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Doctoral Programme in Political and Social Sciences - Candidates affected by the war in Ukraine

Programme Start Date





Badia Fiesolana

Applications are now closed. The deadline to apply was 27 April 2022 at midnight. It is no longer possible to apply.

Read this application guide carefully, to make sure that you have the right qualifications and that you file all required documents and information when you apply.


How to Apply

You must submit your application and all required documents via the interactive online application form which will be available from late March.

The deadline for completing the application form and for the submission of references and all required documents is: 27 April. Applications may be submitted until midnight (24:00 - CET) on that day.

There are two distinct phases in the application process:

1. Register as early as possible

You are encouraged to register, inserting your personal and referee details as soon as possible after the application form will be activated on 1 November. This is important to allow sufficient time for your referees to submit the reference letters before the deadline. Reference letters will not be accepted after the deadline.

2. Complete and submit your application by the deadline

Once you have registered you may continue to work on your application (including required documents) until the deadline. Submit the application only when you have filled in all the information correctly and have successfully uploaded the final version of the required documents. References can be submitted at any time up until the deadline, before or after you submit your application.

By registering/submitting an application, you give your consent for processing the data as specified in the Privacy Statement for Application and Selection Procedures for EUI Post-Graduate Programmes and in accordance with the EUI’s Data Protection Policy outlined in the Decision of the President No. 10 of 18 February 2019 (EUI Data Protection Policy)

Degree Requirements

As a general rule, candidates should have completed a Master degree or be in the process of completing this. Candidates, who are still enrolled in their Master degree at the time of application and are selected, may be conditionally admitted to the PhD programme. They must complete their Master Degree by 31 August at the latest to be finally admitted and registered with the EUI.


Language Requirements

The expected level of English proficiency is level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Applicants are normally required to submit an English international language certificate to demonstrate their level or to submit a declaration explaining the reasons why they are not in a position to provide a certificate.

  • Candidates who speak English as a first language or who have written their thesis in English for completion of a degree from a university programme entirely taught in English are exempt from submitting a certificate of English proficiency.
  • Candidates who submit a certificate with a test score below the threshold indicated hereunder are not automatically rejected; if they are pre-selected they may be asked to take an English language assessment test with the EUI.
  • Candidates who are unable to provide a certificate must attach a personal declaration to the application form stating the reasons for this. Exemption from the requirement to submit an English international language certificate may be granted in the case of extenuating circumstances. Where the certificate of English proficiency is missing and the candidates are pre-selected, they will be asked to take an English language assessment test with the EUI.

Note on EUI English language assessment tests: If the results of the test fall below the expected level of English proficiency, the candidate may nevertheless be conditionally admitted, but will have to follow English Academic Literacies courses during the programme. Sufficient progress in English language skills will be a criterion for admission to the second year. The candidate may also be required to follow further English language courses before starting their studies at the EUI.

The following international certificates of English proficiency are recognised by the EUI:

Type of certificateExpected test score, PhD Programme
IELTSFrom 7.5
TOEFL (IBT)*From 110
Cambridge ProficiencyA/B/C
Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)A/B

*Candidates are requested to submit the TOEFL Test Taker Score Report to their application. In addition, if they wish to also send the scores via ETS, the EUI code is 9408. The special TOEFL Home Edition Test is accepted, for candidates who are unable to take the test at a test centre due to public health concerns.

Required Documents

Before starting your online submission, prepare the required documents:

  • One or two page CV
  • A cover letter (up to 700 words), which describes your personal circumstances following the war in Ukraine.
  • research proposal of 2500 words (See below)
  • Degree transcript(s) issued by your university listing the exams/courses taken at university, grades/marks awarded and (if applicable) the final degree result. You should also attach your degree transcript(s) from previous degree(s). Do not attach or send supplementary documents that are not strictly requested, such as traineeships diplomas etc. Unofficial copies of the degree transcripts/certificates may be accepted in case of extenuating circumstances.
  • International English language certificate or exemption declaration.
  • Copy of an identity document (such as passport or ID card) - JPG format. If you hold dual nationality, you should attach the copy of a second passport/ID card proving your second nationality. The copy of your ID document(s) will be only processed by the EUI Administration and the relevant funding authority(ies), it will not be distributed to the EUI Departmental selection committee.

Note that attachments must be PDF using standard international fonts (max size 1MB), if not otherwise indicated. Do NOT use macros, special characters, password-protected attachments, electronic signatures. The EUI reserves the right to verify the authenticity of the certificates you provide with the competent issuing authorities.

Research Proposal

Applicants are selected for interviews on the basis of their academic record and their research proposal. Your research proposal shows that you are ready to write a PhD dissertation that can be supervised at the EUI. The proposal should outline the project that you wish to pursue in your PhD dissertation. It should demonstrate command of the state of the art in the field (with references to the literature) and of research methodology within the discipline, formulate a research question and include a short bibliography. Where appropriate it should also include the theory or hypotheses that will be examined or a description of the empirical content and sources of the research project.

The policy of the EUI is not to offer individual guidance and advice on dissertation proposals. You should not contact potential supervisors and ask them to support your application or to provide you with advice. You should instead read the information on research themes supervised by the department and by individual professors. In the application form and in your research proposal you can indicate one or more professors who you think could supervise your dissertation.

Please also consider the following points when framing your research proposal for studies in the SPS Department.

  1. You should identify a research question that you aim to explore and present your argument with clarity, while also attempting to demonstrate the feasibility of the project. Please remember that ours is a four-year programme and you will need to limit your subject, explain its rationale and clearly focus your research and writing.
  2. The title of your proposal should be well-defined and fully express its content. It is equally important to produce a good abstract, which will be included in the summary of your application file. Your abstract will be read first and faculty members will often decide on that basis whether to read your full application more carefully.
  3. You are expected to elaborate on the methods that you are planning to adopt in your thesis.
  4. The overall length of your proposal must not exceed 2500 words (including footnotes, references and bibliography). Longer proposals may be excluded from further consideration.

Please also note that you will be required to write a Short Abstract of your research proposal (max 1000 characters) directly on the online application form.

In addition to the general guidelines above, please also consult the following guidelines for writing a research proposal for a PhD in the Department of Political and Social Sciences.



General recommendations

A proposal should be as general as possible in order for it to be reviewed by (and capture the attention of) any social scientist, but it should also be as specific as possible in order to trigger the interest of the faculty member(s) who could potentially become your supervisor(s).

Try to make clear which parts of your project are conventional wisdom, and which are innovative.

Highlighting paradoxes and unexpected results can also be a powerful tool to motivate readers whose research interests are far from yours.

Try to keep the spotlight on the main idea(s) of your project along the whole text while clearly spelling out your concrete plans.

Be especially alert when choosing the title and abstract of your proposal. These serve as an entry point to capture the reader’s attention. The 1000-character abstract (part of the online application form) will be included in the summary of your dossier separately from the research proposal, and most faculty members will make a first pre-selection of the proposals they want to read more carefully on the basis of the abstract. Try to focus there on your research question and to explain why it is an innovative and interesting question to ask.

The presentation is also very important. Proposals should be in either good English or French (proofreading is always a good strategy), well-structured with suitable headings, and be clear and legible.

The introduction (why?)

Begin the proposal by clearly stating either the central problem or puzzle which the dissertation will address, be this empirical, theoretical or both.

Another good way to begin a proposal is by stating, where possible, your central point, idea, or claim.

Keep in mind that most social scientists are interested in causal explanations. This means that purely descriptive proposals should be avoided, however interesting and useful they are.

Tell the reader why you want to study what you are studying, and why it is worth doing so.

If your topic (or theory or method) has been very widely discussed in your field, you should highlight the novelty (theoretical, empirical or both) that your project represents with respect to previous works.

The feasibility of the project is not an issue in many proposals, but could become a potential concern in some of them. If you think that this might be the case, you might say a few words about it.

This is also probably a good moment to make explicit any caveats and limitations of your project. You should not, however, attempt to explain either the whole (history of the) world or one single and particular small case. Try to achieve a balance between feasibility and ambition.

The state of the field

Present and discuss the answers that the available literature offers the research question addressed in the proposal succinctly.

  • Describe any key conceptual issues that have already been addressed by work on the question.
  • Explain the central arguments/debates in the literature on the question, and show an awareness of alternative points of view by highlighting the combination of literatures.
  • Describe thorny methodological issues that might hinder work on the question.
  • Offer criticisms and/or suggest pathways for future research.
  • In sum, make clear: first, what we already know and what we do not yet know about your research question; second, how your work will build on previous research.

The project description (what?)

  • Formulate a theory (in more conceptual work) or a series of hypotheses subject to falsification (in empirical studies). This is essentially your general answer to the above-mentioned puzzle. There is nothing wrong with using a “hunch” as your starting point, as long as you argue and use the relevant literature appropriately to justify it. You will have time within the next four years to refine, amend or completely change your hypothesis if necessary.
  • Define key terms. You should avoid using highly abstract and complicated terms in your conceptualization. Try to employ some concept that everyone in your discipline uses and seems to agree on with regard to its meaning or justify why you are not using it and provide your own definition. Use a consistent conceptualization throughout the whole text.
  • Operationalize key terms by defining them in terms that can be measured or observed. Good (maybe not ideal) indicators are those available, close to the concept you want to measure, and widely accepted. The more indicators you have, the more solid your proposal will be.
  • Make explicit the causal mechanism (i.e. the micro-foundation) that links the explanans and explanandum.
  • If possible, offer a list of “control variables” (i.e. all the other possible factors that might influence the phenomenon you want to explain) in order to avoid setting up any spurious relations.
  • We would also strongly recommend that you explicitly specify the existence of any intervening conditions that - at the very least - change the production of the expected effects and - at most - need to be present for the hypothesized relations to hold.

The research design (how, where and when?)

List the research operations you will conduct, and justify why these are the best solutions to tackle your research question.

If you choose to examine only one case, you should provide a careful indication of the relevance of your case and its potential for generalization. Case studies are fine as long as you demonstrate a good command of the case, and strongly argue the non-triviality of its analysis. Explain what kind of case it is and provide some theoretical reasons for looking at it (N.B. not just because it has been in the news recently, or because this particular case has not yet been covered in academic research. Remember that a research gap is not yet a research puzzle that is worth answering).

The comparison of units is particularly appreciated in our department, be it sub-national or cross-national.

If you intend to examine more than one case, you will also be asked to justify the selection of your geographical and temporal span, even though you can do this more briefly when they have chosen a “large N” design.

Elaborate on the logic and strategy behind case selection and comment on the inherent disadvantages (if any).

With regard to methodology, mixed approaches that combine both quantitative and qualitative methods are particularly welcome in our department.

Do not hesitate to include as many details as you can with regard to the datasets, the respondents, or the techniques of analysis you are planning to employ. Being precise about how you think you will develop your research is always welcome and helpful.

Statement of fit (why the SPS Department at the EUI?)

Explain how your background and life experiences (including social, economic, cultural, familial, educational), or other opportunities and challenges motivated your decision to pursue a PhD in political and social sciences at the SPS Department of the EUI.

Make sure you include an explanation of why you believe the SPS Department is a good fit for your professional aims and research interests, as well as with which of its faculty members you might wish to work.

Avoid sending a purely generic statement of purpose that fails to identify why the EUI is a good fit for your training.

Discuss any research skills such as language training or methods/data familiarity that could be useful in the completion of your thesis.

If you have already begun your doctoral study, it is important that you give some indication of the work you have undertaken to date.


A well-composed proposal usually finishes by alluding to the original research question, reminding the reader about the main theoretical claim (in normative works)/falsifiable hypothesis (in empirical ones), and speculating on the final product of the thesis: what kind of impact could your research have if it is successful?


This should be focused and updated but sufficiently comprehensive and grounded in classics.

For the disciplines covered by our department, you can use annual reviews, field-oriented handbooks or on-line databases.

We also recommend looking for personal web pages of leading scholars on your research question.

We advise you to use any reference management software package to cope with bibliographies and references when writing the proposal.

Applicants should register two academic referees in the online application form and ensure that their reference letters are submitted online (directly by the referees) by the applications deadline.

We understand, however, that due to the exceptional circumstances, referees may have difficulties in submitting a reference letter. Applications are accepted also in case one or more reference letters are missing.


Note for Candidates

Your referees will be contacted and will be allowed to submit the reference only after you have completed and registered the first step of the online application form including the names and contact details of referees. In order to receive the references in time by the deadline, you should register the referee details as soon as possible. This is possible any time and you do not yet need to submit the final version of your application at that time.

Applicants to the Department of Economics must register two referees.

When you register your referees' contact details in the online application form, an email requesting a reference on your behalf - featuring an online submission link and relevant instructions - is automatically sent to the referees. Nevertheless, it is your responsibility to contact referees directly to inform them of your request, to verify that they have received the email request and to ensure that they submit the reference by the deadline. You can check the status of submission of each reference letter directly on the online application form. Referees are not able to consult your online application details (except your name and the programme you applied for). Reference letters can be submitted by the registered referees (before the deadline) even after you have submitted your application.

References must be submitted by academic referees (ie: Professors, Lectures etc.) who are in a position to give an academic evaluation of your research, intellectual qualities, ability and potential.

Letters of reference from current full-time or part-time EUI professors are not accepted except:

  • where the application is from a researcher already registered for an EUI degree (i.e. transfer from LL.M. to Ph.D.)
  • where the professor is a member of a different EUI department to the one where the candidate is applying, and who is able to comment on the academic qualities of the candidate


Note for Referees

At the moment when the candidate has registered the referee details, you as the referee will receive an automated e-mail with access details for submitting your reference letter through a dedicated online portal. The system guarantees full confidentiality of the documents submitted which are not accessible to candidates. Candidates can however directly verify the status of the submission of the reference letter on their application form.

  • You should give your opinion of the candidate's intellectual ability, knowledge in his/her field, motivation for research, capacity to work in a group, oral and written expression.
  • Please note that only PDF documents (maximum file size limit is 2.00 MB) can be submitted. Please do not send password protected or secured files.
  • You may use your own reference format.
  • Do not send a hard copy.
  • You may write in a language other than English, but English will guarantee the widest possible reading.

If you have any problems submitting the file or require assistance, please do not hesitate to contact the Admissions Office at the following dedicated e-mail address: [email protected]


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