School of Social and Political Science

PIR Undergraduate


Our four-year undergraduate degree offers a grounding in the fundamental elements of a politics and international relations education, including basic concepts, political thinkers, international organisations and comparative politics. One feature of a Scottish undergraduate education is that it encourages choice and breadth, particularly in the early years of the degree, and our students choose options from across the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as other Colleges. Our Honours years (3rd and 4th year) allows students to pursue more specialist options.

Single and joint honours students can opt to study abroad in their third year and all fourth-year students complete a dissertation on a research topic of their choosing, supervised by permanent staff.

We run a number of extra-curricular programmes for our undergrads, including the peer learning programme ‘PIR pals’, which brings first year and honours students together, as well as ‘PIR+’ a series of talks or presentations by staff to show politics in action.  Our students are also often active in other clubs at the University, including the Debating Society, Model UN, and the student wings of political parties.


Politics is about power, people, institutions and the nature of the just society. It is a dynamic subject area, rapidly and constantly evolving and affecting the lives of everyone. At the University of Edinburgh, we are at the forefront of politics, influencing, advising, informing and debating public policy at Scottish, UK, European and international levels.

Study with us, and you'll receive an in-depth understanding of political theory, public policy and politics both within and among nations.

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.

International relations

International relations examines the driving force behind international co-operation and conflict and explores security and prosperity in the international system. We have expertise in several regional topics within world politics, such as US foreign policy, the Middle East and Africa.

Study with us and you'll gain an in-depth understanding of the changing nature of state power, the role of non-state actors, the spread of new norms and ideas and the driving forces behind international co-operation and conflict.

Career routes

In addition to preparing students for a professional career in politics, public policy and international relations, the MA Politics or International Relations opens up a wide range of career pathways.

In recent years, our graduates have gone primarily into areas such as the public service (civil service, foreign service), political and parliamentary research, finance and consultancy, the voluntary sector, journalism, marketing, HR and teaching. Several have gone on to further training in professions such as accountancy or law, or have taken postgraduate degrees with a view to pursuing an academic career.

Jobs directly related to a Politics or International Relations degree include: civil service fast streamer, government social research officer, politician's assistant, public affairs consultant, public relations account executive and social researcher. 

Jobs where these degrees would be useful include: charity officer, detective, diplomatic service officer, forensic accountant, Human Resources officer, local government officer, market researcher, marketing executive, journalist, public relations officer and stockbroker.

Find out more about these career options on Prospects.

Postgraduate progression

Following our undergraduate programmes you may decide to progress onto one of our MSc by Research, PhD or Taught Masters programmes, where we have a thriving and cosmopolitan community of graduate students.