International Relations in Combined Honours

Key benefits

  • Internationally recognised research active staff, backed by the Aston Centre for Europe (ACE)
  • Aston is distinctive in offering a placement year in the public or private sectors
  • Strong track record of Graduate employment success
  • Excellent placement year arrangements, including Erasmus ties with a range of European Universities  

The study of International Relations covers politics in the international realm.  You will develop a knowledge and understanding of the nature of relations between states and also of the roles played by international institutions, other intergovernmental organisations, multinational corporations and NGOs.

After a common and broadly based first and second year you will choose topics for specialisation in your final year.

Subject guide & modules

Our Programme Offers:

Level 1: Foundations of International Relations. The Level 1 programme is designed to build solid foundations in students knowledge of International relations. Key modules introduce students to the international state system and to the structure and purpose of international organisations. Students also learn about the history of Europe and the world in the twentieth century from an International relations standpoint. If students are taking International relations on a half basis with another subject (rather than as a minor subject) they take a further module relating to the European Union. Learning how to research and present different types of information is also provided for. Those who choose to study International relations with Politics follow an integrated programme, in which there is a small element of foreign language learning (choice between French, German and Spanish).

Your core modules for first year are (subject to change):

  • Introduction to International Relations: The main aim is to provide students with a thorough understanding of the emergence of international society from the standpoint of international relations. Thus, the module provides the basis for the more developed theoretical or conceptual parts of the student’s International Relations programme, which are covered at Level 2.

  • Modern Europe and the world: The primary aim of the course is to provide an empirical background to the international history of Europe from the 19th to 21st centuries that will allow students to apply, contextualise and better understand the political science and international relations theories that form the focus of the other core modules.

  • Information Skills: Students will learn to formulate and analyze research questions and will present their sources in an academically relevant way

  • Introduction to European Union: Understanding of the decision-making process in the EU, its specificity, and the relation between the EU’s key institutions and the executive, legislative and judicial powers in member states. 

Level 2: Intermediate International Relations. Based on the solid foundations of the first year, second year studies enable students to extend their skills and knowledge in the domain of International Relations. A key double module covers theories and contemporary issues. A module relating to international political economy looks at globalisation and another module relates to British foreign policy. Students taking International relations as a half subject (rather than as a minor subject) also study the history of political though, which includes a focus on International Relations. The integrated Politics with International Relations programme has also a double module on comparative government.

Your core modules for second year are (subject to change):

  • International Relations: Theories & Issues: A critical understanding of the principal debates about the nature of International Relations as an academic discipline and the approaches of the main theorists in the field

  • The Politics and Policies of the European Union: Understanding the way in which the European Union functions, who are the key decision makers and What kind of decisions can they take.

  • Research Methods in Political & Social Studies: The module is concerned with the design and conduct of research into political and social topics

Optional modules are:

  • Introduction to Security Studies: This module seeks to introduce students to key debates in security studies. The course approaches „security‟ in its broadest sense, that is, not only as a military issue, but one which also carries social, human and political implications. The course is a mix of theoretical inquiry and empirical application.

  • *Introduction to Political Economy: This double module seeks to introduce students to contemporary questions in the multi-faceted discipline of Political Economy. 

The Placement Year: Participation and Practice. In the third year, students have the opportunity to undertake a placement. If they are studying International Relations with a language as their other subject, this is the time for them to develop their linguistic and cultural competences during the Year Abroad. Non-language students may also undertake a placement(optional) related either to international relations or their studies in their other subject.

Level 3: Advanced Study and Research. In the final year, students have the chance to explore more specialised topics. The skills and knowledge acquired over the first two years, together with the experience gained during the placement, allow them to carry out in-depth studies and write on complex topics in a sophisticated and professional way. Hence, the importance of the final-year research dissertation. The work is carried out independently on a topic chosen by the students under the guidance of a supervisor. The integrated Politics with International relations programme provides especially generous scope for researching a particular topic in the area of International relations. Apart from this dissertation, core modules over ethics and International relations, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, and international law in the context of the world of the United Nations. Globalisation and EU matters may also be studied further.

Your core modules for final year are (subject to change):

  • International Relations Research Dissertation & Oral: This course aims to enable students to research in significant depth a topic in Politics, and address and elaborate key concepts used in the analysis of historical, political, social and cultural institutions and processes

Optional modules are:

  • Political Communication (Teaching period 1): This module explores the role of political communication in the modern political process. It examines various aspects of government information policy and the relationship between government, the media and the public.

  • Political Parties and Party Systems (Teaching period 1): This module is intended to introduce students to the significant body of research in Political Science into political parties and party systems, broadly conceived.  Competing theories and models will be examined, using detailed case studies.

  • Intellectuals and Politics (Teaching period 1): This course aims to enable students to acquire familiarity with main areas and problems of political and philosophical ideas about regime and about political thought, commitment, and action, and their study in political science.

  • Law and Politics (Teaching period 1):Many areas of daily life, often the most controversial areas, are governed by legislation which is a compromise between the law courts and politicians.

  • *Conflict & Politics in Contemporary Balkans (Teaching period 1): This module considers the countries of the Western Balkans (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo) on their path to European integration and efforts in dealing with legacies of ethnic conflict and/or political and economic collapse.

  • Nationalism and Political Power (Teaching period 2): The module provides a detailed overview of the emergence of nation-states in relation to political power in modern European history

  • Political Leaders: Case studies & Comparative Perspectives (Teaching period 2): This course aims to enable students to acquire familiarity with main areas and problems of the study of political leaders and leadership,  and with key concepts used in their analysis. The development of the students’ specialist knowledge will draw upon the skill gained in earlier modules in politics. Most importantly, this module will help them develop their individual research skills.

  • The American Presidency (Teaching period 2): Students will gain an understanding of the role and political practices of exercising executive power in the institutional context of the US political system.  

  • The International Relations of East Asia (Teaching period 2): This module will examine the international politics of East Asia from an International Relations (IR) perspective. Due to the huge geographical, economic, social and cultural diversity of the Asia-Pacific region, the module will limit itself to the geographical region of East Asia.

  • *Central and East European Politics (Teaching period 2): The module offers an introduction to central and east European politics. It begins with an overview of the events that led up to the collapse of communism, before considering the key themes that have dominated politics in this region since 1989.

  • *Conflict, Intervention and Reconciliation (Teaching period 2): This module considers some of the most complex questions in International Relations – what causes conflicts, and can anything be done to prevent them? Students will be introduced to the key disciplines dealing with these questions, i.e. Conflict and Peace Studies.

Learning, teaching & assessment

You will be involved in: lectures and seminars, small-group work, project work and independent study.  Studies generally revolve around lecture classes in the first two years, and there are opportunities for group and collaborative work. Students undertake a major piece of independent research in final year. You will be allocated a personal tutor who can provide you with help and advice.Assessment is through a combination of exams, coursework, essays, presentations and an extended dissertation during your final year.

Placement year

By taking a 4 year Sandwich programme you will have the opportunity to undertake a year’s professional experience in the public or private sector in your third year of study. You will gain invaluable experience which will set you apart from other graduates.The placement year can be in the UK, or there are opportunities for English speaking placements/study abroad. International Relations placements include: HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Ministry of Defence, Audit Commission, working with local MPs, British High Commission in Ghana, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, House of Lords, African Development Bank in Uganda, TNS (market research.) You will be given support and advice on finding a placement. Many employers return each year to employ our placement students.

Career prospects

Our graduates are in demand from a wide range of employers where a sound understanding of societies, team – work and communication skills are required.  Recent graduate destinations  include: 

  • Islamic Relief – Orphan Support Officer

  • PRO – Recruitment Consultant

  • Serious Fraud Office – Assistant Financial Investigator

  • Warner Bros Pictures – Junior Publicist

  • West Midlands Police – Recruitment Adviser

  • Worcestershire County Council – Project Support Manager

  • MA Political Thought & Theory

  • BAE Systems – Graduate Trainee (Finance)

  • Birmingham City Council – Project Assistant

  • Copper Alloys Ltd – Marketing & Sales Manager

  • De‐Dietrich – Cross Team Communicator

  • Department of Constitutional Defence – Administrative Officer

  • Diageo – Assistant Brand Manager

  • Fed Ex – Financial Data Analyst

  • HSE Recruitment Network – Office Manager

  • National Probation Service – Training Probation Officer

  • Royal Air Force – Administrative Secretary

  • Warwickshire County Council , Political Group Assistant

  • Wokingham District Council – Policy Officer

Personal development

In your final year you complete an individual research dissertation which improves your independent research skills and report writing skills. All students are encouraged to undertake Personal Development Planning (PDP.)

Facilities & equipment

The School of Languages and Social Sciences has a dedicated e-learning centre for the exclusive use of its students.  The e-learning centre is supported by a dedicated team and has all of the standard software that you will need (e.g. Microsoft Office etc). Extensive use is also made of our Virtual Learning Environment to help support your studies. Our newly refurbished “Cadbury Room” contains social seating areas, study stations and meeting tables as well as networked printing facilities and wireless internet access.

Further information

Tel: 0121 204 4283; Email: ids@aston.ac.uk

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