International Relations MSc

(with two pathways in “Conflict and Cooperation” and “Development and Governance”)


Study the International Relations MSc course at Aston University – a leading centre for research on politics and international relations – to give you a head start in your future career. The programme offers opportunities to specialise in the areas of “Conflict and Cooperation” and “Development and Governance”. Students will also have the option to complete Aston Global Advantage – our professional development programme.


Location: Aston University, Birmingham

Course type
Full-time / Part-time

Course format

No placements


1 year (full-time)
2 years (part-time)

UCAS code(s)


Start date

Explore MSc International Relations at Aston University
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Simona Braileanu BSc (Hons) Sociology and French MA International Relations and Global Governance

I think what makes Aston so special is the lecturers they have; so dedicated, genuine and passionate about their job. Birmingham has everything you want from a city as a student. There were so many opportunities, I felt like I was living in the capital but without the high costs. I discovered so many cultures and really broadened my horizons, not only culturally but also in terms of food, partying and getting to know people from everywhere in the world.”

Simona Braileanu

MA International Relations and Global Governance

Simona Braileanu BSc (Hons) Sociology and French MA International Relations and Global Governance

I think what makes Aston so special is the lecturers they have; so dedicated, genuine and passionate about their job. Birmingham has everything you want from a city as a student. There were so many opportunities, I felt like I was living in the capital but without the high costs. I discovered so many cultures and really broadened my horizons, not only culturally but also in terms of food, partying and getting to know people from everywhere in the world.”

Simona Braileanu

MA International Relations and Global Governance

Course outline and modules

This cutting-edge postgraduate course, delivered at Aston University over one full academic year, will help you to get a broader perspective on global issues and build an international career in public and private organisations, the business sector, policy-oriented institutions and think tanks, academia or journalism.

What you’ll learn

You can complete a general MSc International Relations or you can specialise in these two areas: “Conflict and Cooperation” and “Development and Governance”.

The MSc offers thematic modules that are applied to different regions of the world. You will also be given the opportunity to focus on different aspects of international relations and international politics. If you decide to follow the “Conflict and Cooperation” pathway, you will concentrate on the international/global arena, relations among states and transnational actors. If you choose the second pathway, “Development and Governance”, you will work more on domestic issues – particularly economic development, institutional reforms and governance – in a context of increasing global interdependence. You can also complete a general MSc International Relations combining both perspectives.

All students are expected to complete core modules, which provides an overview of international relations theories, global governance and research design. Additionally, they can select optional modules (see full list below), including the Aston Global Advantage – a professional development programme and integrated module designed in collaboration with Aston Business School.

The MSc is offered by the Department of Politics, History and International Relations within the College of Business and Social Sciences and is also linked to two key research centres: Aston Centre for Europe and the Centre for Migration and Forced Displacement.

Post-study work visa

Aston University welcomed the creation of a new immigration route which will enable international students to remain in the UK for two years after they have completed their studies, in order to find work. The new post-study work visa will apply to international students starting undergraduate and postgraduate courses from 2020 at universities with a track record of compliance with immigration policy.

Find out more about the post-study work visa.


Core modules
International Relations Theory (15 credits)

This module provides an advanced grounding in the key concepts and ideas employed in the analysis of International Relations and International Politics. It seeks to understand and address some of the most compelling questions within the International Relations discipline, such as: Why do wars occur? How can states cooperate? What is the role of international organisations? This module will offer students a sense of the identity of International Relations as an academic discipline, whilst equipping them with a set of conceptual tools that will better enable them to make sense of the international system and the events that take place within it. International Relations Theory critically examines the nature, impact, and application of the major schools of thought in International Relations.

Assessment: class presentation (15%) and by one 2,500 word essay (85%).

The Governance of Global Problems (15 credits)

The module aims at a critical appraisal of existing models to address global problems. Starting from a critical engagement with the two key concepts of globalisation and global governance, the module goes on to assess different international, transnational, regional and local strategies to deal with selected global - or globalised - issues.

Assessment: 2.000 words policy paper (80%) and by portfolio (20%).

Research Design in the Social Sciences (15 credits)

The module enables students to acquire knowledge and understanding of key methodological processes in social science research, focusing on both qualitative and quantitative methods. The module will provide a core understanding of research design and the core principles of qualitative and quantitative research with a practical component when suitable. Concretely, the students will learn the strengths and weaknesses of different types of methods. Additionally, during the second part of the module, focused on quantitative methods, students will learn basic statistics and how to implement them in SPSS.

Assessment: a quantitative methods worksheet (30%) and an essay (70%).

Dissertation (60 credits)

Students will demonstrate their ability to design, conduct and report the results of a research project in the subject domain relevant to their masters programme. They will work independently, under the guidance of a supervisor. Preparing a masters dissertation is a complex exercise which will strengthen and test various subject-specific and transferable research skills, including research methodology and academic writing.

Assessment: Students prepare a 15,000 word dissertation on a research subject of their choosing, guided by a member of the academic staff.

Optional modules

You will choose five of the following modules, totaling 75 credits.

Conflict and Security (15 credits)

Conflict and security are perennial features of the international system. Understanding the contemporary security challenges the international system faces requires a blend of both traditional and critical perspectives. This module would seek to highlight the key means by which constructivist understandings of security apply to understand key dynamics of peace and conflict.

Assessment: UN Simulation position paper (20%) and a 3,000 word essay (80%)

Comparative Regionalism and Regional Cooperation (15 credits)

Regionalism remains an enduring feature of international order. This module will analyse the multifaceted role of regional institutions within a broader context of international order. Building from a solid theoretical platform, the module will focus on the differences and similarities in regional institution-building processes in different regions.

Assessment: Essay (80%) and presentation (20%)

International Development (15 credits)

The module introduces students to the main theories and key aspects of practice in international development. It discusses ways to explain development (or the lack of it) and how the international community promotes development in countries of the Global South.

Assessment: an essay (2000 words) and a group development project plan (2000 words).

The State in the Global Context (15 credits)

The modern state is central to the study of politics. In this module we investigate the role and power of the state in a globalising and rapidly changing world. The last four decades have witnessed a series of major (economic, political and technological) challenges to the capacity of the state. Some have argued that the state has been irrevocably diminished and should no longer be assumed to be the principal political actor. In response, others have highlighted the ability of the state to adapt to this changing environment and retain, and even enhance, its pre-eminence.

To critically examine the state in the twenty-first century, this module adopts a broad view that extends beyond the traditional study of government and state institutions. A multi-level approach is adopted that considers how the practice of politics has been transformed at the various global, national, and sub-national scales. The module is thematically organised around a range of theoretical debates and concepts, such as: governance; globalization; marketization; regulation; surveillance; and decentralization. These theoretical debates are underpinned by empirical reference to real-world practice, encompassing both democratic and authoritarian states.

Assessment: Essay (85%) and presentation (15%)

Negotiation skills: EuroSim and Model UN (15 credits)

The module focuses on the development of negotiation skills in multicultural and international environments. Next to more general knowledge, the module focuses in particular on negotiations within UN and EU.

Assessment: two oral examinations/simulations (25% each) and two position/strategy papers (25% each)

Find out more

Migration and Forced Displacement (15 credits)

This module considers migration and forced displacement in a global and contemporary context. It offers an overview of the various stages of migratory journeys, from causes of forced displacement to asylum seeking and reception. The module considers structures, institutions and practices that shape migratory journeys and displacement, such as border security, violence, racism and ‘offshoring’.

Assessment: 3,000 word written project (100%)

Religion, Politics and Development (15 credits)

This module will introduce students to the study of the complex relationships between religion, politics and development in different regions of the world, focusing on cases and debates in the period from 1945 to the present.

Assessment: 3,000 word essay (100%)

The History and Politics of Decolonisation (15 credits)

The aim of the module is to explore processes of decolonisation across different global regions from the nineteenth into the twenty-first centuries, to assess the successes and failures of these processes, and to identify lessons for policymakers grappling with the legacy of colonialism today.

Assessment: Document analysis (30%) and research memo (70%)

Aston Global Advantage (15 credits)

Find out more

Students may select one of the following specialisms (pathways), as approved by the University, recorded on the Degree Certificate, provided they fulfil the following criteria:

MSc SpecialismCriteria
Conflict and Cooperation

The following optional modules must be selected and the Dissertation must be within the subject area:

Conflict and Security Comparative Regionalism and Regional Cooperation
Development and Governance

The following optional modules must be selected and the Dissertation must be within the subject area:

International Development The State in the Global Context


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.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements
  • 2:2 degree in social science, language or a related subject. Other degrees might be suitable depending on personal statement and motivation.
International students
Extensive work experience

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.


Please note, if you do not meet the subject-specific requirements for this programme, you may be considered for an alternative programme which may be better suited to your academic/professional background. If you receive an offer for an alternative programme and do not wish to move forward with this, please contact the Admissions team at

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 10am-4pm)

Please click here for guidance on completing the postgraduate application. 


Our programme directors are our experts

Davide Vampa

Dr Davide Vampa
Programme Director, MSc International Relations

If you have any questions about the course or modules you will be studying you can email me via this link and I will be happy to answer your queries.

Learning, teaching and assessment

Learning and teaching

You will take part in interactive seminars, discussion and simulation exercises, as well as undertaking group project work. All assignments are designed in a practical way to enable you to link your learning to real world issues. There are also opportunities for individual research and guided study. MSc students are a fundamental part of the intellectual life of the Politics, History and International Relations study group.

All students on MSc degrees take part in the regular series of guest lectures and research seminars on issues of contemporary political relevance as well as taking part in the conferences and events organised and hosted by the department, Aston Centre for Europe and the Centre for Migration and Forced Displacement.

During your postgraduate year, you will get the opportunity to select the EuroSim optional module. EuroSim is an annual international intercollegiate simulation of the European Union (EU). The purpose of this module is to educate you about the inner workings of the European Union, which will provide you with a great experience of how to use politics in a real-world setting.

Find out more about the module here.

You can also select the Aston Global Advantage as an optional module.

Study skills

Students are allocated a personal tutor at the start of their studies; this member of academic staff can offer individual study advice, guidance and is there to help support your studies.


Assessments on the MSc degree take a wide variety of forms, ranging from essays, to policy reports, briefings and campaign portfolios.

Personal development

The MSc focuses on developing your practical and employability skills, so assignments may include working with simulated negotiation sessions, and analysing speeches delivered by politicians. We also help you develop your presentation skills and public speaking, alongside classical assignments such as essay writing.

Students on this postgraduate course come to study at Aston from the UK and all different parts of the world, so you’ll become part of a diverse student community which will further broaden your horizons.

Programme Director(s)

Dr Davide Vampa

Fees and scholarships

UK students (2024/25): £11,850

International students (2024/25): £22,750

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 home students. Further information can be found here.

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.

More information on fees and funding

UK postgraduate loans

If you're thinking about studying a masters course with us, you may be eligible for a postgraduate loan to help with course fees and living costs. Find out more here.


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. Find out more about our scholarships here.

20 per cent postgraduate alumni scholarship


Cost shouldn't limit your career aspirations, which is why we are delighted to offer all Aston University graduates (including exchange students) a 20% loyalty scholarship in standard taught MA, MSc and Full-time MBA course fees. Students who have completed their first degree at Aston University will receive an automatic scholarship when applying for their course. If you are not an Aston University graduate there is still a range of UK and international scholarship that you can apply for.

This means that as an Aston University graduate applying to our MSc International Relations course, you could save...


UK students
(Total saving equivalent to 20% of the annual tuition fee)


International/EU students
(Total saving equivalent to 20% of the annual tuition fee)

As an Aston University graduate you will automatically qualify. For more information visit our webpage.

Career prospects

The careers pursued by our students vary greatly, but typical careers include: employment in international organisations, (for example the EU, WTO, UN), research in policy-oriented domestic or international think tanks, careers in government administration, further postgraduate research at PhD level, journalism, international marketing or business.


Aston University was recognised as the 'Best University Placement Service'.

The Careers and Placements team at Aston University won the 'Best University Placement Service' category at the National Undergraduate Employability (NUE) Awards 2022. This was achieved by launching Virtual Employability Festivals and recognising the power of peer-to-peer communication by pairing 500 students looking for placements with 500 students who had completed placements.

Frequently asked questions

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:

Why should I study International Relations and Global Governance MA at Aston?

The International Relations and Global Governance MA course at Aston will help you to get a broader perspective on issues of globalised governance and contemporary international relations alongside the opportunity to learn in an exciting multicultural environment.

Why should I do a master’s degree with Aston?

All our MA courses equip students with the knowledge, along with analytical and transferable skills to pursue further postgraduate research or a successful career in the public or private sector.


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