Triangle Skip to content
Exit nav

Course overview

Concerns about security and insecurity infiltrate our everyday lives. How does war and terrorism impact on migration? Do resource shortages due to climate change pose a growing threat? How is weapon screening at airports affecting travel? You'll cover all of these issues and more on this course.

You will be taught by experts at the forefront of research areas such as:

  • hybrid warfare
  • proxy war
  • secret intelligence
  • the rise of Russia
  • the war in Iraq

Our tutors have advised governments, spoken at the Pentagon, made appearances on television and radio, and have experience working in Afghanistan, bringing real-world expertise to your learning and development.

You will explore key issues in international security, such as:

  • international intervention
  • conventional and nuclear deterrence
  • insurgency and counterinsurgency
  • peacemaking and peacekeeping

The course will also develop your understanding of counter-terrorist techniques and provide you with an in-depth study of security issues in particular regions of the world.

We also offer a placement scheme which gives you vital real-world experience. Students from the school recently worked at a NATO agency in Turkey.

This course can set you up for a career in the armed services, civil service, NGOs and policy 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

96%

of our research is of international standard

Course content

This course is made up of a 40 credits of core modules, 80 credits of optional modules, plus a 60-credit dissertation.

Modules

Core modules

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 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.

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.

Optional modules

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
Gender and Political Representation

What does it mean to be represented in politics? This module uses gender as a prism through which to view intersectional debates on political representation. We ask what women’s representation is, what it looks like in political institutions, how gender norms shape access to and participation in political institutions, why women's representation matters for policy outcomes, how it impacts on social movements and voting behaviour, and how it matters in global governance.

Our approach is broadly comparative, focussing on theories and case examples from both high-income countries in the Global North and low- and middle-income countries in the Global South. Our wide selection of countries also allows us to consider what role women’s participation can have in quality of governance and democracy. We recognize that global norm diffusion is key to boosting women’s representation, from gender quotas and gender mainstreaming in the UN's Beijing Platform for Action to the gender equality provisions in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and our discussions will also be of interest to students of international relations. The module engages with diverse perspectives and methodologies and will enable students to develop transferable skills in analytical literacy that can be applied across the social sciences.

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.

Greater China and the World

Content to be confirmed.

International Political Economy

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
Left and Right in Contemporary Politics

The module will focus on the question of the contemporary role of ‘left’ and ‘right’ as structuring principles in a variety of political domains, ranging from party competition, policy formation (domestic as well as foreign policy), public opinion, voting behaviour, media production and consumption, etc.

This question is motivated by two, seemingly contradictory phenomena: on the one hand that many political actors proclaim that left and right are outdated as organising principles, not relevant any more in contemporary politics; and on the other hand the persistent and ubiquitous use of the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ to describe and interpret policies, events, and behaviours.

The module will make use of a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical materials; the individual or small-group projects may choose to focus on the UK or may be comparative in nature.

Public Policy Fiascos

In the study of Politics and International Relations, institutional, decisional, bureaucratic and political mistakes are frequently identified and analysed. They are often called 'fiascos'. Yet the concept of the fiasco itself remains badly under-explored. The aim of this research-led module is to introduce you to the idea of the public policy fiasco using public policy evaluation literature, and to equip you to undertake your own 'fiasco analysis' using a case study of your choice. You will be able to choose a domestic or foreign/security policy fiasco to study, one which suits your own research interests.

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
Russia and Great Power Politics: From Lenin to Putin

"Russia is a Great Power or it is nothing” – this belief has dominated Russian foreign policy thinking in the past as it does today. The module develops an understanding of Russia’s international politics in historical perspective – from the October Revolution in 1917 until today. Why is being a Great Power so important to Moscow and how successful has the country been in achieving and maintaining this status in the international system? What is Russia’s self-perception as an international actor and how does this contrast with the country’s international image?

Within the framework of relevant theoretical approaches to the study of international relations, the module will focus on a wide range of historical events and developments that will lead to a better understanding of Russia’s role in the world today. Themes to be discussed will include, amongst others:

  • Stalinism and Soviet foreign policy
  • Gorbachev’s ‘New Thinking’
  • Military power and foreign policy
  • Russia and its neighbours
  • The annexation of the Crimea
  • Human rights and international relations
Sex, Celebrity and Alternative Lifestyles
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 Monday 24 August 2020.

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 2021 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

UK students

To be confirmed in 2020 *

International students

To be confirmed in 2020 *

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland starting your course in the 2021/22 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who 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 Brexit information for future students.

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.

The University also offers masters scholarships for international and EU students. Our step-by-step guide contains everything you need to know about funding postgraduate study.

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.

More than 1,500 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

Graduate destinations

This course is ideal if you are looking to further your academic knowledge or pursue a career in a range of fields, such as:

  • armed services
  • civil service
  • international organisations
  • journalism
  • non-governmental organisations
  • policy research

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.

Students from the school recently worked at a NATO agency in Turkey.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" I am a leading expert in covert action and "deniable" interventionism, from propaganda to targeted killings; and how prime ministers – and even the Queen – use secret intelligence. My research has featured in most national newspapers and I regularly appear on radio and television. My work was turned into a two-part documentary mini-series, Spying on the Royals, which aired to critical acclaim on Channel 4 in 2017. Most recently, I presented in The King who Fooled Hitler on Channel 4 (June 2019). "
Rory Cormac, Professor of International Relations

Related courses

The University has been awarded Gold for outstanding teaching and learning (2017/18). Our teaching is of the highest quality found in the UK.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a national grading system, introduced by the government in England. It assesses the quality of teaching at universities and how well they ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.

This content was last updated on Monday 24 August 2020. 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.