Program Overview

The department prides itself on providing graduate students with innovative, world-class research opportunities in a collegial environment. We have 43 professors including adjuncts and cross-appointed members who do research with our approximately 26 graduate students. Dalhousie University has a strong commitment to excellence, and it offers among the best teaching and research facilities in Canada.

The Department of Political Science is a small comprehensive department with research programs covering four subfields:

  • Canadian Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • Political Theories
  • International Relations and Foreign Policy

Our knowledgeable faculty and staff provide graduate students with an environment in which ideas and research facilities are shared amongst groups. To further enhance your learning experience, we offer seminars to graduate students featuring a wide variety of researchers from around the world.


The Department of Political Science offers thesis based graduate training at both the MA (Master of Arts) and Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) levels.

MA Degree Program

The MA is a one-year (12 month) program consisting of 18 credit hours and a thesis. A candidate for the degree Master of Arts in Political Science will require at least 12 months of full-time study to complete all degree requirements. Courses normally include at least 6 of the 18 required credit hours in core graduate seminars (selected amongst International Relations, Canadian, and Comparative) *, 3 credit hours in Research Methods class (POLI 5100.03), and the remaining 9 credit hours in graduate courses in any field. 6 of these remaining 9 credit hours can be taken as reading classes, or from courses in other departments (with permission of the instructor and Graduate Coordinator).

*One of the core graduate seminars may be substituted with an alternative if appropriate given the student’s research area with approval of the graduate coordinator.

Applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate a minimum TOEFL score of 600, or the equivalent score on a comparable test.

The student must choose one of four broad areas of specialization: Canadian Politics, Comparative Politics, Political Theories, International Relations and Foreign Policy.

All students must have a supervisor. You have a maximum of four months from the time your program begins to finalize your supervisor. Your supervisor is then responsible for directing the research component of your degree.

The passing grade for any course is B-, which is set by FGS. If a student obtains a grade less than B-, this is recorded as a fail and he/she will be withdrawn from the Graduate Program and must apply to the Department for reinstatement. Reinstatement is at the discretion of the Department and Faculty of Graduate Studies, following input from the Supervisory Committee. If a student fails two courses, re-admission is at the discretion of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and is highly unlikely.

Master’s Thesis
Students must complete a thesis based on some original research. The subject of research must be approved by the candidate's supervisor and the thesis must be read and approved by the supervisor and two other faculty members. Part of the research may be conducted off-campus at a collaborating institution. The supervisor based at that institution will be an adjunct member of the Department of Political Science and a member of the joint Political Science graduate program with Dalhousie University. There will also be an on-campus co-supervisor.

An acceptable thesis on a research topic must be submitted. Detailed specifications of the format of the thesis are available through DalOnline or your graduate handbook. Acceptance of the thesis requires the approval by an Examining Committee following an oral defence of the thesis.

Other requirements:

Supervisory Committee meetings: it is required that the student meet formally with their Supervisory Committee within the first six months of registration and subsequently at least once every six months. While one meeting in a year must be a formal one, the other meeting may be held informally; in the latter case, the meeting may simply take the form of a brief discussion of the student's academic progress, but, apart from the student and the supervisor, the meeting must involve at least one other member of the Committee.

PhD Degree Program

The PhD program requires two years of full-time residency and is expected to be completed within four years. Students must take 9 credit hours of core courses in their area of research (selected amongst International Relations, Canadian, and Comparative), and 3 credit hours in a research methods class (POLI 5100.03). The two principal requirements consist of comprehensive examinations in two fields (a major and minor field) and an original thesis. Course work will be required as appropriate to prepare the student for her or his comprehensive examinations. These examinations will include both written and oral components. Before proceeding to the thesis, a student must present and defend a thesis proposal. Also, reading competence in a second language, usually French, must be demonstrated before the student defends his or her dissertation proposal. The thesis is written under the direction of a committee comprising of the supervisor and two other members and may include qualified faculty members from other departments and other universities. The completed thesis is subject to a public, oral defence.

PhD students must complete two Comprehensive Exams (Major and Minor), an oral comprehensive exam, an oral proposal defense, and a Final Oral Defence throughout their program.

  • Thesis Oral Exam Final Defence: students must write and orally defend a research thesis. The thesis must be in a form that is publishable in refereed scientific journals.

Supervisory Committee
Students must meet annually with their supervisory committee. Within 12 months of starting a PhD degree, your supervisory committee will be formed by your supervisor, in general consultation with you, the student. This committee will consist of a minimum of 3 faculty members, usually but not necessarily members of Political Science. You will thereafter meet with this committee at least twice every 12 months to review your progress. For full information see the Graduate Supervisory Committee page in the graduate handbook.

Academic Integrity
It is of vital importance that you properly cite the work of others that you use and/or describe in your thesis and other writing. Failure to do so is considered plagiarism and is treated very seriously by the University. All students are expected to familiarize themselves with the Section on Intellectual Honesty in the “University Regulations” of the Graduate Calendar.

Advanced Credit
The applicant must make advanced credit requests as part of the admission process. Credit will not be given for course work taken as part of another completed degree/diploma or for courses taken to bring the grade point average to a required level for admission.


For general questions regarding graduate programs offered in Political Science, contact us at

Some courses are listed as exclusionary to one another.  This means that students may not take both courses as designated.

Not all courses are offered each year.  Please consult the current timetable for this year’s offering.  For further information please contact the department. 

Courses offered by the Department are organized into four fields, as follows:

  • Canadian Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations and Foreign Policy
  • Political Theory

Each field (except for Political Theory) contains courses offered as core graduate seminars, and courses cross-listed at the upper undergraduate level. Graduate students will be required to satisfy appropriately higher standards. In addition, directed reading courses may be arranged on an individual or small group basis with appropriate faculty members. Reading courses are particularly appropriate in areas closely related to a student's thesis research and are often offered by a student's thesis supervisor.

Note: Not all courses are offered every year. Please consult the current timetable for this year’s offerings.

Canadian Government and Politics

Core Graduate Seminars:

  • POLI 5207.03: Advanced Seminar in Canadian Politics

Sub-field Courses

  • POLI 5221.03: Canadian Parties in Comparative Perspective
  • POLI 5232.03: Urban Governance in Canada
  • POLI 5234.03: Canadian Urban Politics in Comparative Perspective
  • POLI 5240.03: Introduction to Public Policy
  • POLI 5241.03: Introduction to Policy Analysis
  • POLI 5242.03: Politics of Reason, Passion, and Biology
  • POLI 5250.03: Canadian Public Administration
  • POLI 5260.03: The Politics of Health Care

Comparative Politics

Core Graduate Seminars:

Sub-field Courses:

  • POLI 5302.03: Comparative Development Administration
  • POLI 5303.03: Human Rights and Politics
  • POLI 5322.03: The EU as a Global Actor
  • POLI 5355.03: Comparative Perspective on the Development State
  • POLI 5345.03: Politics of Southern Africa
  • POLI 5380.03: Politics of Climate Change

Political Theory and Methodology.

Sub-field Courses:

  • POLI 5403.03: Human Rights: Philosophical Issues
  • POLI 5440.03: The Politics of Affect: Theories of Emotion and Political Life
  • POLI 5450.03: Political Theories of International Ethics and Global Justice
  • POLI 5466.03: The Social and Political Constructions of Health and Medicine
  • POLI 5479.03: Classical Liberalism and Democracy
  • POLI 5481.03: Theories of Violence, Persecution and Genocide

International Relations and Foreign Policy

Core Graduate Seminars:

  • POLI 5523.03: International Relations Theory 1: Order, Conflict and Change
  • POLI 5524.03: International Relations Theory 2: Cooperation, Institutions and Development

Sub-field Courses:

  • POLI 5532.03: Indigenous Global Politics
  • POLI 5550.03: Japanese Foreign Policy
  • POLI 5560.03: Issues in Global Security and Development
  • POLI 5561.03: Security Development Nexus; Theory, Policy & Complex Operations
  • POLI 5565.03: Contemporary Security Studies
  • POLI 5569.03: Canadian Foreign Policy
  • POLI 5575.03: Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control in World Politics
  • POLI 5581.03: International Diplomacy: Institutions and Practices
  • POLI 5587.03: International Political Economy
  • POLI 5589.03: Politics of the Sea II

Research Seminar

  • POLI 5100.03:  Research Methods and Design

Directed Reading Courses

Graduate students taking directed reading courses register under one of the following designations, depending on whether the course extends for the first term, the second term, or the full academic year:


Students register for the thesis under the appropriate designation, as follows:

The Centre for the Study of Security and Development is an important part of the Department. The Centre is active in research, publishing, policy advising, and teaching on various aspects of foreign policy, defence and security studies, and international relations. All of these projects provide opportunities for students to take a “hands-on” role in research, conferences, and publishing. Each year, approximately half of our new graduate students come to Dalhousie because they want to be involved with the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies.