International Relations - MA

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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. 

In the most recent Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, 100% of all 2017 graduates from this course were in work or further study within six months.

More about this course

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

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.

Fees and key information

Course type Postgraduate
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Entry requirements

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.

Modular structure

The modules listed below are for the academic year 2018/19 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:
    • spring semester - Wednesday

    The aim of this module is to provide students with an understanding of (a) the practical reality of international law (b) the essentials of the existing international legal order and (c) the main politically effective alternatives to (b) proposed since 1945.

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

    The module aims to:
    • allow students the opportunity to engage in a major piece of independent research in International Relations
    • enable students to apply the knowledge and analytical techniques they have gained from studying International Relations to a topic of their choice
    • develop their research, analytical and time-management skills
    apply and develop their skills in writing up their findings in dissertation form

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Wednesday

    This module aims to:

    (1) to enable students to understand and compare the wide range of contrasting contemporary theories and research ‘paradigms’ in international relations, bring out the key assumptions about the nature of international relations broadly shared in each tradition and the key concepts used by each school. At the same time the module will enable students to grasp the relationships between evolving theories in the field and real world issues and actors.

    (2) to enable students to understand debates, particularly among International Relations scholars about more fundamental issues in social science theory and research methodologies, concerning the nature of understanding and explanation in the social sciences;

    (3) to enable students to grapple directly with the operational problems of designing a research question of their own in international relations, and of working out which research methods they would employ for seeking answers to their question. Through achieving these aims, the module is designed to assist students in the other modules on the MA and to complement the separate dissertation workshops.

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

    The broad aim of this module is to develop a grounding in the fundamentals of U.S. foreign policy making in the context of contemporary International Relations and Security Studies, in particular to:

    • Analyse the policy making institutions and historical precedents underlying U.S. foreign policy, and to grasp the way those precedents affect America’s approach to global events since the end of the Cold War and the attacks of 9/11.
    • Assess the processes and limitations of U.S. foreign policy making, contemporary challenges facing the world and the American role in dealing with them, and expectations of U.S. influence in the world in the 21st Century.
    • Place American foreign policy within the larger theoretical frameworks and approaches of International Relations and Security Studies.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Monday

    This module examines the theory and institutionalized practice of human rights and the significance of human rights politics for the structure of the changing world order, and of domestic politics for both rights and order. It contextualises, analyzes, evaluates and applies various conceptions of human rights that are operative within international relations, and in relation to academic paradigms used to explain 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 questioned 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. Conversely, ideas of realism and constructivism in international relations are questioned by liberal claims for human rights. The globalization and recent reverses of human rights are critically analyzed. Students ae encouraged to explore particular cases of international order or conflict and of human rights’ observance or abuse in a way that is sustained and rigorous.

    Module aims

    1 This module contextualises, analyses, evaluates and applies various conceptions of human rights that are operative within international relations, and within the study of international relations.
    2 Three subjects in particular are addressed:
    i the causes of, and reasons for, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the broader development of human rights as a universalizing, globalizing, Westernizing and institutionalizing force in relations between states;
    ii the variety of particular states, domestic and foreign policies, other political actors, cultures, and motivating ideologies with which human rights has come into conflict;
    iii the transformation of state sovereignty by human rights discourse and practice. These subjects are problematized 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 - Thursday afternoon

    This module will explore the concept of security as it is understood in international relations discipline. What has been the rationale for the development of a distinct concept of ‘human security’? What are the implications of the concept of human security for our understanding of security in the international system? It will then examine the application of the concept to substantive problems and policy areas. These include the impact of environmental degradation, mass population movement, human trafficking and international crime. Finally, it will assess the impact of the concept on the strategies and policies of international organisations and states.

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

    This module aims to:

    • Examine a range of approaches to the cessation of contemporary conflicts and the conditions that may be necessary for peace
    • Focus upon both the domestic and international actors involved in these processes
    • Provide students with an understanding of relevant theories and empirical material for comparative analysis
    • Explore the differing ways in which particular conflicts tend to be viewed by participants, external commentators and public policy-makers

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

    • Enables students to evaluate differing interpretations of the political importance of religious actors in international relations
    • Educates students about doctrines and organizational methods of major religious currents insofar as these are relevant to international relations
    • Informs students about Transnational Religious Actors and their role in international relations

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

    By the end of the module students will

    1. Appreciate what is at stake in security, both as a theoretical concept and as an ontological category.
    2. Gain an understanding of how the concept of security has been rearticulated and challenged in our contemporary context through an engagement with some of the most pressing issues of our day.
    3. Be able to question the ethical dimensions of the Westphalian order based on notions of sovereignty and narrow State interests and determine whether theories highlighting human emancipation need to be strengthened.
    4. Be able to demonstrate a good grasp of public policy, especially the processes and structures of decision-making in the area of international security.
    5. Be able to examine the contemporary themes in international security, such as the legacy of the Cold War, the impact of terrorism, the proliferation of dangerous weapons, the rise of great powers and the impact of globalisation.

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

    This module aims to explore the complex and dramatic changes in the structure of the inter-state system that have taken place since the end of the 19th century. In the first section, it seeks to identify the principle factors that saw Europe retreat from global dominance, the USA rise to dominance and the Soviet Union surge and decline in power and influence. What were the dynamics that drove these fundamental developments and what was their wider impact on the structure of the inter-state system? The second section will focus on post-cold war developments. How should we conceptualise the structure of the inter-state system since the end of the cold war? Is it inherently unstable? How radical a challenge does the rise of new Asia powers present to the distribution of power within the global inter-state system?

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Modules for this course are to be confirmed. Please check back at a later date or call our course enquiries team on +44 (0)20 7133 4200 for details.

After the course

Students who have taken this course have progressed to an array of careers such as the public sector, Non-Governmental Organisation's and international companies. The course has proven particularly beneficial for those who are seeking work in organisations operating in a transnational environment.

Additional costs

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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