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MA International Relations (Distance Learning)

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 the 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.

Available start dates

September 2019

Teaching location

Distance learning

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.
  • 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.
  • Distance learning gives you the flexibility to fit your studies in around other competing demands. This method of delivery requires students to interact online with a variety of learning activities, which are based on engagement with a range of materials and guided online discussion and debate.
  • You will have full access to e-learning facilities provided by Oxford Brookes, which will help to facilitate the creation of a web-based community of learners.
  • General support available from the central Careers Service will be complemented by access to materials from a dedicated ‘careers workshop’ run for postgraduate students in International Relations and livestreaming of our ‘Politics in Action’ seminars where guest speakers from relevant careers talk about their experiences.

Students studying for the MA/PG Dip in International Relations (Distance Learning) are required to complete the following three modules during Semester 1 (20 credits each):

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 take a further three modules (20 credits each)*:

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 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.

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.

Dissertation (60 credits) - 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 an online dissertation seminar, where students must present their dissertation topic and proposal to their peers and members of staff.

Students taking the Postgraduate Certificate are required to complete 'International Relations in Theory and Practice', 'Global Political Economy' and one additional module from the list above (excluding ‘Advanced Research in International Relations’).

* 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 specialist modules in our areas of expertise and supervise dissertations in our specialist subjects.

A range of online teaching methods will be employed throughout the programme in order to aid the quality of learning opportunities for students' knowledge and understanding of International Relations. Module leaders on the programme use a combination of narrated powerpoints, videos, and documents to introduce the specific topics covered in each module. A range of online activities are provided to encourage direct engagement with these materials. Online discussion forums then allow students to deepen their engagement with the topic by discussing a range of key questions related to the essential reading for that topic. At a number of points during the modules asynchronous online seminars are used to consolidate the learning activities covered during the preceding weeks. Space is also provided through the online seminars and/or 1-1 essay clinics to provide formative feedback on work being prepared for assessment later in the modules.

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.

Attendance pattern

Moodle (our Virtual Learning Environment) is the online platform we use to deliver all the modules on this programme. Regular engagement via a range of online activities is required during the taught modules. Most modules also include 8-10 hours of online seminars, which provide students with the opportunity to interact in a live environment with staff and other students. 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 - distance learning fee: 2019/20: £6,240 (full-time) £3,180 (part-time) 2020/21: £7,.500 (full-time) £3,750 (part-time)

International - distance learning fee: 2019/20: £6,240 (full-time) £3,180 (part-time) 2020/21: £7,500 (full-time) £3,750 (part-time)

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

Students are provided with the platform to connect with each other and with relevant activities and events organised for our postgraduate International Relations students.


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. E-guidance support is available and skype, or longer telephone interviews are also available, by referral, following initial contact with the Careers Centre.

Students also have the opportunity to access materials from a dedicated ‘careers workshop’ run for postgraduate students in International Relations. 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. 

Students will also have access to materials from our ‘Politics in Action’ seminars where guest speakers from relevant careers talk 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, or personal issues which may be affecting your study. They can also help you to access other support services in the University. Additional support is available for international students needing further preparation in understanding and communicating in English in an academic context. Oxford Brookes International run a course entitled ‘Academic English for Postgraduate Research Writing’, which is delivered by distance during the summer period.

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.