School of Social and Political Science

Politics and International Relations

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Our undergraduate degree

The MA (Hons) Politics and MA (Hons) International Relations degrees offers comprehensive training for a professional career in government or public policy.

Drawing on the expertise of leading academics and researchers in their field, you'll explore the origins and present-day contexts of power and international conflicts, understand the processes of governance and consider the morality of political action, the boundaries of freedom and the limits of justice.

Years 1 and 2

Year 1 courses

In Year 1 you will take three compulsory courses:

Introduction to Politics and International Relations

This course introduces you with conceptual material relevant to both politics and international relations, such as the state, sovereignty, legitimacy, democracy, and power, together with relevant examples.

Introduction to Politics and International Relations

Political Thinkers

This course introduces you to historical writers whose thoughts on politics have become recognised by theorists as canonical in the western tradition, or whose work is becomingly increasingly recognised within a broader, non-Eurocentric canon.

Political Thinkers

International Law (for International Relations Students)

This course develops understanding of the international legal system; the main institutions which contribute to the development and application of international law; and the legal rules, principles and processes which govern key areas of inter-state activity.

Outside courses are taken in addition to those above.

International Law

Second Year Courses

In Year 2 you will take four compulsory courses:

International Cooperation in Europe and Beyond

This course explores how and why states interact at the regional and international level.

The course considers theoretical perspectives on both international relations and international political economy, before considering in detail the European Union, the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations.

International Cooperation in Europe and Beyond

Comparative Politics in a Globalized World

This course provides you with the conceptual knowledge and practical skills to understand comparative politics in a globalized world.

It introduces the comparative method, and applies that method to core questions and issues of comparative and international politics.

Comparative Politics in a Globalized World

Introduction to Political Data Analysis

This course introduces you to political data analysis using domestic and international data. It explores how to access relevant data and assess the appropriateness of data.

It provides key skills in quantitative data analysis, including descriptive statistics, cross-tab/contingency tables, measures of association, correlation and regression.

Introduction to Political Data Analysis

Fundamentals 2: Politics & International Relations

This course demonstrates how the knowledge and skills acquired through PIR degrees can relate to the outside world.

It includes a variety of presentations from applied political scientists and helps you to identify potential career routes. It also provides guidance on how to communicate with non-academic audiences.

Outside courses are taken in addition to those above.

Fundamentals 2: Politics & International Relations

Course Handbooks

Individual course handbooks are available on Learn for current students.

Programme Handbook

Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study

Honours years

Politics

The honours years (Years 3 and 4) allow you to specialise in your chosen discipline.

Year 3 has one compulsory course:

  • Research Design in Politics and International Relations

This acts as an essential preparation for honours study and the Year 4 dissertation process.

The remainder of courses you will take are optional courses.

Although the precise availability of these options varies from year to year, current options include courses in: 

  • public policy
  • political theory
  • gender and identity politics
  • territorial politics

You will also have the opportunity to choose from courses focused on examining the politics of particular countries and continents.

Regularly offered courses of this kind include:

  • African politics
  • US politics
  • Scottish politics
  • Middle Eastern politics
  • politics in the European Union

In Year 4, you will have the opportunity to pursue further optional courses of your choosing.

You will also complete an in-depth research project, in the shape of a 10,000 word dissertation, on a topic of your choice, under the guidance of a supervisor. 

Degree Regulations & Programmes of Study

In the honours years (Years 3 and 4) of your degree, you are able to concentrate more fully on the study of international relations.

The honours degree requirements includes one compulsory International Relations course:

  • Research Design in Politics and International Relations

There are also a large variety of optional courses which can be selected, including, but not limited to:

  • Theories of International Relations
  • International Political Economy
  • Global Security

Please note that the precise configuration of courses changes from year to year).

In Year 4, you will have the opportunity to pursue further optional courses of your choosing.

You will also complete an in-depth research project, in the shape of a 10,000 word dissertation, on a topic of their choice, under the guidance of a supervisor. 

Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study

Programme Handbook

PIR Honours Programme Handbook 2020-21

Please note individual course handbooks are available on Learn.

Study abroad

Study abroad occurs as an option in Year 3 of your Politics or International Relations degree. 

It is available both to single and joint honours students. More information on the Study Abroad pages.

Programme specifications

Programme specifications are summary statements about our degree programmes, regularly revised and approved by our Board of Studies.

They provide very useful overviews of the fundamental objectives and structures of degree programmes. They also provide key information about:

  • basic educational aims
  • anticipated learning outcomes
  • core skills students are expected to acquire through their studies
  • the structure and progression of programmes over the four years

Current versions of the Degree Programme Specifications (DPS) can be found alongside the relevant programme title in DRPS.

Student category
Programme Information