Programme Specification for MSc International Relations


Final award


Intermediate awards available


UCAS code


Details of professional body accreditation


Relevant QAA Benchmark statements

Politics and International Relations

Date specification last up-dated

July 2014


The summary - programme advertising leaflet

Programme content

The current changes in international politics raise important and pressing questions that the MSc International Relations seeks to address. In the aftermath of the Cold War, where is the focus of order in the international system? Is there any prospect of justice in relations between states? How is world order/disorder impacted by contemporary developments such as democratisation, the credit crisis and economic liberalisation, environmental degradation and resource depletion, resurgent religious movements and nationalisms? The MSc International Relations enables you to develop a critical awareness of competing analytical frameworks in the study of International relations and deploy these in the analysis of specific questions and issues.

MSc International Relations at UEL

The MSc International Relations will provide you with:

  • An advanced, comprehensive and critical understanding of the forces shaping state and interstate relations and global politics
  • An understanding of international order/disorder, decision making and insecurities
  • An appreciation of the context of International Relations in terms of global inequalities, elite power and environmental risks
  • An interdisciplinary approach
  • A selection of interesting and relevant options
  • The benefits of day schools and field trips

Entry requirements

Applicants are normally required to have a good first degree in a cognate area of study. Under special circumstances, and after interview, applicants without a first degree but with substantial professional experience may be considered.

In the case of applicants whose first language is not English, then IELTS 6.5 (or equivalent) is required. International qualifications will be checked for appropriate matriculation to UK Higher Education postgraduate programmes.

Students that apply to enter stages of the programme may be admitted through normal Accreditation of Experiential Learning (AEL) or Accreditation of Certificated Learning (ACL) processes, or through an approved articulation agreement. Therefore such applicants must be able to demonstrate and evidence that they have the required learning outcomes as listed in the modules for which they are seeking exemption.

At UEL we are committed to working together to build a learning community founded on equality of opportunity - a learning community which celebrates the rich diversity of our student and staff populations. Discriminatory behaviour has no place in our community and will not be tolerated. Within a spirit of respecting difference, our equality and diversity policies promise fair treatment and equality of opportunity for all. In pursuing this aim, we want people applying for a place at UEL to feel valued and know that the process and experience will be transparent and fair and no one will be refused access on the grounds of any protected characteristic stated in the Equality Act 2010

Programme structure

One year full-time for students commencing the programme in September; 18 months full-time for students starting the programme in February; two years part time. Three compulsory taught modules; choice of an option module from a choice of six options; research dissertation in a specialist area of your interest.

Learning environment

Lectures, workshops, seminars, day schools, field trips.


Coursework is assessed by essays, seminar papers and presentations, research proposal and dissertation. There is also an examination. The final award takes account of all module marks.

Relevance to work/profession


Dissertation/project work

All modules have opportunities for group work in seminar discussions and in particular, where the modules involve assessed student presentations. Dissertations provide the opportunity for focused independent research.

Added value

On this programme, you will equip yourself with a wide range of transferable skills. These include:

  • advanced abilities to critically evaluate data and  arguments
  • skills of managing a research project
  • the capability to design and deliver a substantial research project
  • enhanced skills and techniques in verbal presentations
  • advanced levels of competence in library and bibliographical research
  • advanced skills of data collection, retrieval and analysis
  • enhanced skills in disseminating and presenting research findings

Your future career

The MSc International Relations will enhance your research skills and your awareness of issues of conflict, crisis and political tension in the world. This is relevant to the professions, the media and all forms of public service, and graduates can look to a wide range of career paths particularly in the public sector and government, the media and various kinds of developmental agencies and organisations.

How we support you

You will benefit from the opportunity to work in small groups, to present your work in a supportive environment, from training in research methods and from an active tutorial system.

Bonus factors



Programme aims and learning outcomes

What is this programme designed to achieve?

This programme is designed to give you the opportunity to:

  • develop the ability to analyse both orally and in writing  the issues and debates in International Relations
  • understand the range of contexts within which International Relations operates
  • develop a critical awareness of competing analytical frameworks in the study of International Relations and deploy these in the analysis of specific questions and issues.

What will you learn?


  • You will critically consider a range of perspectives deployed in the analysis of institutions and processes in International Relations.
  • You will develop an advanced understanding of key approaches to researching issues in International Relations.
  • You will appreciate the context of social inequalities and environmental insecurities in shaping the practices and processes of International Relations.
  • You will develop your advanced knowledge of International Relations in an Interdisciplinary context.

Thinking skills

  • You will analyse, at an advanced level, key issues, debates and perspectives in the study of International Relations.
  • You will formulate relevant research questions for a postgraduate project.
  • You will critically reflect on your research practice.
  • You will further develop your skills of interpretation and analysis of data and other research findings.

Subject-Based Practical skills

  • You will develop advanced research skills in the study of International Relations.
  • You will further develop skills in data retrieval and the use of libraries.
  • You will select and apply suitable methodologies to select areas of study.
  • You will develop your skills in research design.

Skills for life and work (general skills)

  • You will gain advanced skills in independent research.
  • You will further develop your abilities to articulate complex ideas.
  • You will further develop your analytical, verbal and writing skills to an advanced level.


The programme structure


All programmes are credit-rated to help you to understand the amount and level of study that is needed.

One credit is equal to 10 hours of directed study time (this includes everything you do e.g. lecture, seminar and private study).

Credits are assigned to one of 5 levels:

  • 0 - equivalent in standard to GCE 'A' level and is intended to prepare students for year one of an undergraduate degree programme
  • 1 - equivalent in standard to the first year of a full-time undergraduate degree programme
  • 2 - equivalent in standard to the second year of a full-time undergraduate degree programme
  • 3 - equivalent in standard to the third year of a full-time undergraduate degree programme
  • M - equivalent in standard to a Masters degree

Credit rating

The overall credit-rating of this programme is 180 for Masters, 60 for PGCert, 120 for PGDip.

Typical duration

The typical duration of this programme is one year full-time; 18 months for students starting the programme in February; two years part time. It is possible to move from full-time to part-time study and vice-versa to accommodate any external factors such as financial constraints or domestic commitments. Many of our students make use of this flexibility and this may impact on the overall duration of their study period.

How the teaching year is divided

The teaching year is divided into two semesters of roughly equal length. A typical student registered in a full-time attendance mode will study two 30 credit modules per semester and a typical student registered in a part-time attendance mode will study one or two modules per semester. The advanced independent research module may occur during the summer period.

What you will study when

The following are the core modules for this programme:


UEL Module Code

Module title





Critical Theories International Relations





Global Environmental Politics





Qualitative Research Methods for Social Scientists





Cultural Encounters in International Relations





Introduction to Forced Migration





Migration, Citizenship and Social Policy





War and Human Rights





Current Issues and Research in International Law





Law and Policy in the Middle East








Requirements for gaining an award

In order to gain a Postgraduate Certificate, you will need to obtain 60 credits at Level M.

In order to gain a Postgraduate Diploma, you will need to obtain 120 credits at Level M

In order to obtain a Masters, you will need to obtain 180 credits at Level M. These credits will include a 60 credit level M core module of advanced independent research.

Masters Award Classification

Where a student is eligible for an Masters award then the award classification is determined by calculating the arithmetic mean of all marks and applying the mark obtained as a percentage, with all decimals points rounded up to the nearest whole number, to the following classification

70% - 100%


60% - 69%


50% - 59%


0% - 49%

Not Passed


Teaching, learning and assessment

Teaching and learning

Knowledge is developed through

  • lecturers
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • workshops
  • study visits and field trips
  • day schools

Thinking skills are developed through

  • seminar discussions
  • tutorials
  • day schools

Practical skills are developed through

  • library research and data retrieval
  • essay and other writing
  • presentations (which may use mixed media)
  • independent study for research based dissertation

Skills for life and work (general skills) are developed through

  • essay and other writing
  • verbal presentations
  • independent study


Knowledge is assessed by

  • essays
  • seminar papers and presentations
  • examination
  • research proposal
  • dissertation

Emphasis is placed on a critical engagement with the literature, and the application of knowledge in making an argument.

Thinking skills are assessed by

  • essays
  • seminar papers and presentations
  • examination
  • research proposal
  • dissertation

Emphasis is placed on evidence of independent thought and clarity, distinctiveness and coherence of argument.

Practical skills are assessed by

  • presentations
  • the research proposal
  • the dissertation

Skills for life and work (general skills) are assessed by

  • Writing for essays, seminar papers and the dissertation
  • Presenting work verbally and using mixed media
  • Developing and executing a research proposal

Emphasis is placed on clarity of expression and coherence of structure and argument in assessed work. In oral presentations, students are encouraged to use a variety of media including videos, photographs and other illustrations, and PowerPoint.


How we assure the quality of this programme

Before this programme started

Before this programme started, the following was checked:

  • there would be enough qualified staff to teach the programme;
  • adequate resources would be in place;
  • the overall aims and objectives were appropriate;
  • the content of the programme met national benchmark requirements;
  • the programme met any professional/statutory body requirements;
  • the proposal met other internal quality criteria covering a range of issues such as admissions policy, teaching, learning and assessment strategy and student support mechanisms.

This is done through a process of programme approval which involves consulting academic experts including some subject specialists from other institutions.

How we monitor the quality of this programme

The quality of this programme is monitored each year through evaluating:

  • external examiner reports (considering quality and standards);
  • statistical information (considering issues such as the pass rate);
  • student feedback.

Drawing on this and other information, programme teams undertake the annual Review and Enhancement Process which is co-ordinated at School level and includes student participation. The process is monitored by the Quality and Standards Committee.

Once every six years an in-depth review of the whole field is undertaken by a panel that includes at least two external subject specialists. The panel considers documents, looks at student work, speaks to current and former students and speaks to staff before drawing its conclusions. The result is a report highlighting good practice and identifying areas where action is needed.

The role of the programme committee

This programme has a programme committee comprising all relevant teaching staff, student representatives and others who make a contribution towards the effective operation of the programme (e.g. library/technician staff). The committee has responsibilities for the quality of the programme. It provides input into the operation of the Review and Enhancement Process and proposes changes to improve quality. The programme committee plays a critical role in the quality assurance procedures.

The role of external examiners

The standard of this programme is monitored by at least one external examiner. External examiners have two primary responsibilities:

  • To ensure the standard of the programme;
  • To ensure that justice is done to individual students.

External examiners fulfil these responsibilities in a variety of ways including:

  • Approving exam papers/assignments;
  • Attending assessment boards;
  • Reviewing samples of student work and moderating marks;
  • Ensuring that regulations are followed;
  • Providing feedback through an annual report that enables us to make improvements for the future.

Listening to the views of students

The following methods for gaining student feedback are used on this programme:

  • Module evaluations
  • Student/Staff consultative committee (meeting a least once per semester)

Students are notified of the action taken through:

  • circulating the minutes of the programme committee
  • a email news bulletin sent to all students three times a year
  • providing details on the programme notice board

Listening to the views of others

The following methods are used for gaining the views of other interested parties:

  • Questionnaires to former students
  • Annual student satisfaction questionnaire
  • Group discussions with former students

Further Information

Where you can find further information

Further information about this programme is available from:

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