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Examine the major issues affecting the world. Discover why nation states rise and fall. Take a closer look at the factors behind international conflict, and learn the role state leaders, NGOs, civil society and activists play in solving these problems.
On this BA (Hons) International Relations degree, you'll explore topics like global migration and the rise of populist politics around the world. You’ll learn the skills required to play your part in improving equality and enacting positive change.
And after graduation, you’ll be ready for careers in local and national government, security, tech, intelligence, and with international charities and institutions like the UN.
- Learn from staff at our Centre for European and International Studies Research (CEISR), whose research directly impacts government policy
- Create policy briefing papers offering recommendations to practitioners on major recent international issues, such as the Ukraine Crisis, the 'MeToo' movement, the rise of terrorist organisations and the Arab Revolutions
- Attend events and talks led by people working in NGOs, local, national and international government, and journalism
- Go on field trips to locations such as the Houses of Parliament
- Participate in a simulated ‘academic conference’, where you’ll present a paper that will be discussed with your peers
- Take up an exchange opportunity at a university outside the UK, such as Nagoya University in Japan, Science Po or Caen-Normandy University in France, The Hague University of Applied Sciences or University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, University of Western Carolina in the USA, Prince Edward Island University or Carleton University in Canada, or Edith Cowan University in Australia
of graduates in work or further study 15 months after this course
(HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2018/19)
BA (Hons) International Relations degree entry requirements
- A levels - BBC-BCC
- UCAS points - 104-112 points to include a minimum of 2 A levels, or equivalent (calculate your UCAS points)
- T-levels - Merit
- BTECs (Extended Diplomas) - DMM
- International Baccalaureate - 25
You may need to have studied specific subjects – find full entry requirements and other qualifications we accept
English language requirements
- English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.0 with no component score below 5.5.
If you don't meet the English language requirements yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.
We look at more than just your grades
While we consider your grades when making an offer, we also carefully look at your circumstances and other factors to assess your potential. These include whether you live and work in the region and your personal and family circumstances which we assess using established data.
I love Portsmouth, I love the university, every tutor and lecturer I had over the three years was really supportive, and my course was brilliant.
On this course, you can study history or international development alongside your international relations degree. This will lead to one of these awards at the end of the course:
Why study International Relations?
Hear from our students about why they love studying international relations. Learn more about the variety of subjects, your career opportunities and what makes the University of Portsmouth special.
Dr Aishling Mc Morrow: International relations is how states interact in the international system. As you can imagine, it's really broad and we look at many different topics and issues within that. It's not just states that we look at: it's non-governmental organisations, it's terrorist organisations and how they all interplay and interact with each other to make up this thing, that is the international system.
India: I wanted to study this course because I've always had an interest in politics, and I felt that this course would provide me with opportunities to expand that knowledge while also gaining a greater global perspective on political issues.
Samantha: I had my 'aha' moment when I actually came to Portsmouth and my foundation programme was law with international relations because I wasn't sure which one I wanted to do. I actually spoke to a lecturer, and I was like, "Should I do IR or should I change to law?" and it was her passion for me that really sold me and I really found myself identifying with it, and then that's when I knew like, "okay, this is it".
Dr Aishling Mc Morrow: I think what students are attracted to is the variety of the course. So one day you could be studying conflict and security, and then the next day you might be studying development aid. Which are polar opposites, and they're different worlds, but you get to do that within your course.
Samantha: It teaches you to see people from another perspective and I think that's really important, not just in diplomacy, but in everyday life.
Joshua: The modules, they're so broad and vast so people can find their niches within that. So there you can find, "okay, this is what I stand for."
Dr Aishling Mc Morrow: There are a lot of career opportunities. We have students working with the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees, working in the House of Congress in the U.S. and working as researchers with Parliament in the U.K.
Johannes: I don't think I picked Portsmouth, I think Portsmouth picked me. This course really motivates me in this way to just go the extra mile, really do the reading, turn up and just invest my time and energy.
Dr Aishling Mc Morrow: The reason why I think students should study and come to the University of Portsmouth is because what our courses enable our students to do, is look at the events that's happening in the world today and have the ability to process them and critically analyse them and to question the information that's put in front of them.
Aleksandra: Ever since I've started to study International Relations I've completely fallen in love with it. First, when I got to my seminars or lectures, I felt like Alice in Wonderland exploring the world from completely different angles I would never think about before and that's what got me.
Careers and opportunities
The analytical skills you’ll develop on this course are in demand – your ability to understand complex issues and find solutions to them means that roles across government agencies, NGOs, charities, think tanks and international organisations are all within your reach.
And with technology continuing to develop at a frantic pace, there’s an ever-increasing demand for graduates with the knowledge required to ensure new developments are ethical.
When you finish the course, our Careers and Employability service can help you find a job that puts your skills and cultural experience to work.
What can you do with an International Relations degree?
Graduates from this degree have gone on to careers in the following sectors:
- local and central government
- non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
- security services
- international organisations, like the United Nations (UN)
- international charities like War Child, Amnesty International or the Red Cross
- policy research and think tanks
- media and international business consultancy
- political risk analysis
- public relations
- voluntary organisations
- banking and financial services
Placement year (optional)
After your second or third year, you can do an optional work placement year to get valuable longer-term work experience in the industry.
Taking an optional placement year will give you the experience you need to increase your chances of landing your perfect role. We'll give you all the support you need to find a placement that prepares you for your career, and we'll continue to mentor you throughout your placement.
Previous students have been on placements to organisations such as:
- The Ministry of Defence
- The House of Commons
- National Museum of the Royal Navy
- Otra Cosa (Peru)
- SEK International
- Freedom from Torture
- Victim Support London
- Tools for Self Reliance
What jobs can you do with an International Relations degree?
Recent graduates have gone on to roles including:
- director of Language Studies for an international school
- political researcher, Houses of Parliament
- assistant to Member of Parliament
- civil servant, the Cabinet Office
- senior policy advisor, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
- communications officer, House of Commons
- local government administrator, Government of Jersey
- public affairs consultant
- bilingual consultant
- multilingual project coordinator
- social researcher
- information officer
- conference producer
Ongoing career support – up to 5 years after you graduate
International Relations and Politics research at the University of Portsmouth
Ed Stoddard, Reader in International Security, explains how cutting-edge research like his (into the changing character of warfare) informs our courses and talks about some of the career opportunities this course can lead to.
Ed Stoddard: So the research I do here at the University is focused on the changing character of warfare.
Over the last few years I've been particularly focusing on questions to do with terrorism and violent extremism in the West African region, especially around the Lake Chad area.
And we use that research and distribute it at conferences and events with policymakers, both here in the UK, but also in West Africa as well. Armed conflicts are so destructive and, you know, I think it's incumbent on us as researchers who work in this area to try and think of ways they can be avoided, of course, in the first instance.
But if, when those armed conflicts do happen, try and think of measures that we can put in place to reduce their impact.
So the research connects with students here in a number of different ways. It supports the work they do in terms of their dissertations, but also directly into the modules that they study.
You know, our research, once we've done it and we've written the papers and we've publish the outputs, that gets then translated into the lectures that we deliver. So they will be directly learning and benefiting from that research that we've done out in the field in their studies and contributing to their degree.
There's a really broad range of different career opportunities that are available to students. The Foreign Office, the Civil Service and more broadly, the Ministry of Defence.
But also we have students who go to international organisations, NGOs, charities that work internationally in conflict zones, and we also have quite a lot of students who go into various research roles and risk analysis roles.
Portsmouth is a really exciting and vibrant city and the university is literally at the heart of the city. I think also the university has a really strong focus on student support and a really strong focus on teaching quality.
And I know that my colleagues spend very considerable amount of that time working to make sure that the experience for Portsmouth students is a really brilliant one. And I think those are some of the key reasons why students who are here really enjoy their degrees.
Each module on this course is worth a certain number of credits.
In each year, you need to study modules worth a total of 120 credits. For example, 4 modules worth 20 credits and 1 module worth 40 credits.
What you'll study
Core modules in this year include:
- Global Development – 20 credits
- Key Themes in International Relations – 20 credits
- Political Thought – 20 credits
- Professional Practice: Skills for Academic and Professional Success – 40 credits
- The Making of the Global South - 20 credits
There are no optional modules in this year.
Core modules in this year include:
- Bending the Truth a Little? Researching Politics and International Relations - 20 credits
- International Thought – 20 credits
Optional modules in this year include:
- A History of US Foreign Policy: From the Great War to 9/11 – 20 credits
- Analysing Foreign Policy - 20 credits
- Autocracy and Democracy - 20 credits
- Development and Democracy in Latin America – 20 credits
- East Asian States and Societies – 20 credits
- Empire and its Afterlives in Britain, Europe and Africa – 20 credits
- Engaged Citizenship in Humanities and Social Sciences - 20 credits
- Global Security - 20 credits
- Intercultural Perspectives on Communication - 20 credits
- Introduction to Teaching – 20 credits
- Marketing and Communication - 20 credits
- Modern Foreign Language – 20 credits
- Modernity and Globalisation - 20 credits
- Nationalism and Migration: Chaos, Crisis and the Everyday - 20 credits
- News, Discourse and Media - 20 credits
- Principles of Economic Crime Investigation - 20 credits
- Professional Experience L5 – 20 credits
- Space, Place and Being - 20 credits
- Transitional Justice and Human Rights - 20 credits
- US Politics – 20 credits
- Wildlife Crime: Threats and Response - 20 credits
Core modules in this year include:
- Dissertation / Major Project (International Relations) – 40 credits
- Security Challenges in the Twenty-First Century – 20 credits
Optional modules in this year include:
- France in the World: Global Actor or Global Maverick? – 20 credits
- Global Capitalism: Past, Present and Future – 20 credits
- Global Health – 20 credits
- Independent Project - 20 credits
- International Security in the Asia-Pacific - 20 credits
- NGOs and Social Movements – 20 credits
- Professional Development: Recruiters and Candidates – 20 credits
- Professional Experience L6 – 20 credits
- Race, Rights and Development: Global Perspectives on Inequality and Social Justice – 20 credits
- Religion and Politics in Global Perspective - 20 credits
- The European Union: A Global Power in the Making? - 20 credits
On this course, you can do an optional work placement year after your second or third year to get valuable experience working in industry.
We’ll help you secure a work placement that fits your situation and ambitions. You’ll get mentoring and support throughout the year.
Changes to course content
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. If a module doesn't run, we'll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative module.
I enjoyed being able to explore different aspects of international relations, especially topics such as ethnic conflict and strategic studies. By taking different units I was able to find a rich area of research in conflict and strategic studies, which I hope to pursue for years to come.
What is the Academic Enrichment Programme?
As part of this course, you'll have the chance to take part in our Academic Enrichment Programme (AEP) - an interactive set of workshops, seminars, employability events and other activities, including our Model United Nations. Here's what the AEP is all about.
Melita Lazell: The Academic Enrichment Programme is a programme of events that sits alongside the students' normal academic classes, including the model 'United Nations', an annual student conference, alumni coming in and telling students about their experience in the workplace. Quite often these seminars and also the events are run by the students themselves.
Alex: The events of what's happening in the future career and they will definitely give me that positive boost that I will be looking for and the different skills that they're able to bring and offer me.
Melita Lazell: The Academic Enrichment Programme events are really connected to the degree courses that the students are doing.
Aleksandia: I think that this is a brilliant opportunity to test yourself in discussion, arguments and the statements you're making and to critical thinking.
Simao: Today, I attended the jobs in the EU after Brexit and I found it really interesting.
Alex: I learnt what sort of links I could use and what sorts of contacts I could go to in order to find those particular jobs and places and what skills are employers looking for generally on a day to day basis, so I'm really happy with the experience that I've had so far.
Aleksandia: The University is all about planning. If you've got the schedule and if you give yourself some time for your activities that's going to enrich you beyond the University, beyond the assessments you're doing, beyond the lectures you're going to and seminars you're attending, this is what helps you to develop yourself, your professional skills and knowledge as well.
Husnain: Many students should definitely consider the Academic Enrichment Programme because not only is it a huge investment in their potential career and their time, but it's a brilliant way for them to really consolidate their learning in a way where they're leading the investigation.
Melita Lazell: They can actually be involved in organising the events in inviting speakers, they could sit on a panel themselves to debate a particular topic, and we get really great feedback from students about the Academic Enrichment Programme.
How you're assessed
You’ll be assessed through:
- written exams
- article reviews
- briefing papers
- simulations, podcasts and creative videos
- individual and group presentations
- 10,000 word dissertation
You’ll be able to test your skills and knowledge informally before you do assessments that count towards your final mark.
You can get feedback on all practice and formal assessments so you can improve in the future.
Teaching methods on this course include:
- independent study
- work placement
- guest lectures
You can access all teaching resources on Moodle, our virtual learning environment, from anywhere with a web connection.
Teaching staff profiles
How you'll spend your time
One of the main differences between school or college and university is how much control you have over your learning.
We use a blended learning approach to teaching, which means you’ll take part in both face-to-face and online activities during your studies. As well as attending your timetabled classes you'll study independently in your free time, supported by staff and our virtual learning environment, Moodle.
A typical week
We recommend you spend at least 35 hours a week studying for your BA Hons International Relations degree. In your first year, you’ll be in timetabled teaching activities such as lectures, seminars and workshops for about 10 hours a week. The rest of the time you’ll do independent study such as research, reading, coursework and project work, alone or in a group with others from your course. You'll probably do more independent study and have less scheduled teaching in years 2 and 3, but this depends on which modules you choose.
The academic year runs from September to June. There are breaks at Christmas and Easter.
The amount of timetabled teaching you'll get on your degree might be less than what you're used to at school or college, but you'll also get support via video, phone and face-to-face from teaching and support staff to enhance your learning experience and help you succeed. You can build your personalised network of support from the following people and services:
Types of support
Your personal tutor helps you make the transition to independent study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your time at university.
As well as regular scheduled meetings with your personal tutor, they're also available at set times during the week if you want to chat with them about anything that can't wait until your next meeting.
You'll have help from a team of faculty learning development tutors. They can help you improve and develop your academic skills and support you in any area of your study.
They can help with:
- Improving your academic writing (for example, essays, reports, dissertations)
- Delivering presentations (including observing and filming presentations)
- Understanding and using assignment feedback
- Managing your time and workload
- Revision and exam techniques
As well as support from faculty staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University's Academic Skills Unit (ASK).
ASK provides one-to-one support in areas such as:
- Academic writing
- Note taking
- Time management
- Critical thinking
- Presentation skills
- Working in groups
- Revision, memory and exam techniques
If you have a disability or need extra support, the Additional Support and Disability Centre (ASDAC) will give you help, support and advice.
Our online Learning Well mini-course will help you plan for managing the challenges of learning and student life, so you can fulfil your potential and have a great student experience.
You can get personal, emotional and mental health support from our Student Wellbeing Service, in person and online. This includes 1–2–1 support as well as courses and workshops that help you better manage stress, anxiety or depression.
If you require extra support because of a disability or additional learning need our specialist team can help you.
They'll help you to
- discuss and agree on reasonable adjustments
- liaise with other University services and facilities, such as the library
- access specialist study skills and strategies tutors, and assistive technology tutors, on a 1-to-1 basis or in groups
- liaise with external services
Library staff are available in person or by email, phone, or online chat to help you make the most of the University’s library resources. You can also request one-to-one appointments and get support from a librarian who specialises in your subject area.
The library is open 24 hours a day, every day, in term time.
Course costs and funding
- UK/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students – £9,250 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
- EU students – £9,250 a year (including Transition Scholarship – may be subject to annual increase)
- International students – £18,100 per year (subject to annual increase)
Funding your studies
Applying from outside the UK? Find out about funding options for international students.
Additional course costs
These course-related costs aren’t included in the tuition fees. So you’ll need to budget for them when you plan your spending.
Our accommodation section show your accommodation options and highlight how much it costs to live in Portsmouth.
You’ll study up to 6 modules a year. You may have to read several recommended books or textbooks for each module.
You can borrow most of these from the Library. If you buy these, they may cost up to £60 each.
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.
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.
You'll need to pay additional costs anywhere between £50–£1,000 to cover travel, accommodation or subsistence if you take a placement abroad.
The amount you'll pay will vary, depending on the location and length of your stay. It will also depend on additional funding the UK Government makes available after Brexit and if the UK remains part of the Erasmus+ student mobility programme or not.
During your placement year or study abroad year, you’ll be eligible for a discounted rate on your tuition fees. Currently, this discount amounts to 90% of the year’s fees.
Tuition fees for that year are:
- UK/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students – £925 a year (may be subject to annual increase)
- EU students – £925 a year, including Transition Scholarship (may be subject to annual increase)
- International students – £1,800 a year (subject to annual increase)
The costs associated with your specific destination will be discussed during your second year, as well as possible sources of additional funding.
How to apply
To start this course in 2024, apply through UCAS. You'll need:
- the UCAS course code – L253
- our institution code – P80
If you'd prefer to apply directly, use our online application form.
You can also sign up to an Open Day to:
- Tour our campus, facilities and halls of residence
- Speak with lecturers and chat with our students
- Get information about where to live, how to fund your studies and which clubs and societies to join
If you're new to the application process, read our guide on applying for an undergraduate course.
Applying from outside the UK
As an international student you'll apply using the same process as UK students, but you’ll need to consider a few extra things.
You can get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region.
Find out what additional information you need in our international students section.
If you don't meet the English language requirements for this course yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.
Admissions terms and conditions
When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to abide by our Student Contract (which includes the University's relevant policies, rules and regulations). You should read and consider these before you apply.