Triangle

Course overview

We all have to live with the consequences of state actions, for example, whether countries are receptive or hostile to refugees fleeing war and oppression, or whether there is an adequate response to climate change.

International relations form the backdrop to such decisions, and impact our ability as a society to address global problems.

This course analyses the relations between states and through our research-led teaching, builds an understanding of issues including global justice, the causes of war, intelligence and national security, and international human rights.

You may be able to also take part in a field trip to institutions that are central to international relations. In the past these have included the Clingandael Institute, Interpol, and the European Parliament.

You'll graduate ready for a range of careers including working in the public and private sector, the media, politics, government or research.

Why choose this course?

Learn from experts

who are internationally recognised for their research in politics and international relations

Gain real experience

through our placement programme

Take a field trip

to institutions that are central to international relations

Course content

This course is made up of a 20-credit core module, 20-credit methodology module and 80 credits of optional modules, plus a 60-credit dissertation.

Modules

Core modules

Dissertation

You will research and write a substantive dissertation within the field of international relations/studies. The dissertation must be between 14,000-16,000 words.

Research Methods in International Relations

This module covers:

  1. Methods and methodology – the logic of qualitative and quantitative research
  2. Theory, metatheory and methodology – how they relate to each other
  3. Quantitative data collection – surveys and polls
  4. Quantitative data analysis – basic statistical analysis
  5. Qualitative data collection – interviews and documents
  6. Qualitative data analysis - process tracing, thematic analysis, discourse analysis
  7. Mixed methodology – pros and cons
  8. Primary and secondary sources – how to use the library
  9. Research questions, design and ethics – practical considerations of research 
  10. Academic skills – how to write a literature review and how to plan a dissertation
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.

Whilst it might be possible to agree on the signifcance of these events, the explanation and/or understanding of them is dependent on prior theoretical choices. The purpose of this module is to make you aware of the diversity of approaches to international theory.

Within international relations theory there exist highly divergent interpretations and applications of key concepts (for example, power, the state, agency, structure, and world order) as well as contested views about the practical purpose underpinning theories of world politics. The overall aim of the module is to provide you with a solid theoretical and conceptual grounding of this diversity. As a result, it will be possible to recognise not only how international theory informs policy-making and practice but also, perhaps, how truly contested the underlying assumptions of world politics are.

Optional modules

Airpower and Modern Conflict

The invention of the aircraft fundamentally changed the ways in which wars are fought and won. Over the course of only a century airpower developed into an indispensable instrument of 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, however, 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.

Contemporary Warfare

This module aims to explore the dynamics of conflict in the modern world. It will primarily address the increased role that non-state actors play in global security. It will introduce you 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. This module will enable you to engage with the concepts of resistance and rebellion in international relations and widen understanding of the multiple levels of global security.

Covert Action and Unacknowledged Interventions

This module covers:

  • Covert Action
  • Propaganda and Influence Operations
  • Fake News and the Digital Revolution
  • Political Action: Coups, Bribery, and Election Rigging
  • Paramilitary Action: Sponsoring Insurgencies
  • Assassination and Targeted Killing
  • Secrecy in International Relations
  • Covert Signalling and Strategy
  • Political Management of Covert Action
  • Democratic Oversight of Covert Action
  • Measuring Success: Evaluating Secret Policy Impact
Disasters, Politics and Society

Disasters are defined by the United Nations as ‘a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope with using its own resources.’ The failure successfully to reconcile human behaviour with environmental threats has, throughout time and in different places, led to multiple disasters.

This module will examine the relationship between natural hazards and human society, how and why disasters happen and how the impact of disasters can be ameliorated. With reference to cases across the globe, there will be a focus on how social life has mitigated, adapted and evolved in the face of environmental hazards.

We will examine the social, economic and technological processes that mediate the relationship between human society and the natural world. We will examine key themes such as governance, technological innovation, urbanisation and migration, gender, culture and identity, global patterns of production and consumption, health and pandemics, race and class to understand why disasters impact on different people in different ways.

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. It combines theoretical perspectives with historical developments and contemporary issues in Asian politics.

Grand Strategy

Grand Strategy examines how states have sought to integrate political, economic, and military goals to preserve their long-term interests. The module analyses a variety of strategies to understand what drives decision making at the highest levels of government in times of war and peace. It draws on scholarship from the fields of international relations, diplomatic history, and strategic studies to provide you with a more nuanced understanding of global politics.

IPE in the Era of Globalisation and Regionalisation

The study of international political economy is essentially interdisciplinary, based on the premise that the political and economic domains are inextricably intertwined in the international system.

The module will introduce you to the main approaches to international political economy, provide 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 (for example, Heligendamm 2007) as well as developments around the European and World Social Forums.

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. 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
The Politics of Celebrity, Sex and 'Alternative' Lifestyles in China

This module will introduce you to developments in Chinese society, media and popular culture. Through the vehicle of 'alternative' lifestyles it will examine the political, social and economic contexts that have given rise to expanded opportunities, and concomitant responses from the state, for personal and political expression.

The module will provide detailed studies of Chinese celebrity, sex, internet culture, self-development, and numerous subcultures through a lens of class, gender, urbanisation and generation change.

Terrorism and Insurgencies

This module is designed to acquaint you 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, you will begin to understand the nature of the threats posed by terrorists and insurgents. You 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. 

You will also understand the nature and scope of counter-insurgency practices. You will discuss what works and what does not and the controversies encountered in implementing certain measures. By the end of the module, you will be conversant with, and have an appreciation of, factors which affect the security of many people in today's world.

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. Its focus is contemporary.

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 you to consider future theoretical and practical developments in this field.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Wednesday 28 April 2021.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Workshops

How you will be assessed

  • Coursework
  • Dissertation
  • Examinations
  • Reports

Contact time and study hours

A typical 20-credit module includes 22 hours of contact hours. Outside of this time, you will be expected to conduct independent study such as reading, researching, and writing.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2022 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent)

Applying

Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply

Fees

All listed fees are per year of study.

Qualification MA
Home / UK £9,250
International £20,000

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you will pay international tuition fees in most cases. If you are resident in the UK and have 'settled' or 'pre-settled' status under the EU Settlement Scheme, you will be entitled to 'home' fee status.

Irish students will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our information for applicants from the EU.

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles which could cost up to £120.

Please note that these figures are approximate and subject to change.

Funding

There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding

Careers

We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

This course will prepare you for a career in a wide range of fields, such as national government, international organisations, international trade, and non-governmental organisations.

Many students take an active role in politics throughout their time in the school, and after. Politics is an ideal academic discipline 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.

Recent graduate destinations include Channel 4, the European Union, GCHQ, Reuters and the Thailand National Police Department.

Career progression

90.7% of postgraduates from the School of Politics and International Relations secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £26,593.*

* HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020, using methodology set by The Guardian. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

We offer a range of local, national and international placement opportunities, which may be paid or voluntary, part-time alongside your studies or longer placements during University vacations.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" Working closely with senior representatives of the Afghan National Security Forces, the Afghan government, senior NATO officers and diplomats gave me first-hand insights into the challenges of international assistance, stabilisation and counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. I have drawn upon that practical experience to design and teach my modules, including inviting military officers and diplomats to discuss their experiences with students. "
Edward Burke, Assistant Professor in International Relations

Related courses

This content was last updated on Wednesday 28 April 2021. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.