MA International Relations - University of Portsmouth

International Relations

Full Time13mo

Part Time2yrs

Historic and current debates of global politics

Course Overview

Why take this course?

We live in an increasingly turbulent world, wracked by conflict, instability and insecurity. The roots of these problems are highly complex; the challenges involved in delivering greater peace and prosperity cannot be under-estimated. This course is designed for those who recognise the importance of acquiring advanced intellectual skills to be able to understand and analyse current trends in global politics. It studies a broad sweep of issues in international relations, including the rise of fundamentalist terrorism, the resurgence of Russia, the spread of globalisation and the emergence of new regional powers on the world stage. 

We are the only university in the UK that offers an internship with the BBC Afrique World Service in Senegal. This opportunity is available to students with French language skills on MA International Relations.

What will I experience?

On this course, you will:

  • Deepen your knowledge of some of the most urgent political and security issues facing the world today, informed by cutting-edge research.
  • Make yourself stand out in an increasingly competitive job market by acquiring subject expertise and advanced research skills.
  • Have the opportunity to develop expertise in issues relating to Europe, ideal for students who intend to pursue careers in European institutions or with political lobbyists and thinktanks.
  • Benefit from expert advice from our Employability team on placements, internships, and careers. You can also choose to gain academic credit for experience in the workplace with the Work-Based Learning unit, which can be a useful way to combine postgraduate study with practical experience to create an impressive CV.

What opportunities might it lead to?

This course is particularly suited for students who intend to work for:

  • National, European or international governance institutions
  • Civil service
  • Political parties
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • Security and risk analyst
  • Foreign affairs analyst
  • Political lobbyists
  • Thinktanks and research bodies

It also provides excellent preparation for PhD study.


Larisa Gavrila, MA International Relations and European Studies student 2013

The relation between students and professors is very open and the friendly atmosphere allows me succeed in what I like.

Larisa Gavrila, MA International Relations and European Studies student 2013

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Structure & Teaching

Core units currently include:

  • Contemporary Security in International Relations: Providers and Challenges: The analysis of security is a fascinating field of study that tackles issues of enormous significance. This unit evaluates a number of the most pressing security issues in International Relations, focusing on challenges such as cyber war, the security implications of the ‘Arab Spring’, jihadism, insurgency, information war, humanitarian intervention, piracy and the Ukraine Crisis. This unit provides you not only with detailed knowledge of these issues, but also equips you with the concepts and frameworks to fully understand them.
  • Global Governance: Today’s policy-makers struggle to grapple with challenges of unprecedented scale and complexity. The ramifications of such issues as climate change and the global financial crisis underline the need for collective action across state borders. However, policy responses at the international level are often criticised for being ineffectual and undemocratic. This unit asks some searching questions about who governs our world, and what reforms are needed to ensure a more effective and equitable system of global governance.
  • Research Management: A postgraduate degree signals to an employer that you are equipped with superior analytical and communication skills and are trained in a variety of research methods. This unit provides you with such specialised training. It helps to prepares you for the dissertation as well as provides you with competencies that are desirable for numerous careers.
  • Dissertation in International Relations: This is an extended research project on a topic of your own choice, which you produce under the guidance of a specialist supervisor. It is an ideal opportunity to deepen your expertise in an area that will be relevant for your future career.

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Protest, Dissent and Solidarity across State Borders: Civil society actors are perhaps more visible on the global political stage than ever before. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play a central role in humanitarian relief operations, the delivery of development aid and global advocacy campaigns. In addition, social media has enabled the phenomenal growth of numerous protest and solidarity movements that are able to change the tide of political events. This unit enables you to understand the impact of these societal actors on world politics, and poses some troubling questions about their accountability and legitimacy.
  • Nation and Identity: Issues of nations and identity are ever more important for day-to-day policy decisions. This has been most apparent in the context of the migration crisis, whereby nation states and national citizenships have served as a basis of demarcation between people. Against this backdrop, the unit explores the processes through which different actors – individuals, politicians and societal groups – make claims for the identity, rights and status of citizenship. We compare various contexts from the local to the regional, and from Europe to Asia.
  • From Security to Risk: European International Relations in the 21st Century: At the beginning of the new millennium some commentators were announcing the emergence of Europe as a new world superpower whereas today analysts are more likely to anticipate its irrelevance with the emergence of new regional powers such as Russia and China alongside the ever present United States.  Students on Europe and the World will critically examine how political, economic and military power and influence are exercised in world politics, consider Europe’s contested position as a world power, and survey the challenges that it faces in an uncertain future.    
  • Challenges to EU Politics and Governance: The EU and wider Europe is beset by a number of intractable problems. These include widespread feelings of disengagement from European institutions amongst the citizenry; the enduring dissimilarities between ‘European’ nation states, societies and cultures; and diverging policy preferences on issues of security, migration and economics. This unit deliberates on possible avenues to ‘fixing’ EUrope – that is if students of international relations and politics consider it possible or, even, desirable to do so. 
  • Negotiation and Lobbying in the EU: a Simulation Game: Gain insight into how political decisions are actually shaped by social actors, how they are reached across and within various institutions, and into the complexities involved in decision-making at the transnational level. In this unit we study a particular piece of EU legislation and simulate four different EU-level meetings with students taking on the roles appropriate to each meeting to simulate how complex decisions are made. 
  • Europe: Integration and Democratisation: When and why was the idea of European integration first developed? How has this European "project" evolved, and how have historians tried to explain the integration process? This unit offers an introductory overview of the history of Europe from 1945 to the present day EU, investigating along the way the 'other Europe' (socialist central and eastern Europe), the revolutions of 1989 and their consequences for integration and enlargement, as well as some of the explanations for growing public disenchantment with the European endeavour.
  • Independent Project: This unit allows students to develop and carry out an independent research project under the guidance of an expert supervisor, who will be available for individual tutorials. The project will be particularly attractive if you wish to develop interests outside of but relevant to the curriculum on taught units – particularly if the subject concerned is relevant to your future career.
  • Work-Based Learning: The unit will provide an opportunity for you to gain academic credit for experience gained in the workplace – whether for a job that is paid or voluntary. It is an excellent way to ensure that your degree represents recognition for your specific practical experience as well as for your transferable skills and academic ability. The unit is supported by individual or small group tutorials with a supervisor.

Units (30 credits per unit, 60 credits for the dissertation) are offered individually as credit-bearing short courses, or as part of the Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits), Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits), or MSc International Development Studies (180 credits). 

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.

Teaching and Assessment

The course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars in the afternoons and evenings. Part-time students who may be in employment are usually able to structure their course over two years such that tuition is concentrated on no more than two afternoons and evenings per week.

How are you assessed?

Assessment for most units on the course is in the form of an extended essay or project plus a 15,000-word dissertation at the end.

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Facilities & Features


On your Master's, you will be studying with members of CEISR, the UK's largest centre for European Studies. Rated top for research in European Studies (Research Power Index), the Centre can offer a varied programme drawing on the wide range of research expertise within the Centre.

Work-Based Learning

You can connect this degree to your sphere of work by negotiating and completing a contract, thus reflecting on business practice in line with the rigour of academic study.

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.

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 may be extra costs arising from your studies which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Some are common costs to all courses of study. These may include the cost of study texts, reference books, photocopying and computer supplies. Others relate to specific courses and may include field trips, materials and specialist equipment.

Other costs to consider

There may be travel costs for placements. These can be in the region of £50 - £1000.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Changes such as the enlargement of the EU to the East, the further integration of the EU and the emergence of the EU as an international actor have meant that more than ever there is a demand for people with an advanced knowledge of European affairs and the workings of the EU. This course therefore provides an excellent basis for those seeking careers in such areas where interdisciplinary knowledge is required. 

In addition, the course provides advanced training in a range of transferable skills which can be applied in different areas of employment. Students could go on to work in various areas including local government, the UK civil service, foreign government and European and international institutions, NGOs, teaching and further research as well as applying their expertise in the commercial sector.

Career planning

One of the benefits of studying at Portsmouth is the support that we provide to our Master's and Research Degree students in career planning. Our careers and recruitment service can assist you in career research and finding employment opportunities. Help is also available if you wish to find a part-time job while studying your degree.

We offer our postgraduate students and alumni one-to-one appointments with a careers adviser, or an online service for those not able to travel back to the University. Our alumni can call on our career services for five years after graduation.

In addition, regular employability events offer you the chance to meet employers, find out about different career sectors and improve your applications or CV. The Graduate Summer Programme provides a range of guidance and employability seminars and workshops.

Benefits of Postgraduate Study

Regardless of whether you are seeking to build on your studies, further your career or pursue a career change, a postgraduate qualification adds to your achievement record.

  • Postgraduate study may greatly improve your chances of getting that first break.
  • Many graduate employers prefer the higher intellectual rigour displayed in postgraduate students.
  • Recruiters for roles requiring specialist knowledge or research particularly target those with higher level qualifications.
  • Postgraduate study shows you can take the challenge of in-depth study; acquiring transferable skills in team working and problem solving techniques.
  • If you have a passion for a particular subject, postgraduate study can also be something undertaken as part of your own development at an appropriate time in your life.
Deborah Ayis, MA International Relations and European Studies student 2012

While completing my MA, I started work with the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs at the UN Headquarters in New York. I have researched countries that might face electoral challenges in implementing free and fair elections, with emphasis placed on ensuring transparent and violence-free elections. My dissertation is based on the United Nations Security Council which provided me with background knowledge of the organization.

Deborah Ayis, MA International Relations and European Studies student 2012

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Apply now or visit us

Online application form

Apply direct using our online form

Your application will be received by the University Admissions Centre for consideration.

Postgraduate Open Evenings

Our Postgraduate Open Evenings are taking place between February and April. Lecturers and support staff will be available to discuss your options. You'll also find out more about your chosen course and subjects that interest you.

Booking will open soon but in the meantime, watch our Postgrad Live series to hear from our staff and students about what it's like studying at Portsmouth. 

Other opportunities to visit

Download our free walking tour PDF for a self-guided tour of the University.

We have an open-door policy so you will be able to take a look in our buildings, speak to some of our support services and get a feel for the campus.

Find out more about our self-guided walking tours.

Can't get to Portsmouth?

If you can’t make it to Portsmouth, come and see us at one of the events we attend around the UK.

If you would like to speak with a member of staff about any courses you are interested in, please email and we will arrange this for you.

Staff from the University of Portsmouth Global office also regularly attend overseas exhibitions. To find out more about these and our visits to your region see our exhibitions page.

Fees and Funding

Find out more about fees and funding available to you at Portsmouth.

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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