Course overview

Unique to Nottingham, our MA Asian and International Studies will enhance your understanding of the culture and politics in Asia. You will be taught by experts in Asian politics, economics, history and international relations.

We will introduce you to themes like nationalism, globalisation, environmental challenges, resource politics and gender relations. Our range of optional modules allow you to tailor the course to your specific interests. You can also specialise in a specific country or region. We also work closely with our Asia Research Institute – a research platform which brings together our world-leading research and expertise and engages with practitioners and partners in the region.

You will have the opportunity to spend a semester at either our China or Malaysia campus during your time on the course (dependent upon any travel restrictions). During your semester overseas, you will immerse yourself in the culture of these countries and can take language options if desired. Accommodation will be organised by the university, although the cost is not covered by the course fees.

This course is ideal if you wish to pursue a professional career in Asia and you will be particularly attractive to employers seeking graduates with cultural and political experience.

Why choose this course?

Study abroad

at either our China or Malaysia Campus for a semester

Learn from experts

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

Gain real experience

through our placement programme

Course content

You will study a core module on Global Asia and choose from a range of optional modules.

You will spend the spring semester at either our China or Malaysia Campus, before either returning to the UK or choosing to remain in the region to complete your 60-credit dissertation, on a subject related to Asia.


Core modules

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.


This module involves the researching and writing of a substantive dissertation within the field of Asia and international studies. The dissertation must be between 14,000-16,000 words.

Optional modules

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
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.

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
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
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.

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 significance 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.


Spring semester, Ningbo Campus

60 credits of appropriate modules, such as:

China in International Relations

This module explores China's foreign relations since the establishment of the PRC in 1949 thorough examination of key episodes in China's relations with global and regional powers. Lectures will address the role of ideology (or ideologies) in China's diplomacy, and the meaning of the "national interest" for policy makers in Beijing, and how these concepts help (or do not help) us to understand China's foreign policy behavior throughout the Cold War, and the problems and prospects of "China's rise".

International Political Economy in the Era of Globalisation and Regionalisation

The module will introduce you to the main approaches to international political economy before turning towards globalisation and the main structural changes in the global economy. This includes a theoretical engagement with the concepts of globalisation, regionalisation and the related impact on the role of states as well as an analysis of empirical changes in the areas of international trade, finance, production and development.

The module will further address the relationship between globalisation and the individual instances of regional integration including the EU, NAFTA and APEC before looking at recent formations of resistance to globalisation.


Spring semester, Malaysia Campus

60 credits of appropriate modules, such as:

Asia in Transregional Perspective

The mobility of people and the flow of goods and ideas across Asia so familiar to many today have significant historical precedents that have been diminished by heavily nation-and region-centred, and present-minded, understandings. This module acknowledges the relevance of regional rubrics such as Southeast Asia, the Middle East, East Asia and so forth, and the many nation-states they subsume.

The module explores, however, the historical connections that existed across regional and national boundaries and their presentday implications. The transregional in this instance is not a methodology but a perspective that offers the scales required to grapple with inter-Asian themes such as migration and diaspora, the circulation of texts, food, and cultural artifacts, and networks of family, politics and trade.

The module asks what the imaginaries are that have shaped Asia. By considering different scales, from the transregional to the local, it offers grounded understandings of mobile, expansive and complex histories. You will read key works that chart transregional imaginaries and thereby frame an understanding of Asia in the context of the world.

Global Political Economy

This module seeks to provide you with an understanding of the complex interaction between states and markets. It uses theory (trade theory, currency theories, theories of integration, theories of economic development) to examine state behaviour in markets.

In addition to offering a theoretical framework, the module also examines state-market relations in specific horizontal issues such as the environment, sovereign debt, and economic integration. It will contextualise the theory and issues in case studies on regional interaction focusing primarily on the SE Asian region.

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 Tuesday 25 October 2022.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Workshops

You will learn through a variety of teaching methods including lectures, seminars and directed reading.

How you will be assessed

  • Coursework
  • Dissertation
  • Examinations
  • Reports

You will be assessed in different ways on various modules. Assessment methods will include examinations and coursework essays.

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 2023 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent)


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

How to apply


Qualification MA
Home / UK £10,000
International £21,500

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) .

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

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.

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.


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


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 is ideal if you wish to pursue a professional career in Asia, whether you are mid-career and wish to change direction, aiming to move into policy areas, or interested in taking time out to make sense of your day-to-day policy activities.

The semester you spend in China or Malaysia will make you particularly attractive to employers which are seeking graduates with cultural and political experience. This course will develop your skills for a career in a range of fields, such as:

  • academia
  • civil service
  • international cultural exchange
  • international organisations
  • journalism
  • ministerial advising
  • non-governmental organisations
  • policy research

Career progression

66.7% 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 £23,444.*

* HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. 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
" There are two main strands to my research; politics and foreign relations in China and Taiwan, and politics, business and pop culture. This research has led to interactions with stakeholders like the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, European Parliament and actors and institutions related to the celebrity industry, hip-hop and football in China and Taiwan. My research and experience feeds into my teaching. "
Jonathan Sullivan, Associate Professor

Related courses

This content was last updated on Tuesday 25 October 2022. 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.