The MSc in International Relations offers you the opportunity to study international order/disorder in relation to the interaction among states; transnational institutions; non-governmental organisations; multinational corporations; popular culture and everyday life.

This programme is studied on campus.

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 have been called into question by the end of the Cold War and the War On Terror and have 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 MSc in International Relations provides you with a sustained engagement with key issues in contemporary International Relations including development & political economy, critical & human security, globalisation, gender, identity, human rights and governance. It builds a foundation 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.

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Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
September or January

What You'll Study

The information below applies to the 1 year full time / 2 year part time on campus learning MSc programme which runs in January and September. You will find information about other ways to study this programme in the next section on this page.

Semester 1


Duration: 12 months full-time or 24 months part-time (MSc); 9 months full-time or 18 months part-time (PgDip); 4 months full-time (PgCert).

Compulsory Courses

Theories and Concepts in International Relations (IR5001) - Credits: 30

This course lays the foundations for, explores, and critically analyses the main theoretical paradigms and debates in International Relations, and engages with the complexity of debates on concepts in IR. The theoretical topics to be covered include debates on the international system, cooperation, world order, conflict, development, representation and identity. Students will also be introduced to some of the main debates in epistemology and methodology that apply to the discipline.

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Optional Courses

Students may choose between:

Themes in Latin America (PI5014) - Credits: 30

This course provides an advanced introduction to Latin American Studies. It presents a variety of disciplinary approaches, including those of anthropology, history, literary and cultural studies, and politics and international relations. Through these, it illuminates a wide range of social, political, and cultural issues in the region. The course is divided into two parts: a) an overview of politics and international relations in Latin America, and b) an overview of cultural and social issues in Latin America. This is a core course of the MSc Latin American Studies. It is also available to students of other MSc and MRes programmes.

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Qualitative Research Methods in Politics and International Relations (PI5021) - Credits: 30

This course explores the possibilities of qualitative research methods for students of politics and international relations. It examines the range of qualitative methods available to researchers, practically and critically, including participant observation, interviewing and focus groups. Having completed the course, students will be competent in the processes of designing, carrying out, analysing and writing up their own small-scale qualitative study.

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Religion, Conflict and Security (PI5027) - Credits: 30

Since the end of the Cold War the world has seen a resurgence of religious movements in the public sphere and, particularly since 9/11, religion has increasingly been viewed in policy debates as an issue of domestic and international security. In the ever increasingly globalized era, religious identifications criss-cross national boundaries and identities posing a dilemma for the established norms of the secular nation-state, political theory and actors. This course will examine some of the emerging theories associated with the rise of political religion, and the potential for conflict and peace that emerge. Utilizing diverse case studies ranging from religious Zionism, to political Islam to national Hindu movements the course will critique and employ contemporary theoretical frameworks to gain understanding of the current phenomena of religion in the international political domain.

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Semester 2

Optional Courses

Students may choose two of the following courses:

Latin America: Security Conditions and Challenges (IR5508) - Credits: 30

This course examines the current security conditions and challenges which face contemporary Latin America. This includes narco-terrorism, debt, populism and neopopulism amongst other things. The region’s different sub regions will all be examined with the international, domestic, cultural and ideological factors for the current security conditions being considered.

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Global Security Issues (PI5502) - Credits: 30

'Global Security Issues' is an elective, second semester module for the MSc Strategic Studies, Strategic Studies & International Law and Strategic Studies & Management degree programmes.

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Quantitative Methods in Political Science and International Relations (PI5514) - Credits: 30

This course is a practical introduction to quantitative research methods in political science. It examines the logic of quantitative social research, including issues of sampling, measure­ment, and statistical in­ference. Students will use the SPSS for Windows statistical software package and become familiar with a number of different data sets. Students will develop an understanding of a range of statistical techniques for the manipulation and analysis of political science and interna­tional re­lations data, including multivariate techniques typically used for analysing such data.

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Research Design, Data and Presentation (PI5516) - Credits: 30

This course is an introduction to issues of research design, data collection and effective academic communication in political science research. Its primary objective is to introduce students to the basic rationale, logic and method of original empirical research. It prepares students for how one develops and translates interesting questions and broad theoretical concepts into manageable research projects, and how to communicate the project’s ideas and findings. This requires an understanding of the state of the art of the discipline and the diversity of theoretical and methodological approaches.

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Terrorism and Counter Terrorism (PI5520) - Credits: 30

Salient, specific facets of historical and contemporary national, international and transnational terrorism and the problems and challenges these different kinds of terrorism pose for national and international counter-terrorism strategies will be scrutinised. The debates on the different causes for terrorism (for instance religion, ethnicity, and ideology) and the different theoretical approaches to explain and understand the roots of terrorism will be examined. Specific facets of terrorism like (female) suicide bombers, ‘lone wolfs’ and ‘home-grown terrorists’, as well as the national and international strategies to counter terrorism, will be critically reviewed.

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Dimensions of Globalization (SO5512) - Credits: 30

This interdisciplinary course focuses on substantive dimensions of globalization by considering recent changes occurring in the economic, political, social, and cultural realms of society. These themes are analyzed by considering recent empirical studies, which seek to clarify our theoretical understanding of globalization through advanced social scientific research. The substantive themes covered include global capitalism, the global division of labour, global governance, the changing role of the nation‐state, transnational social change, and cultural homogenization and heterogenization. Interconnections between these aspects of globalization are highlighted.

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The Comparative Study of European Societies (SO5515) - Credits: 30

The core course will look at Europe as a society as well as by comparing different nations and regions within it. It will look not just at the European Union, but also countries that are also in the broadest sense “European” stretching to the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. It will address key contemporary issues such as citizenship and belonging, identities in a European context, work, family and the demographic challenge as well as work‐life balance.

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Sex, Gender, Violence: Critical Approaches (SO5519) - Credits: 30

This course investigates the ways people think about, understand, and respond to violence. How do we know what counts as violence or a violence act? Why does legislation against violence often seem inadequate, perhaps especially in the case of gendered and sexual violence?

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Post - Conflict Justice and Peacebuilding (SO5525) - Credits: 30

This course is divided into three sections. The first half of the course introduces students to the central mechanisms and processes by which the international community attempts to provide justice and peace in post-conflict contexts, before presenting in a series of lectures the complications and current challenges to post-conflict and justice as both an academic field and an area of practice. The course is particularly designed to inspire students to consider the complicated nature of post-conflict issues through a number of different case studies and perspectives.

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Global Conflict and Peace Processes (SO5526) - Credits: 30

The course familiarises the student with the field of the sociology of peace processes, which is one of the growth areas within sociology and related areas internationally. It establishes the nature of sociology’s distinctive contribution to the study of peace processes and the conceptual and empirical focus of this approach. The course places particular emphasis on three areas, religion, gender and civil society. It addresses three international peace processes in particular, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and critically assesses the contribution in each of religion, civil society and gender.

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Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

Dissertation in International Relations (IR5901) - Credits: 60

This is a compulsory element on the MSc International Relations programme.

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Course Availability

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Teaching includes a range of interactive methods and approaches to learning in order to enhance students’ critical thinking, presentation and interpersonal skills.

The aim of the programme is to provide 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.

Learning Methods

  • Individual Projects
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

By coursework, written examination, or a combination thereof, as prescribed for each course and by submission of a dissertation. The degree of MSc shall not be awarded to a candidate who fails to achieve a CGS grade of D3 mark of 9 or above in IR5901, irrespective of their performance in other courses.

Why Study International Relations?

  • The MSc International Relations at Aberdeen offers you the opportunity to develop in depth analysis and research skills to enable consultancy on behalf of a range of international organisations.
  • You are taught by published researchers and international relations consultants at University of Aberdeen, providing the latest research and innovation in the subject.
  • An MSc International Relations provides you with a wide range of options in a wide range of professions, and research areas.
  • Aberdeen is part of a major collaborative project, Preventing and Responding to Conflict: Developing Civilian Capabilities for a Sustainable Peace that will provide a comprehensive, comparative and multidisciplinary analysis of the EU's current conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities.
  • You are studying one of the newest academic areas with innovative thinking and research to understand new challenges in International Relations.
  • The MSc International Relations is taught by The School of Social Sciences where teaching quality was judged as 'Excellent.'
  • PIR had 60% of its research assessed as world class or internationally excellent in the 2014 Research Evaluation Framework.
  • Politics and International Relations is ranked 5th in research grant income (per fte) in the UK.
  • PIR has an 85% student satisfaction rate (National Student Survey).
  • All of our degrees offer thorough training in the basic principles of social science and specialised training in preparation for a wide variety of careers.
  • We are a medium sized department that bring together experts in a variety of areas of research.
  • The department recently celebrated five decades as a centre of academic excellence for political research with an international reputation.
  • It provides you with a core curriculum along with unique options that represent the research interests among staff. These interests include international political economy and globalisation, democracy and democratization, public policy and public opinion, power and security, interest groups, political parties, social movements, institutions and many more.
  • The department offers expertise in the Middle-East, Latin America, North and South Asia, the Nordic Countries, Central and Eastern Europe as well as Scotland, the UK and the EU.
  • Arab-Trans, a major international research project links Aberdeen to 7 Arab countries which include Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq.

Entry Requirements

Prospective students requiring a visa to study in the UK are advised to apply as early as possible to secure a place.

Applications received after 29 July (September intake) or 2 November (January intake) from students who need to apply for a visa will not be processed in time for entry, but will be considered for entry into the next intake as appropriate.


Applicants for admission will normally be expected to hold a relevant Honours degree with at least 2:1 standard from a recognised university or body. In exceptional circumstances applicants without this qualification may be admitted subject to having an alternative qualification, or an approved level of work experience, appropriate to the field of study.

English Language Requirements

All students entering the University must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study effectively at the University of Aberdeen.

Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements web pages. This programme requires that you meet the College of Arts and Social Sciences Postgraduate Standard level of English proficiency.

If you have not achieved the required scores, the University of Aberdeen offers pre-sessional English courses. Further details are available on our Language Centre website.

Nationals of some English-speaking countries or those who hold degrees from some English-speaking countries may be exempted from this requirement. Details of countries recognised as English-speaking can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme.

Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Tuition fee rates can be found on our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU / RUK Students £6,000
Tuition Fee for 2017/18 Academic Year
International Students £14,300
Tuition Fee for 2017/18 Academic Year

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.


Careers relating to International Relations involve public sector research and policy-making in foreign affairs, defence, development and human rights. Many graduates 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 you if you 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.

Career Opportunities

  • Civil Servant
  • Diplomat
  • Government Official
  • Journalist
  • Junior Lecturer
  • NGO Worker (Charity Worker)
  • Police Officer

Our Experts

Programme Coordinator
Dr Ritu Vij

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.


In addition to currently hosting the Arab-Trans International Research Project, the University of Aberdeen is the home of several research centres and institutes.

Centre for Global Security and Governance

The Centre for Global Security and Governance brings together academic experts, policy makers, and students to define, analyse, and propose remedies to the most pressing security and governance challenges the world faces in the 21st century.

The Institute for Conflict, Transition and Peace Research

ICTPR at the University of Aberdeen brings together a diverse and interdisciplinary group of scholars and students to develop in-depth theoretical understandings of the concepts and practices of transitions in terms of conflict and peace.

Find out more

New Europe Centre

The New Europe Centre represents a group of researchers at the University of Aberdeen with projects from a number of different funding sources. We are committed to doing quality research in order to better understand the world around us.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

School of Social Science
University of Aberdeen
Edward Wright Building
Dunbar Street
AB24 3QY