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International Relations - MA

Why study this course?

This course focuses on international relations today and on providing an understanding of global dynamics. It offers a broad range of modules including a work placement opportunity, with subject areas encompassing international relations theory, international politics and international public law.

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The International Relations MA aims to equip you for analytical research on contemporary structures, processes and factors in international relations. It's ideal for those whose career plans involve dealing with international affairs but who lack an academic background in the field.

The course is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, and there's a heavy emphasis on discussion and presentation.

If you're interested in policy issues, the vocational nature of the course is further enhanced by the dissertation; this allows you to engage in a substantial piece of research and to apply your knowledge and skills in an area of particular interest to you and your career aspirations.


Assessment varies from module to module but typically encompasses a combination of essays, project work, oral presentations and unseen examinations. The dissertation element forms a third of the overall assessment weighting.


You will be required to have:

  • an undergraduate degree of second class honours or above in a relevant discipline

Candidates with other qualifications may be considered in exceptional circumstances.

All applicants must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Applicants who require a Tier 4 student visa may need to provide a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.

The modules listed below are for the academic year 2016/17 and represent the course modules at this time. Modules and module details (including, but not limited to, location and time) are subject to change over time.

Year 1 modules include:

  • This module currently runs:
    • summer studies - Tuesday afternoon
    • autumn semester - Tuesday afternoon
    • spring semester - Tuesday afternoon

    This module focuses on first designing and then writing a major piece of independent research in international relations.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Wednesday

    This core module introduces students to the systematic study of International Law in an international relations context.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Tuesday

    This core module introduces students to the systematic study of contemporary international politics, setting contemporary political actors, structures and processes in their historical context.This module introduces students to contrasting perspectives within which to engage in systematic study contemporary international politics, setting contemporary political actors, structures and processes in their historical context. It is designed to enable students to explore how contemporary international politics has emerged from earlier transformations in the forms and substance of international politics, particularly transformations during the 20th century. At the same time, the module aims to help students explore contrasting and competing accounts of what the driving forces behind these transformations have been. And against this context the module aims to enable students explore for themselves the dynamics of contemporary international politics, including forces for change and continuity.

    Assessment: an essay on themes in the historical evolution of international politics, 45%; an unseen exam on contemporary structures, processes and actors, 45%; seminar participation 10%;

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Wednesday morning
    • autumn semester - Wednesday afternoon

    This core module is devoted to International Relations theories, their relation to more general social science theories and the theoretical basis of research strategies in international relations. The module also includes workshops on research methods and practical exercises in designing a piece of IR research. The module will give a broad overview of the discipline of international relations, engaging with the scope of study, key theories and concepts, and will ground these in a historical overview of the international system since 1945. Key historical themes are highlighted to demonstrate changes in the patterns and conduct of world politics.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Wednesday afternoon

    This module will examine the changing, contemporary foreign policy of the United States of America in the 21st Century.

    It will explore the constitutional, institutional, and political frameworks within which contemporary foreign policy in the U.S. is formulated and executed, illustrating the complexities and difficulties faced by U.S. decision makers. In particular, attention will be paid to the changing nature of power, and whether America remains a unipolar power, as argued by Charles Krauthammer, or if it is now having to adjust to a multipolar world, and what that might mean for the U.S. in the future. This will include considering how power may be shifting in the 21st Century from the U.S., and the West, to the East, or the so-called “Rest”.

    The module begins with a survey of the American foreign policy process. Topics that we will examine include international political forces, the Presidency and Congress, the executive bureaucracy, interest groups, public opinion and the media. Subsequent sections of the module examine the nature and role of power and force in today’s world; the challenges to American power; human rights and the role of moral principles in American foreign policy; the debate surrounding multilateral and unilateral foreign policies; the response to 9/11 and new security threats; and the future of American foreign policy in the 21st century.

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  • This module examines the process of European integration. It seeks to explain why this process has occurred and to examine the nature of its principal institutional manifestation, the European Union.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Thursday

    This module examines the theory and institutionalized practice of human rights and the significance of human rights politics for the structure of the present world order. It contextualises, analyzes, evaluates and applies various conceptions of human rights that are operative within international relations and within the study of international relations.. Attention is paid to the transformation of state sovereignty by human rights discourse and practice. The relation of human rights to the international order is problematised in the context of the history and philosophy of human rights, liberalism and its critics and opponents, and institutions and systems of international governance and conflict.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Tuesday

    The module starts with a discussion of poverty and inequality, looking at the hard facts of social exclusion and its effects within the nation state and globally. From here we move to a discussion of disease - particularly the uneven impact of disease on more and less developed countries, and on the rich and poor – and the ways in which both disease and the fear of it can be de-stabilising. Next we pick up the important and related thread of environmental degradation. Any number of environmental concerns present potential threats to stability: shortages, food or oil and loss of soil or landmass, for example. One of the effects of environmental degradation, as well as of disease and poverty, is population movement. The movement of large populations in flight from deprivation, conflict or persecution has become a feature of this period. Refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants pose different problems, depending on where they are. In camps on the borders of neighbouring countries they may be a drain on scarce resources, while desperation breeds disorder; as illegal communities they become criminalised while engendering fear and perhaps violence in the host society. Such poverty and desperation can make people vulnerable to new versions of old crimes. Slavery is alive and well today, although it comes in new forms. Vulnerable people are trafficked around the world as labour, for sex, and for their organs. Often perceived as criminality – which, of course, it is – such a trade is only possible because of the vulnerability of a target population as a result of poverty and inequality.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Monday afternoon

    This module explores the roles and activities of a range of actors in resolving intra-state and inter-state conflicts. It examines the theoretical, analytical, normative and practical aspects of international conflict resolution. It considers several approaches, drawing upon concepts, theories and policy prescriptions developed within fields that contribute to the subject area.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Tuesday afternoon

    Religion and International Relations
    This module examines the role of religion in politics and, in particular, international politics.
    Semester: Spring
    Assessment: Unseen examination 50%; coursework 50%

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Thursday afternoon

    Defining security remains a difficult academic task and it is this ambiguous nature of the concept which forms the basis for this core unit. Security Studies is one of the most important sub-disciplines within the overarching field of International Relations and stands alongside other sub-disciplines such as International Political Economy and Foreign Policy Analysis. Its close association to International Relations and its theories ensures a rich and vast array of subject matter. At the same time, however, it remains distinct in terms of its central objectives, theories and approaches despite being able to draw on International Relations for support.

    Security Studies begins by addressing a number of fundamental issues, the most important of which is perhaps defining what we actually mean by the concept. This pursuit is dominated by debates between a variety of discourses: namely, those who seek to retain the discipline's focus purely on military conflict and those who argue that in a globalised world Security Studies needs to be expanded to a consideration of economic, environmental as well as social issues. This Module will seek to address these debates in the context of both national as well as international security issues. At the same time this Module will show that the debates between the traditionalists and the advocates of "new thinking" are having a profound impact on the discipline as both military and non-military issues begin to compete for the attention of academics and policy elites.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Tuesday afternoon

    This module examines Europe's relations with the rest of the world since 1989. International relations theory is used to explain the processes involved in the construction of a New World Order

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester afternoon
    • spring semester afternoon

    This is an option which enables students to both gain experience working for an organisation in the field of international relations and to engage in a piece of research relevant to that organisation's work. The module aims to help students understand how organisations try to influence international events and/or how organisations in one country seek to influence internal developments in another country. By having or acquiring a placement with a relevant organisation, students will be able to enhance their understanding of the practice of an organisation seeking to shape some aspect of international or transnational relations. Students should note that although staff can assist in the search for a work placement, we cannot guarantee a suitable placement.

    Read full details.

The course is divided into six modules, some compulsory and other that allow you to develop your preferred subject areas.

Core modules:

  • Theory and Research in International Relations
  • The Evolution of the Modern Inter-state System
  • International Relations and the Legal Regulation of Conflict

Option modules include:

  • Religion in International Relations
  • Human Security
  • Security Studies
  • International Conflict Resolution
  • The New Europe in the New International System

Finally, you're required to produce a dissertation of 15,000 words to be submitted at the end of the course. This forms a central component of the degree. You're invited to propose a topic for detailed independent research before working with staff to develop your ideas into a coherent and feasible research proposal.

Students who have taken this course have progressed to an array of careers ranging from the public sector, through NGOs to international companies. The course has proven particularly beneficial for those who are seeking work in organisations operating in a transnational environment.

Between 2016 and 2020 we're investing £125 million in the London Metropolitan University campus, moving all of our activity to our current Holloway campus in Islington, north London. This will mean the teaching location of some courses will change over time.

Whether you will be affected will depend on the duration of your course, when you start and your mode of study. The earliest moves affecting new students will be in September 2017. This may mean you begin your course at one location, but over the duration of the course you are relocated to one of our other campuses. Our intention is that no full-time student will change campus more than once during a course of typical duration.

All students will benefit from our move to one campus, which will allow us to develop state-of-the-art facilities, flexible teaching areas and stunning social spaces.

Please note, in addition to the tuition fee there may be additional costs for things like equipment, materials, printing, textbooks, trips or professional body fees.

Additionally, there may be other activities that are not formally part of your course and not required to complete your course, but which you may find helpful (for example, optional field trips). The costs of these are additional to your tuition fee and the fees set out above and will be notified when the activity is being arranged.

How to apply

Use the apply button to begin your application.

When to apply

You are advised to apply as early as possible as applications will only be considered if there are places available on the course.

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