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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.