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MA|Postgraduate Taught

International Relations

Entry year
Entry requirements
2.2 (minimum 55%)
3 years (Part-time)
1 year (Full-time)
Places available
30 (Part Time)
30 (Full Time)

This programme provides a foundation in the academic discipline of International Relations - the array of ‘real world’ practices and problems that produce world politics. Having introduced the theoretical and methodological components which facilitate our study of the field, the aim is to use these tools to examine, explain and understand the issues and processes that make up our world: looking, for example, at war; diplomacy; arms control and arms proliferation; global health policy; humanitarian intervention; international development policy; race and legacies of colonialism; human displacement; inequality and injustice. While still attending closely and consistently to traditional issues of world politics such as armed conflict and negotiations, it offers a significantly broader education in international politics by examining contemporary issues of international politics from a multitude of perspectives, both traditional and more critical.

Students are thus able to balance engagement with core content in the field of International Relations with active development of their own areas of specialisation as they progress through choosing elective courses according to their own interests. Among the central aims of the programme is the provision of high-quality methodological and research design training needed to conduct independent research projects to an academically accredited standard. This culminates in the final dissertation stage of the programme. Recent students' dissertation topics have included: Jihadi use of social media; Russian foreign and security policy after the Ukraine conflict; Extreme right-wing terrorism and the internet; Russian private military actors; EU defence policy after BREXIT; Baltic security and the future of NATO; Paramilitarism and the Northern Irish border; Indian defence and security in relation to rising China; The limits of ‘truth and reconciliation’ in conflict resolution.

Taught by world-leading experts in areas such as migration and asylum, border security, visual culture, conflict and international security, political leadership and international ethics.

International Relations highlights

Internationally Renowned Experts

This programme is taught by world-leading experts in areas such as migration and asylum, border security, conflict and security, visual culture and international ethics.

The programme provides an opportunity to study international relations in a location where communal conflicts have a clear international aspect in both their perpetuation and resolution. Northern Ireland remains a model of conflict resolution and peace building across the world and students benefit from the School and University’s wider expertise in terrorism and political violence, conflict resolution, security studies, border studies and Irish and Northern Irish politics.

Our students also benefit from a vibrant interdisciplinary research culture within the School, including insights from History, Anthropology, and Philosophy.

Student Experience

All modules on our programme are taught by research-active academics who are world leaders in their specific fields of International Relations. For example, members of staff are currently conducting research on war, trade, security, diplomacy, conflict, migration, intervention, terrorism, violence, climate change, human rights, and international institutions.

International Relations at Queen’s benefits from a vibrant interdisciplinary research culture within the School, including insights from History, Anthropology and Philosophy as well as engagement with academics across the wider University in fields such law, sociology and social policy, management and computing (for example, in collaboration for the study of cybersecurity threats).

Queen’s is ranked 14th in the UK for research quality (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020).

World Class Facilities

We also often host guest lectures and are closely affiliated with the The Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s. This Institute aims to tackle major global problems by bringing world-leading academics and experts together. The Institute has welcomed a number of high-profile speakers from the political arena to the University over the past year, including former United States President Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Hilary Clinton (who was awarded an honorary degree by the University and who is now our Chancellor), and Speaker of the UK House of Commons, John Bercow MP.

Our students benefit from opportunities to attend and present in international conferences hosted at Queen’s such as the Annual meeting of the Conflict Research Society (2022) or the biennial meeting of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (2022), both drawing the participation of internationally renowned experts.

Industry Links

You will be studying timely, relevant and pressing issues that will be ‘live’ throughout the programme (e.g. BREXIT & EU negotiations; migration and refugees; conflict and war; climate change developments). A deep understanding and critical engagement with such contemporary issues is sought after by both local and global industries, from both the private and the public sectors.

Many academics on the programme are engaged in QPOL (Queen’s Policy Engagement) – this is the ‘front door’ for public policy engagement at Queen’s University, supporting academics and policymakers in sharing evidence-based research and ideas on the major social, cultural and economic challenges facing society regionally, nationally and beyond.

Career Development

Queen’s is ranked in the top 170 in the world for graduate prospects (QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2022).

Ranked 15th in the UK for graduate prospects (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023).

Politics was ranked joint 1st in the UK for Research Intensity (Complete University Guide 2021).

Student Experience

Queen’s is ranked in the top 75 universities in Europe for Teaching Excellent (Times Higher Education, 2019).

16% of the Queen’s student population are international students (Queen’s Planning Office, 2023).

Queen’s ranked 18 in the world for international outlook (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023).

Queen’s currently has over 3,000 international students from 85 different countries.

Student Testimonials

Course Structure

The programme has three different components: core modules, elective modules and a research dissertation.

Core Modules
To acquire foundational knowledge and understanding in International Relations, students will take four core modules covering the evolution of International Relations as a discipline, issues of order, conflict and governance, and the trends toward globalisation, regionalisation and devolution.

Elective Modules
The programme provides students with a number of elective modules that will enable them to specialise in areas of interest, build on foundational knowledge, and develop focused expertise.

Research Dissertation
The research dissertation project is developed over the course of the programme through formal training in methodology and research design and individual supervision sessions with an academic subject-expert. Students will spend the final stage of the course researching and writing, with the continued support of their supervisor.

Core Modules

Core Modules students must take:

HAP7001 - Approaches to Research Design (Semester 1)
This module aims to introduce key approaches to research design, while also introducing some of the contemporary debates in research in the social sciences and humanities.

Students will have a high degree of choice across workshops, enabling them to tailor the module content to their pathway of student and personal research goals.

PAI7026 - Theories and Issues in International Relations (Semester 1)
The module will examine some of the key theoretical approaches and debates that have defined the evolution of international politics as a discipline (e.g. Realism, Liberalism, the English School, Critical Theory, post-structuralism, feminism and constructivism). Students will explore the underlying assumptions of each theory, compare, and contrast each theoretical approach, and examine the relevance of each theory through contemporary issues in international politics.

PAI7030 - International Political Economy (Semester 2)
This module introduces students to theories and concepts in International Political Economy related to the exercise of power and authority. It then goes to analyse a number of key topics and issues relating to the power and politics of economic organisation and management.

Students must also take one of the following modules:

PAI7007 - Global Terrorism (Semester 2)
This module aims to equip students with an understanding of the key discourse and examples as they pertain to contemporary terrorist challenges and responses at a global level.

PAI7051 – Contemporary Security (semester 1)
The module will examine the key theoretical approaches and practical issues and debates that have defined the evolution of Security Studies. They will engage the changing definitions of security and approaches to understanding security. It will address both ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ security and the ways in which these are increasingly connected in both theory and practice.

Elective Modules

Student who do not take PAI7051 Contemporary Security should choose one course from the list below:

PAI7099 The UK and Europe
This module offers students the opportunity to address core issues in Politics via a focus on the UK’s relationship with Europe in a time of flux. It is built around three broad themes: understanding, negotiating and delivering Brexit.

PAI7103 Global Development
This module will cover cutting-edge debates on the contemporary form and function of the policies, theories, and practices that comprise the field of Global Development. Interdisciplinary in nature, this module draws from scholarly fields across: International Political Economy; Human Geography; Business Management; International Relations, and Development Studies.

Student who take PAI7051 Contemporary Security should choose one course from the list below:

PAI7021 - The Politics and Institutions of Northern Ireland
The module explores contemporary developments in Northern Irish politics and discusses institutional design and politics in a changing Northern Ireland. It addresses topics such as the development of Northern Ireland’s consociational model of government, how institutions like the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive perform their functions, how parties and identity shape politics and voting behaviour, North-South relations after Brexit, and Northern Ireland’s place in Europe.

PAI7027 - Conflict Intervention
The module will evaluate the changing nature of intervention, from unilateral forceful intervention to multi-lateral intervention, to humanitarian intervention, and third party mediation. Focusing on state, intergovernmental and non-governmental actors’ interventions, it will look at various conflict intervention practices in all phases of conflict from conflict prevention to post-conflict peacebuilding.

PAI7032 – Gender and Politics
This module analyses the link between gender, politics and democracy in a comparative context. It begins by discussing approaches to research gender in social science, and specifically in political science. The module incorporates insights from current research on the subject by well-known scholars and offers an opportunity to students to study the subject in detail and to participate in the activities of the Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics.

PAI7050 - Ethnic Conflict and Consensus: the power of institutions
This module examines concepts of ethnicity, national identity, multiculturalism as they relate to contemporary conflict. The module introduces students to debates about the construction and salience of ethnicity as a source of conflict. We conclude by critically examining how these debates inform approaches to ethnic conflict management and which implications they have for practical solutions of ethnic conflicts.

PAI7052 - Institutions and Politics of the EU
The module explores the structure and institutions of the European Union (EU) as well as selected theoretical approaches to the study of European integration. It examines in detail the nature and roles of the EU’s main institutions and provides a critical assessment of selected EU policies and political challenges facing the EU.

PAI7058 – From Cold War to Cold Peace. The Transformation of the International Order (1979-1999)

PAI7059 – Freedom and Modernity
The modern era is distinguished by the emergence of divergent interpretations of the nature of freedom, individual, social, and political. This course is devoted to exploring the nature of these different conceptions and the theories of freedom associated with them.

PAI7100 – Engaging Citizens in Democratic Institutions
This module explores the relationship between citizens and political decision-making in contemporary democracies. It will critically examine the changing nature of citizen engagement with democratic decision-making before considering ways of supplementing conventional processes and institutions with greater opportunities for citizen participation. Students will engage in debates about different practical forms of participatory and deliberative democracy as well as learn about how these consultation processes are designed and implemented.

PHL7057 Social Injustice
This module examines the problem of social injustice in contemporary, plural societies. The first half of the module explores some of the main philosophical assessments of social injustice.

The second half of the module discusses the practical implications of both social injustice and its potential solutions.

*This list of elective modules may vary from year to year.

To enable students to develop their particular area of specialism, facilitate independent learning and instil a variety of skills such as project management, detailed analysis and self-motivation, students on the MA pathway must also write a dissertation of no more than 15,000 words.

People teaching you

Senior Lecturer

Dr Johnson’s research focuses on irregular migration and asylum seekers, border security, and the practices of resistance, solidarity and protest of non-citizens. She is interested in developing new understandings of mobility and non-citizenship, and particularly in new methods for engaging with these issues. Email:


Dr Jack Taggart is a critical political economist. His work examines both the shifting politics of international development and the contested nature of contemporary global governance. Email:


Dr Jamie Hagen's research is at the intersection of gender, security studies and queer theory. She researches LGBTQ inclusion in Women, Peace and Security practices as well as queer analysis of security studies more broadly. She is Co-Director of the Centre for Gender in Politics. Email:


Dr Jamie Pow's research focuses on the way citizens interact with democratic decision-making, including through elections, mini-publics and referendums. He has a particular interest in the politics of Northern Ireland and recent projects have explored public opinion towards Brexit. Email:


Dr Mike Bourne’s research focuses on a wide range of security issues. He is interested in critical security theories, and the relations of materiality, technology, and violence. His work has engaged issues of arms control (from small arms to nuclear weapons), illicit trafficking, border control, and technology development. Email:

Senior Lecturer

Dr Peter McLoughlin works in the broad field of contemporary political history in Ireland and Northern Ireland, with a particular focus on the Northern Ireland problem and peace process. Email:

Programme Convenor

Dr Berger Hobson’s research lies in the realms of international security and conflict studies. She focuses on violent non-state actors, their organisational dynamics and leadership personalities and in the specific conflicts of Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine and more broadly. Email:

Senior Lecturer

Dr Shane Brighton researches the field of relations between armed conflict, identity and society. He has written on the philosophy and sociology of war, terrorism and counterterrorism and contemporary strategic debates. This work has particular relevance for understanding how societal dynamics relate to armed forces and foreign, defence and security policy. Email:


Dr Andreasson’s research is in comparative politics, the political economy of development and postcolonial politics, focussing on Southern Africa and the USA. He is currently researching the role of international oil companies in energy transitions and the future of fossil fuels. Email:


Dr Timofey Agarin is interested in relationships between the state and society, interrelations between the majority and the minority, issues relating to non-discrimination in the wider Europe and the impact of European integration broadly conceived on societal change and dynamics in political institutions. Email:


Dr Maria Deiana's research deploys feminist and other critical perspectives to examine the interrelated issues of war, peace, security. Her monograph titled 'Gender and Citizenship: Promises of Peace in Post-Dayton Bosnia & Herzegovina' was published by Palgrave in 2018. She is Co-Director of the Centre for Gender in Politics. Email:


Professor David Phinnemore’s research interests are focused on European integration and cover in particular processes of EU treaty reform and their impact on the EU, the political dynamics underpinning EU enlargement and the EU’s relations with European non-member states. Email:


Professor John Barry's research interests are in green moral and political theory, particularly green republicanism; heterodox, green and post-growth political economy; the politics and political economy of sustainability transitions; the politics of climate breakdown and the political economy of low carbon energy transitions. Email:


Professor Muiris MacCarthaigh's research covers a variety of themes within and between political science, public policy and public administration. His current projects are concerned with how governments can best address the social impacts of Covid-19, the effects of technological advancement on public governance, and the evolution of public sector reforms. Email:

Teaching Times

Teaching takes place at a variety of times from 9-8pm Monday – Friday.

Learning and Teaching

Students will be taught through a combination of individual supervision, lectures and seminars involving small group discussions and analytical exercises of various sorts. These can involve simulations, looking at original policy documents, theory application and analysis of film, television, and other popular culture items, book reports, alongside academic resources and analysis from think-tanks and other independent sources. Assessments could include individual and group work, participation in class debates and presentations, writing short policy recommendations and longer research essays In addition, students will have access to a range of visiting speakers, academic research seminars and other events of direct relevance to the programme such as international conferences and roundtables.

  • Cognitive and Transferable Skills

    At the end of the programme learners will have the capacity to be self reflective and practice sound judgement, and will possess the necessary skills to enhance their ability, think critically and pursue independent research.

    The Postgraduate Masters in International Relations provides postgraduate learners with the opportunity to develop generic analytical, reasoning, literacy and communication skills.

  • Knowledge and Understanding

    Students will have the opportunity to acquire knowledge and understanding about the history of the discipline and knowledge of its specific concepts, issues and vocabulary. Students will enhance their knowledge of the general methodological and theoretical approaches to key issue areas of the discipline. Students will be able to solve problems, process and prioritise a wide variety of information, and express arguments and positions in oral and written form.

  • Specific Skills

    The MA in International Relations provides postgraduate learners with the opportunity to develop a broad understanding of contemporary issues in world events, and the ability to analyse, explain, and even predict the behaviour of various actors in the system. For example, our graduates will be able to use their newly acquired analytical, reasoning and communication skills to discuss the Russian invasion to Ukraine, the effects of Climate Change on international cooperation, the role Facebook and Google play in determining states' behaviours, what led to the rise of violent actors such as Isis and could it happen again and more.


Assessment is continuous throughout the course of study.

  • • Policy Briefing Papers
    • Learning Journals
    • Literature reviews
    • Portfolios
    • Written essays
    • Book reports
    • Film analysis
    • In-class presentations
    • In-class discussion leading
    • In-class debates




The information below is intended as an example only, featuring module details for the current year of study (2023/24). Modules are reviewed on an annual basis and may be subject to future changes – revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year.

  • Year 1

    Core Modules

    Dissertation (60 credits)

    Optional Modules

    Social Injustice (20 credits)
    Global Ireland (20 credits)
    Global Development (20 credits)
    Global Terrorism (20 credits)
    Gender and Politics (20 credits)
    The UK and Europe (20 credits)

Entrance requirements


Normally a strong 2.2 Honours degree (with minimum of 55%) or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in a Social Sciences, Humanities or Arts subject, or a 2.2 Honours degree (with minimum of 55%) or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in any subject with relevant professional experience.

The University's Recognition of Prior Learning Policy provides guidance on the assessment of experiential learning (RPEL). For more information, please visit

Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible and ideally no later than 16th August 2024 for courses which commence in late September. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

International Students

Our country/region pages include information on entry requirements, tuition fees, scholarships, student profiles, upcoming events and contacts for your country/region. Use the dropdown list below for specific information for your country/region.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

  • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
  • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.



Career Prospects


All of the MA programmes offered in the School provide our graduates with the skills to pursue a wide range of careers in the private, public and voluntary sectors.

Employment after the Course

International Relations graduates go on to an extraordinarily broad range of careers. Typical examples include:
• International Non-Governmental Organisation roles (humanitarian, conflict resolution, environmental, development etc)
• media and journalism
• government, diplomacy and international civil service roles
• military and intelligence careers
• political risk analysis
• political research, lobbying and consultancy roles with an international focus
• think-tank research
• academic careers in IR and cognate disciplines
• business roles involving significant transnational trade or operations
• International Non-Governmental Organisations including: humanitarian, conflict resolution, environmental, development etc.

Graduate Plus/Future Ready Award for extra-curricular skills

In addition to your degree programme, at Queen's you can have the opportunity to gain wider life, academic and employability skills. For example, placements, voluntary work, clubs, societies, sports and lots more. So not only do you graduate with a degree recognised from a world leading university, you'll have practical national and international experience plus a wider exposure to life overall. We call this Graduate Plus/Future Ready Award. It's what makes studying at Queen's University Belfast special.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £7,300
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £7,300
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £9,250
EU Other 3 £21,500
International £21,500

1EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled status, will be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB will be charged the GB fee.

2 EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI are eligible for NI tuition fees.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Additional course costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.

Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £75 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges.

Students undertaking a period of work placement or study abroad, as either a compulsory or optional part of their programme, should be aware that they will have to fund additional travel and living costs.

If a programme includes a major project or dissertation, there may be costs associated with transport, accommodation and/or materials. The amount will depend on the project chosen. There may also be additional costs for printing and binding.

Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen.

There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

How do I fund my study?

The Department for the Economy will provide a tuition fee loan of up to £6,500 per NI / EU student for postgraduate study. Tuition fee loan information.

A postgraduate loans system in the UK offers government-backed student loans of up to £11,836 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. Criteria, eligibility, repayment and application information are available on the UK government website.

More information on funding options and financial assistance - please check this link regularly, even after you have submitted an application, as new scholarships may become available to you.

International Scholarships

Information on scholarships for international students, is available at



How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Apply now

When to Apply

The deadline for applications is normally 30th June 2021. In the event that any programme receives a high volume of applications, the university reserves the right to close the application portal earlier than 30th June deadline. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Entry Portal (DAP) against the programme application page.

Terms and Conditions

The terms and conditions that apply when you accept an offer of a place at the University on a taught programme of study.
Queen's University Belfast Terms and Conditions.

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