The Best International Relations Schools in the World

U.S. scholars rank the top 25 IR programs for undergraduates, master's, and Ph.D.s.

The road to Washington is paved with elite educations. Indeed, for young people hoping to secure jobs in Foggy Bottom, on Pennsylvania Avenue, and elsewhere in the foreign-policy establishment, a key ingredient to success is often a diploma in international relations (IR) from one of America’s top universities. There are debates to be had about this model—how the pipeline can become more affordable, for instance, to ensure greater diversity among government hires. Scholars and policymakers alike rightly agree, however, that language skills, expertise about regions of the world, and other knowledge gleaned in the classroom make for a stronger, more effective corps of foreign-policy wonks. So which schools prepare students best?

The results of the 2014 Ivory Tower survey—a collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) project at the College of William & Mary—provide an insider’s guide. Responses from 1,615 IR scholars drawn from 1,375 U.S. colleges and universities determined rankings for the leading Ph.D., terminal master’s, and undergraduate programs in IR. (The scholars were asked to list the top five institutions in each category.) The survey also quizzed respondents about recent historical events and future policy challenges: Just how plausible is a U.S. war with China, for example, and who was the most effective secretary of state over the past 50 years? (Hint: Neither Condoleezza Rice nor John Kerry.)

All told, the Ivory Tower survey offers a window into how America’s top IR scholars see the world today—and which institutions are effectively nurturing future generations of thinkers and policymakers.

Top U.S. Undergraduate Institutions to Study International Relations

  • 1.Harvard University46.20%
  • 2.Princeton University39.14%
  • 3.Stanford University33.02%
  • 4.Georgetown University28.06%
  • 5.Columbia University24.37%
  • 6.University of Chicago19.62%
  • 7.Yale University18.67%
  • 8.George Washington University11.39%
  • 9.American University9.92%
  • 10.University of Michigan9.49%
  • 11.University of California—Berkeley8.54%
  • 12.Dartmouth College8.23%
  • 13.University of California—San Diego7.70%
  • 14.Tufts University7.07%
  • 15.Cornell University6.43%
  • 16.Johns Hopkins University6.12%
  • 17.Massachusetts Institute of Technology5.06%
  • 18.College of William & Mary4.54%
  • 19.Swarthmore College3.48%
  • 20.Williams College2.95%
  • 21.University of California—Los Angeles2.85%
  • 22.Brown University2.74%
  • 22.University of Virginia2.74%
  • 24.Ohio State University2.64%
  • 25.Duke University2.22%

Top Master's Programs for Policy Career in International Relations

  • 1.Georgetown University58.61%
  • 2.Johns Hopkins University47.76%
  • 3.Harvard University46.31%
  • 4.Princeton University33.33%
  • 5.Columbia University31.21%
  • 6.Tufts University29.08%
  • 7.George Washington University26.06%
  • 8.American University17.11%
  • 9.London School of Economics13.42%
  • 10.Stanford University5.37%
  • 11.University of Denver5.15%
  • 12.University of Chicago5.03%
  • 13.University of California—San Diego4.70%
  • 14.University of Oxford4.47%
  • 15.Yale University3.91%
  • 16.Syracuse University3.13%
  • 17.University of California—Berkeley2.57%
  • 18.University of Cambridge2.35%
  • 19.University of Pittsburgh1.79%
  • 20.Massachusetts Institute of Technology1.68%
  • 21.Middlebury Institute of Int’l Studies at Monterey1.45%
  • 21.Sciences Po—Paris1.45%
  • 21.University of Michigan1.45%
  • 24.Graduate Inst. of Int’l and Dev. Studies1.12%
  • 24.New York University1.12%
  • 24.Texas A&M University1.12%

Top Ph.D. Programs for Academic Career in International Relations

  • 1.Harvard University62.51%
  • 2.Princeton University53.17%
  • 3.Stanford University48.76%
  • 4.Columbia University32.44%
  • 5.Yale University21.80%
  • 6.University of Chicago21.37%
  • 7.University of California—San Diego16.00%
  • 8.University of Michigan15.68%
  • 9.Massachusetts Institute of Technology13.43%
  • 10.University of California—Berkeley12.03%
  • 11.University of Oxford8.59%
  • 12.Cornell University7.30%
  • 13.London School of Economics6.66%
  • 14.Ohio State University5.48%
  • 15.Georgetown University5.37%
  • 16.University of Cambridge4.51%
  • 17.Johns Hopkins University4.08%
  • 18.George Washington University3.22%
  • 19.New York University2.69%
  • 19.University of Wisconsin—Madison2.69%
  • 21.University of Minnesota2.26%
  • 22.American University2.15%
  • 22.Duke University2.15%
  • 22.University of Rochester2.15%
  • 25.University of California—Los Angeles2.04%

Notes from the Ivory Tower

A survey of America's top International Relations scholars on foreign-policy research.

Which area of the world do you consider to be of greatest strategic importance to the United States today?

Of greatest strategic importance to the US today.
  • 140%East Asia (including China)
  • 237%Middle East and North Africa (including Turkey)
  • 310%Western Europe
  • 45%Russia/Former Soviet Union (excluding the Baltic states)
  • 52%Latin America (including Mexico and the Caribbean)
  • 52%North America (Excluding Mexico)

  • 71%Central and Eastern Europe (including the Baltic states)

  • 71%South Asia (including Afghanistan)
  • 71%Southeast Asia

  • 71%Sub-Saharan Africa
  • All other areas less than 1%

Which area of the world do you consider to be of greatest strategic importance to the United States 20 years from now?

Of greatest strategic importance to the US 20 years from now.
  • 166%East Asia (including China)
  • 210%Middle East and North Africa (including Turkey)
  • 36%Western Europe
  • 43%Latin America (including Mexico and the Caribbean)
  • 43%Sub-Saharan Africa

  • 62%Arctic
  • 62%Russia/Former Soviet Union (excluding the Baltic states)
  • 62%South Asia (including Afghanistan)
  • 62%Southeast Asia
  • All other areas less than 2%

What are the three most important foreign-policy issues facing the United States today?

  • 1.Global climate change40.96%
  • 2.Armed conflict in Middle East26.81%
  • 3.Failed or failing states22.29%
  • 4.China's rising military power21.54%
  • 5.Transnational terrorism21.23%
  • 6.Renewed Russian assertiveness17.47%
  • 7.Global poverty16.42%
  • 8.Global wealth disparities15.66%
  • 9.China's economic influence15.51%
  • 10.Proliferation of WMD14.01%
  • 10.Transnational political violence14.01%

What are the three most important foreign-policy issues the United States will face over the next 10 years?

  • 1.Global climate change45.90%
  • 2.China's rising military power28.28%
  • 3.Armed conflict in the Middle East23.03%
  • 4.China's economic influence20.87%
  • 5.Failed or failing states20.71%
  • 6.Transnational terrorism19.94%
  • 7.Global wealth disparities16.07%
  • 8.Renewed Russian assertiveness14.37%
  • 9.Proliferation of WMD12.83%
  • 10.Transnational political violence12.52%

To which of the following events did you respond by increasing or decreasing your research in a related area of study? (Top 10 responses)

  • 1.Other(40%)
  • 2.9/11 attacks(37%)
  • 3.Iraq war(30%)
  • 4.Fall of the Soviet Union(26%)
  • 5.Arab Spring(22%)
  • 6.Global financial crisis(19%)
  • 6.Afghanistan war(19%)
  • 8.Rwandan genocide(11%)
  • 9.War in Kosovo(9%)
  • 10.China’s opening(8%)

Likelihood of U.S. war with China or Russia in the next 20 years (on a scale of 0-10)

Likelihood of a China Russia War?
0 won't happen
will happen 10

Who was the most effective U.S. secretary of state of the past 50 years?

  • 1.Henry Kissinger32.21%
  • 2.Don't know18.32%
  • 3.James Baker17.71%
  • 4.Madeleine Albright8.70%
  • 4.Hillary Clinton8.70%
  • 6.George Shultz5.65%
  • 7.Dean Rusk3.51%
  • 8.Warren Christopher1.53%
  • 8.Cyrus Vance1.53%
  • 10.Colin Powell1.07%
  • 11.Condoleezza Rice0.46%
  • 12.Lawrence Eagleburger0.31%
  • 13.John Kerry0.31%

Who was the most influential scholar of the past 20 years?

  • 1.Alexander Wendt40.76%
  • 2.Robert Keohane34.00%
  • 3.John Mearsheimer32.73%
  • 4.James Fearon24.82%
  • 5.Kenneth Waltz23.23%
  • 6.Joseph Nye Jr.17.32%
  • 7.Bruce Bueno de Mesquita13.20%
  • 8.Samuel Huntington11.51%
  • 9.Martha Finnemore11.19%
  • 10.Robert Jervis11.09%
  • 11.Stephen Walt10.77%
  • 12.Kathryn Sikkink8.76%
  • 13.Peter Katzenstein7.92%
  • 14.Beth Simmons7.18%
  • 15.David Lake6.76%

Survey Demographics

Sex demographicsAge breakdownConsulted with government in the past five years / did not

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