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Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

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Course details

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.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • 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


Teaching is centred around the School of Government and International Affairs, a vibrant learning community that is home to multiple research centres and institutes. 

The MA is largely delivered via lectures and smaller, student-led seminar groups. Each taught module is built around 300 hours of learning, a large proportion of which is made up of independent reading, preparation, and written assignments. Each taught module includes a minimum of 25 hours of class contact, which gives you the opportunity to review course material in group discussions.

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.

Taught modules are principally assessed by essays. 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 10,000-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
  • 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.
  • English language requirements band E.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £12,900 per year
EU students £25,500 per year
Island students £12,900 per year
International students £25,500 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £7,100 per year
EU students £14,100 per year
Island students £7,100 per year
International students £14,100 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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