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Postgraduate taught courses

Postgraduate study is your opportunity to become an expert in your chosen area.

That’s why the Department of Politics and International Relations offers a carefully chosen range of distinctive postgraduate programmes, which reflect our own areas of expertise, and which attract students from around the world.

The six programmes listed below can be studied on either a full-time (one year) or part-time (two-year) basis.

These programmes can also be taken at Postgraduate Diploma level. The Postgraduate Diploma is shorter (9 months rather than one year) and does not involve a dissertation.

We’ve listed the programmes we are responsible for – but you may be interested in two further programmes to which we contribute. The Department of Geography offers an MSc in Geopolitics and Security which includes elements taken from Politics and International Relations. The Department of Philosophy offers an MA in Political Philosophy.

Our MSc programme attracts those with backgrounds in a wide range of social science disciplines, and both recent graduates and mature students with work experience. Typically, around half of our MSc students come from overseas. In the past few years students from Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Germany, Greece, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States, as well as students from across the UK have successfully completed our programmes.

The presence of such diversity serves to enhance the content of the courses on offer. It also provides all members of the course with excellent opportunities to obtain genuinely global perspectives through regular interaction with other course members. The programme is ideal for any student wishing to obtain a substantial grounding in political analysis. Many of our graduates go on to register for research degrees, both at Royal Holloway and other prestigious institutions in the UK and abroad. 

Each programme consists of a mixture of core courses and optional courses.

We give you considerable flexibility in choosing your optional courses. The list of optional courses changes from year to year, but students can typically choose from between 25 and 30 choices.

The teaching on these courses is conducted primarily in small group seminars that meet weekly for two hours at a time.

All MA or MSc students complete their programme by writing a dissertation. You get to choose the topic of your dissertation. We’ll then pair you with an academic who will give you one-on-one tuition, helping you to improve both your argument and your academic skills.

"The MSc Media, Power and Public Affairs is a well-planned course that allows students with different perspectives and backgrounds to develop and improve their debating and critical-thinking skills, focusing on the emergence and establishment of ‘new media’ and how it affects the sphere of world politics. The Department always promotes challenging discussions, provides up-to-date seminars and lectures about different aspects of the world’s politics, and engages students in research and academic activities that surely will make a difference in our academic and professional careers. It’s a fantastic learning environment, well-equipped with high quality professionals who are really invested in sharing and acquiring knowledge from the interaction with their students."—Rebecca Di Polito, MSc Media, Power and Public Affairs

"The MSc in International Relations program at Royal Holloway is stellar. The confluence of highly skilled staff, readily engaged students, and a meticulously crafted curriculum create an experience that is unmatched. Students are not only taught but supported. With each lecture and seminar one inevitably realizes how nuanced the world of International Relations truly is. Not only are students left with a deeper understanding of the discourse but are encouraged to shape their own opinions and re-evaluate existing paradigms. Upon completion of the program, students are prepared to effect lasting change in whatever arena they see fit."—Ariel Eckblad, MSc International Relations, from the USA, Marshall Scholarship recipient.

"Royal Holloway is the perfect place to study Political Theory, not only for the opportunity to combine challenging courses on continental political theory with current discussions on Anglo-American political philosophy, but also for the rare chance to engage with recognized and influential political thinkers without all the formal distance between academic staff and students that one finds elsewhere. In short, it was a truly gratifying intellectual experience." German Eduardo Primera, MSc in Political Theory, from Colombia, Santander Abbey Studentship Award winner.


Elections, Campaigns and Democracy (MSc/PGDip)

Course overview

Elections are more unpredictable than ever. Recent campaigns have shocked and surprised pundits and politicians alike. From the 2015 UK General Election, to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump – recent elections have thrown up some unexpected results. This course is designed to better understand how modern election campaigns work, to identify what strategies have been employed, which have been successful, which have failed, and why. What explains the success of political outsiders and how best can mainstream parties respond? Why have recent results been so unpredictable? And how can we better track public opinion and analyse voting behaviour?

Working with academics who are expert in the field of elections and polling agencies who have worked on political campaigns, you will get both a theoretical and practical insight into the challenges of running a modern election campaign. This course is ideal for anyone who wants a career in campaigning, social research or political consultancy, or is interested in a career in government or academia.

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.

Please follow link for more details.


See also the website of the Democracy and Elections Centre.

International Public Policy (MSc/PGDip) 

Course overview

The 21st century is witnessing novel global challenges related to terrorism, food supply, climate change, migratory pressures and emerging resource geo-politics. These challenges are complex and multi-level in nature, rendering policy solutions problematic. Political authority is also more scattered than ever, resting with actors as different as international agencies, global policy networks, public-private partnerships or transnational NGOs, in addition to the traditional nation state.

Royal Holloway’s MSc in International Public Policy provides students with a detailed and systematic understanding of how political institutions, processes and public policies operate in world affairs. The course brings together the academic study of International Relations with a practice-based analysis of public policy formulation and governance beyond the nation-state.

Drawing from International Relations, public policy and comparative politics, the MSc in International Public Policy equips students with the theoretical tools and practical skills necessary for an in-depth understanding of policy-making in to address contemporary transnational phenomena.

Please follow link for more details.

International Relations (MSc/PGDip) 

Course overview

The MSc in International Relations allows you the opportunity to engage critically with broad issues in various regions around the globe. 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.

Please follow link for more details.

International Security (MSc/PGDip)

Course overview

Questions about security – what drives it and what undermines it – shape global politics. Terrorism, conflict, environmental catastrophe, weapons of mass destruction and weak states are all security issues that are reflected in our media, dominate policy-making in international politics, and increasingly impinge on our daily lives. 

This stream in Transnational Security Studies is an exciting new course that brings together many of the existing strengths of the Department of Politics and International Relations, including expertise in the areas of security studies, comparative politics, international law and conflict, political theory, and global politics. 

The core of the course traces the security studies discipline from its traditional approaches through its evolution to include ever more transnational dynamics. You can tailor the course to your specific interests through optional units in subjects such as political violence, biopolitics, media, communication and conflict, international law of targeting, and regional international politics. You will be provided with both a firm academic foundation in the security studies discipline and a base of knowledge for careers in fields of policymaking, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and more.

Please follow link for more details.

Islamic and West Asian Studies (MA)

Course Overview

The political map of West Asia, home to more than 60 per cent of the world’s oil and gas wealth, is in flux. The on-going process of forming fundamentalist ideologies in the region, new waves of political Islamic revival, and the re-emergence of sectarian struggles in the region have heightened concerns about religio-political dynamics which are still not fully understood by scholars and policymakers. Moreover, the growing number of organised Islamic groups in the region, representing diverse political goals, are generating tensions that threaten to move beyond the borders of West Asia.

The MA in Islamic and West Asian Studies is designed for students interested in the politics of Islamic World and West Asia, as well as those wishing to pursue either a career in international affairs or further research on Muslim and West Asian communities.

Please follow link for more details.

See also the website of the interdisciplinary Centre for Islamic and West Asian Studies, housed at Politics and International Relations Department.

Media, Power and Public Affairs (MSc/PGDip)

Course overview

We are living through an era of tumultuous change in how politics is conducted and communicated. The great digital disruption of the early 21st century continues to work its way through media systems around the world, forcing change, adaptation, and renewal across a whole range of areas: political parties and campaigns, interest groups, social movements, activist organisations, news and journalism, the communication industries, governments, and international relations.

In the New Political Communication Unit at Royal Holloway, University of London, we believe the key to making sense of these chaotic developments is the idea of power—how it is generated, how it is used, and how it shapes the diverse information and communication flows that affect all our lives.

This unique new Masters degree is for critically-minded, free-thinking individuals who want to engage with the exciting intellectual ferment that is being generated by these unprecedented times. The curriculum integrates rigorous study of the very best academic research with an emphasis on making sense of political communication as it is practiced in the real world, in both "old" and "new" media settings.

While not a practice-based course, the MSc Media, Power, and Public Affairs is perfect for those who wish to build a career in the growing range of professions that require deep and critical insight into the relationship between media and politics and public communication more generally. These include advocacy, campaign management, political communication consultancy, journalism, government communication, policy analysis, public opinion and semantic polling, and public diplomacy, to name but a few. Plus, due to its strong emphasis on scholarly rigour, the MSc in Media, Power, and Public Affairs is also the perfect foundation for a PhD in political communication.

Please follow this link for more details. See also the New Political Communication Unit website.

Politics of Development (MA/PGDip)

Course overview

International development is a complex process and needs to be understood within its political contexts – international, regional and domestic. This course gives you the tools to understand the politics of development in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and to see how it works – and doesn't work – in practice.

You will be taught by leading experts from the Centre for the Politics of Africa, Asia and the Middle East (AAME), joining a vibrant and lively research community. You will benefit from involvement in wider activities carried out by the Centre, including seminars, an annual conference, and a range of research conducted by faculty and PhD students.

We place a strong emphasis on primary research, and you will take a course in fieldwork methods, equipping you with the skills necessary to obtain qualitative and quantitative data for your dissertation. You will be encouraged to make use of the wide network of academic contacts and scholars who will provide help and support during fieldwork activities. You will also have the opportunity to learn a language from one of the AAME regions.

By the end of this course you will leave with a solid understanding of the development challenges in the AAME regions, with particular understanding of the politics of at least one of them.

Please follow this link for further details. See also the Centre for Politics in Africa, Asia and the Middle East (AAME) website.


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