Course overview

How will the West adapt to the growth of Asia’s economic and political influence on global affairs? How might this shift in power affect the world order? How will relationships between Asia and the West evolve?

BA International Relations and Asian Studies will give you insights into the latest political and international relations developments within Asia and between Asia and the rest of the world. You will study key themes such as the evolution of the Asian continent, and the complex challenges of global politics. Teaching is underpinned by the work of our Asia Research Institute which addresses the major political, social and economic challenges of the region.

You’ll be fully immersed in the culture of the region when you spend your second year studying at either our China or Malaysia campus. Through a range of optional modules you can specialise in areas such as environmental governance, security, the media, and social and global justice. You could also study Mandarin if you go to China.

Why choose this course?

Includes a year abroad

at the university's campuses in China or Malaysia

Active societies

related to the study of politics support a student community

Tailor your studies

to your career goals through a range of optional modules

Placements programme

Placements and internship programme provides valuable work experience, self-confidence and a practical application of your studies

Award-winning tutors

Tutors who have won awards for their teaching and are regularly featured in the media

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.

UK entry requirements
A level BBB in Clearing for home students

Please note: Applicants whose backgrounds or personal circumstances have impacted their academic performance may receive a reduced offer. Please see our contextual admissions policy for more information.

IB score 30 in Clearing for home students

Notes for applicants

We are looking for students who have the ability and motivation to benefit from our courses, and who will make a valued contribution to the department and the university. Candidates are considered on the basis of their UCAS application.

All applications are considered equally on merit; students are usually selected on the basis of academic excellence and personal qualities, as evidenced in your personal statement and reference. Applicants are not typically interviewed.

Mature Students

At the University of Nottingham, we have a valuable community of mature students and we appreciate their contribution to the wider student population. You can find lots of useful information on the mature students webpage.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

Teaching methods

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials

How you will be assessed

Assessment methods

  • Coursework
  • Dissertation
  • Essay
  • Examinations
  • Presentation

Contact time and study hours

You will have 12 hours per week of lectures/tutorials/seminars.

You will also be expected to undertake approximately 8 to 10 hours of independent study per week, for each 20 credit module you are studying.

Study abroad

The intention is for you to spend your second year studying abroad at the university's campuses in China or Malaysia, where teaching will be in English.

Please note, in the event of government or University restrictions on study abroad are in place at the intended year of study, you will then study the modules on the UK pathway.

This will give you the opportunity to broaden your horizons and enhance your CV by experiencing another culture. Teaching is in English.

Please note that:

  • there are minimum eligibility requirements for a student to participate in exchange
  • exchange is not required for this degree


We recognise that graduates often need more than just a great degree to stand out from the crowd. As such, we help provide valuable placement and internship opportunities for politics and international relations students.

We currently have over 25 placement partners providing 100+ placements a year, including internship opportunities in Westminster and even overseas.

Study Abroad and the Year in Industry are subject to students meeting minimum academic requirements. Opportunities may change at any time for a number of reasons, including curriculum developments, changes to arrangements with partner universities, travel restrictions or other circumstances outside of the university’s control. Every effort will be made to update information as quickly as possible should a change occur.


In year one, you will cover topics like international relations, comparative politics, and Asian politics. Optional modules explore controversies in post-war British politics and key political ideas and historical developments.

Core modules

Culture and Values in a Changing World

This module explores the shift from modern to postmodern values, looking at questions like levels of trust in democracies, religion and secularisation, and nationalism. While exploring these themes, you will learn the principles of research design and data analysis using Microsoft Excel.

Using the World Values Survey and a questionnaire designed yourself, you will learn how to compare countries and assess the role of culture in politics.

International Politics of the Asia-Pacific

This module introduces you to a broadly defined international politics of the Asia Pacific, incorporating political history, political systems, political economy, foreign relations, security, development and social issues.

The module critically engages with issues in the Asia Pacific region, while situating these issues within their international context and assessing their interaction with global politics. The module combines comparative, analytical and historical approaches, with abundant use of cross-national studies and single-country case studies.

In addition to substantive learning about the region, you are introduced to key concepts, approaches and methods in the study of international politics. Through careful engagement of theoretical and substantive material, you are encouraged to reflect on how an understanding of Asian politics can better inform a more holistic understanding of global 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

Watch a video about this module.

Politics at University

This module will introduce you to the fundamentals of sound academic practice in studying politics at University. It will cover such topics as:

  • identifying and finding library and online sources for assignments
  • correct referencing and the compilation of bibliographies
  • academic integrity and misconduct
  • note-taking and essay-writing skills
  • the use of feedback
  • time-management

We will introduce good academic practice by each week taking as our substantive theme some aspect of the theme of politics and the University. What is academic freedom? Should students have a right to demand trigger warnings and safe spaces or not? Should the curriculum be decolonised, and how? Are universities local or global actors, or what should be the desirable balance? Who should pay for Higher Education? Should universities prioritise the skills and employability agenda or ‘traditional’ academic work? Must academic research seek to have real-world impact?

These and other questions will form the basis for the examples and materials through which we will work in cultivating students’ preparedness to rise to the challenge of reading degrees in Politics and International Relations.

Problems in Global Politics

This module explores some of the major problems that exist in contemporary global politics. It introduces you 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 you to better understand global politics.

Understanding Global Politics

This module provides an introduction to the study of international relations.

It focuses on some of the main theoretical approaches in the discipline: ways of explaining and understanding global politics, each of which has developed over time rival accounts both of the features of world politics on which we ought to concentrate and of the concepts that we ought to bring to bear in our analyses. It illustrates each of these broad theoretical approaches - and some of their pitfalls - by introducing the study of some 'structural' aspect of global politics, such as conflict, peace, institutions and globalisation.

The module therefore supplies the introduction to international relations that will be necessary for those who go on to study contemporary global affairs and more advanced modules such as those on international political economy, global security, or foreign policy analysis.

Optional modules

British Constitution in Crisis

This module introduces you to the institutional structure of the British constitution and examines its significance and suitability in the context of crises that have animated it in recent decades.

This module will cover topics such as parliamentary sovereignty and referendums, devolution, Britain’s changing relationship with Europe, and the legacy of empire.

Introduction to Political Theory

This module introduces you 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 module will be text based.  

Watch a video about this module.

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 Friday 02 September 2022.

The intention is for you to spend your second year studying abroad at the university's campuses in China or Malaysia, where teaching will be in English.

Please note, in the event of government or university restrictions on study abroad are in place at the intended year of study, you will then study the modules on the UK pathway.

In China, you will explore the country's modern political history, economy and society, developing research techniques. You can also choose to study the Mandarin language.

In Malaysia, you will examine Asia Pacific relations and developing an understanding of the Malay world. You can choose to delve further into the country's culture, economy and security.

Please note that:

  • there are minimum eligibility requirements for a student to participate in exchange
  • exchange is not required for this degree

China campus core modules

Global Shift: Power, Order, Change

This is an international relations module, but it is also interdisciplinary, with a sizable history component. The module examines world order change from ancient times to the present. The module will focus on Europe's rise to world domination and the current global shift from a western-constructed and dominated order to something different but as yet unknown.

The module examines world order as a historically specific thing that can change and is not permanent. It seeks to open your mind to the impermanence of world order and factors that will reshape the present world order in the decades to come. The module draws on political and international relations theory as well as more empirically-based accounts of world politics past, present, and future.

Research Techniques in Contemporary Chinese Studies

How do researchers plan and deliver research projects? What are some of the ethical and practical considerations central to carrying out research? How do students start to become researchers in the China field? This module will address these questions by developing your skills, knowledge and understanding of a range of research methods and fieldwork techniques in the Chinese context.

Topics for this module cover research design and strategies, case studies, semi-structured interviews, content and discourse analysis, risk assessment, safety and ethical issues, group and individual research projects. You will undertake practical fieldwork activities while based at the University of Nottingham campus in Ningbo.

The Rise of Modern China
In this module you will study the history of China from the 1840s, through to the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949. You will focus in particular on the ways in which Chinese society responded to the arrival of ‘modernity’ in the form of the Western powers and Japan throughout the period in question, but also how different groups in China tried to remould or redefine China as a ‘modern’ nation-state and society. In this module you will have a two-hour lecture each week.

China campus optional modules

Chinese Economy and Society

This module emphasises sociological theories of family and society with reference to China. Topics include:

  • social structure of China: the State, society, families and individuals
  • trust, Guanxi (social network), and social capital
  • rural-urban divide: dualism, 'urban bias' or 'State bias'
  • social stratification: class, entitlement and citizenship
  • evolution of China's social development: rural-urban migration
  • evolution of China's labour market and industrial relations institutions
Contemporary Chinese Culture, Ideology and Society

This modules introduces you to key concepts in the understanding of contemporary Chinese culture, ideology, and features of Chinese society, including:

  • Chinese nationalism
  • education and ideology
  • rural and urban society
  • the role of intellectuals
  • prevailing socio-cultural ideologies and trends
Democratisation in Asia, Africa and Latin America

Recent years have seen an astonishing spread of democracy to many Asian, African and Latin American countries. What caused these dramatic political transitions? What challenges do democratizing countries in the Third World face? Will these new democracies endure? What explains the persistence of authoritarianism or pseudo democracies?

We will take up these questions using along traditional pedagogical approaches, documentary and popular journalism, as well as scholarly research. We will also focus on a small number of countries that cut across focus regions (Brazil, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya, Singapore, Thailand and Burma) in order to explore in greater depth some of the most important political challenges faced by developing countries.

Although the class focuses on the developing world, many of the lessons and experiences can have broader application.

Global Environmental Governance

This module aims at introducing you to global environmental problems. It will not only look at more technical questions linked to environmental protection (for instance, the link between economic development and environment) but also on the international responses to these problems, notably international regimes.

Invitation of practitioners from environmental organisations and of researchers working in this area will complement the module.

International Organisations

This module introduces you to the theory and practice of international organisations. It examines the main theoretical approaches in international relations and illustrates the contributions of these approaches to our understanding of the historical and political foundations of international organisations.

The module examines what international organisations do, whether they matter in world politics and how they shape the processes of global governance. The module, in particular, will look at the United Nations (including its organisation, decision-making process and financing); World Bank; International Monetary Fund; World Trade Organization; International Courts and Tribunals; UN and Humanitarian Emergencies; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mandarin Chinese for Beginners 1A

This module provides you with a foundation in Chinese phonetics, grammar and vocabulary in order to develop your competence in Mandarin Chinese. The focus is on communicative competence in both spoken and written language, and you will begin thorough training in use of the Mandarin Chinese script. As well as equipping you with skills in the language, the module also informs you about Chinese culture and society.

Mandarin Chinese for the Intermediate Level 2A

This module consolidates the skills you have acquired in the first year and further develops your oral and written communicative ability in Mandarin. It introduces use in more complex situations and broadens your vocabulary. A range of activities, including listening exercises, discussion, reading comprehension and producing short written texts, will improve your fluency and confidence.

Malaysia campus core modules

Cultural Politics

This module develops the political dimension of theoretical approaches to culture and communications. Looking at everyday forms and practices, the course highlights the ideological investments in questions of cultural value.

Concentrating on nation, race, class, gender, disability and sexuality as areas of inequality which shape, and are shaped by, cultural and communications practices, the module emphasises the power dynamics at play in processes of cultural production, consumption and control.

The programme moves from macro to micro approaches to culture beginning with broad questions around ideology, power and resistance and ending with the particulars of everyday strategies and tactics.

International Relations of the Asia Pacific

This module provides you with a contemporary overview of the international politics of the Asia-Pacific, including:

  • the role of the United States of America in the region
  • the rise of China and the impact on the Asia Pacific
  • the "normalisation" of Japan
  • conflict on the Korean peninsula
  • the South China Sea dispute and the role of Southeast Asian middle powers
  • the international politics of human rights
Understanding the Malay World

The Malay world extends from the southernmost point of the Asian continent to form an archipelagic expanse that has been a crossroads in the global flow of people, goods, and ideas in the past millennium. The contemporary nation-states that emerged from this past include Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

This module delves into Malay world history through readings and by examining primary sources in a variety of media. It explores ways of understanding history before the arrival of nation-states and its implications for the present.

Malaysia campus optional modules

Comparative Politics

This module introduces you to the politics and political institutions of a number of countries. It does so from a thematic perspective, namely by first discussing concepts and theories of Comparative Politics and then applying them to several countries. Issues explored may include the origin and impact of electoral institutions, the role of cleavage in politics, structures of political economy, regime form, and gender.

Cross-Cultural Psychology

This module provides the foundations on which to build an understanding of the psychological implications of cultural differences. It attempts to examine some of the ways in which human behavior and processes are conditioned by cultural membership.

It will cover the fundamental concepts and theoretical perspectives as well as findings of classic and contemporary empirical studies pertinent in the study of culture and human behavior.

Film and Television in Social and Cultural Context

During this year-long module you'll:

  • think about industries, audiences and surrounding debates from a social and cultural viewpoint
  • learn about the way that social and cultural meaning is produced by film and television programmes​
  • explore the social practices that surround the consumption of media, such as movie going and television viewing

Some of the specific questions we might look at together include:

  • How do value judgements shape the way in which movies and television programmes get made
  • What is "good" television?
  • What challenges are public service broadcasters, like the BBC, facing and how should they address these?
  • How have writers and producers attempted to use television drama to enact social change?
  • What kind of TV programmes are preferred by streaming services and why?
  • How might binge watching impact on the viewer's experience and social communication?

This module is worth 20 credits.

Global Political Economy and International Development

This module introduces you to the study of international political economy (IPE) and global development. It examines the reciprocal, interactive relationship between politics and economics or between states and markets in the contemporary international system by exploring how political factors influence international economic relations and how the international economy in turn shapes domestic and international politics.

The module introduces the main theoretical approaches in international political economy and global development and illustrates the contributions of these approaches to our understanding of the global political economy.

International Security

This module explores issues in global security since the end of the Cold War. It focuses on security in a broad sense, from issues relating to the use of force by states, through to violence by non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, and on to the concept of human security where issues of disease and environmental impact are important. International relations theories that shed light on the study of international security will be studied in the module.

The module builds on the first year modules Understanding Global Politics and Issues in Global Politics, challenging you to deepen your theoretical as well as empirical knowledge in international security. It is also a preparation for the research-led third year modules that require a much more developed capacity of analysing empirical developments from a range of different theoretical perspectives.

Introduction to Citizenship

This module aims to provide you with a perspective for understanding the historical growth and contemporary problems relating to the notion of citizenship. Specifically citizenship is related to globalization, the role of the state and issues of justice domestically and internationally. The module also aims to introduce you to a range of theoretical frameworks concerned with these issues.

You are required to follow all the lectures online, participates in the seminar discussion taking place on the virtual platform and complete the necessary course works by the deadline. The module requires constant participation and commitment throughout the semester.

Malaysian Society and Economy

The module provides an overview of the issues, programmes and policies that have influenced the development of Malaysian society and economy.

The topics addressed within the module cover a range of areas dealing with the socio political setting of modern Malaysia, the Malaysia constitution, political and administrative development, followed by a coverage of the features and development of key economic sectors, trade and industrial policies, fiscal and monetary policies, globalisation and its impact on Malaysian society and the economy.

Politics, Culture and the Media in South East Asia

South East Asia is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, but that growth is uneven between powerhouses like Singapore and the less advanced nations such as Laos and Burma. The political landscape is a mixture of authoritarian or centralised states such as Vietnam and Burma, and vibrant democracies like the Philippines and Indonesia.

The module approaches South East Asia from three perspectives: international relations, media studies and cultural politics. It offers a thorough grounding in the key issues affecting the region today.

UK campus core modules

Politics and Public Policy in China

This module provides a comprehensive introduction to the politics and public policy of contemporary China. You will be familiarised with useful approaches to the study of Chinese politics.

In the first part of the module, you will develop knowledge and understanding of China's leadership and succession, the structure of the party-state and the role of its major branches, central-local relations, and crisis and epidemic management, from the SARS to Covid19.

In the second part, you will compare and contrast the genesis of mainland China's rudimentary welfare state with the example of Bismarck's German Empire, which is widely credited as the birthplace of the welfare state in Europe.

Following an overview of the policy-making cycle and public administration in China, you will explore the challenges of implementing regulatory and redistributive policies under authoritarian conditions. You will put insights into practice by critiquing public policies in China, ranging from labour and migration through education to health.

The Transformation of European Politics

This module aims to provide you with a systematic introduction to current debates in the comparative analysis of European politics.

The module adopts a thematic approach and focuses on both traditional fields of comparative enquiry, such as the study of party systems and representation, elections and voting behaviour, party competition and government formation, executive-legislative relations, as well as emerging fields of interest, such as political participation, extreme right politics, immigration, political corruption and the political and social challenges of globalisation and European integration.

The diverse experiences of liberal democracy in European countries and the political and social changes that they have undergone are discussed thematically in the seminars. In the seminars, a country-expert system is used whereby you are assigned a particular country to cover. The module covers both long-established democracies in Western Europe and newer democracies in Central and Eastern Europe.

At least one from:

Democracy and its Critics

Democracy is a contested concept and organising principle of politics both ancient and modern. Its appeal seems to be universal, yet it has always had its critics. 

This module investigates the nature of democratic principles, the arguments of democracy's opponents and the claims of those who say that contemporary life is inadequately democratised. A particular feature of the module is the use of primary sources to investigate historic and contemporary debates.  

How Voters Decide

Elections are the foundation of representative democracy. The act of voting creates a link between citizens' preferences and government policy. This means that the choices voters make have important consequences.

But, how do voters make these choices? Are they based on the policies that parties promise to enact in the future, or is it more about the policy successes (or failures) that parties have experienced in the past? Does the party's leader make a difference? Can campaigns or the media's coverage change how voters see their electoral choices? Finally, given the importance of elections, why do many citizens choose to abstain from the process altogether?

How Voters Decide will explore the choices that citizens make when they participate in elections and it will provide students with the skills necessary to evaluate arguments about electoral behaviour in Britain and beyond.

International Politics in the 20th Century

The module examines issues and themes in 20th-century international politics, from the eclipse of the 19th-century European diplomatic order to the collapse of the global bipolar system at end of the Cold War.

The course is taught from the disciplinary standpoint of international relations rather than that of international history. Therefore, various theoretical perspectives are brought to bear on each of these themes. For instance, we discuss:

  • the broad differences between the disciplines of international relations and international history in respect of explaining and understanding the international politics of the 20th century
  • questions of causality in international relations with reference to the onset of the Cold War
  • questions about political psychology with respect to the Cuban missile crisis
  • questions about prediction and the purposes of theory in relation to the end of the Cold War

UK campus optional modules

Global Security

This module explores issues in global security since the end of the Cold War. It focuses on security in a broad sense, from issues relating to the use of force by states, through to violence by non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, and on to the concept of human security. 

The module builds on the first year modules, Understanding Global Politics and Problems in Global Politics, challenging you to deepen your theoretical as well as empirical knowledge in international security. It is also a preparation for the research-led third year modules that require a much more developed capacity of analysing empirical developments from a range of different theoretical perspectives.  

International Political Economy and Global Development

This module studies the historical development of international political economy with a specific focus on development as well as the different ways this can be theoretically analysed.

While some speak about the internationalisation of the temporary order, others think in terms of more drastic changes and define them as globalisation. Similarly, while some are very optimistic that increasing free trade administered by the WTO will lead to general development, others argue that this is precisely the mechanism, with which underdeveloped countries are kept in a situation of dependence.

Based on the teaching of background information on different IPE theories and the immediate post-war period, it is these kinds of questions the module will be addressing. The module builds on the first year modules Understanding Global Politics and Problems in Global Politics, challenging you to deepen your theoretical as well as empirical knowledge in IPE.

It is also a preparation for the research-led third year modules, which require a much more developed capacity of analysing empirical developments from a range of different theoretical perspectives.

Political Parties and Party Systems Around the Globe

This module will offer an overview of political party development and the functioning of party systems in democratic states around the world, with a special focus on post-transitional democracies in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Applying a variety of analytical concepts, theoretical approaches and empirical indicators to the study of party politics, the module will highlight the institutional and sociological determinants of party organisation development and system stability as well as the consequences of party failure and party system collapse.

Social and Global Justice

'Justice' has been one of the key themes of political theory at least from the time of Plato, as questions of who gets what, when, and why are absolutely central to political discourse. Should people be able to keep what they earn with their talents, or is it only fair to take wealth away from those who have it to give to those who have little? Do different cultures deserve equal 'recognition'? 

Recently these questions of distributive and social justice have taken on a global dimension. Does the developed world have obligations to distant others, and do they have rights against it?

This module will look at these questions from a contemporary perspective, looking at ideas about justice from thinkers such as the utilitarians, John Rawls, Thomas Pogge, Susan Moller Okin, and Bhikhu Parekh.

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

In your final year, you have the option to complete a dissertation on a topic of your choice in international relations and Asian studies. You'll be allocated a dedicated supervisor to support you.

You will also select from a wide range of optional modules that allow you to specialise in the areas that interest you.

Optional modules

African Politics

This module explores key themes and debates in the study of African politics. It aims to provide a broad introduction to African domestic and regional politics as well as Africa’s evolving position within an international political arena.

The Battle for Democracy

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.

Crisis: Death or Survival of Democracy

This module studies the politics of democratic backsliding in East and Central Europe. During the last three decades the region of East and Central Europe has undergone a historically unprecedented development of democratic transition from communism, the establishment and consolidation of democratic institutions, political parties and party systems, as well as the integration into Western political, economic and security alliances, most notably the European Union. Recent trends towards democratic backsliding in the region have cast doubt on the success of post-communist transformation.

This module focuses on the politics of democratic backsliding in East and Central Europe in the context of contemporary debates surrounding the de-consolidation of democracy across the globe.

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.

Dissertation in Politics and International Relations

This module enables you to undertake a sustained piece of research and analysis into a subject within the discipline of politic and international relations.

The EU as a Global Power

Against the backdrop of increasingly tense EU-US relations, Brexit, and rising nationalism in Europe, this module analyses the European Union's international role. It first introduces concepts and decision-making processes related to EU foreign policy both, by Member States and EU institutions. In particular, we analyse the processes within the European Communities, and the CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policies) / CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policies) frameworks.

The module then critically assesses security and economic policies towards Africa, the Middle East and China. Themes to explain the nature of contemporary EU foreign policies include: European integration, intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, neoliberalism and ethical foreign policy, development aid (including for health and education) and diplomacy, post-colonialism, as well as military and civilian means for conflict-management.

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.

Middle East and the World

This module covers:

  • Introduction – background history, empire and its importance, Sykes Picot
  • 1910-20s - WW1 and Balfour Declaration
  • 1930-40s inc. Palestine, WW2, beginning of the Cold War and creation of Israel
  • Cold War and the Middle East - Egypt and Suez, and Arab-Israel conflict
  • Turkish history and politics – including foreign policy
  • Nationalism – Kurdish and Pan-Arab
  • “Terrorism” – Iranian revolution, Iranian hostage crisis, Palestinian issue, Lebanon, Libya, plus the end of the Cold War – USSR to Russia, Chechen wars x2, Arab-Israel again. Islamic state - religion/terrorism/nationalism nexus
  • 1990s - First Gulf War and policing Iraq (including Iran-Iraq war 1980s). Authoritarianism as a legacy of the Cold War – Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya
  • 2000s - Iraq War
  • 2010s: The Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil war
  • Legacy and contemporary issues – Iran nuclear issue, Yemen, Saudi Arabia
Political Challenges and Multiple Crises in the Global Economy

The global economy presents a wide variety of political challenges and can create multiple types of crisis for states and the actors within it. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the whole system under pressure and revealed its fragility.

This module analyses some of these challenges and crises, which range from sovereign default to the global free trade system and the impact of climate change, to help us understand and explain the international political economy. It draws on scholarship from the fields of international relations theory, international political economy, security studies, and economic history to provide students with a more nuanced understanding of global politics.

Political Violence

This module will offer a typology of political violence perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. It will outline the conditions or the escalation or de-escalation of political violence, as well as analysing the general efficacy of different manifestations of political violence.

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.

The Politics of Human Rights

Why are some states better at protecting, respecting, and fulfilling their human rights obligations, while others are not? Understanding the conditions under which governments protect human rights is crucial for the field of International Relations and policy makers alike. This module will discuss cutting-edge research within and beyond the human rights field.

You will learn about autocratic state behaviour, safeguards within democratic systems, the campaigns and challenges of NGOs and international organisations, and the wide-ranging effects of globalisation across the different categories and dimensions of human rights. The module will apply theory and empirical insights from these different fields of inquiry in order to understand the relative protection and enjoyment of human rights across different country contexts.

By the end of the module, you will have a clear understanding about human rights research and its effects on the real world.

Politics Placement

This module involves a part-time placement (one day a week) in an external organisation, and is aimed at developing hands-on work experience and employability skills in a workplace relevant to students of politics. Pre-placement training will be provided via three half-day workshops at the beginning of the module.

Each placement will be arranged by the work placement officer. Placements will be provided by organisations involved in private, public and third sector organisations, such as the civil service, charities and political parties.

Departmental mentoring will take the form of a weekly drop-in tutorial with the module convenor, in which experiences are shared and work is undertaken on the assessment tasks. Group presentations will occur during the final four hour workshop, at which time each group will critically reflect on their experiences of the ethos and goals of their host organisation.

Populism, Elites and Democracy

Populism is a contentious term. Over the last few decades we have witnessed a surge of ideologically diverse populist movements with strong democratically elected leaders acting in the name of ‘the people’ across the globe. For some, populism is illiberal, anti-pluralist and a danger to democracy; for others, it is the ultimate democratic act of popular sovereignty.

This module examines the controversial relationship between populism and democracy. It surveys key theoretical developments in democratic theory and the populist literature to compare mainstream and alternative definitions/conceptualisations of populism. The modules examines the problematic relationship of elites (‘the 1%’) – whether financial, social or political – in relation to liberal democracy and the masses (‘the 99%’). It explores concepts and events key to the populist surge, such as ‘post-truth’ politics, the polarisation of politics, the ‘friend/enemy’ relation, ‘us versus them’ relation, ‘elites’, ‘democratic leadership’, ‘representation’, the 2019 prorogation of the British Parliament, and ‘identification’.

You will have the opportunity to examine a range of different progressive and regressive populist leaders/associations, such as: Donald Trump, Vikor Orbán, Hugo Chávez, Brexit 2016, the UK general election 2019, the Yellow vests movement, the Danish People’s Party, Fidesz, the People’s Party, Occupy, Syriza, Podemos, Jobbik and Alternative for Germany.

Race and Politics

This module seeks to introduce you to theories of race and racialisation, including, but not limited to, postcolonial theory, orientalism, and intersectionality. After learning about these theoretical lenses, you will study the politics of race in different country contexts through countries’ histories of colonialism and imperialism as well as contemporary racial and ethnic disparities.

Responding to Violent Extremism

This module will bridge the gap between academic study and pragmatic policy. It will consider how extremist ideas come into politics through extremist versions of ideology and religion, based on theories of prominent writers in the field.

It will consider political ideologies’ reliance on power and the role of violence through past case studies such as anarchism, Nazism and religious extremism. The module will also look at responses to terrorism utilising a case study approach that explores the United Kingdom’s and United States of America’s methods.

Special Relationship? Anglo-American Security Relations

The Anglo-American so-called 'Special Relationship' has provoked controversy since the term was coined after World War Two. To some commentators it has represented an attempt by the UK to hide its decline by lofty rhetoric and becoming the 'poodle' of a Superpower. To others, it has been a relationship that has served the interests of both countries and provided a foundation for Western cooperation.

This module explores the salient aspects of a relationship that has been built around security, conventional and nuclear. On the one hand, it investigates areas of collaboration, such as nuclear and intelligence sharing, where the US and the UK have worked closely together. On the other, it uncovers issues that have provoked tension between the two sides and it seeks to understand the depth of these disagreements.

The first part of the module looks at the period of the Cold War, when both countries were focused on the threat from the Soviet Union. The second part of part of the module looks at the post-Cold War period and how the relationship has fared amidst the US-led War on Terror and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Theories of the Modern State

The state is the predominant site of power and authority in the modern world. Where modern states do not exist there is usually civil war or occupation; where they are ineffective, politics, society and economy tend to be unstable. But the modern state is also itself a site of violence and coercion in the name of which much suffering has been inflicted on those subject to its power, at home and abroad. Modern politics, then, simply cannot be understood unless we also understand the modern state.

By taking this module, you will become familiar with some of the most important theories of the modern state in the history of political thought, from Bodin and Hobbes, through Hegel and Weber, to Lenin, Robert Paul Wolff and Carole Pateman. You will come to appreciate how the power and authority of the modern state have been characterised, justified and repudiated during the modern era.

The War in Iraq

This module will comprehensively deconstruct the causes, conduct and consequences of one of the most controversial wars of the modern era: the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It will assess how the road to war was paved at the United Nations and through the formulation of a 'coalition of the willing'. It will then critically evaluate how the swiftly concluded invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein gave way to a vicious insurgency.

The adaptation of the US military to the demands of counter-insurgency warfare will be analysed, as will British military performance in southern Iraq. The module will end by critically assessing the effectiveness of the 'surge' strategy under the implementation of Gen. David Petraeus, and evaluating the utility of 'analogical reasoning' through comparisons with the Vietnam War.  

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

Fees and funding

UK students

Per year

International students

Per year

*For full details including fees for part-time students and reduced fees during your time studying abroad or on placement (where applicable), see our fees page.

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) .

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.

If you choose to take an optional placement module, the cost of travel will be dependent on location of placement and proximity to term-time address.

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. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £1,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* 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 students

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

International scholarships


Your knowledge and understanding of Asia can give you a vital edge with employers.

At Nottingham, you will acquire a strong academic foundation and a range of excellent transferable skills, such as the ability to study independently and communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing.

You will leave us with specialist knowledge of international issues and political systems that will enhance your global career prospects.

Graduate destinations

Our graduates develop careers across the private, public and charitable sectors. Private sector destinations include print and television journalism, broadcasting, television and film production, advertising, marketing and personnel as well as the commercial and financial sectors. Some go into party politics as parliamentary assistants, councillors in local government and even MPs; others work for the civil service and in research and data analysis.

Third-sector careers include working for non-governmental organisations, charities and development agencies. Some graduates opt for further study or take vocational qualifications in postgraduate law or teaching.

Recent graduates have go on to work at organisations such as AON, the BBC, Citibank, Civil Service, House of Commons, Liberal Democrats, Perrett Laver, Policy Exchange and Unison.

Average starting salary and career progression

82.9% of undergraduates 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 £27,509.*

* 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.

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.

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers (Ranked in the top ten in The Graduate Market in 2013-2020, High Fliers Research).

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Important information

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.