MSc International Relations and International Law offers you an interdisciplinary perspective on global governance.

Study 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

Greek historian Thucydides (460-395BC) became the first academic to understand international relations. It is a highly interdisciplinary area to include areas such as technology, economics, history, geography, sociology, criminology, diplomacy, international security, finance, human rights and more. The oldest known peace treaty within international law dates from 3100BC between two Sumerian city states and a number of treaties in the Middle East.

There is an increasing need for governments to respond to complex international legal frameworks to manage inter-state relationships between countries. The International Relations and International Relations postgraduate programme conducted jointly by the School of Social Science and the School of Law provides you with an advanced understanding of International Relations and International Law and how their interaction impacts upon international politics.

Drawing on the expertise of staff from the two Schools, this innovative programme combines courses in the theory and practice of International Law and International Relations, offering you a unique interdisciplinary perspective on a range of contemporary issues related to the transformed nature of global governance.

You will develop key skills regarding critical legal and political analysis of current international issues through coursework and the completion of a Master’s thesis in International Law.

You have the opportunity to attend the research seminars of the Law School, the research seminars of the School of Social Science, events organised by the Centre for Sustainable International Development, as well as by the Centre for Global Security and Governance. You can also take part in a language course at the Language Centre.

What You'll Study

Semester 1

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses
Theories and Concepts in International Relations (IR5001)

30 Credit Points

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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International Law (LS501K)

30 Credit Points

The course aim is to familiarise students with public international law and to analyse some of its major issues in seminars. Students will be required to study key concepts of public international law in order to be able to participate effectively in the seminars. To facilitate this, students will be asked to attend public international law lectures . The first seminar will identify the principles and rules of public international law through an advanced knowledge of the main sources of this law, international customs and treaties; the following seminars then intend to assess critically the evolution of public international law in an era of crises, such as international terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation, ethnic conflicts, climate change, and protection of human rights. The overall purpose of the course is to encourage the participant-student to think creatively as an international lawyer in order to understand and to try to resolve these contemporary dilemmas.

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Optional Courses
Critical Legal Thinking and Scholarship (LS501T)

This compulsory course provides students from diverse legal and educational backgrounds with a common understanding of the core research, analytical, and writing skills which would be required to excel in LLM-Taught courses. It commences with a few lectures and progresses to working in a workshop environment and finally to the submission of an individual assignment. It also incorporates elements such as library workshops to provide students with hands-on experience with the resources available for course and dissertation work.

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Semester 2

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

In the second semester you must choose one Law option and one International Relations option.

Optional Courses
Global Security Issues (PI5502)

30 Credit Points

'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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Terrorism and Counter - Terrorism (PI5520)

30 Credit Points

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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International Human Rights Law (LS5590)

30 Credit Points

The course was designed to help students build competence in dealing with the doctrinal issues about international human rights. It involves understanding the place of human rights in public international law, finding one’s way around the foundational human rights documents and the jurisprudence of human rights bodies. The course delivery puts heavy emphasis on classroom discussion on the controversial issues on contemporary human rights law that shape doctrinal development in this field: the justifiability of torture, the limits of freedom of religion, the justiciability of social rights, etc

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The use of Force in International Law (LS5549)

30 Credit Points

The course analyses how international law regulates the use of armed forces between States. It is of interest to students who want to understand the legal considerations which frame contemporary conflicts. The course will study the fundamental principle of the prohibition on the use of inter-State force. It will examine the current exceptions to this principle, and how States try to justify the use of force. Consequently, the course will study the most recent recourses to force on the international plane, in particular in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. Teaching will be delivered mainly through discussion based seminars.

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International Energy Security (PI5518)

30 Credit Points


Oil and Security – how oil crises have occurred since 1973, with a focus on the energy demand and supply pressures and the political factors triggering the 1973 and 1979 oil crises. OPEC and IEA. The factors underpinning the oil crisis of 2008 and its relationships to world economic crisis. The role of China in oil politics.

Natural Gas, the EU and Russia. How conceptions of (natural gas) energy security are constructed and implemented in the EU and Russia –Nuclear Power and energy security;– eg Iran .

Climate Security

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International Criminal Law (LS5597)

30 Credit Points

The course explores the history, ambit and nature of ICL and the notion of individual criminal responsibility, issues of immunities, superior orders and subordinate responsibility. War crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression are also critically examined. National and international prosecution of international crimes with emphasis on the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court (ICC) and questions of international cooperation to suppress international crimes are carefully studied in light of relevant cases such as decisions of the Nuremburg and Tokyo tribunals, the ICC, ICTY and the ICTR (tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda respectively).

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Semester 3

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses
Dissertation in International Relations (IR5901)

60 Credit Points

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

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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

Learning Methods

  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects

Assessment Methods

Assessment is based on a combination of coursework submitted during the semester and a written examination at the end of the relevant semester. In addition, students must complete a course in research skills and a dissertation on a topic within the specialism. The dissertation is submitted at the beginning of September. Guidance on the writing of a dissertation is given.

Why Study International Relations and International Law?

  • This MSc will provide wide ranging knowledge from two Schools to equip you with a wider perspective.
  • You can attend research seminars organised by the Centre for Sustainable International Development and Centre for Global Security and Governance to hear the latest research in the field.
  • You will be taught by published research experts with consultancy experience internationally at Aberdeen.
  • The Schools of Social Science and Law offer you a wide community of international staff and students and the city is located in a major international energy industry hub providing a cosmopolitan and compact stimulating Scottish city close to the sea and National Parks.
  • The Department of Politics & International Relations provides a core curriculum along with unique options that represent the research interests among staff, including international political economy and globalisation, democracy and democratization, public policy and public opinion, power and security, interest groups, political parties and social movements. 

  • Research centres relevant to European Politics include: New Europe Centre and the Centre for Global Security and Governance. More recently, 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. Finally, Arab-Trans, a major international research project links Aberdeen to 7 Arab countries.

  • The School of Law is ranked 5th in the UK for Law (The Times Good University Guide 2019), and based on the Times ranking is the highest ranked Scottish Law School.
  • PIR had 60% of its research assessed as world class or internationally excellent in the 2014 Research Evaluation Framework. It is ranked 5th in research grant income (per fte) in the UK, has an 85% student satisfaction rate and is ranked 12th in the UK in student satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2014.
  • You are encouraged to provide live consultancy work within one of The School of Laws' public facing projects, including: Lawyers Without Borders, Casus Omissus (Aberdeen Law Project), Law Mooting Society, Aberdeen Student Law Review, Legal Research Society, and European Law Students Association.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

Applicants for admission will normally be expected to hold a relevant Honours degree with a 2:1 standard from a recognised university or body.

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. Also taken into careful consideration is the trajectory of results, an applicant without an overall 2.1 but with 2.1 results in their final two years of study may be admitted.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 6.0; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 21; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 51; Reading - 54; Speaking - 51; Writing - 54

Cambridge English Advanced & Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 169; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU / RUK Students £9,000
Tuition Fees for 2020/21 Academic Year
International Students £19,000
Tuition Fees for 2020/21 Academic Year

Additional Fee Information

  • 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.


Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more and see our full range of scholarships.


There are many opportunities at the University of Aberdeen to develop your knowledge, gain experience and build a competitive set of skills to enhance your employability. This is essential for your future career success. The Careers and Employability Service can help you to plan your career and support your choices throughout your time with us, from first to final year – and beyond.

Career Opportunities

  • Foreign Office Diplomat
  • Government Official
  • International Consultant
  • International Non-Governmental Officer
  • Postgraduate Researcher

Our Experts

Dr Irène Couzigou researches in the field of Public International Law. Her book The Evolution of the International Status of Germany since 1945 analyses the status of the German State in Public International Law. Her other publications deal with the Use of Force in International Law, the Law of International Organisations, and International Human Rights Law.

Other Experts
Dr Ritu Vij
Dr Irène Couzigou

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.


The School of Law (1495) offers an extensive range of high quality, engaging and academically challenging programmes. The learning environment is one of support and personal development, leading to well-rounded and highly employable graduates.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

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