Duration: 1 year full time or 2 years part time
Institution code: R72
UK fees*: £10,100
International/EU fees**: £18,200
International Relations (MSc)
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.
From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.
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 will introduce you to how different methodological and ontological/epistemological approaches can be used to answer research questions in the study of Politics and International Relations and how they inform research design choices. You will be exposed to different types of research questions, and different approaches to using theory and empirical evidence in order to answer them. One of the module’s foci will be the concept of causality and its relevance and meaning from the point of view of different approaches. The module will offer both an introduction to qualitative research methods and quantitative research methods, allowing you to choose which of the two you want to specialise in further.
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.
This module will describe the key principles of academic integrity, focusing on university assignments. Plagiarism, collusion and commissioning will be described as activities that undermine academic integrity, and the possible consequences of engaging in such activities will be described. Activities, with feedback, will provide you with opportunities to reflect and develop your understanding of academic integrity principles.
You will choose one of the following two modules:
This module will introduce you to advanced quantitative methods that address common problems such as non-linearity of data, multicollinearity in time-series data, causality and experiments. Through the seminar exercises and the assignments, you will gain not only a theoretical but also a practical understanding of quantitative methods and how these can be used in research. In this way, the module is envisaged to set you up for success in your MSc dissertation.
This module expands on the qualitative methods taught in the first term. It explores the ways in which scholars in politics and International Relations engage in qualitative research. Each week we will explore one type of object for analysis and several methods of analysing it. We will explore grounded research, discourse and narrative analysis, case studies, visuals, emotions and archives and we will ask questions about knowledge and power, decolonisation and critical explication.
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.
- The Israel Palestinian Conflict: A Global Perspective
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 explore 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.
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 engages with a selection of recent work by major political thinkers from a variety of intellectual approaches The focus is on an examination of some of influential recent work in political theory, along with critical commentary on them. We’ll be looking at issues such as hate speech, shaming punishments, recognition, immigration, multiculturalism, partiality towards compatriots and global justice. The module requires a commitment to read selections from the texts we’ll be analysing, aided by seminars where we’ll be discussing their ideas, arguments and themes.
- Democracy and Citizenship in Europe
This course provides the theoretical foundations and analytical skills to really examine the questions we ask ourselves when watching the news. What are the real implications of bombing Iran? Don’t we have a responsibility to help the people of Syria? How can we watch it and not do anything? What is Russia doing in the Ukraine? It aims to challenge ourselves to consider issues such as balancing the ethics of drones against improving security, the role of gender, and the wider implications of health environmental protection on international security.
This module provides an overview of some of the key concepts and thinkers in Anglo-American political theory today. Specifically, it examines the themes of freedom, feminism, and democracy, and writers including Berlin, Rawls, Nozick, Sandel and Okin.
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.
This module will introduce you to theories as well as trends in research of political participation and public opinion. You will develop knowledge and understanding of different forms of political participation and the role that each of these forms of participation play in advanced industrial democracies. The module also focuses on the interplay between individual attitudes to public opinion and policy change. Throughout the module, the impact of systemic features such as the electoral system and the party system will be highlighted so as to provide an understanding of how context shapes attitudes and behaviours. In this way, the module serves to develop a more critical understanding of the complexities of political behaviour research.
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 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.
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.
This module explores key development challenges faced across developing countries and is divided into three sections. The first critically examines some of the major concepts, paradigms, and theories, which have attempted to define what development is, how and why it occurs (or does not), and to whose benefit. The second focuses on some of the key development challenges faced by developing countries: economic (poverty, inequality, unemployment), political (democracy, human rights, role of elites), social (religion, race/ethnicity/caste, urbanisation), and natural (climate change, pollution, resource extraction, extermination of species). The final section explores possible remedies to these issues through international cooperation (trade, aid, finance, South-South cooperation), national policies (welfare schemes, laws and regulations), and micro and informal solutions.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the methodological and substantive debates and issues that shape the study of conflict. You look at the conceptual and practical issues and problems involved in conflict studies, and consider the central political issues and conflicts within and among the countries of the Middle East, and how these have historically developed. You will also examine the main international, transnational and domestic forces that affect the conduct of their internal and external affairs.
- International Policy Practice
- The Global Politics of Food Security
In this module you will develop an understanding of the modern history of West Asia, looking at countries such as Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. You will look at how the politics of these countries can be interpreted, considering events such as the Cold War, the War on Terror, Pan-Arabism, the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Arab Spring, and the rise of the Islamic State. You will also explore the specific constellation of national, societal, and individual-level factors that shape the politics of West Asian countries and sub-regions, such as the Persian Gulf Monarchies and the Levant.
This module looks into how political communication strategies play an important role in shaping and monitoring government actions. The course examines the relationship between media, campaigns, government and citizens’ ad different stages of the political cycle. From the formulation of coherent campaigns to be elected for office and the definition of public problems and agenda setting, to the implementation and evaluation of policies and during crisis.
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 2:2 (Honours) or equivalent is required. Candidates with professional qualifications or relevant professional experience in an associated area will also 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. 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 & scholarships
Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £10,100
EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £18,200
Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course
How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.
* 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 course 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, please see our terms and conditions. Please note that for research courses, we adopt the minimum fee level recommended by the UK Research Councils for the Home 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.
** The UK Government has confirmed that EU nationals are no longer eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us during the academic year 2023/24, we will award a fee reduction scholarship equivalent to 30% of the difference between the UK and international fee for your course. This will apply for the duration of your course. Find out more
*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2022/23 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.