Postgraduate study
An ideal foundation for a career in Asia, this course includes the opportunity to study in China or Malaysia, developing your knowledge of the culture and politics of the region.
MA Asian and International Studies
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
2.1 (or international equivalent)
6.5 (with no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses may be available
Start date
UK/EU fees
£8,865 - Terms apply
International fees
£18,675 - Terms apply
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You will study at our UK campus for the first semester, moving to the University's campuses in China or Malaysia for the second. This provides you with the genuinely distinctive opportunity to study the countries of Asia, and the relations between them and the rest of the world.

This course is taught by academics across the University's UK, China and Malaysia campuses, who are experts on Asian politics, history and international relations.

The Global Asia module will introduce you to Pan-Asian themes such as nationalism, globalisation, environmental challenges, resource politics and gender relations. It challenges the prevailing conception of 'Asia Rising' as a new phenomenon and will also allow you to specialise on specific country or regional studies.

You will immerse yourself in the culture of these countries and take language options if required. Accommodation will be organised by the University, although it is not covered by the course fees.

Meet the academic

Jon SullivanThere are two main strands to my research that have given me the opportunity to work with interesting external stakeholders. The first, to do with politics and foreign relations in China and Taiwan, has led to a lot of interactions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, European Parliament, diplomatic missions, and government departments and officials in China and Taiwan.

The second, relating to the nexus between politics, business and pop culture, has provided opportunities to engage with actors and institutions related to the celebrity industry, hip-hop and football in China and Taiwan.

Studying Chinese politics and cognate fields has provided a lot of interesting avenues of intellectual inquiry. It has also enabled me to experience what goes on in different sectors and to engage people in them, in a virtuous knowledge-producing circle. This feeds into my module on 'The Politics of Celebrity, Sex and "Alternative" Lifestyles in China'.

Jonathan Sullivan

Student profiles

Being passionate about the South East Asian region and its culture, I decided to go to Malaysia for my spring semester and I am currently living in Kuala Lumpur. This course offers a combination of high-quality education and practical experience. One of the main benefits of living in Asia while studying is the possibility to verify (whenever possible) the concepts learnt in class and to interact with other students from the region.

Carlotta Panchetti

I chose this course because it seemed like an adventure. When I saw that I could study in China, in English, I decided to go for it. The split-campus nature of the course seemed like a good first step to studying abroad.

Gabriel Leatham

Academic English preparation and support

If you require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education, which is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

Students who successfully complete the presessional course to the required level can progress to postgraduate study without retaking IELTS or equivalent. You could be eligible for a joint offer, which means you will only need to apply for your visa once.

Key facts

  • Engage with policy practitioners on our UK, China and Malaysia campuses through the Asia Research Institute
  • Committed to excellence in teaching, having won 13 Higher Education Academy awards
  • Expert academics who contribute to public debate through national and international media, including appearing on BBC TV, BBC Radio 4, the BBC World Service and in such publications as The Guardian, The New York Times and Le Monde

Full course details

In the autumn semester, you will take a core module, plus 40 credits of optional modules (up to 20 of which can be from outside the school).

You will spend the spring semester at either our China or Malaysia campuses, and will complete your studies by researching and writing a 60-credit, 15,000-word dissertation, on a subject related to Asia. You will be allocated an appropriate dissertation supervisor who will oversee your progress.



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.

Dissertation on Asian and International Studies

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

China and the World

This module introduces you to the traditional Chinese and the Maoist world views, though it focuses on the changes that have taken place since the start of the reform period.

It explores how domestic politics and other developments have contributed on the one hand to the rise of China as a great power of the first league, and to the emergence of a 19th century European type of nationalism on the other.

It addresses China's use of force in support of foreign policy as well as its attempts to project soft power. It also reviews China's relations with its major partners or competitors, including the USA, the EU (including the UK), and the importance of Taiwan in China's relations with the rest of the world.

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.

Democracy and Elites in 20th Century Europe and America

From the Occupy Movement and its slogan of the 1%, to Brexit and Trump, the problematic relationship elites – whether financial, social or political – entertain with democracy has been forcefully brought back onto the political agenda. How can the fact that a small number of people wield disproportionate power in the economic, social or indeed political world be reconciled with democracy understood as political equality? Whilst this is no doubt a burning topic, the question of what role elites play in democracy has been raised before.

The aim of this module is to delve into the history of political thought to see how authors in the past century have conceptualised the relationship elites entertain with democracy. Starting with the so-called classic 'elite theorists of democracy' – Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, Robert Michels, Moisie Ostrogorski – who were the first to theorise the elite class within a modern democracy setting, we will explore how their thought impacted upon the development of democratic theory both in Europe and the US through figures such as C. Wright Mills, Robert Dahl, Joseph Schumpeter, Raymond Aron, Bernard Manin and Pierre Rosanvallon.

Our goal will be to come to a better understanding of both contemporary democracies and the precise nature – whether good or bad – elites play in them, and to think about ways in which some of the more deleterious aspects of our contemporary politics might be tackled.

Designing Political Enquiry

The module is designed to allow you 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.

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. It exposes you to a broad range of methodological issues involved in designing, conducting and writing up research based on a relative small number of cases in areas of comparative politics, international relations, and public policy. 

Topics that are addressed in the module 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.

Disasters, Rehabilitation and Resilience

This module will focus on post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation and how 'resilience' is articulated and experienced. Key themes will include vulnerability (to shocks and slow onset disasters), risk and resilience. Examples will be drawn from various real world disasters and you will be able to research the disasters of your choice.

EU-China: Trade, Aid and Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century

In this module, you will learn about the state-of-the-art of western engagement with China during the past 35 years (1978-), in particular western trade and development policies towards China and gain insights into the interplay between bilateral and multilateral development agencies and Chinese domestic partner organisations.

You will learn to critique emerging partnerships between international NGOs and domestic civil society organisations and academic institutions. Drawing both on primary and secondary sources you will familiarise yourself with the increasingly lively international debates among Chinese and non-Chinese social and political scientists, educators, media professionals, civil society practitioners, government officials, and lawyers about goals and means of western China engagement.

This module will provide a socially relevant policy curriculum and help you develop necessary skills for a democratic practice of public policy inquiry.

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.

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.

Government and Politics of China

This module deals with some key concepts, processes and institutions in contemporary Chinese politics, including:

  • the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership and succession
  • legitimacy and stability in Chinese politics
  • central and local elections
  • political opening and experiments
  • the development of civil society in the reform era
  • social and political life in cities
  • regulation and governing the market
  • the Party in transition
Institutions, Governance and International Development

In recent decades, the quality of governance has become central to our understanding of the effectiveness of international aid and development policies as well as our understanding of the failures to successfully tackle poverty, inequality, conflict and instability in developing countries. This module takes a twofold approach to introduce you to theories and practice of governance and institutional reform in developing countries.

First, it examines theories of development to trace the emphasis on state and governance in contemporary development thinking including the history of the good governance paradigm. Second, the module examines a range of issues to build governance effectiveness in developing countries including debates on strengthening the fiscal capacity of the state, curbing patronage practices and professionalising the civil service, the role of decentralisation, civil society and the establishment of effective anti-corruption policies.

The module is thematically structured and draws on examples from all major developing regions, in particular, Latin America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. The module will combine the study of academic debate, practitioner material, for instance, from international aid and assistance organisations and case study material to directly experience the challenges of engaging in institutional reform in developing countries.

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
The Politics of South Asia

This module introduces you 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. 

In so doing it examines the different strategies of nation building adopted by the elites of these very diverse states, and how and why the considerable ethnic and religious diversity of the region has impacted on the 'quality' of democracy. It concludes with an examination of the international politics of South Asia, and considers future scenarios for the region.

Quantitative Political Analysis

This module introduces you 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 you with hands-on skills of data analysis and will enable you to write professional academic reports on these analyses.

Russia in the World Today

With the end of the Cold War, the Russian Federation lost its superpower status. However, not least due to its size, geostrategic location, richness in energy and influence in international organisations, the country continues to be an important actor in international politics. The module examines Russia's role in the world today. Analytically, it focuses on the contrast between Russia's own understanding of its role in the world and the country's international reputation.

Substantially, the module will study Russia's image and self-image as an international actor; the factors driving Russian foreign and defence policy (including the role of energy); and Russia's relations with its neighbours (former Soviet states; the West, including NATO and the EU; and the East, ie China, Japan and North Korea).

Secret Intelligence and International Security

This module is an introduction to the concepts and practices of secret intelligence and its place within international security. The module is split into three sections.

The first examines conceptual issues and models; the second explores some of the roles of intelligence in the 21st century; and the third examines how intelligence actors can actively shape international relations. These are highly relevant issues, which are regularly in the media. 

Special Project A

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

Special Project B

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

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.

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.

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.

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.



Spring semester, Ningbo Campus

60 credits of appropriate modules, such as:

China in International Relations

This course 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".

Global Development Politics

This specialisation module will look at theories and experiences of economic development. It will address the sociological, political and ethical questions related to modernisation and compare different theoretical approaches to development. It will furthermore consider the practical problems arising from development management and organisation and take the role of international organisations, NGOs and state actors under close scrutiny.



Spring semester, Malaysia Campus

60 credits of appropriate modules, such as:

Human Security

The module will cover the following:

  • What is human security in the global system?
  • Poverty and inequality
  • Disease (HIV/AIDS and others)
  • Environment: Global warming, floods, droughts, famine, deforestation
  • Population movement: refugees, camps and asylum seekers
  • Organised crime: Human trafficking: slavery and sex trade
  • Human trafficking: Organ sales
  • Organised crime: Drugs, counterfeiting and pornography
  • Ideology and Terrorism
  • Security Measures: UN conventions eg: Human Rights; CEDAW; Rights of the Child; Convention on Trafficking
  • Security Measures: National legislation such as public health regulation, immigration regulation, anti-terrorism measures and environmental controls
The International Relations of South East Asia

The highly diverse states of Southeast Asia (SEA) are attempting to manage their relations with the increasingly rivalrous great powers that surround them while simultaneously undertaking an ambitious community-building project. A sense of vulnerability pushes them together, but residual problems - many dating from the colonial and Cold War eras - just as vigorously threaten to pull them apart.

States are joined on the regional stage by multi-national companies, actively engaged publics, and insurgent groups fighting in protracted subnational conflicts. The social, political, cultural, and economic waves that emanate from both inside and outside the region produce both change and resistance to change.

By focusing on the actors, structures, and processes that animate Southeast Asia, this module will enable you to go behind the often sensational media headlines you read in regional coverage, and analyse the region in a more rigorous and coherent way.


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

The above is a sample of the typical modules that 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. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and information is provided for indicative purposes only.


Fees and funding

MA Fee Waiver Competition 2019

The School of Politics and International Relations is delighted to announce the availability of four scholarship opportunities to study on one of our MA programmes for the 2019/20 academic year. The awards are 50% of the annual fees for the MA courses (Home and EU rates only).

See information on how to fund your masters, including our step-by-step guide. Further information is available on the school website.

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.

If you choose to take an optional field trip, you will need to contribute around £400 towards this.

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

Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.


Careers and professional development

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.

It does not presuppose any knowledge of the region. However, modules are designed to enable those who have previous experience of living or working in Asia to expand and build on their existing knowledge.

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


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.


If you wish to continue your studies after completing this course, we offer a range of research opportunities with PhD supervision in most subject areas.

Employability and average starting salary

95.2% of postgraduates from the School of Politics and International Relations who were available for employment secured work or further study within six months of graduation. £25,000 was the average starting salary, with the highest being £42,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career and professional development

Whether you are looking to enhance your career prospects or develop your knowledge, a postgraduate degree from the University of Nottingham can help take you where you want to be.

Our award-winning Careers and Employability Service offers specialist support and guidance while you study and for life after you graduate. They will help you explore and plan your next career move, through regular events, employer-led skills sessions, placement opportunities and one-to-one discussions.


This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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