BA (Hons) International Relations - University of Portsmouth
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BA (Hons)

International Relations

UCAS codeL253

full time3yrs

placement option1yr

Specialize in understanding key developments in an increasingly changing world

Course Overview

Why take this course?

Our international relations degree combines the subject’s original focus on the sources of war and conflict in the international system with a much broader focus, including issues such as: global migration, terrorism, climate change, the rise and fall of major powers, state collapse, global development, Russian politics, Middle Eastern politics and the factors that trigger global protest movements. Crucially, you will study a series of IR concepts and frameworks that will be vital in helping you to make sense of rapidly changing world. 

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Enjoy cutting edge teaching provision on recent major international events such as the Ukraine Crisis, the ‘Occupy’ movement, the rise of ISIS and the after effects of the ‘Arab Spring’.
  • Study with trained lecturers employing innovative and exciting teaching techniques such as interactive lectures, simulations, scenario exercises, debate-discussions and the use of audio-visual sources.
  • Take part in ‘pop-up seminars’ on new topical issues and get the chance to publish your work in our student journal.
  • Gain career enhancing skills alongside your academic study with skills training ‘built-in’ to courses, work experience and the possibility to learn another language.
  • Undertake a work placement or a period of study abroad to enhance your employability.

What opportunities might it lead to?

A degree in international relations opens doors to a number of exciting careers. Of course, jobs in the field of diplomacy, intelligence, development or international organisations spring to mind, but the skills and knowledge acquired on an international relations degree are also of interest to a range of employers in the field of political risk analysis, public relations, international business and consultancy.  Likewise, an international relations degree can be a step to a career in teaching, journalism or academia (think tanks, universities etc.) and numerous other opportunities.


Gemma Humphries, BA (Hons) International Relations 2016

The staff were just amazing, they are super friendly and really have a passion for their individual interests as well as what the students are interested in. The best thing I did at University of Portsmouth was my dissertation. It was so open and so free that I could really choose what I wanted.

Gemma Humphries, BA (Hons) International Relations 2016


History, Politics and Social Studies

Find out what our students say about studying at Portsmouth, including:

  • The diverse spread of subjects offered and ability to complete your own research
  • The critical thinking, analytical and debating skills you’ll develop
  • The passionate lecturers with a wide range of specialist research expertise

Browse all courses in History, Politics and Social Studies

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Structure & Teaching

Year one

First year units are designed to give you a solid foundation in international politics and political science more broadly. Covering these areas allows you to make informed choices about your level two options (see next box) and the future direction of your degree.

First year units:

  • Introduction to Political Thought
  • Introduction to International Relations: States, Conflict and Cooperation
  • Understanding Governance and Politics
  • Political Economy in a Globalising World
  • Current Political Issues
  • Global Issues

Year two

In the second year you study two core options that further deepen your knowledge of international politics and sharpen your analytical skills:

  • International Politics
  • Perspectives on World Politics
  • Ethnicity and Conflict Resolution

In addition, in the second year you can choose from a wide range of different options to tailor your studies to your interests. Do you want to specialise in Middle Eastern politics, for example? Or, how about ethnic conflict, or Russian politics?

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • International Politics of the Middle East
  • Comparative Foreign Policy Analysis
  • Conflict and Disaster
  • Russian and Eurasian Politics
  • The End of the European Order? Challenges and Threats to European States and Nations
  • From Revolution to Dictatorship - Russia and the Soviet Union 1917-1941
  • Fighting over Europe: Parties, Business, NGOs and Lobbying in the EU
  • Home and Away: US Foreign Policy
  • Democratisation in Latin America
  • Bending the Truth a Little? Researching Politics and International Relations
  • British Politics, 1945 to Today: Leadership, Personality, Policy and Power
  • Germany in European and Global Context (1871 to the Present)
  • State and Society in East Asia
  • Guns, Glory Hunters and Greed: French and British Colonisation in Africa
  • Languages (University Wide Option)
  • Learning from Experience (Faculty Wide Option)


Year three

In the third year, you will undertake a dissertation or major project in an area of your choice.

Beyond this, there is an extensive range of other options so that you can specialise further in your final year.

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Transitional Justice and Human Rights
  • China and East Asian Economies
  • France in the World: Global Actor or Global Maverick
  • Global Journalism and Human Rights
  • Global Political Economy
  • Democracy and Democratisation
  • Africa Revisited: Nation Building and State Fragility in Post-Colonial Africa
  • Money, Government and Power
  • Negotiation and Lobbying in the EU
  • Migration in East Asia
  • France and Africa: Decolonisation and Post-Colonial Relations
  • Strategic Studies
  • Security Challenges in the Twenty-First Century
  • Regional Powers, Politics and Security in a Multi-Polar World
  • Looking for Utopia, Finding Dystopia? Ideas and Ideologies in the New Millennium
  • Rethinking Aid and Development
  • Protest, Dissent and Solidarity Beyond Borders
  • Learning from Experience

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.

Erasmus + and Study Abroad opportunities for all students

Opportunities for an Erasmus+ / Study Abroad placement are available for all students in Teaching Block 2, or after the completion of dissertation:

Please note, all Postgraduate teaching at the partner institutions are delivered in English. Foreign language courses are available, if requested.


Most of your units will be taught via lectures and seminars. Lectures offer you the opportunity to gain a lot of information quickly. Gone are the days of stuffy lectures read out aloud with students hastily scribbling notes. Modern lectures take place in pleasant lecture halls, with trained lecturers using interactive techniques and audio-visual materials to make lectures interesting and insightful.

If students focus on lecturers in a lecture, things switch round in seminars where students get the opportunity to put across their point of view, discuss developments in international relations and debate contemporary and pressing issues. Lecturers use numerous different activities and techniques to make seminars engaging and fruitful in terms of learning.

Other types of activity are also used to promote learning, including plenaries, simulations, roundtables and lectures by guest speakers.

The time you spend in teaching activities may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year typically spent their time as follows:

  • Year one students: 26% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 74% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year two students: 21% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 79% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 13% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 87% studying independently and 0% on work placement


We use a range of assessment methods including article reviews, essays, projects, briefing papers, individual and group presentations and a 10,000-word dissertation. Examinations include open, pre-seen papers and closed, traditional examinations. This diversity of assessment will allow you to develop a range of writing styles – a key skills valued by employers.

Our philosophy of providing a high standard of guidance and support, whilst encouraging you to develop as an independent learner through your degree will help you develop the techniques and skills necessary to do well in assessments.

The way you’re assessed may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • Year one students: 25% by written exams, 8% by practical exams and 67% by coursework
  • Year two students: 35% by written exams, 7% by practical exams and 58% by coursework
  • Year three students: 0% by written exams, 3% by practical exams and 97% by coursework

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Facilities & Features

The Study Centre

A suite of rooms with a comfy seating area, desks where you can work, printers, Mac workstations and access to the wireless network so you can log in using your own laptop. There are also several study rooms where you can work on group projects, alongside access to the University 3rd Space.

Research-Active Staff

You will be taught by specialist staff who are actively undertaking research in this field, ensuring your learning keeps you abreast of the latest developments. Staff are members of the Centre for European and International Studies Research (CEISR), the UK's largest research centre of its kind.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Budgeting for your studies

There are extra costs associated with studying, which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Recommended texts:
If you wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow from the University Library, the average price is £50-£60. You may be studying up to 6 units a year, each with a standard recommended text.

General costs:
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for costs of photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.

Final year project:
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose to develop.

Other costs to consider

There may be travel costs for placements undertaken during your course. This will be in the region of £500.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

You can expect to pursue careers in local, national or international government, as well as teaching or lecturing, research, voluntary organisations and NGOs. Many also enter areas such as advertising and marketing, PR, media, banking and financial services.

Our graduates have gone on to jobs as:

  • politician’s assistant
  • public affairs consultant
  • social researcher
  • information officer
  • conference producer
  • local government administrator

Work experience

Work experience
Employment boosting opportunities

This course allows you to take the Learning From Experience (LiFE) option, which lets you earn credits toward your degree for work/research placements, volunteer roles or internships undertaken alongside your studies.  The option gives you the opportunity to enhance your employability skills, to reflect on the ways in which you've done so, and to learn to express this to potential employers.

The School of Social Historical and Literary Studies can offer you a number of work experience opportunities in a range of local organizations during your degree course. Currently these include projects at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the New Theatre Royal, with local government departments and political groups, and a number of our students have worked on small research projects for the local community.

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

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Apply now or visit us

Apply for 2018 entry

To apply, you'll need this course's UCAS code, which is at the top of this page, and the University of Portsmouth institution code – P80.

Apply now

After you apply, we'll invite you to an Applicant Experience Day where you’ll get to speak to lecturers and meet your future classmates.

Open Days for courses starting in 2019

Come to an Open Day and explore our course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

Book your Open Day

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

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