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MA International Relations

MA / PGDip / PGCert

Department of Social Sciences

This MA course covers the central foundations of the contemporary discipline of International Relations, which has grown beyond the traditional concern with inter-state relations.

There is a strong emphasis throughout this graduate degree on gaining critical perspectives on contemporary theory and practice in international relations. The course also provides a sound grounding in relevant research methods. As a postgraduate programme, the integration between research and teaching is a crucial part of the quality of the experience. 

Students with a postgraduate award in International Relations have made successful careers in a variety of professions, including parliamentary researchers, non-governmental organisations, charity organisations, social work, management, teaching, lecturing, publishing, journalism, financial sector, advertising, government, civil service, local government, international organisations, law and the trade unions.

You may also be interested in our MA International Security Find out more about International Relations at Oxford Brookes

Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • Full time: MA: 12 months; PGDip: 9 months; PGCert: 9 months
  • Part time: MA: 24 months; PGDip: 18 months; PGCert: 18 months

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • You will have access to a dynamic, supportive and growing community of scholars undertaking internationally recognised research in International Relations. You will also have the opportunity to attend a rich programme of research seminars with presentations from high-profile external guest speakers.
  • We have a reputation for excellence in teaching with strong links between course content and the work of our research-active academic staff.
  • This course covers the central foundations of the contemporary study of International Relations which has grown beyond the traditional concern with inter-state relations. It also provides a range of optional modules that allow you to focus on particular areas of interest.
  • You will benefit from links with International NGOs, many of whom are based in Oxford, such as Oxfam and Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID).
  • You will have access to excellent learning resources both at Brookes and through Oxford's Bodleian Library as well as the extensive use of e-learning facilities to complement your time in the classroom.
  • A four-day study trip to Brussels and The Hague gives you a first-hand experience of how important international institutions, such as the EU and International Criminal Court, work. The cost of travel and accommodation for the trip is included in your fees.

Students studying for the MA/PG Dip in International Relations are required to complete the following three compulsory modules during Semester 1:

International Relations in Theory and Practice provides an advanced investigation into theoretical approaches in the discipline of International Relations and their relationship to substantive issues in international relations.

Global Political Economy examines the emerging global political economy through the vantage point of competing theoretical perspectives and the evolution of these perspectives, resulting from theoretical debates and the progressive encounter with empirical developments.

Advanced Research in International Relations examines the main approaches to the study of International Relations. It considers a variety of relevant research methods so that students can understand how evidence is produced and critically appraise the research they use.

In Semester 2 you can choose any three of the optional modules below:

International Development examines both the theory and practice of the international politics of development. The first half looks at key theoretical debates and how these have related to practice. Various contemporary issues are then explored to illustrate the theoretical debates.

Global Politics and the Environment offers a critical, interdisciplinary investigation into the way in which the tensions brought about by the ecological crisis have been addressed globally, looking at institutional, conceptual, ideological, socio-cultural and political economic facets.

Production, Finance and Global Governance looks at the changing nature of the global political economy. It explores the nature of state power, changing labour relations, the role of finance and the evolution of the global trading system.

Global Civil Society investigates what kind of a role civil society can play in global politics. Furthermore, as many changes have brought into question the nature of citizenship, the possibility of the emergence of post-national forms of citizenship is raised.

International Energy Security examines the complex and interlinked relationship between energy, security and international politics. Students will have the opportunity to critically evaluate the relationships between energy and authoritarianism, conflict, foreign policy and global governance.

Violence and Peacebuilding investigates how continued physical insecurity often dominates the transitions from civil war to peace. The first part achieves a conceptualisation of violence, peace and peacebuilding, while the second part examines the sources and manifestations of violence after civil war.

Dilemmas of International Ethics surveys the main traditions of international ethics and applies them to important ethical dilemmas in contemporary world politics, which include humanitarian intervention, global economic inequality, global environmental justice, nuclear proliferation and disarmament.

Critical Approaches to Terrorism will critically consider debates about how terrorism has assumed the significance it seems to possess, how we define and understand terrorism, as well as thinking about the nature of the threat that terrorism poses.

Postcolonial Perspectives: Security, Violence and Resistance sheds light on questions of security, violence and resistance. It explores how phenomena such as terrorism, migration, violent conflict and racism, as well as political responses to these phenomena, can only be understood in relation to past colonial contexts.

The Refugee Experience considers how migration is both a central part of the human experience in the twenty-first century and a key challenge to humanitarian practitioners.

Independent Study allows you to undertake a programme of study of your own choosing that is agreed with a member of staff.

Dissertation - MA students are required to complete a 12,000-word dissertation on a topic related to any aspect of international relations. The dissertation also involves a presentation at the Annual Postgraduate Day which is held every summer.

Students taking the Postgraduate Certificate are required to complete 'International Relations in Theory and Practice', 'Global Political Economy' and one optional module from the list above.

As courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the module lists you choose from may vary from the ones shown here.

Teaching and learning

Research is fundamental to the International Relations programme and you will be taught by a team of research-active scholars who are all specialists and publish in their areas of expertise. We include aspects of our research in all our courses, teach optional modules in our areas of expertise and supervise dissertations in our specialist subjects.

Diverse teaching methods are employed including lectures, tutor/group-led seminars, analysis of case studies, group work presentations, individual presentations, and individual and small group tutorials.

Approach to assessment

Assessment is conducted through a variety of assignments linked to the expected learning outcomes. Assignments will include essays, presentations, projects, reports and the dissertation. These will be spread over the year to provide constant feedback and assessment. One of the compulsory modules is also partially assessed by a written exam.

Field trips

You will have the opportunity to go on an optional four-day study trip to Brussels and The Hague.

The trip takes place just before the start of Semester 2 (in late January) and starts with visits to key institutions of the European Union. You will then move on to The Hague and visit a range of international organisations, such as the International Criminal Court and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. This study trip provides you with first-hand experience of how these important international institutions work. The cost of travel and accommodation for the trip is included in the course fees.

For further details of previous study trips click here.

Annual Postgraduate Day

The programme holds an annual Postgraduate Day in early summer. This event always provides lively academic exchange throughout. MA students are joined by some of our research students and academic staff.

Over the years we have welcomed a number of high-profile speakers to this event to give the guest lecture. They have included Dr. Juanita Elias (University of Warwick) on ‘Gender, IPE and Labour Migration: Perspectives from South-East Asia’, Prof. Cynthia Weber (University of Sussex) on ‘The normal and/or perverse homosexual in international relations: Conchita Wurst and the question of European integration’, Prof. Peter Newell (University of Sussex) on 'Globalization and the Environment', and Prof. Shaun Breslin (University of Warwick) who discussed 'China and the South: Implications for the Global Order'.

After lunch various postgraduate panels take place beginning with presentations by our doctoral students. This is followed by a number of panels at which MA students give short presentations on their summer dissertation projects.

Read a detailed report of our most recent Postgraduate Day.

Attendance pattern

Each module requires two hours classroom contact time per week during the teaching semesters. Dissertation supervision during the summer period is arranged in consultation with your supervisor.

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2019/20: £6,240 (Masters) £5,620 (Diploma) £3,120 (Certificate) 2020/21: £7,500 (Masters) £6,500 (Diploma) £3,750 (Certificate)

Home/EU - part time fee: 2019/20: £3,180 2020/21: £3,750

International - full time: 2019/20: £14,570 2020/21: £15,100

Where part time fees are quoted this is for the first year only.

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

Entry requirements

Students are normally required to have at least a second-class honours degree from a university in the UK or an equivalent qualification from countries outside the UK. The degree should be in an appropriate discipline.

English language requirements

 IELTS 6.5 with 6.0 in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Please also see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

How this course helps you develop

Oxford has much to offer scholars of international relations and as one of the world's great academic cities, it is a key centre of debate, with conferences, seminars and forums taking place across a range of related topics within the University and within the city of Oxford.


The programme will appeal to students who have a broad interest in international affairs, and to those whose future work is likely to involve the public sphere in an international and global context. It is relevant to careers in media and general management, as well as in the civil service, intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations. It will also appeal to those wanting to progress to a research degree.

The range of topics is impressive and seems to cover the key problems that confront governments, politicians and international policy-makers: the environment, global governance, the role of global civil society, migration, international finance and terrorism

Tricia Feeney (Executive Director, Rights & Accountability in Development).

Professional advice

Staff working in the Oxford Brookes Careers Centre can help you to make the most of the transferable skills that employers are looking for. During your time here you will have the opportunity to attend student employability workshops, job fairs and employer presentations.

A dedicated workshop is held for all students on the International Relations programme. This provides specific support and advice about the career opportunities afforded by studying International Relations and the chance to hear from recent alumni of the course. 

We also organise ‘Politics in Action’ seminars where guest speakers from relevant careers are invited to come and talk to us about their experiences, to help inspire students as to the range of options that are open to them. Our speakers reflect on their career progression, discuss some of the key details of their work and offer reflections on recent developments in their sector. Previously we have hosted speakers from a range of organisations including International Rescue Committee and Friends of the Earth.

Progression to PhD

Research is fundamental to the department and is reflected in our strong research profile. A number of our students choose to pursue a career in academia and the course is an excellent foundation for those wanting to proceed to do a PhD.


How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Our student support co-ordinators can give advice on the course, finance, accommodation or personal issues which may be affecting your study. They can also help you to access other support services in the University such as ‘Upgrade’, which offers confidential advice on study skills, and English language support through Oxford Brookes International.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Research highlights

The programme is taught by a truly international team of leading scholars from across the globe. Our vibrant research culture is driven by a thriving and collaborative community of academic staff and doctoral students.

83% of International Relations and Politics research was recognised internationally, and rated as either excellent or world leading in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

A number of staff involved in teaching on the programme have in recent years been awarded a number of Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grants.

Dr Michael Lister co-led a project entitled 'Anti-Terrorism, Citizenship and Security in the UK', which examined the extent to which citizens of the United Kingdom feel that their security has been enhanced (or even diminished) by contemporary anti-terrorism measures. Michael is now working on an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, Knowledge Exchange Dialogue project ‘Countering Extremism: Issues for Police and Civil Society’, which aims to bring together academics, legal experts, members of the police and civil society to discuss the challenges and issues that arise out of the counter extremism strategy.

Dr Victoria Browne, Dr Tina Managhan and Dr Doerthe Rosenow, together with colleagues from Anthropology and Philosophy, secured British Academy funding for a conference on 'Vulnerability and the Politics of Care: Cross-Disciplinary Dialogues'. The conference considered the variable meanings and manifestations of 'vulnerability' and 'care' and their complex relationship from a range of academic disciplines, including International Relations (particularly in relation to questions of war, militarism, and security). The British Academy has subsequently agreed to publish an edited volume, which includes selected papers from the conference.

Dr Stephen Hurt was successful in a bid to the ESRC Research Seminars Competition together with colleagues from the Universities of Birmingham, Sheffield and Warwick, Chatham House and the Institute for Public Policy Research. The focus of the series is British policy to Africa and in particular the legacies of attempts by successive Labour administrations to transform this and the impact more recently of the coalition and Conservative-led governments operating in a context of financial austerity. As part of the outputs from this series Stephen contributed an essay to an Africa All Party Parliamentary Group report on post-Brexit trade between UK and Africa.

Meanwhile, Dr Rico Isaacs has conducted research funded by the British Academy into the effectiveness of Election Observation Missions (EOMs) in ensuring freer and fairer elections in the former Soviet Union. EOMs have been central to the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe’s (OSCE) strategy to promote democracy in former Soviet states.

Research areas and clusters

The research of those staff contributing to the programme is organised within the Centre for Global Politics, Economy and Society.

Within the Centre we run four dedicated research groups:

  • Critical Security Studies
  • International Political Theory
  • Cultures and Identities
  • State and Society.

As well as meeting to discuss and analyse central texts in the field each group undertakes a number of activities including:

  • Organising work-in-progress seminars
  • Offering support and feedback for external grant applications
  • Hosting visiting fellows
  • Sponsoring seminars and symposia.

Find out more by visiting our web pages and browsing our staff profiles.