Find a Degree Postgraduate Taught Programmes International Relations

Programme Details

MSc 12 months full-time, 24 months part-time
PgDip 9 months full-time, 18 months part-time


The disciplinary landscape of International Relations (IR) has expanded considerably in the early twenty-first century, with a number of new challenges confronting a now outmoded global architecture of power. IR’s traditional concern with war, security, and diplomacy, called into question by the end of the Cold War and the current ‘Global War Against Terror’ has been further complicated by far-reaching epistemological and methodological shifts in social theory.

Debates about the nature of globalisation, international institutions, development/post-development, global political economy, culture and identity, citizenship and rights bear prominently on efforts to understand the ebb and flow of contemporary IR. In theory and practice, understanding the modalities of power in constituting the ‘international,’ as well as challenges to hegemonic stabilizations of it, has gained a particular urgency, making the study of IR central to apprehending the complexity of global social life.

The MScIR/Postgraduate Diploma in International Relations provides a sustained engagement with key issues in contemporary International Relations including development & political economy, critical & human security, globalisation, gender, identity, human rights, and governance. Building on a foundational course on the conceptual/ theoretical underpinnings of IR, the programme offers a range of courses that enable individualized programmes of specialized study on a particular theme or region.

During the course of the programme, students develop:

  • A nuanced understanding of key concepts and paradigms that structure the disciplinary study of International Relations and the theoretical and analytical tools to engage debates about them.
  • Several areas of thematic and regional specialisation that reflect their research and professional interests. For each area, students develop the relevant empirical and theoretical knowledge and understanding to produce in-depth analysis of complex problems. Taken together, these area choices provide students with an understanding of the multifaceted nature of contemporary International Relations.
  • Postgraduate-level skills of intellectual and professional relevance including: research skills, organisation and structure, critical evaluation of sources and arguments, logic of argumentation, independent study and judgement, and written and oral communication.
  • MScIR students also complete an in-depth extended research project.

Contact Information

Postgraduate Office                                                                                               School of Social Science                                                                  


The programme is offered full-time over one calendar year (September to September) and part time over two calendar years. The schedule of work for part-time students is agreed in consultation with the programme director.

The MSc requires successful completion of 180 credits, including the 30 credit core module, three 30 credit modules from the electives list, and a 12-15,000 words dissertation (worth 60 credits).

The Postgraduate Diploma requires 120 credits, including the 30 credit core module and three 30 credit modules from the electives list.


 Core: Theories and Concepts in International Relations (30 credits) Electives (30 credits each): Themes in Latin American Studies, LS5068 The Politics of Human Rights, LS5078 The Evolution of International Law in a World of Crises


Electives (30 credits each): Latin American Security - Conditions & Challenges, Dimensions of Globalization, Terrorism & Counter Terrorism, International Organisations & World Order, Global Security Issues, Post-Conflict Justice & Peacebuilding, LS5549 The Use of Force in International Law

SUMMER SEMESTER: Core for MScIR Students: Dissertation (60 Credits)




Formal assessment will be made through coursework, written examination, or a combination thereof, as prescribed for each course, and by submission of a dissertation. The assessment rationale for the MSc is that a wide range of assessment exercises should be used to support the development of the various skills required for a career in International Relations.


Careers that relate to International Relations often involve public sector research and policy-making in foreign affairs, defence, development and human rights. However, many graduates from this type of programme now choose to do public advocacy, research, and project management work for non-governmental organisations (NGOS), and regional and global institutions such as the European Union or the United Nations. Graduates also forge careers in the international media, the armed forces, international risk management, and international corporations involved in trade and finance.

An MSc qualification in International Relations will be an important asset to those who already hold an undergraduate degree in IR, given the increasing demands for postgraduate qualifications in the job market. In addition, graduates from cognate disciplines can use this route to change their career path, or improve their qualifications within the framework of an existing career.

The MScIR/Postgraduate Diploma is normally open to students with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree classification or equivalent in International Relations, Politics, History, Human Geography, Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology, Development Studies, Languages, Law or other cognate disciplines.

For candidates who do not meet these admission criteria, relevant professional experience (e.g. work for NGOs, the civil service, the military, the international media) and supportive references are taken into account. Prospective applicants who are unsure about their eligibility are encouraged to address an informal inquiry to the course director.

References are not required in order for applicants to submit an application. They are not usually required in order for a decision to be made but in certain cases applicants may be asked to provide a single academic reference at the request of the academic selector. 

The English Language Requirement for all College of Arts and Social Sciences Masters programmes is an IELTS of 6.5 with 6.0 in the writing and reading (or equivalent TOEFL iBT or PTE).  For more information see 


Full details of tuition fees is available here


Postgraduate funding is not ordinarily allocated by the department, although the there are opportunities for paid teaching for research students. International scholarships and bursaries are available for foreign students at the University of Aberdeen.

The University of Aberdeen is recognised by the US Federal Government as one of the foreign institutions that US students can come to study at and use their financial aid in the UK. For further information click here.

For more information on funding in the University, please go to


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