International Law, Security and Terrorism MA


Fact file

MA International Law, Security and Terrorism
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
2.1 (Upper 2nd class hons degree or international equivalent) in Law, Politics, International Relations or a related discipline
Other requirements
7.0 (with no less than 7.0 in writing, 6.5 in reading and 6.0 in speaking and listening)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


This programme is offered in collaboration with the School of Politics and International Relations, providing in-depth study of international law, security and terrorism.
Read full overview

This exciting interdisciplinary programme is offered in collaboration with the School of Politics and International Relations, providing an in-depth study of international law, security and terrorism.

The course allows students to explore key legal and political issues in contemporary security as they relate to warfare, conflict and terrorism, to place conflict and security issues and events within a legal and political context and to understand the relationship between law and politics in international relations. It will also assist with the analysis of the justifications, causes and consequences of war, conflict and terrorism, including the legal and political responses available to deal with international security threats.

The School of Law and School of Politics and International Relations are also home to a number of research centres and institutions. These offer talks, seminars, conferences, research opportunities and film series to complement learning, with students being actively encouraged to become involved. Experts from outside of the University also talk on topics of international significance, offering the opportunity for scholarly debate.

Key facts

  • The School of Law was ranked 41st best law school in the world by the QS World Rankings 2016
  • The school enjoys professional relationships with international institutions, leading UK law firms, private industry and consultancies, and non-governmental organisations
  • We have a dedicated Legal Skills Advisor who delivers workshops and one-to-one sessions on issues such as time management, how to answer a problem question, how to research and reference, and how to choose a dissertation topic

Course details

This course can be taken on a full-time basis over one year, or part-time within a maximum of four years. Part-time students ordinarily complete the programme within two years.

Students are required to complete a total of 120 taught credits, made up of modules offered by both the School of Law and the School of Politics and International Relations. Once the taught stage has been passed, students will proceed to a 60-credit researched dissertation. 

It is expected that the dissertation will have an inter-disciplinary focus; however students have the opportunity to elect whether to undertake the dissertation with the School of Law or the School of Politics and International Relations, depending upon the most appropriate fit.

Module options

The two specialised core modules, 'Terrorism and Insurgencies' (Politics and IR) and 'The Law of War and Peace' (Law), will explore the central themes presented in a study of international law, security and terrorism and form the basis of study on this course.

Students are also able to choose from a number of optional modules which cover a range of legal and political topics. The timing and types of assessment used will vary from module to module. 



Core modules from the School of Law

The Law of War and Peace

This compulsory module is designed to give students from different disciplines a grounding in the underlying principles and concepts of international law, in terms of sources, persons, jurisdiction, responsibility and settlement of disputes, but also to place them within the context of two of the central concerns of international law - war and peace.

The development of international law from the seventeenth century has been driven by the need to regulate warfare which occurred with significant regularity, and to stabilise the periods of peace that emerged at the end of each conflict. That division still remains in international law, though for a number of decades after the Second World War the law of war was seen as a junior partner to the law of peace.

The module will assess whether that relationship has been changed by events such as 9/11 and the response to terrorism, the on-going conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the advent of the International Criminal Court.

This module aims to:

  • provide a solid understanding of the international legal order, and the key concepts underpinning it

Core modules from the School of Politics and International Relations

Terrorism and Insurgencies

This module is designed to acquaint students with two of the most important aspects of contemporary international security: terrorism and insurgencies.

Both threats have become more acute in recent years and much intellectual, military and economic capital has been used up in efforts to contain them. In taking this module, students will begin to understand the nature of the threats posed by terrorists and insurgents. They will understand how such threats come about and why individuals are drawn towards exercising the use of force against certain governments, their representatives, and the citizens of those governments. 

This module aims to:

  • build an understanding of the development of the four main waves of modern terrorism and of contemporary efforts in the realm of counter-terrorism
  • develop an awareness of the debates surrounding the changes in nature terrorism and the problematic nature of the response of the liberal state

Qualifying module options from the School of Law 

Detention and Imprisonment in the International Criminal Justice System

From the history of detention and imprisonment at the post-World War II International Military Tribunals, the course will progress to look at the penal regimes of the contemporary international criminal courts and tribunals, including the ICTY, ICTR, MICT, SCSL and ICC. 

Students will learn about the systems for and conditions in international remand detention and analyse the complaints and disciplinary procedures and oversight mechanisms operating within these international facilities. 

Students will also learn about life for international prisoners post-conviction, through an exploration of the various systems used to enforce international sentences of imprisonment. 

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to the systems used to detain and punish persons accused of and convicted for the commission of international crimes by international criminal courts
  • encourages students to critically analyse the custodial systems, standards and oversight mechanisms operating in the international criminal justice system
Imprisonment and Human Rights

The human rights of prisoners are increasingly being asserted in international law and national law. This module examines in detail how such rights impact on prison conditions and the relationship between prisoners and prison authorities. Topics which will be discussed include: human rights in the prison; place of imprisonment in the penal system; conditions of imprisonment; medical treatment of prisoners; the prison regime and rights; civil rights of prisoners; external control and supervision.

This module aims to:

  • help students develop analytical skills and, in particular, the application of human rights principles to a specific area of study
  • enable students to consider how the imposition of prison sentences, and the extent to which they are implemented, are influenced by a wider recognition of the substantive and procedural rights of prisoners
International Criminal Law

An introduction to international criminal law issues, with particular emphasis on institutions (such as Nuremberg and Tokyo IMTs, the ad hoc Tribunals and the International Criminal Court) as well as substantive and procedural aspects of international criminal law.

The module focuses on the institutional developments in international criminal law as well as the definition and application of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression. 

Principles of liability, defences and elements of international criminal procedure will also be covered.

This module aims to:

  • develop students' analytical skills in relation of the function, scope and operation of the international criminal justice system and its likely future development, as well as to enable students to apply the law to the various situations
International Human Rights Law

This module will introduce students to the law and practice related to international human rights. Students will be encouraged to explore the foundations of international human rights law. The global, regional and national mechanisms of human rights protection will be introduced and evaluated. A selection of substantive human rights will be examined and contemporary challenges to human rights protection will be discussed.

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to the essential elements of international human rights law - conceptual, institutional and substantive - in an interactive and flexible manner
International Humanitarian Law

The module will examine the essential elements of international humanitarian law - conceptual, institutional and substantive.

The course will develop from an introduction and historical overview of international humanitarian law to an examination of the sources of the law. Candidates will then examine the form of armed conflicts in which these laws operate, paying particular attention to such issues as the classification and treatment of combatants, targeting rules and weaponry usage. 

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to the essential elements of international humanitarian law - conceptual, institutional and substantive - in an interactive and flexible manner
United Nations Law

This module examines the international institutional law and general international law governing the United Nations, including the central organs (for example the Security Council and General Assembly), subsidiary organs (such as the UNEP and the UNDP), and the specialised agencies (for example the WHO, UNESCO, ICAO). 

It considers:

  • the UN's constitutional basis
  • its legal personality and powers
  • membership and budgetary matters
  • representation and decision making
  • sanctions regimes
  • the UN's military options
  • issues of responsibility, accountability and immunities
  • the UN's contribution to the development and enforcement of international law

This module aims to:

  • provide a detailed knowledge of this fundamental area of specialisation in the field of public international law

Qualifying module options from the School of Politics and International Relations

Contemporary Warfare

This module will primarily address the increased role that non-state actors play in global security. It will introduce students to empirical analyses of numerous terrorist and insurgent groups, as well as to theoretical understandings of sub-state violence in the post-9/11 world.

The events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent American declaration of a 'War on Terror' have recast the focus of global security. The attack upon a hegemonic superpower by violent non-state actors placed terrorism at the centre of Western concepts of contemporary security and enabled President Bush to redraw international relations along the fault-line of those either 'with us or against us' in a global effort to eradicate terrorist threats. 

This module aims to:

  • give students a broad understanding of the role non-state actors play in contemporary global security
  • build a conceptual and empirical appreciation of how states and non-state actors interact in the realm of contemporary global security
  • offer an understanding of how the influence and importance of non-state actors to the dynamics of global security has changed
  • build an understanding as to the motives behind violent sub-state behaviour before and after 9/11
Europe and the Developing World

This module analyses the decision-making process and current policy issues in both economic (first pillar) and political and security (CFSP: Common Foreign and Security Policies, and ESDP: European Security and Defence Policies) policies within the European Union.

Themes include: 

  • theorising EU security policies
  • instruments of security policies
  • issues such as post-colonialism
  • intervention
  • ethics of intervention
  • just war theory
  • asylum policies
  • migration policies
  • the fight against terrorism and WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)

This module aims to:

  • promote a critical engagement with material in the International Relations and European Foreign Policy field
  • provide an insight into the link between theory and practice of security policies
  • provide an understanding of how the European Union reacts to international crises
  • provide a basis for further study or careers in government, international organisations, media and the military
Grand Strategy

This module examines how nations have sought to integrate political, economic, and military goals to preserve their long-term interests. It analyses a variety of national strategies in order to understand how geography, history, culture, and finance influence decision making at the highest levels of government in times of war and peace.

The module draws on scholarship from the fields of international relations, diplomatic history, and strategic studies to provide students with a more nuanced understanding of great power politics.

This module aims to:

  • provide students with the necessary historical, strategic and theoretical background to achieving an understanding of grand strategy as a component of the study of International Politics 
  • compare different grand strategies across time and space 
  • develop an understanding of how governments integrate their political, economic, and military goals in order to preserve long-term interests
Russia in the World Today

With the end of the Cold War, the Russian Federation lost its superpower status. However, not least due to its size, geostrategic location, richness in energy and influence in international organisations, the country continues to be an important actor in international politics.

The module examines Russia's role in the world today. Analytically, it focuses on the contrast between Russia's own understanding of its role in the world and the country's international reputation. Substantially, the module will study:

  • Russia's image and self-image as an international actor
  • the factors driving Russian foreign and defence policy (including the role of energy)
  • Russia's relations with its neighbours (former Soviet states; the 'West', including NATO and the EU; and the East, ie. China, Japan and North Korea)

This module aims to:

  • develop an awareness of Russia's international relations in the post-Cold war period
  • demonstrate the ability to analyse developments in Russian foreign policy within the framework of relevant theoretical concepts in the field of international relations 
  • think about the contrast between the way in which Russia perceives of its role in world politics and its image as an international actor
The Theory and Practice of Diplomacy

This module focuses on the changing nature of diplomatic practice, together with the range of conceptual tools that seek to explain this international activity. 

It provides a political analysis of new developments such as the public diplomacy, the decline of resident embassies and foreign ministries, and the role of regional/multinational organisations and summitry.

It also encourages students to consider future theoretical and practical developments in this field.

This module aims to:

  • offer an advanced study of the theory and practice of current diplomacy
War, Peace and Terror

This module explores the blurring boundaries between war and peace, and the implications for understanding security. The first section assesses the changing nature of warfare, including theories of asymmetric warfare and terrorism; the second section examines the 'dark arts' of international relations, from assassination to psychological warfare, operating in the grey area between war and peace.

With large scale conventional warfare increasingly unlikely, the third section considers 'new' security issues in peacetime such as poverty and disease.

This module aims to:

  • give students critical understanding of the blurring boundaries between war and peace in the modern world
  • introduce students to a range of issues, from terrorism to covert action, which are increasingly challenging conventional distinctions between war and peace
  • introduce students to theories of war, peace, and security and impart an awareness of how the 'security' agenda of states and societies is changing
Western Counter-Terrorism Cooperation

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States and Europe have sought to cooperate on counter-terrorism policies and this module will investigate both the substance of this cooperation as well as the conceptual thinking on which it is based. 

It will seek to determine whether a coherent US-European approach to countering transnational terrorism is emerging and whether this approach can provide a foundation for a wider international counter-terrorism architecture.

Attention will be paid to multilateral approaches to combating terrorism through organisations such as the United Nations and attempts by the transatlantic allies to extend counter-terrorism cooperation to the wider international community. 

This module aims to:

  • help students appreciate the complex internal and external security challenges presented by contemporary terrorism
  • engage with the literature and theories on counter-terrorism policy
  • understand that western counter-terrorism policy requires international cooperation across several policy fields
  • gain awareness of different priorities in counter-terrorism policy
  • appreciate the obstacles that confront counter-terrorism cooperation and the delicate balance in providing security whilst safeguarding civil liberties


The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



Up-to-date fees information can be found on our student fees and finance website.

All students

The School of Law advertises a variety of funding opportunities each year, please see the funding opportunities webpage for further information.

Please also visit the Graduate School's online funding database for information about additional masters scholarships. 

International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of masters scholarships for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Applications for 2016 entry scholarships will open in late 2015. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your masters course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.



Our postgraduate students move into an extraordinarily wide range of careers. Many graduates either go into the legal profession or return to their previous legal careers with their experience and prospects enhanced by their experiences on the course. A large number also work with NGOs, or return to their countries with the relevant skills to help add to the future development of that country.

A selection of students also progress onto our PhD programme each year, in order to progress their academic career. These students often choose to stay at The University of Nottingham beyond their doctorate, with a number of our current lecturers having completed both their Masters and PhD programmes with us before becoming members of staff.

Average starting salary and career progression

Over 94% of our postgraduates who were available for work entered employment or further study within the first six months after graduation. The average starting salary for a Nottingham taught masters student is £23,082 with the highest salary being £48,000.*

* Known destinations of the 2013/14 leaving cohort of Nottingham home/EU postgraduates who studied full-time.

Career prospects and employability

Our award-winning Careers and Employability Service will help you to plan your career throughout your time at the University and beyond.

Services available include:

  • Presentations and drop-in sessions with employers
  • One-to-one careers guidance and CV sessions with our advisers
  • Over 250 careers events
  • A specialist careers adviser for research postgraduates

All postgraduate students also become members of the Graduate School, which provides dedicated facilities and resources to enhance your postgraduate experience.



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