Taught course

Politics and International Relations (Political Theory)

Durham University · School of Government and International Affairs

Entry requirements

  • UK 2.1 Bachelor degree, or equivalent.
  • A degree in the field of Social Sciences is preferable, however, in assessing the application we also take into account other facilitating factors such as relevant such as relevant experience in lieu of this requirement.
  • Two satisfactory academic references. In cases of applicants who have significant relevant experience, one work-related reference and one academic reference would be considered appropriate.

Months of entry


Course content

The MA in Politics and International Relations equips you with the skills to challenge conventional thinking, master complex political concepts, and analyse your own views about some of the most pressing global challenges.

Immersing yourself in debates about a wide range of issues, from human rights and the ethics of armed conflict to the history of political thought, you will develop the knowledge and skills to critically review the complex relationships between governments and societies. You will learn to evaluate concepts, theories, and paradigms, drawing lessons from real-world studies informed by quantitative and qualitative investigations.

Your learning will be informed by a wealth of ongoing research by experts working at the forefront of their field. Core modules in political ideologies and thought and international theory and organisation form the foundation of the course. The remaining modules can be tailored to suit your interests, with options spanning topics from Designing Political Inquiry to Global Governance. The optional modules also give you an opportunity to analyse the politics and international relations of different regions of the world in greater depth, taking account of regional political and economic factors. These interests can be further developed through the researching and writing of the dissertation.

As a student in the School of Government and International Affairs, your learning will be informed by a wealth of ongoing research by experts working at the forefront of their field, with areas of expertise including political philosophy and the history of political thought, comparative political science, and international relations.

On completion, graduates are well placed to pursue careers in international organisations, politics, and the civil service. Others move into the wider fields of journalism, teaching, business, and research.

Course structure

Core modules:

You will study two core taught modules, taking one module from each of the following pairs.

Pair One:

Ideologies and Political Thought examines some of the major developments in the history of political thought since the Enlightenment through the study of ideologies and/or political ideas in Britain. Using primary and advanced secondary research, you will build a conceptual and historical appreciation of the significance of these developments. This module develops your awareness of the role that political thought has played in defining core aspects of political discourse.

Contemporary Political Philosophy investigates the critical debates in contemporary political philosophy. You will focus on contemporary debates where political philosophy shapes and drives action in responding to pressing political issues. Potential topics include human rights, social injustice and individual duties, justice, liberty and equality, and the ethics of armed conflict. You will develop the conceptual and critical skills needed to assess the arguments on all sides of the debate.

Pair Two:

International Relations Theory explores both mainstream and critical approaches to how we understand some of the most fundamental dynamics shaping world politics. It provides you with an advanced understanding of key concepts and theories in the field of international relations and how our theories and concepts interact with the processes and practices of an increasingly globalized world.

International Organisations familiarises you with the approaches used to analyse the role of international organisations in global politics. You will learn about the history of organisations, their functions, development, internal dynamics, and explore contemporary debates on their current role in international relations. The module aims to provide an understanding that extends beyond the core institutions of global governance, including less formalised institutions and those that lie beyond the West.

The Dissertation is the third core module. It is a substantial piece of independent work in a related aspect of politics and international relations. The 10,000-word dissertation is the culmination of the MA, bringing together elements of learning from across the course.

Examples of optional modules:

  • Contemporary Political Philosophy
  • Core Concepts in Political Science
  • The Politics Global Europe
  • Designing Political Inquiry
  • Global Governance
  • Global Political Theory
  • Ideologies and Political Thought
  • International Politics of the Middle East
  • International Relations Theory
  • International Organisations
  • The Politics of East Asia

Information for international students

If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take a pre-Masters pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

For further information see the course listing.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MA
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

School of Government and International Affairs