MA in International Relations and Security

University of Westminster - Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities

Program Description

MA in International Relations and Security

University of Westminster - Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities

The question of security now dominates contemporary international politics. Issues such as the 'War on Terror', pre-emptive, self-defence and humanitarian intervention constitute seminal international concerns that have implications for all states and all peoples.

This course provides you with a detailed understanding of the nature of the contemporary security agenda, its origins, theoretical foundations and future trajectory. You will examine the theories of international security and those key security issues that have dominated security discourse in the post-Cold War era. You will also develop your analytical skills in order to facilitate understanding of the seminal contemporary security issues in a broader theoretical and historical framework.


The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course.

Core modules

Contemporary Controversies in International Security: Intervention Terrorism and Self-Defence

The end of the Cold War fundamentally altered the nature of international security, heralding the emergence of new issues and threats. In the contemporary era, the locus and nature of the paramount threats have altered, with intra-state conflicts and non-state actors characterising sources of insecurity. This module will provide you with a comprehensive overview of security discourse and practice since the end of the Cold War relating key issues such as humanitarian intervention, self-defence and terrorism to broader trends such as the evolving role of the UN, the challenges to international law and the new concern with intra-state crises.

Dissertation and Research Methods

You will receive supervised guidance and research methods training (through a series of research method workshops, the Dissertation induction and colloquium seminars, and individual Dissertation supervision sessions) to prepare you for your Master's Dissertation on an agreed research topic. You will begin identifying your Dissertation interests at the start of your studies when you will be able to discuss your ideas with different tutors who may direct you towards taking appropriate option modules that support your future research studies. This module must be taken either following the completion of all other modules or concurrently with modules in your second semester.

Theories of International Security

This module examines the contemporary discourse and debates surrounding the meaning of international security. The end of the Cold War fundamentally altered the structure of the international system and precipitated the emergence of a new security agenda. The new systemic dynamics and reconfigured security agenda led many to question the dominant theoretical frameworks previously applied to international security, and new security discourses – such as human security and critical security studies – have emerged to challenge established security theory. This module will examine the key tenets of the new theoretical frameworks and critically analyse their contribution to our understanding of ‘security’.

Option modules

You must choose four option modules from the following list (one of your options may be an approved free choice module hosted by another Masters course):

Controversies in the United States Foreign Policies and Processes

This module focuses on post-Cold War United States foreign and national security policies, and the US policy-making processes. It exposes you to competing interpretations of both policy and the policy-making process. For example, did the end of the Cold War or 9/11 and the onset of the so-called ‘war on terror’ mark new eras in US foreign and national security policy? And how important is the Congress and US public opinion in the making of US foreign policy? The module shows that US policies are rooted as much in domestic politics as they are in America’s perceptions of its interests in a changing international environment.

Democratic Politics: Key Debates and Issues

The module examines key issues and debates in democratic politics. It focuses on 20th-century democratic thought and discusses how key democratic ideas/ideals have been interpreted and re-interpreted to address dominant trends and changes in democratic societies. The module identifies some of the challenges confronting democratic theory and practice, and it examines differences between old and new democracies. Throughout the module special emphasis is given to the dynamics of a democratic institution and democratic renewal.

Development Theories, Policies and Practices

This module aims to provide a rounded understanding of key theories that inform thinking about development, especially since the Cold War, and an understanding of some of the most significant policy debates in international development today. It will provide a framework of ideas within which to understand current debates about development theories and give you a comprehensive understanding of major problems and policy debates within the field of development. You will also examine the application of major policies on developing countries; critically assess the social, political and economic impact of globalisation and liberalisation on the developing economies; and consider the changing relations between the state and civil society in the developing world.

Global Change: Toward a New Non-Western Order?

Your main focus throughout this module will be on the domestic and international politics of China and India, and on empirical examples of the global change characterised by the predicted rise of these two non-Western states. The aim will be to go beyond the news headlines to develop a scholarly and critical understanding of the emerging great powers. This offers you an opportunity to train in international relations and recognise, understand, and deal with the changes in the global political landscape.

Global Politics of Energy and Environmental Change*

This module aims at evaluating the relevance of contemporary debates in international relations and political economy to the study of energy security, energy markets and climate change. It examines the political history of the modern energy systems and the role played by states and major private and state-owned companies. In addition, it explores the role of global institutions and their impact on the interplay between energy security, energy markets and climate change. The module also critically assesses standard approaches to the issue of energy security by focusing on the problem of energy poverty and resilience.

*Subject to approval

Globalisation, Democratisation and Post-Authoritarian Transition

This module investigates the nature and process of ‘transition’ in formerly authoritarian (mainly communist) countries since the beginning of the 1990s. The concept of transition will be explored in a global context, looking at different regions’ particular versions and legacies of authoritarianism. Drawing on comparative politics and international political economy, shifts in the roles of state, civil society and economy will be investigated, as will their political and governmental implications.

Governance of the European Union

You will explore the EU as a polity and as a system of governance. The module offers a practice-led survey of governance issues in the EU, informed by relevant theoretical approaches. You will cover the legal framework of the EU and the roles of a member state and institutional actors in its decision-making processes; questions of institutional efficiency, accountability and the wider legitimacy of the EU; and characterisations of the EU as a polity and as a global actor.

Islam and Politics in the Middle East

The module focuses on current debates on Middle Eastern politics from a number of perspectives, with a focus on the role of Islam. You will be introduced to a variety of theoretical approaches to studying the modern Middle East, to relevant perspectives in International Relations, to selected case studies and various contributions to the debate from inside and outside the Arab world. A multidisciplinary approach will be adopted, where you will be steered through the fields of comparative politics, Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, and social and political theory so that at the end you will have achieved, in addition to familiarity with key issues in modern Middle Eastern politics, an appreciation of the theoretical perspectives being covered. In the process, you will be encouraged to develop a critical understanding of the workings of the region and challenged to assess the explanations given and provide your own explanations.

Policy, Governance and Democracy: International Perspectives

The module explores and compares a range of approaches to analysing and evaluating governance and policy, assessing the understandings of democracy that they imply. These approaches are introduced through a range of case studies relating to policy making in contrasting national and international contexts. You will explore the challenges of defining and delivering policy across a range of international, national and sub-national contexts, and reflect on the implications of these challenges for democracy.

Postcolonial International Relations: Theories and Concepts

The module will introduce the students to new theories and different ways of looking at the core concepts of international relations and enable them to utilise these to understand the transformations in global politics brought about by the rise of non-Western states. Key concepts and key issues from international relations, especially those salient for West-nonWest relations and for the Global South in general, will be examined from different critical perspectives.

Regional Dimensions of Energy Security*

Since the 2000s the global energy landscape that took shape in the last two decades of the twentieth century has been altered due to major geopolitical and geo-economical shifts, the rise of new players in the energy sector and technological breakthroughs. The aim of this module is to analyse the impact that these developments had on the energy security of key producing and consuming countries. It will analyse these problems by focusing on change and continuity in the decision-making processes of state and non-state actors. Countries covered include the US, the EU, the Asian rising powers, Russia and specific case studies from the Middle East, Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

*Subject to approval

The European Union as an International Actor

You will explore the European Union’s international role: as an international trade partner; in its evolving competencies in foreign policy; in its dealings with NATO, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and its member states over defence and security issues; in its relations with accession states and other ‘third states’; and in its self-image and values as an international actor. The module offers a practice-led survey of the EU’s external activities, informed by relevant theories.

The Politics of Global Complexity: Rethinking Governance, Power and Agency

This module introduces you to the theoretical frameworks and practices of the politics of global complexity, the debates that have been triggered, and the way those complexity understandings have developed, especially in the 1990s and 2000s. Emphasis is placed upon the conceptual frameworks deployed in understanding system effects on political, economic and social life and how these enable us to rethink democratic governance, power and agency. While focusing on conceptual frameworks, this module also engages with how complexity is reflected in new approaches to policy, and external stakeholders will provide input to the module (for example, the Social Market Foundation, Demos, the New Local Government Network and the Foreign Policy Centre).

The State, Politics and Violence

You will explore the main 20th- and 21st-century theories of the state and examine the different approaches to the phenomenon of violence and its causes. The module examines the challenges arising from globalisation and will help you to grasp the new forms of antagonisms that have evolved in the new world order emerging after the collapse of the Soviet model.

Associated careers

This course will provide you with numerous key skills and knowledge that will prepare you for your future career in a variety of different fields. Our graduates hold posts within various international and national government departments and organisations. Many have also gone on to study for Doctorates within the Department and at other universities around the world.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated January 30, 2018
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2019
1 - 2 years
Part time
Full time
6,500 GBP
Home/EU: £6,500 - Overseas: £11,500
United Kingdom - London, England
Start date : Sept. 2019
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Sept. 2019
United Kingdom - London, England
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info