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Home > Courses > Courses for 2017 > Postgraduate > Geopolitics and Security
More in this section Geography

Geopolitics and Security MSc

UCAS code
Year of entry 2017
View 2018 entry »
Course Length
1 year full time
2 years part time
Department Geography »

Today's global community has brought with it unique and unforeseen challenges, from the threat of environmental catastrophe and resource shortages, to infrastructural and economic failure and global terror. Geopolitics and Security at Royal Holloway, University of London equips students with the knowledge and skills needed to tackle these era-defining issues to mitigate the impact of potential crises and foster critical reflections on the strategies and techniques which seek to keep us secure.. 

This flexible Masters programme lets you select from a range of specialist courses to suit your own interests and career ambitions, choosing from options in both the Departments of Geography and Politics and International Relations. Graduates will gain a Masters degree in a discipline offering excellent employability prospects, while professionals seeking further academic training will learn transferable risk management skills ideal for further career development. 

You'll join a vibrant research community and contribute to our renowned research culture with your own independent dissertation project. You’ll benefit from networking and placement opportunities with leading organisations and institutions, enjoy exciting field working opportunities in the UK and abroad, and work with leading researchers and research groups such as our Politics, Development and Sustainability Group in Geography with established track record in grant awards (eg from the ESRC, AHRC, Leverhulme Trust, EPSRC, British Academy, British Council, Falkland Island Government and the EU Marie-Curie fund).

Study Geopolitics and Security at Royal Holloway and you’ll graduate with a range of transferable skills to take with you into the workplace or further study. Learn to reflect on some of the most profound challenges of our times in this exciting Masters programme.

  • Benefit from networking opportunities, graduate placements and guest speaking appearances from leading academics.
  • Study in a department ranked 2nd in the UK for research by the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • Graduate with excellent employability prospects or progress to doctoral study.
  • Enjoy exciting fieldwork opportunities in the UK and abroad. 

All students will take the thematic core course unit and the dissertation, and will choose from the list of core skills and methods course units and elective course units below.

Core modules

Principles of Geopolitics and Security

This thematic core course introduces students to some of the contemporary and historical debates surrounding both geopolitics and security, as well as the key topics and themes. The course follows key debates between Critical Geopolitics and Critical Security Studies.

Research Design in Geopolitics and Security

This unit focuses on the theory and practicality of research and addresses both methodological issues (e.g. accessing institutions/organisations, specialist communities) and specific concerns relating to fieldwork (e.g. ethical issues, working with interpreters). The unit introduces cutting-edge developments in Geopolitics and Security, and uses debate, project work and role-play for students to practically experience the demands of designing research and analysis.


The dissertation gives you the opportunity to study an aspect of Geopolitics and Security in depth by managing and carrying out your own piece of research and analysis. You will be assigned a dissertation supervisor and the length of the piece will be up to 15,000 words. Dissertations are an excellent opportunity to work with outside organisations and may provide a lead into a future career.

Optional modules

Students will choose three elective courses from a wide range of specialist topics that will change from year to year. The below are a sample selection of courses and their outlines.

Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods in Politics and International Relations

You will be introduced to quantitative methods commonly used in the study of politics and international relations. You will acquire the skills to understand, analyse critically and carry out a range of quantitative techniques, using statistical software packages such as SPSS.

Theories and Qualitative Approaches in Politics and International Relations

You will be provided with an introduction to core theories and qualitative approaches in politics and international relations. You will examine a number of explanatory/theoretical frameworks, their basic assumptions, strengths and weaknesses, and concrete research applications. You will consider the various qualitative techniques available for conducting search research, the range of decisions qualitative researchers face, and the trade-offs researchers must consider when designing qualitative research.

Resilience and the Governing of Emergency

The notion of resilience is now the subject of legislation, practices, technologies and philosophies organised in relation to prepare, prevent or respond to some manner of threat, disaster, catastrophe, but most typically, an emergency. A similarly ubiquitous term, the ‘emergency’ has figured heavily within assertions of a contemporary legal ‘State of Exception’, or is used to describe the complex effects pertaining to the irruption of threat, both natural or social. This option explores Emergency through its articulation in an evolving apparatus of resilience planning that is widely considered across the state, non-state organisations and private industry. Taking examples from biosecurity and preparedness apparatus from the UK and the US, the option will explore in-depth techniques through scenario-building and simulated training exercises.

United States Foreign Policy

This course examines US foreign policy: the historical development of the US’ role in the world from the Founding Fathers to the present Obama administration; the different ideologies that drive foreign policy decision-making, such as American Exceptionalism and democracy promotion; the controversies US foreign policy has been associated with, not least surrounding the War on Terror and now tactics such as the use of drones in Pakistan; in-depth analysis of Us involvement key regions such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea; as well as looking at arguments that the US is now in decline as a superpower, particularly with the rise of China.

Contemporary Geopolitics of the Polar Regions

The aim of this option is to explore and assess the contemporary geopolitics of the Polar Regions, which have increasingly attracted attention. No longer considered peripheral to world politics, the Arctic and Antarctic occupy centre stage in the contemporary debates about global climate change, resource geopolitics and the so-called ‘scramble for resources’. The option situates the Polar Regions within debates about the global commons and the challenges involved in either regulating use and or determining property rights. Students will be introduced to relevant literature in geopolitics and IR including regime analysis and securitisation of resources and territory.

Media and the Military

Modern warfare necessitates a relationship and a continuing dialogue between the media and the military because wars are fought not only overseas but also at home, in the realm of public opinion. The military and the media are ‘locked’ into an inter-dependent relationship where the media need the military for access and protection, and the military need the media to ‘tell their story’. This course critically explores this inter-relationship – historically, strategically, geopolitically and with reference to shifting technologies and research methods. It aims to provide students with practical skills in the development and management of media and information operations in moments of military crisis. In order to do so, we adopt ‘the scenario’/simulation as an innovative teaching and training method.

Non-State Violence as a Challenge to Security

This course will trace the evolution of non-state violence, reasons for its existence and its impact. Examples analyzed include civil war parties, rebel groups, terrorists or warlords. After the end of the Cold War, research and politics have increasingly turned to conflicts that include these actors and that take place within countries, so-called intra-state conflicts. This type of violence clearly outnumbers the ‘classical’ interstate war between countries, and it is marked by heterogeneous conflict parties, interests and effects. Today’s challenges include rebel groups which undermine peace agreements, criminal groups which organize themselves in ways that allow them to evade effective law enforcement, and terrorists who threaten the daily life of civilians in many countries. At the same time, non-state violence often occurs in territories where states are weak or failed and cannot guarantee citizen’s security. In such case, state and civil society actors are also faced with a decision whether or not to cooperate with violent actors who might have an effective monopoly of force over a given territory.

Social Science Methods for Political Geography


Transnational Security and Targeting Law


Reseach Design in Geopolitics and Security


Sovereignty, Rights and Justice


The Armed Forces and Society


Law of Cyber Warfare


On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • An advanced knowledge and critical understanding of geopolitics and security including core debates, and case studies.
  • A detailed appreciation of methods and sources used to investigate geopolitical and security related issues and themes
  • High-level skills development especially in communication (including social media), report writing, briefing papers, political debate and critical thinking
  • Opportunities to enhance employability through practical experience and exposure to relevant individuals and organizations in the geopolitical/security-related field

Availability of courses may vary from year to year.

The streams are also offered at Postgraduate Diploma level (full- and part-time). The structure is identical except that students do not write a dissertation. Students who are successful on the Diploma may transfer to the MSc subject to academic approval; alternatively, the Diploma may be awarded to MSc students who choose not to write the dissertation or who have passed the taught courses but fail that component of the programme.

View the full course specification for Geopolitics and Security (MSc) in the Programme Specification Repository.

Formal and informal assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework, oral and group work presentations, policy, briefing and media reports, video and documentary production, scenario planning and role-play, and a dissertation. Field visits to important sites and organisations, including RUSI, the IMO, the FCO, the RGS and others will also be available, supporting collegial interaction between students and staff. Emphasis is placed on informal assessment (especially through group work) so that students have plenty of opportunities to receive formative support and guidance. 

Each year, the group will work on a major week-long project working with a cohort of French Masters students to devise the security planning of a major mega-event.

This programme is delivered in a single stage, equating to either one-year of full-time study or two years part-time, (or up to five years of part-time study by agreement with the Programme Director)

Entry criteria:

UK 2:1 (Honours) or equivalent.  Mature students with substantial and relevant work experience would be considered


English language requirements:

IELTS 6.5 overall with 6.5 in writing and no subscore below 5.5

If you require Royal Holloway to sponsor your study in the UK, your IELTS must be a UK government-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT)

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.


Geopolitics and Security at Royal Holloway, University of London has a strong emphasis on skills development and employability, putting graduates in an excellent position to progress to further study or a rewarding career in their chosen field. Ideal for both recent graduates and professionals seeking further training, this programme will provide you with excellent field experience, placement and networking opportunities for a career working in commercial or political organisations such as banking, energy, media, think tanks, NGOs and government, where risk (management), threat and insecurity are critical to strategic policy development..

Our recent alumni have progressed to fulfilling careers in government, the media, risk and security consultancies, non-governmental organisations and public organisations both in the UK and abroad. An ideal stepping stone for PhD progression, Geopolitics and Security will help you to achieve your career and academic ambitions. 

  • 90% of Royal Holloway graduates in work or further education within six months of graduating.
  • Study a programme with a strong emphasis on skills development and employability.
  • Graduate with a Masters degree in a field with excellent graduate employability prospects.

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £7,000

Overseas students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £14,500

Other costs**: Students should allow for up to £150 for travel and subsistence from campus to London for a field-coure and trips to organisations and societies.

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

* These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee, usually equivalent to approximately half the full-time fee. Please email student-fees@royalholloway.ac.uk for further information on part-time fees. All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5 per cent for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees and our terms and conditions.

** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.

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