International Relations MA


Fact file

MA International Relations
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
2.1(Upper 2nd class hons degree or international equivalent)
Other requirements
Mature applicants without standard entry requirements but with substantial and relevant experience may be considered
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

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 course is an internationally recognised degree programme that will provide you with a solid grounding in the philosophical and practical aspects of international political analysis.
Read full overview

The MA International Relations is an internationally recognised degree programme that will provide you with a solid grounding in the philosophical and practical aspects of international political analysis.

Drawing on the research expertise of a large number of academic staff within the School of Politics and International Relations, this MA introduces you to key concepts such as power, agency, the state, international society and order. The wide choice of modules offered by the school allows you to tailor this programme to your own interests.

The research interests of our academic staff, who are well established leaders in the field of international relations, cover a considerable range of expertise. 

Areas of special interest include:

  • Diplomacy in Middle East and Asia
  • Global Civil Society and Global Justice
  • Globalisation
  • Human Security and Humanitarianism
  • Intelligence and National Security
  • International Human Rights and War Crimes
  • International Political Economy
  • International Relations Theory
  • Justice Beyond Borders
  • Terrorism, Guerrilla War and Low Intensity Conflict
  • United States Foreign and Security Policy

Key facts

  • The School of Politics and International Relations was ranked in the top 15 in the UK for research power in the Research Excellence Framework 2014

Course details

The MA International Relations can be studied on a full-time basis over one year or part-time over two years.

Studying this degree will allow you to draw upon a range of modules that will deepen your understanding and develop your own interests.

The MA consists of a 20-credit core module, a further 20-credit methodological module, and 80 credits of optional modules taken during the autumn and spring semesters.

Your studies will culminate in the research and writing of a 60-credit, 15,000-word dissertation. The dissertation, which is an opportunity for you to research a subject of your own choosing under the expert guidance of a member of staff, represents a substantial piece of independent research drawing on primary source materials as well as secondary literature.

Teaching is spread across two semesters: autumn, which begins in September and ends in January; and spring, which begins in January and ends in June. The summer months between June and September are spent writing your dissertation.

Assessment for each taught module takes place at the end of each semester and is through a combination of coursework and/or examination, with some modules also requiring an assessed presentation.

Modules are usually offered as 20 or 15 credit versions. 



Core modules

Dissertation: International Relations/International Studies

The researching and writing of a substantive dissertation within the field of international relations/studies. The dissertation must be between 14,000-16,000 words.

This module aims to:

  • provide students with the opportunity to produce a substantial piece of independent research in the area of international relations
  • provide a focus for the application by students of the knowledge and skills relating to issues within international relations which they have developed from other modules on the programme
  • provide quality supervision by matching the research interests of students with those of members of staff in the School of Politics and International Relations who are familiar with their chosen research topic
Theories and Concepts in International Relations

The War on Iraq and the US and British invasion of the country in 2003 has led to huge tensions in geopolitics. At the same time, the supposed 'threat' of international terrorism and continuing financial turmoil in the world economy have both brought to the fore the global politics of co-operation and confrontation.

The purpose of this module is to make students aware of the diversity of approaches to international theory. Within International Relations (IR) theory there exist highly divergent interpretations and applications of key concepts (eg. power, the state, agency, structure, and world order) as well as contested views about the practical purpose underpinning theories of world politics. 

This module aims to:

  • familiarise students with the contemporary literature and debates
  • appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of competing approaches
  • develop an understanding of how key concepts are conceived and applied in international relations
  • develop a critical comparison of the application of the dominant explanatory models
  • understand the reasons for the use of specific approaches

Optional modules

Students must take a minimum of 20 and maximum of 40 credits from the group below:

Designing Political Enquiry

The module is designed to allow students to develop a critical understanding of the methodological issues involved in designing and undertaking political science research and to strengthen their ability to read and evaluate political science literature more generally.

Topics to be addressed include issues involved in developing a research question, problems of conceptualisation, measurement, and strategies and approaches to causal theorising in research. The second part of the module addresses various methods of generating and processing data for political science research. Methods that are covered include the use of documentary sources, observation, and various forms of interviewing.

This module aims to:

  • provide students with an understanding of the stages and issues that are involved in designing research in political science and political theory
  • encourage students to apply the research design tools for the critical assessment of literature in political science
  • familiarise students with different techniques of generating and processing data, and to encourage students to critically use and assess these techniques
  • promote students' ability to develop and design their own research project
Quantitative Political Analysis

This module introduces students to the estimation, quantification, and coding of political data as well as the descriptive and inferential analysis of data using probabilistic and statistical techniques. The module will also provide students with hands-on skills of data analysis and will enable them to write professional academic reports on these analyses.

This module aims to:

  • offer an understanding of conceptualisation, measurement, and hypothesis testing, as conceived in political science studies that include quantitative analysis

Students must take a minimum of 60 and maximum of 80 credits from the group below:

Comparative Democratic Development

At the dawn of the 21st century, the status of democracy across the world is uncertain. In Central and Eastern Europe, it has become the only game in town, but in other regions like Russia or the Arab World it has suffered reversals.

To make sense of these events, this module examines and is structured around some of the big, important questions that have long interested political scientists around the questions of democracy:

  • What is democracy? 
  • Why are some countries democratic and others not? 
  • How did democracy emerge in different countries? 
  • What difference does democracy make for people's lives? 

The module adopts a global and comparative perspective, by focusing on countries in specific regions and by studying different data-sets on the design, functioning and influence of democratic institutions.

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to a variety of theoretical perspectives on democratic and authoritarian regimes and their empirical manifestation
  • introduce students to debates surrounding the economic and cultural pre-requisites of democracy
  • introduce students to the different models of democratisation (liberalisation, transition, consolidation) and their empirical manifestation
  • introduce students to the influence of democracy on different facets of development, like public sector size, conflict regulation and wealth redistribution
  • encourage students to think broadly and critically about the possibility of democracy in different parts of the world, the difficulties of crafting democratic regimes
  • invite students to reflect on the role of structures and actors in the emergence, stability and consolidation of democratic regime
  • invite students to consider the merits of different methodological tools (qualitative and quantitative) for studying different facets of democratic development
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
European Union Politics

This course analyses how the growing competencies of the European Union and changing nature of the integration process affect politics at both the national and European levels.

We look at how the EU affects the role of political institutions in the traditional chain of representation in the member states and the wider challenges it poses to democracy. The main themes include: 

  • the current problems of political representation
  • the impact of the EU on the traditional role of parties as representatives of civil society interests
  • the preferences of public opinion with respect to the EU
  • the impact of the EU in national and European elections, the sources and expression of Euroscepticism
  • the democratic deficit in the EU
  • referendums and EU democracy
  • the future of the European Union

This module aims to:

  • understand the current challenges confronting politics and democratic practices in the EU and its member states
  • be able to critically assess the political system of the EU in terms of political representation and its impact on the state of democracy
  • be able to examine real-world problems through theoretical concepts and empirical applications
  • engage in debates surrounding the problems of representation and potential solutions relating to the future of European integration
Gender and Development

This module examines major themes, debates and issues in the field of Gender and Development. We will focus on the relationship between ideas and concerns of gender (in)equality and processes, policies, and practices of economic, social and political development.

The module will explore the key literature and major debates in the field of feminist political economy, linking academic, policy-related and practitioner/activist debates. It will also explore how political, economic and social processes of globalisation and development intersect, impact, and are in turn influenced by gender relations in the South.

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to the major themes, debates and issues in the field of Gender and Development
  • develop an integrated understanding of the links between academic, policy-related and practitioner/activist debates in the field of Gender and Development
  • develop students’ understanding and critical awareness of how political, economic and social processes of globalisation and development intersect, impact, and are in turn influenced by gender relations in the South
Global Asia

This module examines major themes, debates and issues related to the study of politics and international relations in the specific regional context of Asia. It will explore key features and themes in Asian politics including political systems, political economy and development, political values and ideas, as well as pan-Asian themes and international relations/global politics including intra-regional, trans-regional and international issues. 

Topics will include:

  • democracy and democratisation
  • authoritarianism and hybrid regimes
  • "Asian values" and humanitarianism, nationalism, political economy of development
  • gender relations
  • affirmative action
  • terrorism, non-traditional security and human security
  • resource politics
  • nuclear Asia
  • environmental challenges
  • globalisation
  • Asia on the global stage

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to the major perspectives, themes, debates and issues in the field of Asian politics
  • develop a broad knowledge of the politics of the region alongside country-specific and issue-specific examples, in both historical and contemporary contexts
  • develop students' understanding and critical awareness of key perspectives in the literature on Asian politics, in particular on Asian political systems, regional identity and intra-regional relationships, and the political positioning of Asia in global politics
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
International Political Economy

The module will introduce students to the main approaches to International Political Economy, providing a brief overview of the post-war international political economy, before the main focus is turned towards globalisation and the related structural changes in the global economy.

This will include a theoretical engagement with the concepts of globalisation, regionalisation and regionalism as well as an analysis of empirical changes in the areas of international trade, finance, production and development with a particular emphasis on the current global economic crisis. 

The module will further address the question of the relationship between globalisation and the individual instances of regional integration including the EU, NAFTA and APEC, before it looks at recent formations of resistance to globalisation expressed in demonstrations against G8 meetings (eg. Heligendamm 2007) as well as developments around the European and World Social Forums.

This module aims to:

  • develop an understanding of the international political economy as an academic discipline as well as a concrete area of empirical research
  • understand concepts such as globalisation, regionalisation, regionalism, dependence and inequality
  • develop an understanding of how key concepts are conceived and applied in international political economy
  • introduce students to the latest empirical developments in international political economy
Justice Beyond Borders: Theories of International and Intergenerational Justice

The module introduces and explores the concept of distributive justice on an international and intergenerational basis. It examines how justice has traditionally been conceptualised, and challenges the idea of the nation-state as providing limits to the proper operation of principles of justice.

Justice between nations, and between generations, as well as between humans and non-humans, forms the focus of this module. The programme for dealing with these themes includes: 

  • international theories of justice, with particular reference to faminie relief and humanitarian intervention
  • intergenerational justice and personal identity
  • 'biocentric' theories of justice
  • animal rights
  • dire

This module aims to:

  • provide an understanding of the philosophical foundations to arguments about distributive justice, particularly as these apply to international and intergenerational concerns
  • build appreciation for the operation of principles of justice with respect to specific issues, such as global redistribution and intergenerational issues
  • build awareness of key conceptual and methodological issues in the study of contemporary political theory
The Politics of South Asia

This module introduces students to the politics of modern South Asia, focusing on Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The region is growing in international importance both strategically, economically and politically. The module evaluates alternative explanations for the different democratic trajectories of these states, despite their shared colonial past, and the interaction between 'tradition' and 'modernity' in developing political institutions. 

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to the political history of South Asia, in order that they may develop an understanding of the multiple challenges the different states faced
  • compare the political institutions of the states of South Asia, and to provide an understanding of the relationship of 'traditional' societies with 'modern' democratic institutions
  • develop a critical and comparative understanding of contemporary South Asian politics, both internally and externally
The Road to Guantanamo: The Treatment and Experience of Prisoners, Civilian Internees and Detainees since 1860

This module explores the way in which state authorities have treated prisoners of war, civilian internees and detainees from circa 1860 - the dawn of the modern era of international humanitarian law - to the present day. It examines developments in state practice and international law relating to the detention of 'enemy' individuals, and explores different national, ideological and cultural approaches to the issue of captivity.

The module is explicitly historical in character and methodology but will draw on international and political theory where appropriate to explain state and individual behaviour.

This module aims to:

  • develop students' understanding of current issues relating to the detention of prisoners and enemy combatants through a study of different historical periods and experiences
Special Project A

This module will consist of special essay work, arising from the work completed on another module offered.

This module aims to:

  • allow students to undertake independent research under the guidance of a tutor
Special Project B

This module will consist of special essay work, arising from the work completed on another module offered.

This module aims to:

  • allow students to undertake independent research under the guidance of a tutor
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
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
When Does Russia Expand and Why?

Russia's annexation of the Crimea will strike many Westerners as merely the latest chapter in a long history of Russian imperialism. Does Russia always expand when it has the opportunity? Or is its expansion, when it occurs, explained by contingent factors?

This module will examine Russia's expansion and contraction from the 17th century to the present, and the causes underlying it.

This module aims to:

  • examine patterns of Russian expansion and restraint, and theories that may help us understand them and predict the future

Listen to our lecturers talking about some of the modules on offer in our virtual module fair.

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.

UK/EU students

The school sometimes offers its own scholarships. University scholarships and external scholarships are also available, please visit the Graduate School website for more information about all the available funding opportunities.

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 2017 entry scholarships will open in late 2016. 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.



This course will prepare you for a wide spectrum of career paths from national government to international organisations, international trade, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Our postgraduate courses provide a firm foundation for a wide range of careers. Many of our students take an active role in politics throughout their time in the school, and after. Politics is the ideal academic discipline to study if you are interested in a career in politics or government. Other students go into a range of careers, including management, marketing, teaching and broadcasting.

Graduating from Nottingham means that you have opened the door to an opportunity for an interesting and well paid career. Our students are highly regarded by employers because of the strong academic foundation and transferable skills that they gain during their degree course.

For those students who wish to continue with their studies following the successful completion of one of our MA programmes, the school offers MRes and MPhil/PhD degrees. Research degree supervision in most of the major sub-areas of the discipline of politics is offered by the increasing number of academic staff working in the school.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2014, 92.9% of postgraduates in the school who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £22,409 with the highest being £29,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU postgraduates, 2013/14.

Career prospects and employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential. 

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.

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Postgraduate Administrator
School of Politics and International Relations
The University of Nottingham
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