Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

MA (Hons) International Relations

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: N/A
Final award: MA Honours
Programme title: International Relations
UCAS code: L250
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Politics and International Relations
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Prof. Mark Aspinwall
Date of production/revision: November 2004/May 2007/November 2010/April 2011/May 2012

External summary

Students of IR explore the origins and present-day contexts of international conflicts over power and resources and the processes driving states and organisations in the international system. Our programmes focus on a variety of issues in: international organisations, IR theory, understanding war and conflict and the international politics of Europe, Russia, Africa and the US. IR is part of a vibrant research-led community consisting of c.30 full-time academic staff and over 400 undergraduate students. Our major programme aims include equipping students with substantive knowledge of a range of approaches to international politics; enabling students to develop and apply their knowledge and skills to the understanding of the drivers of international conflict and co-operation; enabling students to develop key skills in critical thinking, conceptual analysis, research, oral and written articulation of information and argument.

We ensure that our programmes equip students with transferable skills to enable them to succeed in the job market. Our graduates go on to have careers in the Civil Service, foreign affairs or political and parliamentary research; finance and consultancy, the voluntary sector, journalism or teaching. Some undertake postgraduate degrees with a view to pursuing an academic career.

Edinburgh IR is a truly international community – we have students from all over the world. We have a vibrant student society– the IR Society. There is always plenty going on, and always someone for students to talk to about academic studies, leisure interests or life in Edinburgh.

Educational aims of programme

  • to deliver a broad-based curriculum incorporating major fields of study in international relations;
  • to equip students with substantive knowledge of a range of international institutions, processes, and ideas;
  • to provide a curriculum supported and informed by a rich and active research culture;
  • to enable students to understand, evaluate and use both normative and explanatory theoretical frameworks in the study of international relations;
  • to enable students to develop and apply their knowledge and skills to the understanding and evaluation of international issues and problems in the contemporary world;
  • to enable students to develop key generic skills in critical thinking, conceptual analysis, research, oral and written articulation of information and argument;
  • to equip students for progression to a wide variety of careers or to further academic study.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

On completing the programme students should be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of different international institutions, processes and ideas;
  • evaluate alternative explanations of particular international developments and events;
  • identify and evaluate normative aspects in a variety of international relations arguments;
  • understand and apply theoretical, conceptual and methodological approaches to the analysis of international institutions, processes and ideas.

How is this accomplished?

  • compulsory and optional elements in the curriculum ensure coverage of a different international institutions, processes and ideas;
  • lectures, lecture hand-outs, seminar programmes and presentations are the key channels for dissemination of knowledge and guidance to further reading/research;
  • content and assessment of compulsory courses ensures knowledge and critical engagement with normative and explanatory theory;
  • essay and examination questions require independent reading and research beyond that provided in the classroom;
  • essay and examination questions in both compulsory and optional courses require evaluation and application of alternative perspectives on/ explanations of international phenomena;
  • seminar assignments and debates in both compulsory and optional courses encourage students to identify and evaluate normative aspects of international relations argument.
  • diversifying assessment allows students to perfect a broad range of academic skills

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

Graduates will be able to create new knowledge and opportunities for learning through the process of research and enquiry, including the abilities to:

  • identify and analyse the strengths and challenges of different international systems, and develop processes for promoting international political progress;
  • evaluate, critique, and build on the work of IR scholars;
  • exercise creativity in the formulation of important and constructive questions about international political policy;
  • recognise, build on, and transcend the boundaries of the various social science disciplines – their empirical methods and their analytical traditions - in the pursuit of publicly useful knowledge.

How is this accomplished?

In addition to above, through:

  • guidance on literature searching and web-based information sources in lectures and seminars;
  • specific assessed tasks in compulsory courses (e.g. textual analysis, production of research proposal);
  • requirements for seminar exercises and projects in ordinary and honours courses - peer and tutor feedback;
  • production, supervision and assessment of dissertations and placement projects

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

Graduates will be able to work independently and sustainably, in a way that is informed by openness, curiosity, and a desire to meet new challenges, including the abilities and dispositions to:

  • be independent learners who take responsibility for their own learning and are committed to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement;
  • be able to sustain intellectual interest by remaining receptive to both new and old ideas, methods, and ways of thinking;
  • be able to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought, taking into account ethical and professional issues;
  • be able to use collaboration and debate effectively to test, modify and strengthen their own views;
  • be able to respond effectively to unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts;
  • have a personal vision and goals and be able to work towards these in a sustainable way.

How is this accomplished?

In addition to above, through:

  • requirements for tutorials to focus on students’ own reading and reflections;
  • requirements for and feedback on individual and group oral presentations in seminars (when applicable);
  • requirements for and feedback on group project work for seminars (when applicable);;
  • assessed tutorial participation in some tutorials;
  • production of 10,000 word dissertation under supervision in fourth year;
  • emphasis on self-directed study (guided by course reading lists);
  • requirements for students to manage own time and deadlines.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates will recognise and value of communication as the tool for negotiating and creating new understanding, collaborating with others, and furthering their own learning, including the abilities to:

  • make effective use of oral, written and visual means to critique, negotiate, create and communicate understanding;
  • use communication as a tool for collaborating and relating to others;
  • further their own learning through effective use of the full range of communication approaches;
  • seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness;
  • recognise the benefits of communicating with those beyond their immediate environments;
  • use effective communication to articulate their skills as identified through self-reflection.

How is this accomplished?

As above, but specifically:

  • emphasis on effective oral communication in tutorials;
  • emphasis on effective written communication in assessed assignment;
  • emphasis on tutorial participation and student presentations;
  • requirements for collaborative tutorial work (when applicable);
  • requirements for and feedback on individual and group oral presentations in seminars (when applicable);
  • requirements for and feedback on group project work for seminars (when applicable).

 

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

Graduates will be able to effect change and be responsive to the situations and environments in which they operate, including the abilities to:

  • make constructive use of IR analysis skills in personal, professional, and community life;
  • apply understanding of international political risks, in relation to diverse stakeholders, while initiating and managing change;
  • be both adaptive and proactively responsive to changing socio-political contexts;
  • have the confidence to make decisions based on their understandings and their personal and intellectual autonomy;
  • transfer their knowledge, learning, skills and abilities from one context to another;
  • understand and act on social, cultural, global and environmental responsibilities, and help others to do the same;
  • be able to work effectively with others, capitalising on their different thinking, experience and skills;
  • understand and promote effectively the values of diversity and equity, while also recognizing possible trade-offs between these.

How is this accomplished?

By the combination of skills acquired at University, listed above.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

  • Library
  • IT and
  • Research skills
  • Presentation skills and using presentation software
  • Awareness of data, its sources and uses

Programme structure and features

Progression

Yr 4 (SQCF 10)

Dissertation + 4 or equivilant optional courses

(120 credits)

End of degree examinations and/or coursework

Degree clasification based equally on performance across Yrs 3 & 4.

Classification based on performance across 12 semester courses or equivilant (240 credits).

Yr 3 (SQCF 10)

PLIT10053 Theories of International Relations

PLIT10054 Global Justice and Citizenship

PLIT10060 Approaches to Politics and International Relations

PLIT10019 International Security*

optional courses  (40 credits)

(120 credits)

*one of these courses must be taken in Year 4

End of semester degree examinations and/or coursework.

Students with sufficient credits may exit at the end of Year 3 with a BA Humanities and Social Science.

Yr 2 (SQCF 8)

PLIT08006 International Cooperation in Europe and beyond

SSPS08004 Social and Political Enquiry 2

SSPS08002 Social and Political Theory 2

Optional courses (60 credits)

(120 credits)

A pass (40%+) in six subjects overall including satisfying requirements for Honours entry. Entry into Honours International Relations requires a mark of at least 50% in the required courses listed opposite.

Yr 1 (SQCF 8)

PLIT08004 Introduction to Politics and International Relations

PLIT08005  Democracy in Comparative Perspective

LAWS08110 International Law (I.R)

Optional courses (60 credits)

(120 credits)

Must pass (40%+) all subjects
Entry: BBBB highers/ BBB "A" Levels/ Access)

 

20 credits

Please note that all these courses are available to Politics students but are NOT all run by Politics IR.

Africa in World Politics (PLIT10003)

Approaches to Politics and International Relations (PLIT10060) – Compulsory

Armed Forces In Society (SCIL10033)

Comparative Politics (PLIT10061)

Comparing Scottish Devolution (PLIT10080)

Contemporary Feminist Thought (SSPS10001)

Contemporary Russian Politics (PLIT10048)

Core Texts in Political Theory (PLIT10059)

Criminal Justice: Policy And Practice (SCPL10002)

Designing and Doing Social Research (SCIL10062)

Doing Survey Research (SCIL10063)

Environmental Politics in Europe (PLIT10049)

EU As Global Actor (PLIT10062)

Europe & International Migration (PLIT10068)

Freedom In Political Theory (PLIT10074)

Global Justice & Citizenship (PLIT10054) - Compulsory

Global Politics of Sex & Gender (PLIT10075)

Governing the Social (SCPL10023)

Human Rights in International Relations (PLIT10063)

International Political Economy (PLIT10018)

International Security (PLIT10019)

Introduction to African Politics (PLIT10082)

Nations & Nationalism (SCIL10065)

Parties & Party Systems In Contemporary Democracies (PLIT10083)

Politics of the Middle East (PLIT10036)

Populism in Comparative Perspective (PLIT10083)

Realism in International Relations (PLIT10069)

Social & Political Movements: Theory & Practice (SCIL10047)

The Social Division of Welfare (SCPL10004)

Theories of International Relations (PLIT10053) – Compulsory

US Government (PLIT10027)

 

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Best Practice in Feedback and Assessment

  • Incorporate ideas from Innovative Learning Week in teaching practice
  • Diversify teaching methods and approaches to learning (e.g. simulations; presentations; debates, etc.)
  • Linking students to on-going faculty research (e.g. ‘Understanding the Research Process’ seminars)
  • Research led teaching, in line with College learning and teaching strategy
  • Essay writing workshops in 1st year

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 118820
Year 217830
Year 314860
Year 410900

Assessment methods and strategies

  1. Use a diverse set of assessments (e.g. essays; exams; literature reviews; research reports; policy briefing papers, etc.)
  2. Tutorial participation and learning exercises
  3. Single; pair and group presentations
  4. Dissertation

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 1601228
Year 233562
Year 313681
Year 45392

Career opportunities

In recent years, graduates have entered the Civil Service, foreign affairs or political and parliamentary research. The degree programmes also equip you for careers in finance and consultancy, the voluntary sector, journalism or teaching. Some graduates choose to go on to further training in accountancy or law or take postgraduate degrees with a view to pursuing an academic career.

Other items

  • ERASMUS and International Exchange Schemes are available in 3rd year.
  • The subject area, together with on course students, external examiners and quality assurance procedures, continually monitors the quality of the organisation, content,  and delivery of its teaching with the aim of achieving the highest standards.
  • Diverse programme of activities co-ordinated by PIR Societies