International Relations MA

Postgraduate ( full-time, part-time)


January, September

Intermediate awards: PG Cert, PG Dip

Course duration: 12 months full-time or 24 months part-time (September starts); 15 months full-time (January starts)


Discover how international relations theory affects real-world events, and develop crucial skills like decision making and debating. With prestigious guest lecturers and visits to key organisations, you’ll gain all the experience you need for a role in global politics.

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Full description


Our course will prepare you for a career in many roles relating to international relations, such as diplomacy and the diplomatic services, strategy and strategic planning, public services, the Foreign Office, the UN and other international bodies, local government, NGOs, charities, education, journalism and press agencies.

Modules & assessment

Core modules

  • International Relations Theory in Context
    You will examine the theory and key concepts of international relations and the development of the state, ground them in their historical context, and explore their policy implications. You will begin by examining what we have come to know as International Relations and question where the boundaries of the discipline might lie, before looking at debates over the role of theory in explaining International Relations. You will receive detailed explanations of the key competing theories within the discipline, and their development and evolution. Key themes you will explore include the development of Classical Realism from its roots in doctrines of war, Liberalism and the dream of global order, through the tussles between Neorealism and neoliberalism throughout the decades of the Cold War. You will also look at Constructivism and the English School, radical Marxist and Neo-Marxist perspectives, through to Feminism, Post-Colonialism, Postmodernism and cosmopolitanism. You will learn to place the theory firmly in the context of 20th century events, exploring the way in which political and academic ideas are shaped by and in turn influence international affairs. You will also explore other directions in which the study of International Relations might travel in the future. You will be expected to tackle the relevant literature, including classic texts as well as Introductory. However your focus will be on the policy implications of various theoretical interpretations of events. You will attend weekly lectures and seminars. Your assessment will comprise a report of 1,000 words, a presentation, a literature search equivalent to 1,000 words and a longer essay of 3,500 words.
  • International Institutions and Policy
    On this module, you will critically analyse the origins, evolution and role of international institutions in the global order over the course of the 20th and 21st century, in order 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. You will examine the still-evolving structures of global governance, and the role of these organisations and institutions in contemporary politics and diplomacy, looking at the work of specific organisations including the UN, the EU, the IMF and World Bank etc. You will pay particular attention to the challenges inherent in attempting to foster international co-operation and consensus between sovereign nation states, including the limitations of international law, as well as examining possible future developments. Your assessment will comprise an initial report of 1,000 words, a 10-minute presentation, a brief data analysis and a longer essay of 3,500 words.
  • Major Project
    This module will support you in the preparation and submission of a Masters dissertation, allowing you to explore in-depth a particular topic that reflects your academic interest.

Optional modules

  • War, Peacekeeping and Military Intervention
    You will examine state-dominated war in the modern world, including the democratic peace theory and the changing strategic problems and limits of Western force. You will look at the history of peacekeeping since 1945 including during the Cold War and after its end. You will also examine the contemporary status of peacekeeping, military humanitarian intervention, and the responsibility to protect. You will examine the role of international institutions in multilateral intervention, the challenges involved in post-conflict security, and the politics of aid. Your aim will be to underline the significance of unilateral and multilateral military intervention in contemporary international relations and global politics, as well as its limitations. Using a variety of real-world case studies of war, peacekeeping and military intervention you will use a range of teaching methods to engage students and develop their understanding of intervention from a pragmatic, empirical, strategic and policy-oriented perspective. Teaching is based around case studies, and assessment is portfolio-based. You are expected to submit a variety of different forms of work, including press releases, presentations to a group, briefings and longer research reports. Your assessment for this module will contribute to the development of skills in writing to different briefs and using different registers, and will allow the development of skills in the comparative analysis of data and new insights or perspectives on existing data and/or materials.
  • Policing Transnational Crime
    The globalisation of contemporary societies has meant that criminal activity that was once primarily a national concern is increasingly becoming transnational in nature. Transnational crime involves criminal activity that crosses state boundaries, regardless of whether that be physical boundaries or the virtual boundaries of cyberspace. As a result, policing bodies now have to manage risk and security on a much wider and larger scale. On this module, you will critically examine the nature of risk and security in contemporary society and human endeavours, on various levels, to control and respond effectively to such challenges. You will begin with an exploration of the concept of the risk society. One of the most fundamental changes brought about by late modernity is the move of social relations from a local context to a more global, abstract context. With this has come a focus on security and global concern as to how the risks produced by modernisation can be prevented and minimised. You will evaluate contemporary forms of policing and security the backdrop of societies that are built on the notion of risk, its avoidance and quantification. You will also consider risk from the perspective of corruption within organisations tasked with managing cross border crime. In the second part of the module, you will focus on responses to transnational crime. Newburn (2005) observed that recent decades have seen a significant expansion in international and, increasingly, transnational policing bodies, suggesting that the role of transnational policing organisations will increase. You will examine the ways in which policing agencies have adapted to the changing shape of risk and crime in modern society, exploring in particular the nature of intelligence-led policing and the role of police at this level as data patrollers and information gatherers. You will examine specific examples of cross border agency responses, such as INTERPOL and EUROPOL, as well as charting the growth of the power of transnational policing through mutual assistance and multinational agreements such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties and Memoranda of Understanding. You will be assessed through a portfolio, a presentation and a reflective commentary.
  • Communication and Conflict
    You will explore historical and thematic approaches to reporting on conflict and also how communication functions in a crisis. You will examine the reciprocal relationships between the military, governments and the media, including how the media can be used to legitimise conflict, and the changing role of social media in building consensus and protest, including the use of Twitter and Facebook to organise demonstrations and undermine the power of state-dominated discourses. You will also examine, including censorship and propaganda, and whether the state is ever able to retain control of the narrative, as well as the role of the war reporter, and the way in which governments can utilise the independent media and how independent it really is. Your areas of exploration include consent, public interest, ethics and the representation of suffering, looking at whether the dominance of media in the debate in the West means that public interest in conflict is limited by the limitations of the media, and what this means for winning hearts and minds during insurgencies, military interventions and peacekeeping operations. You will also look at the way war and conflict is portrayed in fictional accounts and the underlying assumptions of such portrayals, and will examine conflicting discourses about war in post-conflict environments and the way the media can contribute to or hamper the process of post-conflict reconstruction Your study will examine who owns, defines and propagates the truth, and the implications of this in the context of conflict and war. You will be assessed by a 2,000 word report and an individual presentation. You will also submit weekly analyses of contemporary media reporting on global conflict scenarios, which is a pass/fail element.
  • Terror as Crime
    Criminology has sought to understand and explain many crimes and criminal behaviours, but despite an increasingly media-fuelled culture of fear and fear-mongering, little academic Criminological attention has been paid to the impact of 'terror' as opposed to 'fear' of crime. Words such as terror, terrorism, terrorist and the 'war on terror' are now a part of our everyday language, but what do these terms really mean? In this module, you will identify and critically examine terror-related issues through criminological and criminal justice perspectives. You will evaluate the effect of changing crime level and the contribution towards moral panics in contrast to the impact of more serious crime waves in societies and their collective or individual reactions. You will also evaluate the notion of mobilising a nation through terror-information in relation to the recent adoption and acceptance of regular risk assessment and analysis measures, as well as propaganda. In addition, you will contrast the 'war on terror' with the notion that 'war is terror', and investigate the shift from 'old' terrorism to 'new' terrorism, studying cases of domestic and international terror attacks in conjunction with 'ordinary' criminal offences associated with terrorism, such as drug-trafficking, arms-dealing and identity manipulation. You will also investigate the role of domestic criminal justice systems in preventing, investigating and responding to acts of terror, and critically analyse the punishment and consequences of punishment. The theme of peacemaking and peacekeeping will run throughout the module - you will explore and critically evaluate successful initiatives throughout the world, applying such programmes to selected countries who are currently mobilised in the 'war against terror' or experiencing what might be conceived as genocide. You will be assessed through a presentation, summary case study and an essay.
  • Postgraduate Research Methods
    This module will provide you with the research skills and techniques needed both to critically evaluate the literature you will be using in your Masters course, and to put into practice 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
    This module will support you in the preparation and submission of an independent learning project. It will allow you to study topics not provided within existing modules but within clearly defined parameters, and where appropriate supervision is available.


We offer a range of core and optional modules, with optional modules sometimes changing depending on staff availability. 

You’ll demonstrate your progress through a combination of 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, and short abstracts of core course readings.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences is an academic community of nearly 800 students and teaching staff. Our students are supported by leading practitioners, so you'll always have access to the latest theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as invaluable career advice. Subjects in the Humanities and Social Sciences lead to work in many roles you might not have considered, maybe as a politician, chief executive – or even an inventor.

We organise many activities to help our students prepare for their future, like work placements, study abroad opportunities, talks by acclaimed guest speakers, and research conferences.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Events and activities

You’ll have the chance to attend cutting-edge lectures and seminars from prestigious guest speakers, practitioners and diplomats, and to visit organisations like the Ecole de Guerre in Paris, UN seminars, EU, UK government bodies, think tanks and media agencies.

Work placements

We’ll help you to arrange internships and placements.

Specialist facilities

Our campus in Cambridge features a mock courtroom for debates and role-playing.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2015/16 (per year part-time)


International students, 2015/16 (per year)


UK & EU students, 2016/17 (per year)


UK & EU students, 2016/17 (per year part time)


International students, 2016/17 (per year)


Important fee notes

The part-time course fee assumes that you're studying at half the rate of a full-time student (50% intensity). Course fees will be different if you study over a longer period. All fees are for guidance purposes only.

How do I pay my fees?

Paying upfront

You won't need to pay fees until you've accepted an offer to attend, but you must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments. You will also be asked for a deposit or sponsorship letter/financial guarantee. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees
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Funding for UK & EU students

There's no statutory funding for postgraduate study. However, we offer a number of scholarships and we've put together guidance on where to start researching funding options.

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Funding for international students

We've a number of scholarships, as well as some fee discounts for early payment.

Entry requirements


Entry requirements are not currently available, please try again later.

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

Entry requirements are for January 2016 and September 2016 entry. Entry requirements for other intakes may differ.

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International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

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English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

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Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

Enquire online