MAIntermediate award(s): PG Cert, PG Dip
Course overviewThe MA International Relations focuses specifically on the pragmatic, real-world application of international relations theory to policy and strategy, and the rigorous examination of practical problems, building close relations with outside bodies including think tanks and NGOs. The course examines the theory and definition of the state and relations between states, but also the roles of other institutions and organisations, including multinational companies and transnational crime organisations. You will study theoretical foundations in the discipline, but also explore more pragmatic concerns, with a strong vocational emphasis on how theory affects and is affected by events on the ground.
This course is distinct in offering:
- Teaching by lecturers with a background/expertise in: international strategic planning and security, defence analysis, UN training, conflict communications, Foreign Office, new media and risk analysis.
- Cutting-edge lectures and seminars from prestigious guest speakers, practitioners and diplomats
- Opportunities to visit a wide range of organisations (which may include UN seminars, EU, UK government bodies, think tanks and media agencies)
- Support in arranging internships and placements
- Starting from 2014/15 the possibility of studying in Paris for a semester with international diplomats and strategists (and possibly Dusseldorf in future)
Additional course informationIn addition to studying the historical and theoretical background of international relations you will also have the opportunity to explore some of the following topics and themes: the global risk society; policing and security, corruption and cross-border crime; terrorism and terrorist activity, including definitions of terrorism and state violence; insurgency and asymmetric wars; communication in conflict zones and in peacekeeping; war reporting and propaganda; the impact of the new media, 24/7 reporting and the CNN effect; unilateral and multilateral military intervention in contemporary international relations and global politics; the politics of resources and sustainability; strategic planning, and economic and global health issues. The emphasis is on decision-making, planning and debate, and you will be encouraged to participate in interactive sessions, respond to specific scenarios, write to briefs and undertake critical analysis. You will also have opportunities to develop or enhance research methods skills.
Semester 1 compulsory module
There is more to understanding how states interact in the world than reading, watching or listening to the news. Why do state and non-state actors act the way they do? This core module provides an introduction into International Relations by examining the theories, key concepts and authors in the field that help us to answer this vital question. We go from examining the mainstream theories such as Liberalism and Realism to questioning the suitability of these mainstream theories by questioning the very rationale of a theory in understanding international relations to examining how practitioners use IR theory to explain and make policy. To interrogate how these theories help explain the world we also apply them to real-world case studies.
Semester 2 compulsory modules
This module critically analyses the origins, evolution and role of international institutions in the global order over the course of the 20th and 21st century. The aim is to understand why these institutions have developed, and why states choose, or do not choose, to use these institutions as a means to achieve their objectives.
This project enables you to demonstrate your ability to raise and investigate significant questions in relation to your specialist research area either through empirical research or sustained theoretical investigation. Based on your initial project proposal you will be expected to negotiate a learning contract with your supervisor, which outlines title, research question, assessment weighting and criteria, and the form of the project.
Semester 1 optional modules
This module explores the concept of the risk society in a global, abstract context, in relation to prevention and minimisation. Contemporary forms of policing and security will be evaluated against the backdrop of societies that are built on the notion of risk, its quantification and avoidance. Risk from the perspective of corruption within organisations tasked with managing cross border and transnational crime will also be considered.
This module examines state-dominated war in the modern world, including the democratic peace theory and the changing strategic problems and limits of Western force. It looks at the history of peacekeeping since 1945 including during the Cold War and after its end and also examines the contemporary status of peacekeeping, military humanitarian intervention, and the 'responsibility to protect'.
This module will provide you with the research skills and techniques needed both to critically evaluate the literature you will be using during the course and in your own dissertation. It will explore the methodologies and methods applied in contemporary social-science research to enable you to select an appropriate range for your own needs.
Independent Learning Module (30 credits)
Semester 2 optional modules
This module engages students with current discussions of US democracy promotion, an essential tool of contemporary US foreign policy. It asks whether US actions in promoting democracy will lead to the development of democratic societies. The module identifies what US democracy promotion is and then critiques the US missions in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to assess whether they consolidated their democratic statuses or are on the path to being democratic societies. In order to do this, five critical frameworks are employed (developed from post-colonialism, international critical theory, social constructivism, post-modernism and communitarianism).
Delivered by a former practitioner, this module introduces students to the various forms and purposes of communication in conflict zones, covering the main actors, including government, NGOs, military, media, and increasingly 'the public'. It explores the history and development of war reporting and propaganda, and examines the use of communication during insurgencies and peacekeeping. It also examines the 'CNN effect' and whether the development of 24-hour media coverage has impacted decision-making at a political and operational level, including the effect of television coverage on complex crises. Finally, the module questions the way that war and conflict is portrayed in film and literature, as well as in print and broadcast journalism.
This module explores the definitional problems surrounding the concept of terrorism and political violence, and will examine the emergence of terrorism in the 19th century, as well as more recent developments in the 20th and 21st century. This includes nationalist, political and religious terrorism and the concept and practice of radicalisation.
AssessmentForms of assessment will include: Role-play scenarios, briefs, written reports, poster presentations, group projects, dissertation, longer essays, case studies, research proposal, short analyses of global events, short review papers, practical data gathering exercises, short abstracts of core course readings.
Special featuresOpportunities to study abroad, and to work at or visit relevant organisations and institutions. Prestigious guest lecturers.
FacilitiesStudy in Cambridge; purpose built Court room for debates and role-play opportunities.
Study abroad optionsOpportunities to study in Paris at CEDS or University of Dusseldorf for one semester (TBC).
Meet the teamCourse leader: Dr Matthew Hill - Democracy assistance from the EU, US and UN in the Greater Middle East and North Africa; the impact of the US missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya; democracy promotion.
Ian Shields OBE - Security and Strategy, Military Ethics; Air and Space Power; the Media; Civil-Military Relations. Former RAF commanding officer and Vulcan bomber pilot, Member of the UK's Chief of the Defence Staff's Strategic Forum.
Caroline Jaine - Communications and new media, media perceptions, strategic communications, conflict transformation, diaspora diplomacy, public diplomacy, cross-government strategy. Former Head of Communications for Pakistan at the Foreign Office.
Carina O'Reilly - European security and organised crime, and local policing and local governance. Freelance defence and security analyst, formerly editor and analyst at Janes, global country risk analyst for Cambridge International Research on Current Affairs.
Dr Anna Markovska - Transitional countries; serious crime; corruption, drug abuse
Dr Samantha Lundrigan - Criminological profiling systems; profiling serial offenders, research methods
Colleen Moore - violent crime, comparative criminology, terror as crime
Bill Tupman - Global security, cross-border responses to organised crime and terrorism, terrorist financing and the political economy of terrorism
Professor Bronwen Walter - Irish diaspora studies, identity and hybridity, genealogy and citizenship
Dr Elke Schwarz - ethical, legal and political debate on the use of drones and bridging ethical aspects with future policy, specifically EU policy; the role of the human in accelerated contexts of technological developments; developing theoretical explorations of the shifting nature of warfare today.
Associated careersDiplomacy and diplomatic services, strategy and strategic planning, public services, foreign office, UN and other bodies, local government, NGO's, charities, education, journalism and press agencies.
Links with industry/Professional recognitionLinks with CEDS, ILERI in Paris, University of Dusseldorf (TBC)
Work placementsOpportunities to work and study in a variety of institutions, agencies and organisations as appropriate.
We welcome applications from International and EU students. Please select one of the links below for English language and country-specific entry requirement information.
Cambridge Ruskin International College, an associate college of Anglia Ruskin, which is located on our Cambridge campus.
How to apply
Available startsSeptember, January
Fees & funding
Open DayWednesday 19 March
Postgraduate Open Day
FacultyArts, Law & Social Sciences
DepartmentHumanities and Social Sciences
Contact usUK and EU applicants:
- Call 01245 493131
- Complete enquiry form
- Call +44 (0)1223 698609
- Complete enquiry form