Course overview

The MSc International Relations programme at Aston University is a dynamic one-year programme offering a comprehensive understanding of global affairs. You can choose between a general track or specialise in ‘Conflict and Cooperation’ or ‘Development and Governance’, tailoring your study to international dynamics or domestic challenges in a global context.

Core modules cover international relations theories, global governance and research design, supplemented by optional modules including the Aston Global Advantage professional development programme and EuroSim - an award-winning module on international negotiations.

The programme benefits from collaborations with research centres like the Aston Centre for Europe and the Centre for Migration and Forced Displacement. Graduates emerge equipped with advanced analytical and communication skills, prepared to navigate the multifaceted landscape of international relations across diverse professional domains.

Gabriel Akinade MSc International Relations

“Coming to Aston University to study is one of the greatest decisions you can ever make. The environment is conducive for research and learning, and lecturers are open-minded and always available to give academic support.”

Read more

Gabriel Akinade
MSc International Relations

Why International Relations at Aston University?

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Skills development
100% of students agreed that their research skills had developed during their course (MA International Relations and Global Governance; PTES, 2023)
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Excellent prospects
Aston University was named runner-up in the University of the Year for Graduate Employment Award (Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide, 2024)
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Safe in our hands
Aston University was ranked 9th overall in the UK for International Relations (Guardian, 2024)
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Our full attention
We were ranked 5th in the UK for ‘student to staff ratio’ (International Relations; Guardian, 2024)

Course description

MSc International Relations

Our MSc International Relations blends theory with practice, offering specialisations in ‘conflict and cooperation’ or ‘development and governance’. Graduates develop crucial skills for diverse global careers.

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What we will provide
First-class teaching in the UK’s second-largest city, delivered by a diverse array of staff who will inspire and excite you. You will benefit from applied learning, research-informed teaching and authentic assessment.

We are also an Adobe Creative Campus meaning you will have access to top-notch software licenses, including Adobe and Solidworks, commonly used in industry.

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What you will provide
It is important you learn how to adapt a growth mindset to your studies – understanding that intelligence and success come from applying yourself, a willingness to learn and an ambition and drive to excel.

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What skills we teach
You will refine critical analysis, strategic decision-making and effective communication skills while developing a nuanced understanding of global affairs and honing analytical and research capabilities. As a graduate, you will emerge as an articulate communicator, equipped to navigate complex international issues and pursue impactful careers across diverse sectors.

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Career prospects
As an Aston University International Relations graduate, you will be well-equipped for a range of career paths such as policy advising, research and programme management. Graduates have secured roles in prominent institutions like the European Parliament and UK Civil Service, showcasing the programme's versatility and real-world impact across various sectors.

How you will learn

In our MSc International Relations programme, you will engage in interactive seminars, discussions and simulations, facilitated by experienced academic staff. Through group projects and individual research, you will link theoretical concepts to real-world issues, nurturing critical thinking and analytical skills.

Organised by the Aston Centre for Europe and the Centre for Migration and Forced Displacement, you will attend guest lectures, research seminars and events on contemporary political topics.

At the start of your course, you will be allocated a personal tutor who can offer individual study advice and guidance. You will also benefit from access to the University Library's extensive collection of over 25,000 books and electronic journals. Aston University's virtual learning environment supports your journey, providing resources like lecture slides, e-books and online journals.

In the Aston Global Advantage module, you will enhance your employability and global citizenship through experiential learning and reflective practice. Dedicated employability support, skill-building workshops and diverse learning streams will prepare you for both academic and professional success.

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Gain the advantage

Our flagship professional development module provides a range of opportunities to apply your learning and increase your employability.

EuroSim 2024 students

Bridging continents and shaping minds: insights from EuroSim 2024

Hear directly from some of our politics and international relations students on their experience of EuroSim 2024 in Brockport, USA.

What you will learn

Our MSc International Relations programme delves into the complexities of global politics, governance and diplomacy, preparing you for a career in international affairs.

In the taught stage, you will explore theories of international relations, global governance and regional studies, honing your analytical and critical thinking skills. You will assess the impact of international trends and develop a nuanced understanding of conflict, cooperation, development and governance. The curriculum equips you with sophisticated analytical and communication skills necessary for dissertation research, class discussions and seminars, fostering independence and teamwork.

In the dissertation phase, you will complete a research project on an international relations topic of your choice, showcasing your ability to conduct independent research with a clear consideration of ethics, theory and methods.

Ummul-Khair Abubakar Musajo MSc International Relations student

Global perspective

Ummul-Khair Abubakar Musajo praised Aston University's MSc International Relations programme for its "real-world application" and "diverse, multicultural" environment.

Course objectives

  1. Provides a masters programme that enables you to analyse the activities, influence and impact of national and international actors in the global and domestic arenas.
  2. Equips you with substantial high-level academic expertise in the fields of international relations and international politics, with particular emphasis on conflict, cooperation, development and governance.
  3. Develops your ability to critically evaluate the global and/or domestic impact of international trends and developments from theoretical and practical perspectives.
  4. Develops your sophisticated analytical and communication skills, especially in the framework of dissertation, class discussion and seminars.
  5. Enables progression to postgraduate research at doctoral level or to careers in the private, voluntary or public sectors, which draw on the knowledge and understanding gained during this degree programme.


Modules and learning outcomes

Taught stage modules

In the taught stage you will study the following core modules:

Module TitleCredits
International Relations Theory
Delve into key concepts and theories in international relations, examining major questions like the causes of war and the role of international organisations. This module equips you with conceptual tools to understand global events, critically exploring major schools of thought in the field.
Governance of Global Problems
Explore models addressing global issues, critically engaging with globalisation and governance. Assess international, transnational, regional and local strategies for managing global problems, offering insights into their effectiveness and limitations.
Research Design in the Social Sciences
Gain knowledge in social science research methodologies, focusing on qualitative and quantitative approaches. Understand research design principles, method strengths and weaknesses, and learn basic statistics and SPSS application for quantitative analysis.

You will choose five of the following optional modules:*

Module TitleCredits
Conflict and Security
Explore the blend of traditional and critical perspectives on contemporary security challenges in the international system. Understand how constructivist approaches illuminate the dynamics of peace and conflict.
Comparative Regionalism and Regional Cooperation
Analyse the role of regional institutions in the international order, comparing institution-building processes across regions. Understand regionalism's impact on global dynamics through theoretical and practical lenses.
International Development
Examine key theories and practices in international development, exploring explanations for development disparities. Discuss the international community's role in promoting development in the Global South.
The State in the Global Context
Investigate the evolving role and power of the modern state amidst global changes. Examine theoretical debates and real-world practices affecting states' capacity, including governance, globalisation and regulation.
Negotiation skills: EuroSim and Model UN
Develop negotiation skills in multicultural and international contexts, with a focus on UN and EU scenarios. Enhance understanding of global diplomatic processes.
Migration and Forced Displacement
Study migration and forced displacement in a global context. Analyse causes, journeys, asylum processes and the impact of border security, violence and racism on migratory experiences.
Religion, Politics and Development
Explore the interplay between religion, politics and development since 1945. Understand complex relationships and regional variations in this interplay across different global contexts.
The History and Politics of Decolonisation
Explore decolonisation processes globally from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Assess their impacts and derive lessons for addressing the legacy of colonialism in contemporary policy.
The Aston Global Advantage
This integrated module focuses on professional development and employability, helping you identify and apply key transferable skills acquired throughout the year.

*Availability of any optional modules will be subject to staff availability and a minimum number of students who express an interest in studying the optional modules. 

Dissertation stage modules

In the dissertation stage you will study the following core modules:

Module TitleCredits
You will undertake an independent research project relevant to your masters programme, demonstrating your ability to design, conduct and report findings. Guided by a supervisor, this complex exercise will strengthen and test various subject-specific and transferable skills, including research methodology and academic writing.

Programme outcomes

On successful completion of both the taught and dissertation stage, you will be able to:

  • Identify, classify and appraise theoretical and practical approaches in international relations and international politics broadly defined (including historical perspectives and interactions between domestic and international/supranational political dimensions).
  • Assess complex social and political aspects of globalisation and transnational trends.
  • Design and carry out an in-depth research project in international relations and international politics broadly defined (including historical perspectives and interactions between domestic and international/supranational political dimensions).
  • Select, gather and synthesise relevant sources to understand and interpret key developments in international relations and international politics.
  • Apply appropriate social science research methods to the analysis of key developments in international relations and international politics.
  • Identify, evaluate and formulate appropriate policies addressing political, social and economic issues at sub-national, national, supra- and international levels.
  • Communicate information and own findings and arguments to a range of audiences through a variety of written and oral media.
  • Work independently and as part of a team deploying effective organisation, personal responsibility and planning skills.

We may update our courses to reflect best practices and academic developments. If we do, we’ll let you know of any changes at the earliest opportunity by updating our course webpages. If you have already received an offer, we’ll write to you directly to let you know of the changes.


Entry requirements

One of the following:

  • 2:2 (lower second-class honours) degree or equivalent
  • Equivalent overseas degree recognised by Aston University (see international students tab below for more information)

You will also need to provide:

  • A professional reference
    • If you are a current student or recent graduate (within the last 2-3 years), we will ask for an academic reference
    • If you are currently employed and not a recent graduate, we will ask for a professional reference
  • An official academic transcript of your university grades to date
  • A completed application form.

Aston University is a diverse, close community and welcomes international students on many of our postgraduate programmes. Students from over 120 countries choose to study with us every year. Based in the centre of Birmingham, Aston is not only a great place to study but also a great place to live.

Qualifications in your country

For details of equivalent qualifications in your country, use our area pages below:

English language requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of an English language qualification.

English language requirements

How to apply

Aston University provides a range of opportunities for international students to join our community and study on our campus. A key part of our strategy is our relationships with teaching partners, providing multiple pathways to Aston.

Aston’s professional work placements can improve your chance of securing a graduate job. Placements give you experience, confidence and opportunities and, as an Aston student, you’ll be better prepared for your future career. One of the great things about Aston is our focus on employability. Our close links with businesses, industries and professions make this possible.

Find out more about applying

Post-study work visa

Aston University welcomed the creation of a new Graduate Immigration Route which enables international students to remain in the UK for two years after you complete your studies to find work. This new post-study work visa applies to international students completing full-time undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Graduate Immigration Route

Pathway programmes

If you don’t meet our entry requirements, we have a range of pathway programmes offered by our partner, ONCAMPUS Aston, which you can complete to progress onto one of our degrees.

We recognise the value of extensive professional experience. If you do not have the academic qualifications but have extensive and relevant professional experience and a proven ability to succeed, we would welcome your application.

The information contained on this website details the typical entry requirements for this course for the most commonly offered qualifications.

Applicants with alternative qualifications may wish to enquire with the relevant admissions teams prior to application whether or not their qualifications are deemed acceptable. For less commonly encountered qualifications this will be judged on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the academic admissions tutor.


Speak to our Admissions Team

If you have any questions about the application process please get in touch with our postgraduate admissions team:


Call: 0121 204 3200 (Please note this line is open Monday-Friday between 09:30-16:30)

Dr Ying Miao International Relations MSc

Meet your programme director

Dr Ying Miao
Programme Director, MSc International Relations

If you have any questions about the course or modules you will be studying, you can get in touch via email and I will be happy to answer your queries.

Fees and scholarships

Course fees

UK students

Annual tuition fees:£11,850

International students

Annual tuition fees:£22,750

More information on fees

The United Kingdom government has confirmed that European Union (EU), other European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals commencing academic courses in England from August 2021 will no longer be charged the same tuition rates as UK students.

Tuition fees for students are reviewed annually and may increase in subsequent years in line with inflation linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) to take account of the University’s increased costs of delivering the Programme. Any such increase shall always be in accordance with the law. When undertaking a placement year, a placement year fee applies.


At Aston University we are committed to supporting the most talented and hardworking students to achieve their potential by providing a range of scholarships to help lower tuition and living costs.


You will be assessed through a combination of written and oral examinations, class tests, individual and group coursework, projects, presentations and practical assessments.

Career prospects

The transferable skills that our International Relations programme provides mean that our graduates are successful in finding employment in a wide range of roles such as:

  • Policy adviser
  • Senior partnership officer
  • Research executive
  • European affairs adviser
  • Programme manager
  • Junior consultant
  • Project manager
  • Teacher

Our graduates have gone on to work at organisations such as: Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, French Ministry of Interior, European Parliament, UK Civil Service, House of Commons, Tetra Tech International Development, Passerell and BSI.

Alexander Lamle MA IRGG graduate

Innovative, interesting and engaging

Alexander’s course highlight was the innovative EuroSim module, which he found "completely innovative, interesting and engaging."

Our graduates achieve amazing things all over the world – whether it’s setting up their own businesses, landing jobs with high profile organisations, or making real differences within their communities.

Hear from our graduates


Be part of our community

Once you have joined us at Aston University, you’ll always be part of our community, even beyond graduation.

Frequently asked questions

Why study International Relations at Aston University?

You will acquire a profound understanding of global politics, governance and diplomacy. Beyond theory, you will develop highly sought-after negotiation skills through practical experiences like EuroSim and Model UN. With access to Aston Global Advantage, you will enhance your employability for diverse career paths. Engaging in interactive seminars and real-world applications ensures your learning is vibrant and prepares you effectively for your next professional venture.

What is the ‘Aston Global Advantage’?

Embedded in all our masters degrees, this assessed, year-long credit-bearing module aims to develop professional and personal transferrable skills relevant to any workplace and create a bridge between the degree and the world of work.

The Aston Global Advantage

Why should I study my postgraduate degree at Aston University?

There are lots of benefits of studying a postgraduate degree at Aston University.

Watch this video from MBA student, Monique, who talks about just a few of them:

Is Birmingham a good place to study?

Our campus is based in the centre of Birmingham, the youngest major city in Europe and a great place to live, work and study.

  • Great music and entertainment with a vibrant nightlife. Bars, clubs, pubs, live music, festivals, concerts. Whatever your tastes, there's something here for everyone.
  • Fantastic food. Birmingham's diverse community means you can try anything from the famous Balti triangle, the Chinese Quarter, high street chains, halal and vegan food, and Michelin-star dining.
  • World-class shopping. The Bullring and Grand Central is a shopper's paradise. From the world's biggest Primark to luxury brands at the Mailbox.
  • Arts and culture. Museums, galleries, theatres, concerts and Birmingham's art collection is as wide as it is impressive - not to be missed.
  • Green, open spaces. One of the greenest cities in Europe, Birmingham has hundreds of publicly accessible parks and green spaces across the city.
  • Sporting action. Birmingham has some of the most exciting venues for watching or participating in sport in the UK.

Discover Birmingham

What will my timetable look like?

We understand how important it is to know your timetable in advance for planning around work, childcare, or other responsibilities. Here's some basic guidance on what to expect regarding your student timetable.

Full-time programmes
As a rough estimate, full-time postgraduate students in the College of Business and Social Sciences should expect to spend about 12-15 hours per week in lectures and on-campus seminars. This is in addition to independent study, and there may be additional guided learning activities during certain weeks. The exact distribution of these hours will vary depending on your course and module choices.
Part-time programmes
Part-time students will have fewer weekly on-campus hours compared to full-time students. This reduction is proportional to the number of modules you're enrolled in.
Timetable availability
Complete timetables are usually released shortly before the start of your programme. This timing is necessary to ensure that we accommodate all course requirements and that rooms are allocated based on the number of students likely to enrol on each programme. We aim to provide these timetables as early as possible, to assist you in your planning.

As your induction week approaches, you will be sent more information about your timetable via email, and you will be able to access your timetable by logging into MyAstonPortal. For any further queries or information regarding your timetable, you can reach out to your programme director or the Student Support team.

Online/distance learning programmes
The above information also applies to students enrolled in online/distance learning programmes. Please note that both full-time and part-time distance learning students are still required to attend scheduled synchronous learning sessions.


What is EuroSim?

EuroSim is an annual international intercollegiate simulation of the European Union (EU). The purpose of EuroSim is to provide a framework for a partial simulation of a major EU issue. More than two hundred students, from universities in North America and Europe, participate in the simulation. All students are assigned roles, including Members of the European Parliament, members of the European Commission, heads of government, and national ministers.

EuroSim is offered as part of a module for any undergraduate and postgraduate student that studies either politics or international Relations as part of their degree. Students who perform the best in the module are invited to take part in the Aston University EuroSim team.


Dr Patrycja Rozbicka, module leader, shares her thoughts on how Aston University's innovative EuroSim module helps to prepare students for a future in international diplomacy.

Patrycja's blog: exploring EuroSim

You can also find out more about what the EuroSim experience is like from our students who attended EuroSim 2024 in Brockport, USA.

EuroSim 2024: student insights

Say Hello to students at Aston University

Hello, what would you like to ask us?

Hello! We are a team of current Aston University students from various parts of the world, studying a wide range of postgraduate subjects.

Feel free to ask us anything about studying at Aston University.

Chat to our students


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