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Postgraduate study

International Relations MA

This course will be of interest for people wishing to gain further knowledge, skills and expertise in a broad range of international relations issues. The ethos of the course stipulates that global politics cannot be separated from international law and vice versa.


Course overview

You develop advanced theoretical knowledge on international relations theory, gain a thorough understanding of positive and normative political theory to interpret realism, liberalism, constructivism and critical social theories which are pivotal theories to comprehend how and why states, international organisations, financial institutions and non-state actors behave in certain situations in international politics. In addition, you study drivers of armed conflict and terrorism to articulate how states perceive a variety of threats that are debatably ever increasing in the aftermath of 9/11. This is why international law is significantly covered to provide comprehension on controls and protection in armed conflict, human rights and prohibition on a variety of unethical modes of warfare. You critically examine a range of decisions made on the application of diplomacy, positive peace, peacekeeping, ceasefires, human rights, humanitarianism, justice and interventionism from the Cold War period and beyond. The assessments are broad ranging enhance your skills with academic and report writing, presentations and how to write a research project.

Study this course and you may be eligible for a £2,500 Sir Keith Skeoch postgraduate scholarship.

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Course details

Course structure

Core modules

Diplomacy and Peacekeeping in Practice

Gain an understanding of interventions and their interrelationship with political will and geopolitical interests. Analyse diplomatic efforts to deter warfare from the rule of sovereignty and its relationship with the United Nations (UN) Charter. It will commence with conceptions of negative and positive peace and its impact on overarching peacekeeping mandates, post-conflict reconstruction, security sector reform, statebuilding and peacebuilding strategies.

Efforts to endorse peace utilising UN and other third party mediation efforts including peacekeepers monitoring ceasefire agreements and rebuilding state institutions are extensively covered from the end of the Cold War period to contemporary interventions. This includes the negotiation of peace agreements to bring an end to conflicts, regimes responsible for mass atrocities and the repercussions of bargaining for short-term peace which induces warlords to enter cabinet and parliamentary posts whilst excluding spoilers of the peace process. Spoiler management strategy will thus be critically evaluated within a variety of contexts. Some of the cases covered include Serbia and Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Drivers of Armed Conflict

Gain an insight into the motivations behind conflict and the impacts it has on violently divided societies. The module specifically analyses the underlying factors that motivate and/or protract conflicts. An assessment is made on the greed versus grievance thesis followed by a political economy approach to examine neo-patrimonial ran governments and limited access orders. As a consequence, patronage-relations and systemic corruption hinders state development due to favouring distinct social groups over others. Furthermore, public funds are susceptible to embezzlement, illicit commodities are traded, aid is frequently misused, and the rule of law remains weak to hold political elites accountable for malpractice.

These shortcomings are forms of state failure and state capture. A range of contexts are explored to apply these theoretical underpinnings concerning the motivations of armed conflict. Some of these cases include the former Yugoslavia, East Timor, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Angola, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Rwanda.

International Relations Dissertation

This module will begin with a few sessions on research methods but within fragile, developing and/or conflict-stricken environments. This will include specialist teaching within violently divided societies in order to cope with ethical, logistical, political and methodological challenges that researchers might face in the field. If you conduct your dissertation in the United Kingdom, ethics on source analysis and remote interviewing will be provided.

Aspects of teaching will cover mitigating researcher bias in other cultures, ethics in conflict settings, issues faced in hostile environments and the do no harm principle. Specialist methods will include participatory rural appraisal to integrate perceptions and knowledge of rural dwellers in developmental projects. Techniques can be adopted with rapid rural appraisal which cover a range of informal ways to collect and examine data concerning local conflicts, situational changes and people.

These skills will assist with your dissertation, based on a topic of your choice with direction provided by an academic supervisor. Gain vigorous research expertise with an empirical, theoretical or reflective practice-based study which will prove fruitful for needs assessments and if you wish to enter research consultancy. In particular, you will be able to analyse data with a variety of relevant techniques ranging from thematic and/or discourse analysis and quantifying datasets to analyse certain trends.

You structure your research, evaluate relevant literature, construct a methodology by considering ethics and reflect on findings with a discussion that intertwines main themes of the outcomes with the literature. The dissertation project is also a stepping-stone for students that wish to go on and pursue a doctoral thesis at Teesside University.

International Trade Law

Focus on the legality and politics related to trading and examine the evolution of the law that governs international trade, as a means of providing a backdrop or context to the study of the present regime of rules that govern international trade activity at the multilateral level.

Examine and understand the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreements and how they relate to the achievement of a balanced framework that can support an international trading system with extremely diverse membership. Consider the philosophies and theories that influence the international trade and production discussion, and match the theories in relation to the WTO Agreements and how they are interpreted by the WTO dispute settlement panels and appellate bodies. The Agreements will be examined individually and consideration is placed on why and how such agreements relate to the growing concern for social issues (for example public health, environmental and labour standards) through the WTO.

Social Research Methods

You develop an advanced understanding of the processes and issues of social research. Drawing upon the philosophical underpinnings which are central to research methodologies, you consider the relationship between theory, methods and data. You also critically consider the need to balance theory with conducting research on real issues in the real world. This ensures you have a coherent understanding of the decisions researchers make when deciding which research methods to use and to develop practical skills in using a variety of research methods. You also develop a sound understanding of ethical and practical issues in designing, conducting and analysing research.

The Responsibility to Protect and Justice

This module initially covers the Dunantist principles of humanitarianism and relates them to the foundation of the International Red Cross Movement and the later Geneva Conventions. Other aspects include the International Humanitarian Law movement and the Laws of Armed Conflict to control and prohibit methods of warfare, arms and hazardous substances are covered.

When there are grave breaches of humanitarian law, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, international legal tribunals and courts are called upon to promote accountability to solidify the Never Again motive. A variety of cases, which includes the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, based on territorial ad hoc criminal tribunals to punish war criminals and the International Criminal Court exercising universal jurisdiction are evaluated. You examine international law and its treaties in relation to a variety of human rights instruments to guarantee civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights.

Debates on the protection of citizens are brought into practice to evaluate peremptory norms in international law and obligations from the international community. The genocides of the mid-1990s are studied to discuss the basis of what measures the international community could undertake to support states when crises are emerging. This effort formed the basis of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine to include intervention if international assistance and diplomacy are exhausted to no avail. A variety of contexts and the exercise of the doctrine in relation to Libya and inaction in Syria form some contemporary debates.

Theorising International Relations

This is a great opportunity to engage in relevant theory to thread through any analysis of issues related to past and contemporary issues in international politics. The module stems from political philosophical notions of positive and normative political theory to formulate debates on politics, law, ethics and morality. You move beyond classical theories to study realism, liberalism, constructivism and critical social theory to assess the relative and absolute gains of states, international organisations, civil society and non-state actors and material and ideational politics in international relations.

The strands of these theories will be examined which are threaded through a variety of case studies to harness a better understanding of main international relations theory during the Cold War, post-Cold War era and post-9/11 environment. These issues covered range from security, international political economy, trade, ‘just’ war, human rights, humanitarianism, international criminal justice, environmentalism, global health, conflict and disaster management.


Modules offered may vary.


How you learn

Lectures will take place on all modules and you will also take part in smaller, interactive seminar group sessions. You will share some taught sessions with students on other courses.

How you are assessed

Assessment and feedback, include:

  • progression information
  • availability of formative assessment
  • an overview of summative assessment
  • information on in-course assessment and exams
  • arrangements for returning marked work and providing feedback


Entry requirements

You must have an undergraduate 2:2 degree in a relevant field such as political science, social science, liberal arts, law, business, communications or other relevant degree.

Alternatively, equivalent professional experience working in an international relations context can be considered. This is assessed by a telephone interview with a member of the course team and judged on the roles you have undertaken rather than the length of service.

MA International Relations is a specialised postgraduate course for students coming from relevant disciplines rather than a conversion course.

For international students, IELTS 6.0 overall bands with a minimum of 5.5 in each of the four categories is required. Alternative language testing certificates may be permitted.

For general information please see our overview of entry requirements

International applicants can find out what qualifications they need by visiting Your Country



Career opportunities

Graduates may enter an international organisation, NGO, not-for-profit charity organisation, policy or advocacy group, research consortium, human rights campaigning, humanitarian agency, legal assistant, academic, war journalist or foreign office.

Work placement

Placement in an affiliated international office, charity organisation or research project.

Location dependent on opportunity.


Information for international applicants


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2024/25 entry

Fee for UK applicants
£6,710 a year

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Fee for international applicants
£17,000 a year

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2024/25 entry

Fee for UK applicants
£750 for each 20 credits

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