MA
2021 start

International Relations

Department of Politics and International Relations, Faculty of Social Sciences

Expand your knowledge of the critical perspectives required to make sense of urgent global challenges. You’ll be taught by world-leading academics who are pushing the boundaries of international relations.
Postgraduate politics student, Winfred Syombua holding a book

Course description

On this exciting course, you will engage with a range of theoretical perspectives to make sense of emergent and rapidly evolving international political challenges, and will explore normative arguments about the way that international relations ought to work. The course covers key topics in international relations and security studies, such as global security and terrorism, alongside innovative critical approaches such as postcolonial and feminist perspectives on international relations.

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Modules

Core modules:

Debating International Relations

This module provides students with an advanced level appreciation of International Relations theory and the ways it can be applied to understand world politics today. The module consists of two interwoven components. One examines core theories and concepts of International Relations, providing students with an in-depth understanding of the evolution and diversity of the discipline. A second component examines to what extent and how these theories and concepts can elucidate contemporary developments in world politics.

30 credits
Understanding Politics

The module's purposes are to introduce students to the dominant analytical and methodological traditions in politics (broadly understood as `positivism' and `interpretivism') and the different ontological, epistemological, and methodological implications of each tradition for the study of politics. The module will require students to consider explicitly their approach to the study of politics, and understand both the strengths and weaknesses of their individual understanding. The module requires students to be able to articulate coherently their understanding what politics is and what they consider to be the most appropriate way of studying and researching politics and present reasoned arguments for their choices. As such this module is an essential precursor to their specific programme and to the dissertation

15 credits
Research and Dissertation Preparation

This module is designed to prepare the student for writing their dissertation. This module serves to introduce the student to the nature of the research process and encourage the student to focus on developing their research question and methodology that underpin the full dissertation. The module also aims to develop the students¿ research retrieval skills and to undertake a literature search to underpin the full dissertation. The module also discusses the nature of the supervision process.

15 credits
Politics Dissertation

Students must complete a 12,000 word dissertation on a topic of their choice relating to an aspect of their studies in their taught MA programme (International Politics, Politics and Governance, Global Political Economy programmes) under the direction of an academic supervisor. The dissertation gives the student the opportunity to explore an area of interest in depth. To achieve a master standard the student is required to demonstrate and up-to-date critical understanding of the topic, as well as undertake advanced political analysis of the dissertation¿s subject matter.

60 credits

Optional modules:

Contemporary Global Security

This module examines responses at state, regional and international level to key security challenges. It focuses primarily on the post-Cold War setting, the types of security challenges that have developed and the responses to them at state, regional and international level. It analyses the role played by international organisations and develops case analyses of key international security crises that represent or reflect important dimensions of contemporary global security. These could include, for example, the crisis in ex-Yugoslavia, the Rwandan crisis, the first and second Gulf wars and the conflict in Afghanistan. Attention will also be directed to the role and development of key international security organisations, particularly the United Nations.

30 credits
Feminist and Decolonizing Approaches to International Relations: Bodies, Coloniality, Knowledge

This module problematizes core IR concepts and themes through an alternative `geopolitics of knowledge that comprises postcolonial, decolonial, feminist and queer, Marxist and post-Marxist approaches to IR theory. The first part provides an understanding of key moments, processes, actors and practices in the emergence of the modern system of sovereign states. The second part interrogates key concepts and themes in IR, including violence, the body, capitalism, globalization, sovereignty and anarchy, hierarchy and hegemony/empire, and indigeneity. In place of the `West versus the Rest¿, the module will examine the imperial dimension of these themes while revealing the mutually constitutive relations between metropoles/colonies in the formation of modernity both materially and ideationally.

30 credits
Political Economy of Global Environmental change

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the major debates in the political economy of environment. It will examine central debates around climate change, the Anthropocene, the commons, the green economy, biodiversity loss, population, sustainability and environment induced conflict. These debates will be examined by analysing the different approaches to tackling global environmental change. Therefore, the course will explore the debates about the political economy of global environmental change at various scales ¿ including international, regional, national and local scales, and as well as managing the commons and how individuals might engage in forms of environmental self regulation/self- limiting behaviours. The course will also make use of specific case studies to illuminate the wider conceptual debates.

30 credits
Global Politics of Climate Change

This module explores the politics of global anthropogenic climate change, one of the central challenges – if not the single greatest challenge – of our age. By combining theoretical, case study and normative analysis, you will consider the nature and causes of climate change; global, national and local attempts to limit and mitigate it; its current and projected future impacts; and the possibilities of climate change adaptation. Topics discussed will range from the UN climate regime to Extinction Rebellion, from the origins of our global fossil fuel economy to the politics of renewables, and from ‘climate refugees’ to the political economy of carbon offsetting.

30 credits
Global Health and Global Politics

Situated within contemporary approaches to International Relations and International Political Economy, this module will introduce students to the global politics of health, addressing health as both a global issue, and also as a quintessentially political one. The module will: chart the recent rise of health as an issue of `high politics¿; examine the relationship between individual and population health and the global political economy; explore the ways in which and institutions by which health is governed at the global level; analyze some of the key contemporary issues and challenges in contemporary global health governance.

30 credits
International Political Sociology of Civil Wars

Based on contemporary approaches to International Relations and Political Sociology, this module will introduce students to the politics of civil war¿the dominant form of armed conflict today. The module will open with an overview of international conflict trends and the debate on the ¿new¿ versus ¿old¿ nature of present-day wars. The second part will focus on structural determinants of the cross-national and sub-national variation in civil wars. The remainder will explore the micro-level foundations of fighting, from the ¿greed¿ versus ¿grievance¿ and ¿opportunity¿ versus ¿motivation¿ debates to the complex interaction of rationalist and constructivist mechanisms of mobilization and recruitment.

30 credits
Terrorism and Political Violence

This module produces a critical take on security and violence, combining Sociological and International Relations approaches, and applying them to cases ranging from the ¿macro-level¿ (war, including guerrilla warfare/insurgency; genocide and most especially terrorism) throught to ¿micro-level¿ sites usually considered ¿private¿ or ¿intimate¿ (¿domestic¿ violence, White supremacist bombing of historical Black churches, etc).

30 credits
Chinese Politics and Policy

This module focuses on the latest political developments in the People’s Republic of China. It starts by putting contemporary Chinese politics into historical context and introducing students to key institutions in the PRC, including the Chinese Communist Party and the state. It then focuses on important current academic debates related to Chinese politics, including the resilience of China’s authoritarian political system and the implications of Xi Jinping’s rise to power. This course also examines key governance challenges in China, including those related to pollution, social stability, and the economy.

30 credits
Approaches to Political Economy

This module introduces a wide range of different tools, methods, and theories for doing political economy scholarship. The first half of the module surveys classical and modern political economists, while the second half of the module focuses on contemporary approaches. The module aims to: (1) unpack the uneven historical development of political economy as located as a particular field within social sciences; (2) sketch out (and, ideally, critique) the conventional narrative of twentieth century capitalist development of the shift from embedded to disembedded liberalism/towards neo-liberalism; and (3) introduce a number of puzzles that are central to political economy.

30 credits
The Political Economy of Poverty and Inequality

This course offers a critical analysis of the nature and dynamics of poverty and inequality across the contemporary world. It explores the political implications of different concepts of poverty and inequality. Using examples from a range of different nation state and cultural contexts it considers the domestic and international dynamics at play in producing and reproducing poverty and inequality. The course explores how our understandings and measurements of poverty and inequality affect decisions about how to act in relation to them. It analyses the role and practices of nation state governments, the organisations of the international order, non-governmental organisations and civil society in seeking to address these issues.

30 credits
Capitalism and Crisis

This module explores the relationship between capitalism and crisis through the prism of the causes of and fallout from the 2008 crash. Part 1 introduces and unpacks the core concepts of the module ¿ capitalism, crisis ¿ and presents a brief historical overview of pre-2008 economic crises in order to provide some necessary context and comparison points. Part 2 surveys competing explanations of the 2008 crisis, by starting narrow (i.e. regulation of banking) and then broadening out (i.e. evolution of capitalism). Part 3 examines the fallout from the 2008 crisis, including the extent to which the crisis was truly global and the variety of political responses to the crash.

30 credits
Human Rights

The module offers a critical engagement with the key debates in the theory and practice of human rights. The first section of the module examines the very idea of human rights, asking how human rights ought to be defined, and whether they can or ought to be morally justified. It also looks at some important challenges to the idea of human rights: namely that they are ethnocentric, superficial, and have become instruments of power. The second section explores some specific controversies in human rights practice: including such issues as how they are best protected, whether they can tackle such global problems as poverty and environmental degradation, and whether their violation can provide a justification for military intervention.

30 credits
Development and the State

This module will explore and critically assess the political economy of development. It does so by focusing on the interplay between processes of economic transformation and the political strategies pursued by states in the name of national development. The module is interdisciplinary, drawing on development studies, the political economy of growth and transformation, and comparative capitalisms. Part one reviews the most salient theoretical themes in approaches to capitalist development. This will put students in a position to understand more specific theorisations of capitalist development as a state strategy in a world characterised by uneven and combined capitalist development. Part two focuses more specifically on the state. This section will bring the more generic issues reviewed in Part One into a focused `developmental¿ framing. Part three will open up to more ambitious evaluative work in which normative questions are asked and the prospects for capitalist development are contested.

30 credits
Analysing the Policy Process

The term 'governance' has become widely used in debates in Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations - often to mean very different things. In this module, students are introduced to its nature, meaning and significance. Governance's central concern is with how societies are being, and can be, steered in an increasingly complex world where states must interact with and influence other actors and institutions to achieve results. The course encourages students to understand the impact of governance and political forces such as - globalisation, europeanisation, neo-liberals reform etc - on both political power and the identity of the nation-state.

30 credits
Policy-Making in the Real World

Policy making is an increasingly complex process, involving a range of `wicked problems¿ and a growing set of options for addressing them. Given the multiple risks and crises they must deal with, how can policy makers come up with effective policy, learn from mistakes and deal with unexpected events? What tools can they employ to do so and how can we evaluate their success or failure? This unit will provide a theoretically informed, but practice-focused approach to these questions. Students will gain a range of practical skills through innovative group projects and visiting speakers from the policy world.

30 credits
Democratic Governance in the 21st Century: Problems, Innovations and Solutions

Political systems around the world strive to be democratic, but what is meant by democracy and how this can be achieved? This module considers the nature of the democratic crisis faced by countries around the world and maps the latest innovations designed to address this challenge. Students will study tensions between new and old democratic arenas and consider the indicators of a thriving democracy. The module is grounded in the tradition of engaged scholarship and uses real world examples and solution focused analysis. Students will develop keen professional and research skills by studying the theory and practice of democratic innovation.

30 credits
The Governance and Politics of the European Union

This module examines the history and development of the European Union, together with the institutions and decision-making processes of the community. It examines various theoretical perspectives on the process of European integration, evaluates selected policy sectors, particularly those sectors which are relevant for understanding the political economy of European integration such as the internal market and monetary union.

30 credits
Liberalism

It is regularly said that liberal politics is now facing the greatest set of challenges across the world since the end of World War II. In this context it is more important than ever to understand precisely what liberalism is. What exactly are liberal politics? How does it differ from other political ideologies? Why are the values and commitments that underpin liberalism, and what sort of institutions and practices are associated with it? And we shall ask questions of it such as whether it has an insufficient account of freedom, or how, if at all, it ought to respond to the problems generated by the vast diversity within contemporary societies. We shall explore these questions via looking at several of the key debates within the tradition of liberal political theory within the last few decades, including how we should understand liberty and its limits, the nature of equality, the challenge posed by multiculturalism, and whether liberalism is an essentially cosmopolitan or nationalist creed.

30 credits
Wellbeing in Politics and Policy

There has been a dramatic rise in political interest in wellbeing over the past decade. Politicians and policy-makers in a range of contexts ¿ national and international - have moved towards embracing wellbeing as a more comprehensive, inclusive and appropriate goal of public policy than the traditionally narrow focus on indicators of economic prosperity. This has led to the development of wellbeing frameworks that embrace indicators of subjective wellbeing (e.g., happiness), environmental and social concerns alongside economic indicators. For some these developments have the potential to transform aspects of politics and policy in the long term. This module explores conceptual, empirical and policy-related aspects of wellbeing. It examines competing definitions, understandings and measurements of wellbeing and related concepts such as quality of life and happiness. It aims to give students a clear understanding of how and why wellbeing has risen up political agendas, the significance of developments in policy to date and the potential for wellbeing as a political idea and guide to policy.

30 credits
Freedom

Freedom is one of the most important political values, if not the most important one of all. This module investigates the political value of freedom via an engagement with the literature in contemporary political theory. To do so it focuses on: competing theories of freedom (negative, positive, republican); the relationship between freedom and other values (autonomy, equality, security); and a number of applied issues (the harm principle, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of movement). The approach is theoretical and philosophical with the overall aim being to equip students to analyse and evaluate political arguments which invoke the value of freedom.

30 credits

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

Duration

  • 1 year full-time
  • 2 years part-time

Entry requirements

We’re looking for outstanding and enthusiastic students for our courses.

You can apply to us with a good degree (first-class or 2:1 honours degree) in a relevant social science, arts and humanities, or related subject.

Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component.

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Apply

You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

Apply now

Contact

politics-admissions@sheffield.ac.uk
+44 114 222 1641

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

Explore this course:

    Dr Alasdair Cochrane

    Our masters courses are so exciting because you’ll have the opportunity to develop a genuine specialism in your area of study. As researchers it’s a real pleasure to share your latest work—in my case, on the political theory of animal rights—with students who are eager to learn and challenge!

    Dr Alasdair Cochrane
    Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics
    POLT99 Off