of course, the value of the activity and its contribution to the successful and timely completion of studies.