Postgraduate study
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International Relations MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: International Relations

International Relations involves studying the complex interactions between sovereign states and a wide range of other organisations and institutions, including:

  • multinational corporations
  • security alliances
  • international financial/trade organisations
  • international legal bodies
  • aid/development institutions

This programme provides the opportunity to analyse major issues in global affairs and engage with leading academic research within your own area(s) of interest. For example:

  • the economic and cultural impact of globalisation
  • triggers of state and non-state conflict and war
  • the construction of foreign policy
  • the significance of gender to policy and policy-making
  • the environment and climate change
  • international aid efforts and poverty alleviation

The programme enables students to examine global empirical issues and developments, and adopt a range of theoretical approaches that allow them to analyse and interpret the world with different conceptual lenses.

This degree programme is broad and wide-ranging. However, for students seeking to specialise in particular areas/countries of the world, it contains specialist optional courses on regions such as Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia (please note that course availability is subject to change each year).

How will I learn?

This taught MSc programme combines a small number of core courses with a larger number of optional, more topic-specific courses. The core courses generally combine large-group lectures with small-group tutorials. The optional courses are smaller and may also involve lectures and tutorials, or be taught via more interactive seminar sessions.

We expect students to engage in regular, independent learning outside of the classroom. A concentrated engagement with the relevant academic literature is a key requirement. Lecturers and tutors on the programme will recommend readings, but at the MSc level, students are also expected to go beyond the reading lists provided.

You can take the MSc Programme over:

  • 12 months of full-time study, or
  • 24 months of part-time study

Students take two compulsory courses:

  • International Relations Theory
  • either International Security or International Political Economy

Students also take four optional courses from the range available. While available options can change every year, in recent years the programme has included courses on (among others):

  • Foreign Policy Analysis
  • the regional affairs of the Asia Pacific
  • political contestation in the Middle East
  • European foreign and security policy
  • the global environment and climate change
  • the importance of gender to the study of global affairs
  • international development

You will then undertake an independently researched dissertation of up to 15,000 words.

The programme consists of 180 credits, with:

  • individual courses typically worth 20 credits each
  • the dissertation worth 60 credits (and therefore worth one-third of the final grade)

With the agreement of the Programme Director, you may select optional courses from elsewhere within the University. Full-time students in particular are generally discouraged from taking language courses alongside this programme, even if not for credit, because of its full and intensive nature.

By the end of the programme you will:

  • know and understand core explanatory theories, concepts, institutions and issues in the study of international relations
  • have specialist in-depth knowledge of specific areas and issues in international relations
  • know key contemporary debates in existing academic literature in journals and books on international relations
  • be able to analyse and evaluate competing theoretical paradigms in the explanation and judgment of international relations
  • be able to apply explanatory models to analyse and understand specific developments within international relations
  • be able to draw on a variety of disciplinary paradigms in the understanding of international relations

The wide-ranging nature of the programme means that it can help to prepare students for careers in numerous fields, such as:

  • regional, national and international government institutions
  • political parties
  • development/international aid organisations
  • educational, research and think-tank organisations
  • national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • media and public relations
  • charity and the third sector
  • advocacy and lobbying
  • policy risk analysis
  • diplomacy and international law services

Graduates of the programme can also pursue further study. You can use the MSc degree as a stepping stone towards a PhD in International Relations or related fields such as Political Science, International Political Economy, Security Studies, etc.

The programme also helps students to develop transferable skills, including the ability to:

  • conduct independent research
  • synthesise and critically analyse complex material
  • communicate via oral and written channels at an enhanced level

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in politics, international relations, or the social sciences.

We may also consider your application if you have a different background but have taken courses relevant to the programme.

Entrance to this programme is strongly competitive. You can increase your chances of a successful application by exceeding the minimum programme requirements.

Please review the important points to note on the programme website:

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Application fee

A non-refundable application fee of £50 must be paid after you submit your application. Your application will not be processed until we have received your application fee.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your residency status.

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.

Please be aware that applications must be submitted and complete, i.e. all required documents uploaded, by the relevant application deadline in order to be considered in that round. Your application will still be considered if you have not yet met the English language requirement for the programme.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2024/25:

Round Application deadline Places awarded by
1 20 November 2023 01 February 2024
2 05 February 2024 04 April 2024
3 02 April 2024 06 June 2024
4 03 June 2024 25 July 2024

(Revised 18 October 2023 to update the 'places awarded by' date for round 4)

Application fee

You must have paid the application fee before the deadline for the round you wish to be considered in.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD