Our MSc Strategic Studies and International Law provides you with the opportunity to explore the interaction between strategy and international law wherever it occurs.

This programme is studied on campus.

This programme explains how the use of force and power interface with the requirements and expectations of the body of international law, which addresses the conduct of conflict at international and sub-national levels.

An understanding of the theory and practice of the uses of power and force by states to achieve national and international security objectives will be combined with an appreciation of the development and implementation of international law as it attempts to control coercion and to limit violence in the international arena.

This programme, conducted jointly by the School of Law and the School of Social Science, provides you with an advanced understanding of the interaction of Strategic Studies and International Law and how this impacts upon the prevention, control and conduct of the use of state and non-state coercion in conflicts in the modern word. Drawing on the expertise of staff from the two schools, this innovative programme combines Strategic Studies courses in the theory and practice of the use of force by international and transnational actors to achieve political and security objectives. International Law courses allow a focused appreciation of the legal considerations which frame many contemporary conflicts.

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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

What You'll Study

Semester 1

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses

Strategic Theory (PI5001) - 30 Credit Points

'Strategic Theory' is the compulsory, cornerstone module for the MSc Strategic Studies degree programme, and also the MSc Strategic Studies & International Law and Strategic Studies & Management degree programmes.

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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. Students will be required to study the key concepts of public international law in order to be able to participate effectively in the seminars. 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; following seminars will assess critically the evolution of public international law in an era of crises.

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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 within smaller groups 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

Candidates are required to take one Law course and one Strategic Studies course from:

Strategic Studies

  • Latin American Security: Conditions and Challenges
  • Global Security Issues
  • Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism


  • International Humanitarian Law
  • The Use of Force in International Law
  • International Human Rights Law

Optional Courses

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

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) - 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 Humanitarian Law (LS551G) - 30 Credit Points

The course explores the history, nature and salient features of the the laws and customs of war, also called international humanitarian law (IHL). The laws are enshrined, inter alia, in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977. The principles of distinction, humanity, necessity and proportionality as applied to contemporary armed conflicts are examined. The course emphasises the rules and challenges pertaining to civilian immunity, occupation, legal controls on weapons and how IHL is implemented and enforced. It also clarifies the differences/complementarity between IHL and international human rights law and the law on the use of force.

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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 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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Semester 3

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

Dissertation in Strategic Studies (PI5901) - 60 Credit Points

The Strategic Studies dissertation is a compulsory element of the MSc Strategic Studies, Strategic Studies & International Law and Strategic Studies & Management degree programmes.

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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


  • MSc: 12 months full time- over 3 semesters.
    Courses are taught on a 11 week basis per semester and on a 3 week basis for more intensive courses. Students will typically attend six hours of lectures/seminars per week.
  • Intakes: January and September or 24 months part-time.
  • PgDip: 9 months full-time or 18 months part-time. Full time or part time on campus (120 credits).
  • 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 30 June (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. The semester order below is for September entrants. January entrants will study these semesters in a different order but the same courses will be studied.
  • The programme consists of 180 credit points taken over the duration of one year. A weekly timetable consists of an average of 6 teaching hours per week with some courses running over 3 week periods. Teaching includes a range of interactive methods and approaches to learning in order to enhance students’ critical thinking, presentation and interpersonal skills. Courses are assessed through essays, presentations, examinations, group and project work.
  • The variety of assessment in the programme ensures that students apply theory to practice and become expert communicators and team players.

Learning Methods

  • Group Projects
  • Lectures
  • Seminars

Assessment Methods

By written examination, essay work and class presentation, 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 result of D3 or above in PI5901, irrespective of their performance in other courses.

Why Study Strategic Studies and International Law?

  • The programme scrutinises salient, real-world strategic and legal issues.
  • It delivers a clear understanding of the contemporary nexus between the various uses of coercion by states and non-state actors and the complex international legal framework which has emerged in modern times.
  • It links to the network of Strategic Studies alumni internationally.
  • The programme provides you with opportunities within the Law School to get involved with extra curricular activities in the community to test your legal ability whilst you study and be guided by professionally qualified legal mentors.
  • You develop extensive capabilities to analyse and research situations before they present with an ability to interpret legal frameworks and diplomatic and strategic frameworks.
  • MSc Strategic Studies and International Law at Aberdeen is a unique combination of specialisms which provide you with specialist expertise in strategies, systems and legal systems.
  • International Law courses on this programme are based on the rigorous and precise analysis of indispensable legal instruments that contribute to the shaping of international politics. Graduate students will attend an appropriate non-credit bearing, postgraduate training course in Critical Legal Thinking and Scholarship.
  • The School of Law is 12th in the UK out of more than 90 law schools (Times Good University Guide 2014) It is top 5 for graduate prospects National Student Survey 2014.
  • 95% satisfaction rate Law at the University of Aberdeen National Student Survey 2014.
  • The University of Aberdeen, composed of a wide community of international staff and students and located in a cosmopolitan and friendly Scottish city, offers a stimulating environment for the study of Strategic Studies and International Law.
    The School of Law has its own dedicated Law library, Taylor Library, which is located within the Law School building. The main library, Sir Duncan Rice Library, opened in September 2011, and is part of an ambitious investment programme.
  • Students on the programme have the possibility 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. Students can also take part in a language course in the language centre.
  • You have the opportunity to develop key skills regarding critical legal and strategic analysis of current security issues.

Entry Requirements


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

Applicants will normally be expected to hold a relevant Honours degree with at least a 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.

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.

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 Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
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)

Fees and Funding

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

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU / RUK Students £6,300
Tuition Fees for 2018/19 Academic Year
International Students £15,000
Tuition Fees for 2018/19 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.


The degree qualification is attractive to candidates seeking or following a career in government departments, related to foreign and security policies, international organisations, international non-governmental organisations, commercial risk assessment companies and the armed forces. The programme may also serve to engage in an academic career and prepare a PhD.

Our Experts

Who teaches on the programme?

  • Strategic Theory: J.H. Wyllie
  • International Law: Dr Matyas Boolig
  • Global Security Issues: J. H. Wyllie
  • Terrorism and Counter - Terrorism: Dr Eva Herschinger
  • Latin American Security: Conditions and Challenges: Dr Mervyn Bain and Dr Andrea Oelsner
  • Use of Force in International Law: Dr Irene Couzigou
  • International Humanitarian Law: Dr Zeray Yihdego
  • Law of International Organisation: Dr Irene Couzigou
  • Summer dissertation coordinator: J.H. Wyllie

Other Experts
Dr Mervyn Bain
Dr Eva Herschinger
Dr Andrea Oelsner
Dr Irène Couzigou
Dr Zeray Yihdego
Programme Coordinator
Mr James Wyllie

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.

Study Relationship Management Internationally

The ability to manage relationships at international level is critical to security


The Department of Sociology is held within the School of Social Science. All of our degrees provide thorough advanced level training in the principles of social science with a wide choice of specialised subjects in preparation for the practice of social research and a wide variety of career opportunities.

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.

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.

Centre for European Survey Research

The ECSR has Associate Survey Agencies in more than 100 countries worldwide and can offer basic and applied research in form of quantitative and qualitative surveys as well as other empirical research tools in the social and economic sciences.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

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