Professor MacFarlane was educated at Dartmouth College and Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and received his doctorate from Oxford in 1982.
He has held research positions at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), the Center for International Affairs (Harvard), the University of British Columbia, the University of California (Berkeley), and at the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House).
He was assistant and associate professor of international relations at the University of Virginia and professor of politics at Queen’s University. In 1996, Professor MacFarlane was elected to the Lester B. Pearson Professorship of International Relations at the University of Oxford and retired from that position in 2022. During his time in Oxford, he served as head of the Department of Politics and International Relations for five years and as a trustee of the university for four years.
He has written extensively on Soviet and Russian foreign and security policy, international engagement in civil conflicts, the evolving meaning of security, Georgian and Caucasian security issues, and change in the international system. His current research focuses on the international relations of the Caucasus, Russia’s relations with its neighbors, and the process of NATO and EU enlargement. He currently serves as a member of the board of the Center for Social Sciences in Tbilisi.
In 2011, he was awarded a doctorate (honoris causa) by the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University.