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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the theoretical concepts and thinkers at the heart of the study of geopolitics and security. You will look at the key objects, sites and agents of geopolitics and security, looking at the historical evolution and contemporary theorisation of these. You will explore the coeval development of geopolitics and security studies, considering post-structuralist theory in the early 1990s and the development of critical and popular geopolitics and securitisation theory. You will examine the conversations between geopolitics and security studies, and analyse the deepening and widening of these debates through object-centred philosophy, material relations and limits of representation.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the processes and practices of research design in geopolitics and security. You will look at the principles and procedures that guide scholars and professionals as they conduct research, the kinds of questions they ask, the broader conceptual and empirical contextual framing of a project, the variety of decisions that they must make, and the broader sets of research methods of data acquisition, analysis and communication, they select and employ.
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 who will help you develop your research aims and objectives, identify bodies of relevant literature, establish a particular strang of conceptual thought, and select appropriate research methods for the collection and analysis of data. You will produce an extended written report of 15,000 words, and will be encouraged to work with an external organisation to build a network of contacts and relationships to facilitate your future career.
There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.
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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of research methods used by social scientists. You will take a broad look at their approach to the research process and explore a range of key methods, considering practical considerations for these, their benefits and challenges, their epistemological basis, and their ethics. You will complete a 5,000 word report reflecting on each of the methods you encounter.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the politics, policies and practices of resilience. You will look at how emergencies are governed through their articulation in an evolving apparatus of resilience discourses, techniques and technologies in liberal-democratic societies. You will consider relevant literature in geopolitics and international relations, examining a variety of perspectives on resilience, from its emergence in post-war cybernetics, political-economic theory and industrial unrest, to contemporary legislation, planning practices, scenario building and simulated training experiences.
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.
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 put your knowledge of sustainable development and research methods into practice through a piece of independent research based on primary data collection in the UK or overseas. You will consider the choice of methodology and examine the limitations of the chosen methods. You will analyse the primary data and communicate your research findings in written form using figures and diagrams where appropriate.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the history, strategies and technologies of the inter-relationship between media and military institutions. You will look at the development and management of information and communication in moments of crisis, taking part in a 'live scenario' simulation. Working in small teams, you will consider the structure and content of military campaigns and media reporting. You will prepare an action plan and given a presentation in which you analyse a complex crisis scenario with a particular focus on media and military narratives.
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.
- The Armed Forces and Society
In this module you will develop an understanding of the changes to post-Cold War defence policy. You will look at the new 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). You will analyse the extent to which these reforms have helped the state concerned to meet its central security challenges. You will explore the embedding of defence policies within regional and international institutions and the sources of defence cooperation, analysing the role and implications of non-state actors in defence, notably private military companies and non-governmental organisations.
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.
Teaching & assessment
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)
On completion of the course you 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
Geography, Politics, International Relations, English, History and Classics, Sociology and Philosophy.
Normally we require a UK 2:1 (Honours) or equivalent in relevant subjects but we will consider high 2:2 or relevant work experience. Candidates with professional qualifications in an associated area may be considered. Where a ‘good 2:2’ is considered, we would normally define this as reflecting a profile of 57% or above. Applications from those with substantial and relevant work experience but without a degree will be considered.
International & EU requirements
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall. No subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 54. No subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements please see here.
Your future career
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.
Fees & funding
Home and EU students tuition fee per year*: £9200
International students tuition fee per year**: £16400
Other essential costs***: You should allow for up to £150 for travel and subsistence from campus to London for fieldwork and trips to organisations and societies.
* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year. All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. This means that the overall cost of studying the programme via part-time mode is slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees see our terms and conditions.
Please note that for research programmes, we adopt the minimum fee level recommended by the UK Research Councils for the Home/EU tuition fee. Each year, the fee level is adjusted in line with inflation (currently, the measure used is the Treasury GDP deflator). Fees displayed here are therefore subject to change and are usually confirmed in the spring of the year of entry. For more information on the Research Council Indicative Fee please see the RCUK website.
*** 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.