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Students: Graduate Studies in Political Theory at McGill

Updated: May 29, 2019

Are you thinking about doing graduate studies at McGill in political theory?

Here are some thoughts about whether our program is for you and how to apply.

Intellectual Life

The McGill political science department is home to an extremely lively graduate program in political theory. Our political theory faculty currently comprises

Arash Abizadeh

Jacob T. Levy

Catherine Lu

Victor Muñiz-Fraticelli

Will Roberts

Daniel Weinstock (by courtesy)

Yves Winter

Our graduate students come from across the globe. Beyond graduate seminars, the centre of intellectual life for graduate students in political theory is the Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire en philosophie politique de Montréal (GRIPP), which brings together faculty and students from the political science and philosophy departments from all four Montreal universities for a regular speaker series, day-long workshops, and a regular research workshop in which advanced graduate students present their work. This lively Montreal-wide intellectual community gives students access to professors from all four universities (and McGill students can take graduate seminars with professors at the other institutions for credit as well). Our graduate students also benefit from McGill’s Research Group on Constitutional Studies (RGCS), which holds a regular speaker series and workshops; many students participate in an RGCS reading group led by Professor Levy. PhD students normally receive a work desk at the RGCS in the Ferrier building where the political theory faculty also have offices.

Admission and Thesis Adviser

The process of being admitted to the Department of Political Science PhD or MA program requires that you first submit a formal application. The application deadline is generally in January, for admission the following September. You can find full details, as well as application forms, at the following websites:

In your application, you have the opportunity to indicate your preferred supervisor(s). However, you do not need to secure a thesis adviser to gain admission into the graduate program and, in general, professors are unable to commit to being your adviser until you have already been accepted. Even then, you will generally need to do two years of course work, followed by your comprehensive PhD exams. (MA students first do coursework and, if they opt for the thesis option, do the thesis in their second year.) It is only after these stages that you will formally begin work on the thesis, and by this time, many students’ idea of their thesis topic will have evolved a great deal. This means that students often end up working with thesis advisors different from their initial program supervisor and with whom they initially envisioned they would work.

Once you apply, your application will be reviewed by the graduate admissions committee, who will then make a preliminary list of promising candidates. At this point, the committee may contact the professors with whom promising candidates have indicated they would like to work, in addition to other professors the committee deems would be a good match for the candidate. Once the committee finalizes its list of candidates, offers of admission will be sent out. Each year, approximately 8-10 candidates are accepted into the PhD program. This includes candidates in comparative politics, international relations, Canadian politics, and political theory (which is my field). The number of political theory candidates varies by year. Our department fully funds its PhD students for their first four years, but MA students are normally expected to secure outside funding.

Please note that, although much of my work is on democratic theory and nationalism, my field is political theory and not comparative politics. This means that my work focuses on the philosophical aspects of nationalist social and political thought and does not focus on studying particular nationalist movements (although of course it is informed by empirical work). If your area of interest concerns the more directly empirical study of nationalism, including nationalisms of particular regions, you will best be matched with professors of comparative politics.

Our Most Recent PhDs in Political Theory

Douglas William Hanes:

“Beside Our/Selves: Suffering and Agency in Feminist Political Theory.” Defended August 2015.

Committee: Jacob Levy (chair), Yves Winter.

Nina Valiquette Moreau:

“Musical Judgement: Aesthetics and Jurisprudence in Plato.” Defended March 2013.

Committee: Arash Abizadeh (chair), Christina Tarnopolsky, Jacob Levy.

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