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Degree type


Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

Programme code


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Course details

In recent decades, the combination of defence, development, and diplomacy (also known as the 3Ds) has played an increasingly important role in international politics. With more drawn-out conflicts, asymmetric wars of attrition, and a growing number of countries living in a state of ‘no peace, no war’, our understanding of conflict and conflict intervention is shifting. Conflicts are rarely resolved through military victory, international diplomacy, or long-term development. Instead, they require a comprehensive approach that combines all three to address the political, economic, and security-related needs of states and populations alike. Increasingly, success is determined by how well the different arms of government and civil society, both locally and internationally, can work together – and how well they understand each other’s perspectives.

This custom-designed, interdisciplinary MSc offers a unique opportunity to look at conflict, conflict intervention, and post-conflict reconstruction through the lenses of defence, development, and diplomacy. We explore the latest research using a range of innovative teaching techniques, delivered by a combination of academics and practitioners with world-leading expertise in areas such as violence and insecurity, international intervention, approaches to peace and justice, and mobility and displacement.

Your theoretical understanding and research skills are brought together in the MSc dissertation, while the innovative Humanitarian Intervention Simulation module gives you a chance to bring your knowledge and skills to life in a simulated conflict situation.

The MSc is likely to appeal to graduates who aspire to a career in government, the armed forces, inter-governmental organisations, NGOs, or academia, and to practitioners looking to enhance their practical skills while placing them within a broader theoretical perspective.

Course structure

Core modules:

Defence, Development and Diplomacy in Conflict: Evolving Actors, Factors and Paradigms introduces key concepts around defence, development and diplomacy, and conflict, peace and security. It situates these concepts within the broader context of changing political structures, actors, conventions and paradigms, and equips you with the conceptual tools to understand the changing character of conflict and its implications for peace and security in the modern world.

Conflict Prevention and Sustainable Peace discusses, at an advanced level, frameworks and concepts underpinning approaches to the prevention of violent conflict and the promotion of sustainable peace from macro to micro levels of intervention.

International Law and Conflict Intervention looks at the role, interplay and limits of defence, development and diplomacy in ongoing conflicts. You will examine the evolution of concepts and practices such as ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P), sovereignty-as-responsibility and humanitarian intervention within the context of a changing international state system.

Post-Conflict Reconstruction and State-Building looks at the interplay between defence, development and diplomacy in post-conflict reconstruction. You will examine a number of areas of operation such as: military capacity and the security sector; political structures; legal and ethical structures; development and socio-economic factors; and society and culture, and the way they intersect and affect each other.

The Capstone Exercise: Humanitarian Intervention Simulation provides an opportunity to test the knowledge and skills learned during the taught modules in a simulated conflict setting. Where appropriate, external practitioners from government, development, or humanitarian agencies may be engaged in the exercise.

The Dissertation is a substantial piece of independent work in a related area of defence, development and diplomacy. The 12,000-word dissertation is the culmination of the MSc programme, bringing together elements of learning from across the course.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Capturing and Counting Peace and Conflict
  • Conflict Analysis
  • Conflict Mediation
  • Curating Human Remains
  • Conflict Sensitive Programme Management
  • Contemporary Challenges in the United Nations Peacekeeping
  • Defence Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Assessing Martial Power
  • Everyday Peace Indicators
  • Field Trip
  • Gender in the UN Global Security Agenda
  • International Negotiation
  • Participatory Approaches to Peace and Development
  • Transitory Lives
  • Urban Violence – Urban Peacebuilding
  • A credit-bearing language module offered by the Centre for Foreign Language Studies


Teaching is centred around the School of Government and International Affairs, a vibrant learning community that is home to multiple research centres, including the Durham Global Security Institute.

The MSc is largely delivered via lectures, seminars or tutorial groups, and active learning sessions including discussions, student presentations, Q&A sessions, and role plays. Core modules are built around 300 hours of learning, a large proportion of which is made up of independent reading, preparation, and written assignments. Each module includes a minimum of 20 hours of class contact, which gives you the opportunity to review course material in group discussions. Many optional modules are delivered through an innovative Continuous Professional Development (CPD) format. Run over the course of several days, CPD modules combine small-group tutorials with practical exercises, to demonstrate how the latest research can be applied to real-world situations.

The dissertation is an important part of the course. To support you in this, you will be appointed a dissertation supervisor based on a broad match with your dissertation topic. As well as providing dissertation-specific guidance, you can also contact your supervisor for general academic support.

To keep your learning up-to-date and relevant, we place great importance on integrating new and innovative research into the curriculum. In addition, we deliver regular seminars and lectures which are available for all postgraduate students. These events provide opportunities to engage with contemporary issues in political and international studies.

Assessment methods vary depending on the modules studied. Most are assessed by essays, with others including examinations, presentations, a reflective journal, reports, article reviews and policy briefs. As the course progresses, we provide ongoing feedback through formative assessments to help you to recognise your strengths as well as identify any areas that may require improvement.

The course culminates in a 12,000-word dissertation which is conducted and written up as an independent piece of work with support from your appointed supervisor. The dissertation is worth one-third of your final mark.

Entry requirements

  • UK 2.1 Bachelor degree, or equivalent. The degree should be in the field of social sciences, but we will actively consider significant relevant experience in lieu of this requirement.
  • English language requirements band B.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £15,250 per year
EU students £26,750 per year
Island students £15,250 per year
International students £26,750 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £8,400 per year
EU students £14,800 per year
Island students £8,400 per year
International students £14,800 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities

School of Government and International Affairs

Our courses focus on developing self-aware, thoughtful and ambitious global citizens with the skills and knowledge to secure rewarding and stimulating careers inside and outside of politics.

This is underpinned by additional employability support from the University through its careers programme, through employment-related events and by maintaining the alumni network which stretches across the globe.

Our postgraduates achieve successful careers in a wide range of fields including local and national government, diplomacy, newspaper and broadcast journalism, the charity sector, business and finance, publishing, law, manufacturing, teaching and academia, and the armed forces.

Former postgraduate students have taken up roles with leading employers including the House of Commons, Clifford Chance, Accenture, British Airways, Ernst and Young, British Telecom, Goldman Sachs, PwC, the Royal Navy, House of Fraser, Channel 4, HSBC, Teach First, Durham University, Black Rock and the Audit Commission.

For further information on career options and employability, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability web pages.

Department information

School of Government and International Affairs

Part of the School of Government and International Affairs, politics and international relations at Durham is centred around the areas of political theory, comparative politics, international relations and political economy. Our academic staff have a genuine passion for politics and are leading experts in the study of these areas, as they exist across Europe, East Asia, the Middle East and the wider Muslim world, Africa and America.

We are a research-led School offering high quality learning in essential quantitative and qualitative research methods alongside in-depth study of key areas of political and international theory. These include Comparative Institutions and Political Behaviour, Environmental Politics, Global Security and Peacebuilding, International Political Economy and International Relations.

The learning and research community is vibrant and active and is one of the biggest groups at the University comprising a postgraduate body of nearly 50 different nationalities. Our institutes and research centres support key research agendas by organising guest lectures, running regular paper presentations and acting as focal points for networking.

We believe that in a democracy, active citizenship requires awareness and participation and the ability to comprehend public debate. Our vision is to offer a study of politics that not only includes but goes beyond career preparation to consider how to be better human beings and good citizens.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 100 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • 8th in The Complete University Guide 2024


For a current list of staff, please see the School of Government and International Affairs pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • Over 80% of SGIA research outputs were rated 'Internationally Excellent' or 'World Leading' (REF 2021)


The School of Government and International Affairs is based in the modern Al Qasimi Building. The modern structure is set in its own grounds not far from the historic centre of Durham, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Facilities include spacious environments for both learning and socialising and the building is also home to the renowned Global Policy Institute, the Institute of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and the Durham Global Security Institute.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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