International relations examines relationships between countries and looks at, amongst other things, the roles of states, governmental and non-governmental organizations, academic and public policy fields, economics, international law and cultural studies.
Royal Holloway’s MSc in International Relations gives you the opportunity to engage critically with the forces at play in various regions around the world. As such, you will be asked to explore issues affecting the world right now such as economic crises, EU fragmentation, mass migration and human rights. The core of the programme introduces key themes and approaches to the study of international politics, and then allows you to bring these to bear on social, economic, and political interactions of key actors in world politics.
You will study a mixture of core units and elective options, including a generous choice of free options, and write a supervised dissertation over the summer. Option courses for the programme do vary from year to year, but normally include courses on US foreign policy, south Asian politics, EU foreign and security policy, media and war, and international law. Teaching is conducted primarily in small group seminars that meet weekly for two hours, supplemented by individual tuition for the dissertation.
The Department of Politics and International Relations has a strong commitment to high quality, cutting-edge research which informs our teaching. We are a research community that draws on various methodological and theoretical approaches to the study of domestic, transnational, regional and global politics. This includes research into areas such as security, international diplomacy, international law, the use of military force, the European Union and the impact of new communication technology on politics, nationalism and migration.
This course is also offered at Postgraduate Diploma level for those who do not have the academic background necessary to begin an advanced Masters degree. The structure of the Diploma is identical except that you will not write a dissertation. If you are successful on the Diploma you may transfer to the MSc, subject to academic approval.
Analysing International Politics
This module will provide you with an advanced grounding in the key concepts and idea employed in the analysis of international relations. You will explore the ways in which the international system in which we live is not a timeless reality, but rather a particular, socially and historically constructed way of organising human affairs. You will develop an understanding of the key concepts, problems and theories of International Relations and how they inform our normative understanding of world politics, seeing how far these ideas measure up to historical events and processes which they claim to describe and explain. You will also assess the claims made today that world politics is now undergoing fundamental change as the ‘Westphalian system’ is dissolved by the forces of globalisation.
This module provides an introduction to a range of quantitative methods commonly used in the study of Politics and International Relations, equipping you with the skills to successfully study and analyse a wide range of political phenomena. You will examine ways in which theoretical propositions can be tested with empirical data, and a substantial part of the module will be based in labs where you will learn how to carry out quantitative analysis on existing data sets on elections, democracy and war. The aim is to empower you so that you are confident in interpreting and handling statistical data. No prior knowledge or experience of statistics is needed, and you will develop both a conceptual understanding of the statistical techniques and practical experience in conducting statistical analysis.
This module will provide you with an introduction to the core theories and qualitative approaches in politics and international relations. You will examine a number of explanatory and 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. You will examine qualitative methodology in political analysis, including interviews, focus groups and ethnography; analysing textual data; comparative qualitative methods; and comparative qualitative analysis of history and political change.
The dissertation is the culmination of independent supervised research, and will be around 10,000 words in length. Your choice of dissertation topic will be made at the end of the spring term, and you will be allocated a supervisor with expertise in your chosen field. You will submit an outline of the project, with an indicative bibliography, to the Programme Director at the beginning of the third term, and your supervisor will arrange a series of progress meetings over the summer period. Your dissertation may be either a critical analysis of a theoretical problem or the result of an empirical project.
In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.
In this module you will examine the theories, concepts and issues surrounding the role of media in war and conflict in the early twenty-first century. The post-9/11 global security situation and the 2003 Iraq war have prompted a marked increase in interest in questions concerning media, war and conflict, and you look at the relationships between media, governments, military, and audiences/publics, in light of old, new, and potential future security events. You will develop an understanding of the theories of media effects in conflict situations, covering a number of important themes, including embedding, sanitisation, legitimacy, and terrorism and publicity. You will exlore the role of ethics, technology, and professional norms that inform war reporting, analysing a range of media with consideration for conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues in light of ongoing conflicts around the world.
Transnational Security Studies
This module introduces you to how the area of security studies has evolved to include ever more transnational dynamics. You will see how scholars have traditionally understood security and how the study of security has developed. You will develop a theoretical and conceptual awareness of the practical issues and problems in Transnational Security Studies, exploring why security has become transnational. You will also look at security communities, alliances and collective security; global security governance; and cyber warfare.
Human Rights - From Theory to Practice
This module explores some of the key issues which arise in the moral evaluation of human rights, both in general and with respect to particular rights. You will consider the role of rights in political and moral discourse and develop an understanding of some of the key criticisms to which they’ve been subject. You will also look at the three major categories of rights which have attracted much debate: economic rights, minority rights, and group rights. Finally, you will gain an oversight of the three central rights in liberal societies, examining the ways in which they have been interpreted and defended in light of recent political debates.
This module will provide you with an introduction to contemporary debates about the role and influence of new technologies on the values, processes and outcomes of global governance institutions, public bureaucracies, representative institutions including political parties and legislatures, and pressure groups and social movements. You will examine persistent and controversial policy problems such as the digital divide, privacy and surveillance, intellectual property issues, and the power of the new media sector in domestic and global economies. You will primarily consider the politics of the United States and Britain, but will also look at examples from around the world, including developing nations.
Transnational Security and the Law of Targeting
In this module you will develop an understanding of the basic concepts of international law and how these are applied to targeting during armed conflict. You will look at what the law consists of and how the legal rules are represented in writing. You will also consider how the legal rules are applied in practice, in relation to particular types of attack, examining topics of current controversy, such as civilians and the notion of direct participation in hostilities, use of unmanned vehicles, and cyber attacks.
United States Foreign Policy
In this module you will develop an advanced knowledge of the key concepts, themes and issues in United States Foreign Policy. You will look at both the history of US foreign policy as well as contemporary issues, utilising readings of key texts on a weekly basis to provide you with an in-depth exploration of these issues and how Americans think about foreign affairs.
In this module you will analyse the content and sources of change in defence policy during the post-Cold War era. You will look at changes to the objectives of defence policy, military capabilities, force structures and doctrines of the world’s major military powers (the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia). In so doing, you will asses the extent to which these reforms have helped the state concerned to meet its central security challenges. In addition, you will develop an understanding of the embedding of defence policies within regional and international institutions and the sources of defence cooperation. You will also see the implications of non-state actors in defence, notably private military companies and non-governmental organisations.
European Union Politics
The module will provide you with an introduction to how the world's largest single market, the European Union (EU), operates as a political system. You will developing an understanding of how executive powers are excerised by the Commission and European Council, how legislative powers are exercised by the EU Council and the European Parliament, and how the powers of the European Court of Justice enforce EU law. You will look at policy areas that do not involve direct public spending: the creation and enforcement of the single market, the effect of EU regulation on social and environmental matters, the history and development of the euro followed by its crisis, and the development and challenge of the EU's policies of freedom, security and justice, including asylum, immigration and counter-terrorism.
The Law of Cyber Warfare
This module introduces you to the basic concepts of international law and how these concepts are applied to the use of cyber force and the conduct of cyber operations, including cyber attacks during an armed conflict. You will consider when a cyber act amounts to an unlawful use of force, what cyber activities justify the resort to self defence, how to evaluate the lawfulness of different cyber weapons, and what rules govern their use. You develop an understanding of the current legal framework and consider how it can be applied to this new medium.
Non-State Violence as a Challenge to Security
In this module you will trace the evolution of non-state violence, reasons for its existence and its impact. You will analyse examples of civil war parties, rebel groups, terrorists and warlords, looking at non-state violence in the historical contexts of changed warfare and new concepts of security. You will develop an understanding of why non-state violence occurs, including individual and group-level factors, and discuss global and national conditions that facilitate the emergence and continued presence of non-state violence, and the possibilities to counter this.
This module addresses the ways in which social media are changing the relationships between politicians, citizens, and the media. You will develop an understanding of the broad arguments and debates surrounding the democratic implications of social media that are ongoing, not just in academic circles, but also in public commentary, political circles, and policy networks. Drawing on recent empirical research published in the most highly rated academic journals in the field, you will to be able to identify how social media are used by citizens, politicians, and media professionals to access, distribute, and co-produce contents that are relevant to politics and public affairs.
Sovereignty, Rights and Justice
Given the complexity and controversy of events and occurrences in international affairs, it seems strange to think that the disciplines of international relations and political theory were considered to be separate in the 20th Century. In this module you will look at the re-emergence of international political theory after the Cold War, developing a comprehensive understanding of international events. In doing so, you will examine and evaluate key ideas about the central notions of sovereignty, the rights of states and individuals and what justice means in an international context. You will engage with material at the cutting edge of contemporary political and international relations theory, thinking about issues that will be of increasing importance in the 21st century.
Revolutions and Rebellion in International Politics
This module provides an introduction to social and political revolutions in the 20th and 21st century. Taking a global and chronological approach, you will look at eight significant case studies to frame more general debates about the politics, ethics and strategies of revolution and rebellion in international affairs.