International Relations MA

Postgraduate ( full-time, part-time)


January, September

Intermediate awards: PG Cert, PG Dip

Course duration: 12 months full-time or 24 months part-time (September starts); 16 months full-time or 32 months part-time (January starts)


Discover how international relations theory affects real-world events, and develop crucial skills like decision making and debating. With prestigious guest lecturers and visits to think tanks such as Chatham House, you’ll gain all the experience you need for a role in global politics.

Find out more about teaching options and studying during COVID-19 in the Entry requirements section, below.

Full description
This course has significantly developed my research skills and challenged me intellectually, and the support and encouragement from my supervision team has been nothing short of exceptional.
Olivia Zolke
MA International Relations graduate


Our course will prepare you for a career in many roles relating to international relations, such as diplomacy and the diplomatic services, strategy and strategic planning, public services, the Foreign Office, the UN and other international bodies, local government, NGOs, charities, education, journalism and press agencies.

Modules & assessment

Core modules

  • You will examine the theory and key concepts of international relations and the development of the state, ground them in their historical context, and explore their policy implications. You will begin by examining where the boundaries of the discipline might lie, before looking at debates over the role of theory in explaining International Relations. You will receive detailed explanations of the key competing theories within the discipline, and their development and evolution. Key themes you will explore include the development of Classical Realism from its roots in doctrines of war, Liberalism and the dream of global order, through the tussles between Neorealism and neoliberalism throughout the decades of the Cold War. You will also look at Constructivism and the English School, radical Marxist and Neo-Marxist perspectives, through to Feminism, Post-Colonialism, Postmodernism and cosmopolitanism. You will learn to place the theory firmly in the context of 20th century events, exploring the way in which political and academic ideas are shaped by and in turn influence international affairs. You will also explore other directions in which the study of International Relations might travel in the future. Your assessment will comprise a report of 1,000 words, a presentation, a literature search equivalent to 1,000 words and a longer essay of 3,500 words.
  • On this module, you will critically analyse the origins, evolution and role of international institutions in the global order over the course of the 20th and 21st century, in order to understand why these institutions have developed, and why states choose, or do not choose, to use these institutions as a means to achieve their objectives. You will examine the still-evolving structures of global governance, and the role of these organisations and institutions in contemporary politics and diplomacy, looking at the work of specific organisations including the UN, the EU, the IMF and World Bank etc. You will pay particular attention to the challenges inherent in attempting to foster international co-operation and consensus between sovereign nation states, including the limitations of international law, as well as examining possible future developments. Your assessment will comprise an initial report of 1,000 words, a 10-minute presentation, a brief data analysis and a longer essay of 3,500 words.
  • This module will support you in the preparation and submission of a Masters dissertation, allowing you to explore in-depth a particular topic that reflects your academic interest.

Optional modules (subject to availability)

  • You will examine state-dominated war in the modern world, including the democratic peace theory and the changing strategic problems and limits of Western force. You will look at the history of peacekeeping since 1945 including during the Cold War. You will also examine the contemporary status of peacekeeping, military humanitarian intervention, and the responsibility to protect. You will examine the role of international institutions in multilateral intervention, the challenges involved in post-conflict security, and the politics of aid. Your aim will be to underline the significance of unilateral and multilateral military intervention in contemporary international relations and global politics, as well as its limitations. Teaching is based around case studies, and assessment is portfolio-based. You are expected to submit a variety of different forms of work, including press releases, presentations to a group, briefings and longer research reports.
  • The globalisation of contemporary societies means that criminal activity that was once a primarily national concern is increasingly becoming transnational in nature. As a result, policing bodies now have to manage risk and security on a much wider and larger scale. On this module, you will critically examine the nature of risk and security in contemporary society, beginning with an exploration of the concept of the risk society. You will evaluate contemporary forms of policing and security in societies that are built on the notion of risk, its avoidance and quantification. You will also consider risk from the perspective of corruption within organisations tasked with managing cross border crime. In the second part of the module, you will focus on responses to transnational crime, exploring the nature of intelligence-led policing and the role of police as data patrollers and information gatherers. You will examine specific examples of cross border agency responses, such as INTERPOL and EUROPOL, as well as charting the growth of the power of transnational policing through mutual assistance and multinational agreements such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties and Memoranda of Understanding. You will be assessed through a portfolio, a presentation and a reflective commentary.
  • You will explore historical and thematic approaches to reporting on conflict and also how communication functions in a crisis. You will examine the reciprocal relationships between the military, governments and the media, including how the media can be used to legitimise conflict, and the changing role of social media in building consensus and protest. You will also examine censorship and propaganda, whether the state is ever able to retain control of the narrative, and the role of the war reporter. Your areas of exploration will include consent, public interest, ethics and the representation of suffering. You will also look at how war and conflict is portrayed in fictional accounts and the underlying assumptions of such portrayals, examine conflicting discourses about war in post-conflict environments and consider the way the media can contribute to or hamper the process of post-conflict reconstruction. Your study will examine who owns, defines and propagates the truth, and the implications of this in the context of conflict and war.
  • Words such as terror, terrorism, terrorist and the 'war on terror' are now a part of our everyday language, but what do these terms really mean? In this module, you will identify and critically examine terror-related issues through criminological and criminal justice perspectives. You will evaluate the effect of changing crime level and the contribution towards moral panics in contrast to the impact of more serious crime waves in societies. You will also evaluate the notion of mobilising a nation through terror-information in relation to the recent adoption of regular risk assessment and analysis measures, as well as propaganda. In addition, you will investigate the shift from 'old' terrorism to 'new' terrorism, as well as the role of domestic criminal justice systems in preventing, investigating and responding to acts of terror. The theme of peacemaking and peacekeeping will run throughout the module - you will explore and critically evaluate successful initiatives throughout the world. You will be assessed through a presentation, summary case study and an essay.
  • This module will support you in the preparation and submission of an independent learning project. It will allow you to study topics not provided within existing modules but within clearly defined parameters, and where appropriate supervision is available.


Modules are subject to change and availability.

We offer a range of core and optional modules, with optional modules sometimes changing depending on staff availability. 

You’ll demonstrate your progress through a combination of role-play scenarios, briefs, written reports, poster presentations, group projects, dissertation, longer essays, case studies, research proposal, short analyses of global events, short review papers, practical data gathering exercises, and short abstracts of core course readings.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

At the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, we believe in thinking critically about the past, present and future to challenge perceptions and better understand communities and people.

With expertise from gender issues to literary analysis to exploring how the past has shaped our modern world, all our staff members are active researchers. This is reflected in our teaching, allowing us to support our students with the latest theories and practices, as well as essential employability advice.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Events and activities

You’ll have the chance to attend cutting-edge lectures and seminars from prestigious guest speakers, practitioners and diplomats, and to visit media agencies and think tanks, such as Chatham House. ARU is an institutional member at Chatham House and our students can use the library and other resources, as well as attending events there. In recent years, we have also organised a reception and roundtable at Chatham house for our students.

Work placements

We’ll help you to arrange internships and placements.

Specialist facilities

Our campus in Cambridge features a mock courtroom for debates and role-playing.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK students starting 2022/23 (full-time, per year)


UK students starting 2022/23 (part-time, per year)


International students starting 2022/23 (full-time, per year)


International students starting 2022/23 (part-time, per year)


UK students starting 2023/24 (full-time, per year)


UK students starting 2023/24 (part-time, per year)


International students starting 2023/24 (full-time, per year)


International students starting 2023/24 (part-time, per year)


Important fee notes

The part-time course fee assumes that you're studying at half the rate of a full-time student (50% intensity). Course fees will be different if you study over a longer period. All fees are for guidance purposes only.

How do I pay my fees?

UK students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in instalments – though you won't need to pay until you've accepted an offer to study with us. Find out more about paying your fees.

International students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in two instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit of £4,000 or a sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Funding for postgraduate students

It’s important to decide how to fund your course before applying. Use our finance guide for postgraduate students to learn more about postgraduate loans and other funding options.

We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships and bursaries, which provide extra financial support while you're at university. These include an Alumni Scholarship, worth 20% off fees for ARU graduates.

International students

As well as a number of scholarships, we offer an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

You'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting a course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

Teaching at ARU

We offer face-to-face campus teaching (with the exception of Distance Learning courses), supported by our established online learning systems, which provide additional support for individual study and engagement. The number of contact hours varies course by course, and you can contact us for further information.

In the event that there are restrictions that are put into place due to the pandemic by the government - we will endeavour to retain face to face teaching as much as possible but will respond accordingly to the restrictions placed on the University.

International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning from September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

Check the standard entry requirements for IELTS requirements for this course.

Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

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Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 686868

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 683680

Enquire online