International Relations and Global Issues MSci


Fact file - 2016 entry

UCAS code:L25A
Qualification:MSci Hons
Type and duration:4 yr UG (year 2 out counting)
Qualification name:International Relations and Global Issues
A level offer: AAA 
Required subjects: no specific subjects but critical thinking and general studies not accepted
IB score: 36 
Available part time: no
Course places: 25 
Campus: University Park Campus/partner institutions 

Course overview

This innovative four-year degree leads to an MSci qualification. Years one, three and four are spent at The University of Nottingham, with the second year spent in one of 25 overseas institutions, including the universities of Hong Kong, British Columbia, Auckland, Melbourne, Paris, Vienna and Prague. You also have the opportunity to complete a Universitas 21 Certificate in Global Issues, by electing to take 'face-to-face' or online modules offered by participating universities (currently Hong Kong, British Columbia, Nottingham and Melbourne) in your second and third years.

Year one

In year one you will be introduced to the foundations of international relations, through modules on global politics and political ideas, along with optional modules from both within and outside the School of Politics and International Relations.

Year two

Year two is spent focusing on global issues in one of 25 partner institutions around the world, drawn from the Universitas 21 (U21) network, the School's European Erasmus exchange partners and The University of Nottingham's campuses in Ningbo, China and Malaysia. As well as taking modules at your host institutions, you may also elect to follow online modules offered by the U21 Global Issues Programme, and work towards the completion of a U21 Certificate in Global Issues.

Year three

Year three is spent back at Nottingham, where you will take a range of modules chosen from the wide range offered on international relations and global issues.

Year four

In the final year, you will take modules offered at masters level and will complete a 15,000-word dissertation on a subject of special interest to you.

Entry requirements

A levels: AAA, general studies and critical thinking not accepted

English language requirements 

IELTS 6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

Pearson Test of English (Academic) 62 (minimum score 55)

Alternative qualifications 

For details please see alternative qualifications page

Flexible admissions policy

We consider applicants’ circumstances and broader achievements as part of the assessment process, but do not vary the offer from the grades advertised as a result of these.


The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result, may change from year to year. The following list is therefore subject to change but should give you a flavour of the modules we offer.

Typical year one modules

Core modules 

British Political History Since 1945

The module will take students through key issues and controversies in post-war British politics and as they relate to leaders and governments (in lectures) and key debates over controversies (in seminars). 

The module will explore a range of issues relating to economic policy, social policy and the welfare state, industrial relations, foreign and defence policy, Europe, local government and nuclear deterrence. 

Seminars will employ a range of activity-based scenarios to develop student understanding of key crises experienced by leaders and governments since 1945.  

This module aims to:


  • give students a broad general knowledge and understanding of specific crises and controversies in post-war and contemporary British politics
Foundations for Politics and International Relations

This module introduces students to the intellectual and practical skills they will need for the successful study of politics. 

These include:


  • critical awareness of sources
  • developing effective arguments
  • note-taking and efficient reading
  • using the library and searching for resources
  • effective interpretation and presenation of data
  • essay writing 
  • presentation skills

This module aims to:


  • develop the practical and intellectual skills that students need to successfully study politics
Introduction to Comparative Politics

This module seeks to compare and contrast the decision-making structures of modern democratic states. 

Topics to be covered will include:


  • politics, government and the state
  • the comparative approach
  • constitutions and the legal framework
  • democratic and authoritarian rule
  • political culture
  • the political executive
  • legislatures
  • political parties and party systems
  • electoral systems and voting behaviour
  • the crisis of democracy
This module aims to:


  • introduce students to the study of comparative politics by studying the structure and politics of modern democratic states
  • help students to understand similarities and differences between politics as practiced in a wide range of countries
  • introduce students to the methods of comparative politics, and explore hypothesis construction and theory testing
Modern Political Theory

This module introduces students to the ideas of some of the canonical thinkers in the history of political thought, such as Burke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, and Marx. 

The module considers the impact of these thinkers on modern political thought and practice, with reference to key political ideas and historical developments (such as liberty and equality, and the Enlightenment). The course will be text based. 

This module aims to provide a knowledge of:


  • the history of western political thought
  • some central issues and debates of political philosophy
  • the contexts in which the various thinkers wrote,  the principal arguments of their canonical texts and t heir analysis of key ideas such as property, liberty, the role of the state etc     
Political Theory from Ancient to Modern

This module introduces students to the ideas of some of the canonical thinkers in the history of political thought, such as Aristotle, Plato, Machiavelli, and Hobbes. 

The module considers the impact of these thinkers on modern political thought and practice, with reference to key political ideas and historical developments (such as liberty and equality, and the Enlightenment). The course will be text based.  

This module aims to provide a knowledge of :


  • the history of western political thought
  • some central issues and debates of political philosophy
  • the contexts in which the various thinkers wrote 
  • the principal arguments of their canonical texts
  • their analysis of key ideas such as property, liberty, the role of the state etc   
Problems in Global Politics

This module explores some of the major problems that exist in contemporary global politics. 

It introduces students to a wide range of challenges faced by states and non-state actors in the international system and engages with topics ranging from security concerns to economic issues. 

The module draws on a wide range of ideas and examples from around the world to help students to better understand global politics. 

This module aims to:


  • appreciate the nature and complexity of some of the major problems, issues or events in global politics
  • introduce key themes, concepts or actors concerning problems, issues or events in global politics
  • have a good working knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the major approaches to, or analyses of, problems, issues or events in global politics 
  • be familiar with the core concepts and controversies in analysing problems, issues or events in global politics   
Understanding Global Politics

This module introduces global politics through the major theoretical, historical and empirical ways of seeing international relations. 

We consider how different approaches understand global politics, the role of different actors in global politics and different approaches to organising international relations. In particular the module highlights the major issues of war and peace, and global poverty.  

This module aims to:


  • introduce students to the major theoretical, historical, and empirical ways of seeing international relations
  • provide detailed instruction on the study of global politics through encouraging students to engage with key concepts and theoretical interpretations
  • deepen students’ appreciation of these issues through studying six key thinkers in the field

Typical year two modules

Year two is spent focusing on global issues in one of 25 partner institutions around the world. 

As well as taking modules at your host institutions, you may also elect to follow online modules offered by the U21 Global Issues Programme, and work towards the completion of a U21 Certificate in Global Issues.

Typical year three modules

Typical international relations stream modules

Airpower and Modern Warfare

Today, war without airpower is an unlikely prospect and major military operations, as a rule, are launched with overwhelming air attacks. 

In recent years, the utility of ‘strategic’ airpower has increasingly come under question. Whilst technological innovation continues to strengthen airpower’s capabilities, the relevance of these capabilities in contemporary conflicts cannot be taken for granted. 

This module critically assesses the role of air power in modern conflict within the broader framework of strategic and security studies.  It will assess the evolution of air power theory since the First World War and examine the limits of its practical application with reference to specific air campaigns. 

Particular emphasis will be placed on the role of air power in the post-Cold War security environment, for example, in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency campaigns. 

This module aims to:

  • develop a comprehensive understanding of developments in airpower strategy and its role in warfare from the First World War until today
  • demonstrate the ability to relate the role and uses of airpower to relevant theoretical debates in contemporary strategic and security studies 
  • critically engage with the literature on airpower  
International Politics of Race

This module is designed to provide an introduction to the international politics of race for final-year students. 

The module begins discussing changing historical meaning of race and the changing historical critiques of race focusing on the shift from universalist to relativist approaches. 

The module goes on to discuss the historical meaning of race in international politics a) the colonial experience b) Second World War c) after the Second World War and the discrediting of racial theories. 

The module then considers the evolving international policy approaches toward race and culture, in particular looking at UNESCO’s approaches. Finally the module analyses the changing international debates over the politics of race in light of the election of US President Obama.  

This module aims to:

  • give a sense of the evolving historical international politics of race in their international political and historical context
  • offer an understanding of the international theories of race and culture
  • offer an understanding of universalist versus relativist approaches and debates
  • provide an understanding of the evolving international policy approaches toward race and culture    
Politics of East Asia

This module affords an understanding of the linkage between international and domestic politics in East Asia. 

The module is divided into three parts:

  • The first part offers conceptual and historical perspectives that enable one to analyse how international and domestic politics relate to each other.
  • The second part focuses on China and Japan, and examines their domestic transformation and foreign policy development in the post-cold war period. 
  • The third part focuses on key issues of the region, and examines how those issues affect domestic transformation of East Asian states, and in turn, how the domestic transformation affects those issues. 

This module aims to:

  • enable students to identify and discuss conceptual and historical perspectives found in the literature on the politics of East Asia
  • explore ways to analyse the links between global and domestic politics in East Asia and how they relate to the conceptual and historical perspectives in the literature
  • develop a framework of enquiry within which students can construct subject-related knowledge and relevant research skills  
Re-thinking the Cold War

The module will examine issues and themes in international relations theory through the prism of the Cold War. 

Each lecture/class will be orientated to investigating one aspect of international relations theory in light of some aspect of the Cold War. 

For instance, we will examine: 

  • questions of ideology and international relations in reference to containment
  • counterfactuals and international relations in light of the Korean War
  • questions about political psychology with respect to the Cuban missile crisis
  • issues pertaining to periodicity in terms of the ‘second Cold War’
  • questions about prediction and the purposes of theory in relation to the end of the Cold War

This module aims to:

  • complement other elements of the degree programme 
  • familiarise students with the main events of the Cold War as it played out in different regions of the globe
  • establish competence in a variety of theoretical approaches to the analysis of world affairs  
The Politics of Ethnic Conflict

Questions relating to nationalism and ethnic conflict have become more prominent in political debate since the end of the Cold War, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated the continuing importance of constitutional crafting as a means to manage ethnic diversity within states. 

This module evaluates differing definitions of the ‘nation’ and ‘ethnic group’, examines different state strategies to manage diversity such as multiculturalism, assimilation and integration, and considers different explanations of conflict between different ethnic groups. 

It then examines in more detail strategies adopted by particular states to manage their diversity. 

The countries of India, America, France, Afghanistan, the UK, and Germany are focused upon, but students are encouraged to use material relating to other countries if they have particular knowledge of these cases.  

This module aims to:

  • offer a critical overview of a range of approaches to understanding concepts of nationalism and ethnicity
  • introduce students to the different strategies of ethnic conflict regulation
  • offer students the opportunity to assess critically how these strategies are applied in various states
  • encourage students to consider the comparative implications of the strategies discussed    
The Rights and Wrongs of Climate Change

What should the world do about climate change? How should we proceed in the face of persistent claims that it won't do serious harm, or isn't occurring at all? 

Should poor countries as well as rich ones be obliged to cut their carbon emissions? Is it wrong for individuals to fly? What if you offset your flight? How much weight should we accord harm that may come many years in the future? 

Arguments about climate change raise many of the most controversial issues in contemporary ethics and political theory. This module will examine these debates and the broader questions they hinge on.

This module aims to:

  • familiarise students with some of the key debates surrounding climate change
  • expand students' knowledge of moral philosophy, political theory and environmental ethics    

Optional modules

Comparative Electoral Systems

This module offers a comparative analysis of electoral rules. The module will focus on the way electoral institutions work, as well as their effects on political outcomes and behaviour. 

It will emphasise the rules used to elect presidents and assemblies, and it will examine electoral rules in countries throughout the world, including the U.S., South America, Eastern and Western Europe, and Asia.   

This module aims to:

  • provide an understanding of what types of electoral systems might be more or less appropriate for different contexts
  • help students to be able to make predictions about different countries’ politics, even if armed with no other information about the countries outside of the rules used to elect politicians  
Global Insurgencies: Radical Politics Today

The processes of globalisation and information technology have revolutionised our society and have changed the nature, scope and effects of resistances. 

This module surveys some of the key developments in radical political thought and practice.  

Students will study exemplary texts and contemporary events and political forms, such as:

  • the Zapatistas
  • Seattle 1999
  • Via Campesina
  • the Chavez
  • phenomena
  • the Brazilian landless workers' movement
  • the World Social Forum
  • the Arab Spring
  • Occupy Wall St. 

The main aim is to understand how we can comprehend the local, national, and global contemporary resistance movements with recourse to re-workings of traditional Marxist, Anarchist, and Socialist theory. 

This module aims to:

  • give students a deeper understanding of contemporary politics
  • compare new and traditional forms of radical thought and action
  • understand contemporary political processes and resistance from the point of view of subaltern groups and movements  
Ideas and Politics in Contemporary Britain

The aim of this module is to explain and assess the nature and role of ideas and ideologies in British politics. It examines how and why the policies of the 'mainstream' British parties (Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) have been affected by ideas and ideologies, on the one hand, and by political pragmatism, on the other. 

It also explores the ideas, ideologies and policies of minor parties and ‘new social movements’ (ecologism; fascism, Nazism and racism; feminism; multiculturalism, and nationalism) and their significance for the study and practice of politics in Britain today.  

This module aims to:

  • provide an understanding of a range of political ideologies and the role of ideas in British politics
  • introduce the ideological (re-)positioning of British political parties and new social movements
  • give students an ability to explain and assess the role and significance of political ideas and ideologies in contemporary Britain  
Parliamentary Studies

The module identifies and evaluates the role that Parliament plays in the political system. 

The module is both descriptive and analytical, comprising an introduction to Parliament (such as its place in the political process, the impact of party) and an investigation into the effectiveness or otherwise of its scrutiny and influence of selected sectors of government responsibility. 

It covers the process of legislation, scrutiny, and links with the public. The module also considers the role of the House of Lords.  

This module aims to:

  • develop an understanding of the UK Parliament and its role in the British political system
Politics and Drugs

This module studies the implications of the growing abuse of narcotics for the political system from both a national and international perspective. 

It will examine the production, consumption and trade in drugs as an international problem. 

The development of and issues associated with contemporary British drug policy will be explored and the theoretical questions raised by drug control policy will be examined.     

Property and its Critics

Our world is dominated by institutions of private property. Why? 

What justifies the existence of private property? Why should (these) owners own (this) property? What could justify vast disparities in the ownership of the world's finite resources? Why does (almost) nobody ask these questions? 

These are the issues that are explored in this module drawing on a wide range of texts and arguments, ancient and modern.  

This module aims to:

  • develop students' skills in the investigation of key texts
  • develop students' skills of diagnosis and argument in relation to a formative idea of political life
  • stimulate an appreciation of the centrality of property to key problems (and solutions) in contemporary political life    
The Politics of East and Central Europe

This module provides a critical assessment of the development of democracy in the post-communist states of East-Central Europe. 

It analyses:

  • the historical legacy of communism including the imposition of communist rule
  • the failure of reform and the collapse of the communist system
  • the political transition
  • the new constitutional framework
  • party systems
  • the development of civil society and non-state mediating institutions
  • the economic transition from a state-planned to a market economy 
  • the challenges that the social problems of systemic change pose in the area of social policy

The module concludes by examining the impact of regional co-operation and the integration of post-communist states with the European political, economic and security structures.  

This module aims to:

  • equip students with a thorough understanding of the political development during communism and especially during and since the transition to democracy in East-Central Europe
  • develop an understanding of the problems and opportunities created by the eastward enlargement of the EU and NATO
  • equip students with a sound grasp of the specialised literature on East-Central Europe and the comparative politics literature relevant to East-Central European countries    

Typical year four modules 

Core modules


This module, with module enables students to undertake a sustained piece of research and analysis into a subject within the discipline of politics.  

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 
  • strengthen their ability to read and evaluate political science literature more generally

The first part of the module focuses on issues of research design in political science, in particular, the use of the comparative method in political science research. 

Topics that are addressed include issues involved in developing a research question, problems of conceptualisation, measurement, and strategies and approaches to causal theorising in small N 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 an understanding of the stages and issues that are involved in designing political science research
  • encourage students to apply the research design tools for the critical assessment of political science literature
  • familiarise students with different techniques of generating and processing data and  encourage students to critically use and assess these techniques
  • promote students' ability to develop and design their own research project  
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. 

We will examine theories, concepts and case studies to explain the nature of contemporary EU policies towards Africa, the Middle East and Asia. 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 organizations, media and the military  
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. 

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 (e.g. 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
  • offer an understanding of 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

Standard accounts of distributive justice typically operate upon the assumption that the relevant principles are framed by, and apply within the borders of the nation-state. 

This module 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
  • direct political action

This module aims to


  • give an understanding of the philosophical foundations to arguments about distributive justice, particularly as these apply to international and intergenerational concerns
  • appreciate the operation of principles of justice with respect to specific issues, such as global redistribution and intergenerational issues
  • be aware of key conceptual and methodological issues in the study of contemporary political theory  
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:


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

In addition, students will acquire knowledge of the basic statistical techniques available in the discipline of political science and will be able to determine which techniques are appropriate for different types of data.   

Terrorism and Insurgencies

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

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. 

Students will also understand the nature and scope of counter-insurgency practices. They will discuss what works and what does not and the controversies encountered in implementing certain measures. 

By the end of the module, students will be conversant with, and have an appreciation of, factors which affect the security of many people in today’s world.

This module aims to:


  • give an understanding of the development of the 4 main waves of modern terrorism and of contemporary efforts in the realm of counter-terrorism
  • gain 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
  • the role of regional/multinational organisations and summitry

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

The module is linked to the research interests of the three members of staff who will deliver this module. It offers an advanced study of ther theory and practice of current diplomacy. It will deal with core issues of diplomatic technique in part 1 and contemporary issues of diplomacy in part 2.

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, while 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. 

The module will be divided into three sections:

In the first section, the focus will be upon the nature of the threat posed by terrorism today and the differing western approaches to countering the problem. 

The second section will review a range of security measures that have been adopted by the US and Europe: namely, border security management, law enforcement and judicial cooperation and issues relating to civil liberties. 

The third section will analyse the foreign policy dynamics of western counter-terrorism. 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:


  • give students an appreciation of 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


You will have a broad understanding of international relations and the ability to think through and analyse political ideas and concepts. Your skills will include the ability to think and study independently, and to develop and sustain a reasoned argument. Your international experience will be an asset to your CV.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2014, 94 % of first-degree graduates in the School of Politics and International Relations who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £23,047 with the highest being £48,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU first-degree graduates, 2013/14.

Careers Support and Advice

Studying for a degree at The University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take. Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our Careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.  


Scholarships and bursaries

The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help.

Home students*

There are several types of bursary and scholarship on offer. Download our funding guide or visit our financial support pages to find out more about tuition fees, loans, budgeting and sources of funding.

To be eligible to apply for most of these funds you must be liable for the £9,000 tuition fee and not be in receipt of a bursary from outside the University.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International/EU students

The International Office provides support and advice on financing your degree and offers a number of scholarships to help you with tuition fees and living costs.


KIS data

Key Information Sets (KIS)

KIS is an initiative that the government has introduced to allow you to compare different courses and universities.

Time in lectures, seminars and similar

Although this figure may appear low, you will undertake a module during your studies which involves over 90% of independent learning. This module is usually a dissertation, thesis or research project and will provide the opportunity to gain research and analytical skills as well as the ability to work independently. You will have a higher percentage of contact hours for other modules. 

How to use the data

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