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 will equip you with the theoretical tools and practical skills necessary for an in-depth understanding of policy-making to address contemporary transnational phenomena.
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. Optional modules for the programme cover key policy areas such as US foreign policy, migration and refugees, terrorism, energy and resources or food security, in addition to south Asian politics, EU foreign and security policy, media and war, and international law. Teaching is conducted primarily in small group seminars, supplemented by individual tuition for the dissertation. The course puts a premium on bridging theory and practice, by featuring practice elements and focusing on real world challenges.
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 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 introduces you to international public policy as a field of contested policy authority in a globalized world. You will develop an understanding of how, at its core, international public policy is about addressing global collective action problems in policy areas as different as trade, migration, financial regulation, economic development and environment. You will discuss key aspects of contemporary international public policy making, including global public goods and the problem of global commons; the theories and empirics of global public management; the role of international agencies, global networks and global public-private partnerships in producing policy outcomes; and dynamics of policy transfer, diffusion and global best practice. You will look at a number of practical examples from various policy fields and levels, from both Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and non-OECD contexts.
This module will teach you the methods that you are likely to use in your MSc dissertation whilst giving you hands-on research experience.
The dissertation is the culmination of your 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 develop an understanding of how executive powers are exercised 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.
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.
In this module you will examine why people vote for different political parties, and how their behavior is shaped by the mobilization strategies of political parties and institutional arrangements. You will learn how social divisions are translated into political visions, and how the mechanisms of accountability and representation operate in different political and economic contexts. You will develop an understanding of how campaigns shape voting behavior and influence the criteria citizens use in deciding how to vote, see how these patterns have changed over time, and be able to identify the main factors that shape electoral behavior and election outcomes across western democracies.
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.
- Politics of Democracy
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.
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.
Teaching & assessment
Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework and a dissertation.
Prospective students should have an undergraduate honours degree (or overseas equivalent) in a relevant subject area such as politics, international relations, history, geography, or economics.
Normally we require a UK 2:1 (Honours) or equivalent in relevant subjects but we will consider a high 2:2 or relevant work experience. Candidates with professional qualifications in an associated area may be considered. Where a ‘high 2:2’ is considered, we would normally define this as reflecting a profile of 57% or above.
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. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.
Your future career
Graduates of political degrees have much to offer potential employers having developed a range of transferable skills, both practical and theoretical, whilst studying with us. With up to 90% of our most recent graduates now working or in further study, according to the Complete University Guide 2015, it’s true to say our graduates are highly employable.
The methodological nature of a politics degree provides graduates with valuable analytical and research skills in preparation for careers in government, political consultancy, NGOs and research organisations.
In recent years, departmental graduates have secured jobs in a wide range of professions, such as the law, the civil service, accountancy, management, journalism, broadcasting, teaching, international development and diplomacy. In fact, six-months after graduation, 90% of our most recent graduates are enhancing their skills with further study or forging careers in companies and institutions such as:
- Amnesty International
- The Church of England
- The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
- The Conservative Party
- Ernst & Young
- The European Commission Global Capital
- HM Treasury
- The Henry Jackson Society
- House of Commons
- Ipsos MORI
- The Labour Party
- NATO Headquarters
- Oxford Business Group
- Proctor & Gamble
- Save the Children
Fees & funding
Home and EU students tuition fee per year*: £9,400
International students tuition fee per year**: £16,800
Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course
* 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.