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PL50751: International relations theories

[Page last updated: 05 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: ES 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Essay (ES 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: The unit seeks to convey:
* an understanding of international relations theories (IR);
* develop a critical understanding of IR
* a distinct perspective on the range of IR theories (e.g. realism, constructivism, critical theory, the English School and IPE);
* an academic understanding of international politics from a political science standpoint;
* knowledge about the importance of major conceptual debates within the discipline (e.g. four debates in the 20th and 21st centuries, respectively);
* understand the role of IR theory through applied policy analysis (e.g. with reference to international organisations, international law, international politics)
* a theoretically informed perspective on international politics today and its future development (e.g. with regard to the role of the United Nations, regional division, changing concepts of military intervention, democracy and legitimate governance).

Learning Outcomes:
* develop substantive knowledge of competing international relations theories (IR);
* develop a critical understanding of theoretical and empirical approaches international relations theories;
* develop a thorough knowledge of key concepts for the analysis of international relations (e.g. security, war, the state, non-state actors, norms, order etc);
* develop the ability to critically analyse how politics play out in the international realm;
* understand that politics, policy and polities in world politics;
* be able to analyse international relations with reference to various IR theories;
* be able to apply IR theories with a view to studying the potential of legitimate, fair and democratic governance beyond the boundaries of modern nation-states.

* Advanced research skills (e.g. identifying, locating and exploiting a wide range of descriptive, evaluative and theoretical literature);
* Intellectual skills (conceptual, original and independent thinking, critical analysis, synthesis and reasoned argument);
* Assessment and judgement in relation to the soundness of competing theoretical arguments, including the reporting and assessing of qualitative and quantitative data;
* Generic and transferable skills related to the oral and written presentation of ideas;
* Skills of self-direction, self-evaluation and time management;
* Reading, discussion and presentation of theoretical material;
* Familiarisation with methodological tools and their meaning;
* Application of theoretical and methodological skills to case studies;
* Independent research skills (i.e. use of multiple sources such as archives, the IT, working with multiple media);
* Presentation of research using multi-media (e.g. overheads, PowerPoint);
* Presentation skills in speech and writing through active oral participation in class and written assignments.

Content: This unit teaches key approaches and methodologies in the discipline of international relations theory (IR). The unit seeks to generate a critical and comprehensive understanding of IR theory. Based on this knowledge, students will be able to both understand and explain the complexity of contemporary world politics. The unit includes detailed insights into the range of realist and constructivist approaches, regime theories, the English School, critical approaches, gender related perspectives and foreign policy analyses.

Programme availability:

PL50751 is a Designated Essential Unit on the following programmes:

Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies

PL50751 is Optional on the following programmes:

School of Management Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
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