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Politics (MA)

MA|Postgraduate Taught


Entry year
Entry requirements
1 year (Full Time)
3 years (Part Time)
Places available
30 (Full Time)
30 (Part Time)
This course is now closed to applications for September 2021. If you are interested in September 2022 entry, please register your interest.
  • Overview

    The MA Politics is a broad-based programme, offering students a good grounding in the discipline of political science. This MA gives students the opportunity to engage with core theories, concepts, issues and debates in politics. Students may tailor their programme to their own interests by their choice of optional modules and dissertation, from Irish politics and European politics to political theory and comparative politics, which build on the strengths of the school's research. The masters offers a unique perspective on multi-level politics in Europe, at the regional, national, and European levels and on the policy issues of the time, including energy transitions and climate change, ethnic conflict, gender, and democratic legitimacy.

    The aim of the MA in Politics is to deepen students' understanding of important contemporary issues in political studies through the enhancement of students' analytical skills, research and writing talent, and capacity for utilising theoretical approaches. These are all important transferrable skills, highly valued in the job market. The programme is of particular interest to those wishing to know more about Irish politics (North and South), European politics, territorial politics, political conflict, and political theory.

    Belfast is a globally significant location and Politics is about conflict, debate and the contest of ideas, making Belfast, where such things are part of everyday reality, an ideal place to study the subject. Northern Ireland is viewed as a model of conflict resolution and peace building across the world.

    Students can directly benefit from the School and University’s wider expertise in political theory, comparative politics, Irish and Northern Irish politics, gender and environmental politics, security studies, border studies, terrorism and political violence.

    Politics highlights

    Students have the opportunity to visit Brussels (part-funded by the School) including the European Parliament, European Commission, Human Rights NGOs, NATO etc.

    Career Development

    • The MA Politics combines a grounding in key contemporary issues and in-depth methods training, with a lot of flexibility for students. Students unsure of which precise direction they wish their career to take will benefit from the fact that the MA in Politics allows for a generalist course of study alongside excellent careers support both within the School and the University at large. The MA in Politics provides students with the opportunity to engage in a wide range of active research networks and groups on diverse themes, including gender studies, Irish politics, political theory/philosophy, political economy, and environmental policies. Students can also choose to specialise through their choice of options and dissertation topic in Irish politics, political theory, European politics, or comparative politics.

    World Class Facilities

    • • Queen’s was ranked 3rd out of 199 universities worldwide and 2nd out of 44 UK universities for our Graduate School. • Queen’s is ranked in the top 75 universities in Europe for Teaching Excellent (Times Higher Education, 2019) • Queen’s is ranked 22nd in the world for international outlook (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020). • Politics was ranked joint 1st in the UK for Research Intensity (Complete University Guide 2021). • Queen’s currently has over 3,000 international students from 85 different countries. • Queen’s was ranked 2nd out of 199 universities worldwide for satisfaction with social facilities. • 11% of the Queen’s student population are international students. • Queen’s is ranked 1st in the UK for entrepreneurial impact (Octopus Ventures, 2019).

    Internationally Renowned Experts

    • Students benefit from intensive teaching by a wide and varied range of political scientists and theorists with strong publishing profiles and international reputations in their areas of expertise. 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. This includes a Brexit Clinic, with involves Queen’s experts providing insight and analysis into the various facets of Brexit. Many of our experts in this area act as advisors to the UK and NI governments, particularly in relation to the Irish border and the backstop, as the only land border between the UK and EU.

    Student Experience

    • There are many practical elements embedded in the programme. Examples include the practical modules such as Engaging Citizens in Democratic Institutions – throughout this module there are visits to the City Council, NI Assembly etc. There is also a trip to Brussels (part-funded by the School) in which students visit for example the European Parliament, European Commission, Human Rights NGOs, NATO etc. We also use a range of assessment techniques, such as writing essays, blogs and policy briefs, where students are presented with a problem and are tasked to come up with practical solutions.
  • Course content

    Course Structure

    Students take six taught modules, including to compulsory modules in the first semester, which introduce them to the core of the discipline and teach the skills necessary to conduct research. They must also complete the Dissertation module. Each taught module is worth 20 credits. The Dissertation is worth 60 credits.

    Course DetailsThe MA offers students with the possibility to study a wide range of topics or specialise in Irish politics, political theory, European politics, or comparative politics:
    • Irish Politics modules: PAI7022 The Politics of the Republic of Ireland, PAI7021 The Politics and Institutions of Northern Ireland, & PAI7102 Global Ireland
    • Political Theory modules: PAI7098 Democratic Challenges & PHL7057 Social Injustice
    • European Politics modules: PAI7099 The UK and Europe & PAI7052 Institutions and Policies of the EU
    • Comparative Politics modules: PAI7032 Gender, Politics and Democracy, PAI7038 Theories in Comparative Politics, PAI7050 Ethnic Conflict and Consensus, & PAI7100 Engaging Citizens in Democratic Institutions
    Other modules are available in the list below
    OverviewThe programme has three different components: Core modules, Elective modules, and an MA dissertation.
    Semester 1 (Autumn)To acquire foundational knowledge and understanding in Politics, students will take core modules introducing research methods for the study of politics, as well as core issues in the comparative study of territorial politics (devolution, regionalism, and federalism). Students also choose an optional module.


    HAP7001 - Approaches to Research Design
    This module has two key purposes:
    First it introduces students to some important themes in the philosophy of the social sciences. Second, it develops students' skills in research design through an examination of selected qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. In doing so it addresses key issues in the design and preparation of the dissertation.

    PAI7101 Comparative Territorial Politics
    This module offers students the opportunity to address core issues in Politics via the comparative study of federations and regionalised and devolved states. Across Europe and beyond, territorial reforms have transformed the shape, governance, and politics of the traditional nation-states that dominated the post-war era. These changes have often, though not always, been the result of increasing demands for territorial autonomy and increases in regional identity among voters.
    Comparative Territorial Politics explores this territorial challenge across a range of topics, including multi-level governance, nationalism and constitutional politics, political parties and elections across levels, territorial finance, and multi-level policy challenges.


    Students must also choose ONE optional module in Semester 1 from:

    PAI7022 - The Politics of the Republic of Ireland
    This module explores and analyses the political development of independent Ireland in historical context. It combines a historical and thematic approach to provide students with a sophisticated understanding of the politics of independent Ireland. It introduces students to key debates on the Irish revolution, Irish historical revisionism, and the foundations of the new state. Particular themes include partition and its impact, the achievement of stability and order, negotiations of identity, problems of modernisation, party politics and their dynamics, Ireland’s shifting place in European and world politics, and the changing nature of Irish politics and society.

    PAI7098 - Democratic Challenges
    This module aims to identify and explore the central challenges facing democratic politics today. Long standing worries about falling rates of formal political participation, and about the responsiveness of democratic institutions have been accentuated by the recent rise of populist movements in Europe and the US. The Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump raise a number of pressing questions about the future of democratic politics: are we witnessing the beginning of the decline of traditional party systems? Has the rise of social media as a source of information and means of political communication enhanced democratic deliberation or encouraged extremism? Can existing institutions adequately cope with popular discontent? This module aims to draw on both theoretical and empirical political science approaches to explore the challenges facing contemporary democracies. The precise topics covered may vary from year to year, but examples include: different conceptions of political freedom and control, the impact of social media on political deliberation, the concept of populism and charismatic leadership, understanding voting behaviour, The role of parties and party systems, understanding different forms of political participation, and the design of democratic institutions.

    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, drawing on the expertise of Queen’s staff on Brexit and on the special place of Northern Ireland in the Brexit process. The assignments are designed to promote practical skills, focused on analysing a fast-changing political issue with a set of blog posts and a policy brief.

    PAI7038 – Theories in Comparative Politics
    The module is divided into four parts. The first is an overview of the field, placing it in the context of the evolution of political science since World War II. We review the particular assumptions and questions that have marked thinking about politics from the 1950s, and how these have influenced the evolution of the discipline of comparative politics. This section also includes some of the fundamental critiques of the way the discipline has evolved. Three illustrations are highlighted: the legacies of Marx, Durkheim and Weber. The second part looks closely at the rational choice theories that mark the fundamental orientation of the field. This is followed, in the third part, by a discussion of the logic and process of comparison according to the tradition of political institutionalism. The fourth section emphasizes critical debates on political culture and state/society relations. Given the enormous scope and breadth of the field, we cannot cover all the debates or even probe a selected few to their depths. Therefore, students are cautioned that our readings and discussions are a beginning—and far from conclusive. We will look at the basic approaches and controversies surrounding the following topics: the political system and the state (and the system-state debate); (political) culture; development (with the challenges from underdevelopment and dependency); and the ‘new institutionalism.'

    PAI9099 - Dissertation research commences.
    Semester 2 (Spring)Students choose AT LEAST TWO modules from the following list:

    PAI7052 - Institutions and Policies of the EU
    This 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 (i.e. Commission, European Parliament, Council of the EU, European Council, and Court of Justice), and of the role of national institutions in the EU. It provides a critical assessment of selected EU policies and political challenges facing the EU. In doing so the module explores the decision- and policy-making dynamics within the EU as well as some of the most pressing themes in European governance, including Brexit.

    PAI7021 - The Politics and Institutions of Northern Ireland
    The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement put an end to armed conflict in Northern Ireland and set up institutions designed to govern a society and polity divided along unionist and nationalist lines. As the experience of Northern Ireland shows, governing in such a context is not easy. Stability and cross-community agreement can be hard to reach, which has occasionally led to the suspension of Northern Ireland’s institutions. Yet these institutions have endured despite repeated crises and are heralded by some as examples of post-conflict governance.
    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.

    PAI7032 - Gender, Politics and Democracy
    This module analyses the link between gender, politics and democracy in a comparative context. It begins by discussing approaches to researching gender in a social science context. It takes political representation as the core theoretical prism through which patterns of gender presence and interest representation are explored. It takes numerical representation as a starting point, and discusses the role of parties, electoral systems and gender quotas in addressing women's under-representation in politics. The module also interrogates the issue of an increased presence of women in legislative office producing gender-sensitive politics.

    PAI7100 – Engaging citizens in democratic institutions
    This module explores the relationship between citizens and political decision-making in contemporary democracies. Around the world, conventional democratic processes and institutions have come under strain. Decreasing levels of voter turnout, low levels of trust in politicians and political institutions, and declining membership of traditional organisations such as political parties are just some expressions of a growing gap between citizens and decision-makers. This module 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. We will consider two broad approaches. First, the module will introduce students to well-established forms of citizen participation, such as traditional consultations, public meetings and referendums. Using examples from around the world, it will then introduce students to a range of democratic innovations designed to engage citizens in consultation processes differently, such as participatory budgeting and deliberative mini-publics. 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. The objectives are to enable students to engage critically in discussions about citizen engagement and public participation and to develop their public engagement skills. Throughout the module there will be an emphasis on connecting academic research with democratic practice: where possible students will hear directly from practitioners and will have the opportunity to attend and observe real-world forms of citizen engagement.

    PHL 7057 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. Students will first be introduced to key critiques of liberal theory as a response to the structural disadvantages associated with difference (including race, gender, sexual-orientation, religion, and class, among others). Here, liberal policy approaches to difference (including toleration, uniform treatment, and non-discrimination), will be critiqued alongside liberal modes of justification for their failure to deal appropriately with the disadvantages suffered by affected groups.
    The second half of the module discusses the practical implications of both social injustice and its potential solutions. Precise topics vary year-on-year, but may include discussion of some of the following questions: Is unfettered freedom of speech a necessary feature of or a hindrance in the fight for social equality? What role does historical injustice play in the ongoing oppression of marginalised groups? Is the recognition of difference the appropriate response to cultural domination? How has social media changed the shape of social justice movements? Is civil disobedience a legitimate response to injustice, and must it always be ‘civil’ in nature?

    AND Students choose ONE module from the following list (if necessary):
    PAI7102 Global Ireland
    The module would explore Ireland’s international experience, from the past to present, with a focus on three key relationships: that with Britain, with America and with Europe. Through multi-method research, it would explore common themes of empire, colonialism, emigration, diaspora identities, economic development, and culture. It would examine the intersection of these at key moments in Ireland’s recent past such as the 1990s, when the Celtic Tiger economy, peace process, and global popularity of U2 and Riverdance all demonstrated the importance of the Irish diaspora. It would also involve comparative examination of different diaspora experiences: how the Northern Ireland conflict affected the Irish in Britain; how Irish-America contributed to that conflict, but also its resolution; and the impact of less notable diaspora groups like the Ulster-Scots in the US or the Orange Order in Canada and Scotland. The course will look at how Irish foreign policy priorities continue to be shaped by its colonial past, particularly its role in the UN and peace-keeping operations, but question the integrity of its claimed neutrality in recent conflicts. It will reflect on the implications of globalisation and the role of the “New Irish” and other identities in Ireland that are now reshaping its global image. The module will conclude by considering the challenges of contemporary geopolitics, including climate change, and where Brexit and Covid have both threatened the openness of Irish economic model, and Joe Biden’s election might be considered the last hurrah for Irish-America, whilst a Chinese century unfolds.

    PAI7030 – International Political Economy
    This module provides a themed examination of how power and politics relate to the changing and evolving structures of the world economy, through the lens of the sub or inter-discipline, known as International Political Economy. International Political Economy (IPE) has become the accepted academic term for the analysis of the exercise of economic power and the politics of economic policy and capitalist development placed in a global context. 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 organization and management including: the future of United States supremacy; Rising powers – The BRICs; the politics of money and finance; development; and Global Energy Politics.

    PAI7036 - The Politics and Political Economy of Energy and Low Carbon Energy Transitions
    This module will take as it’s starting the concept of ‘Carbon Literacy’, its definition, measurement and development. Students will study policy making, governance and institutional structures at International, national, regional and local levels through the selection of relevant case studies. They will gain an understanding of the spectrum of carbon literacy and the challenges of identifying knowledge and capacity building needs for stakeholders, policy and decision makers at all levels, from global to local and individual.

    PAI7050 - Ethnic Conflict and Consensus
    This module examines concepts of ethnicity, national identity and multiculturalism as they relate to contemporary conflict. Students will be provided with a detailed and critical analysis of the political and constitutional options in societies beset by ethnic conflict, with particular emphasis being given to mechanisms directed at and institutions involved in management of and accommodation after the conflict. By examining theories of ethnic conflict, the module introduces students to issues underlying conflicts across the globe including nation building and rights of minorities, territorialisation of ethnicity, partition and secession management, and kin-state involvement as well as socio-political integration as mechanisms to avert and/or resolve ethnic conflicts.

    PAI9099 - Dissertation research continues.
    SummerPAI9099 - Dissertation (15,000 words maximum)

    People teaching you

    Programme Convenor

    Dr Elodie Fabre’s research focuses on the relationship between political parties, territorial politics and citizen engagement. Her project on citizen engagement and regional democracy explores whether regionalism has provided an opportunity to develop new forms of citizen engagement. Email:

    Teaching Times

    mostly afternoon and evening

    Career Prospects

    All of the Masters 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. MA Politics graduates are now working in careers with local, devolved and national government, policy analysis and advocacy for NGOs and charities. Many are also in the private sector working as lawyers, in the media and in management consultancy or public affairs. The MA also provides an appropriate basis for those who wish to proceed to Doctoral-level study.

    Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability, while innovative leadership and executive programmes alongside sterling integration with business experts helps our students gain key leadership positions both nationally and internationally.

    Learning and Teaching

    Most modules are taught through seminars, which combine short lectures, class discussions, group work and other in-class activities. Class size is around 15-20 students. Our Virtual Learning Environment also provides opportunities for online activities such as discussion groups, reading groups, and quizzes (uses vary between modules).

    Cognitive 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.

    Provides learners with the opportunity to develop generic analytical, reasoning, literacy and communication skills.

    Provides learners with the ability to solve problems, process and prioritise a wide variety of information, and express arguments and positions in oral and written form.

    The learner will develop their basic knowledge of the general methodological and theoretical approaches of Politics as well as enhance their basic history of the discipline and knowledge of its specific concepts, issues and vocabulary.

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

    Knowledge and Understanding

    To equipment students with a set of key, subject, employability and transferable skills; to encourage a professional attitude towards self-organisation; and to provide students with the intellectual tools to reflect upon the subject of Politics both by theoretical explorations of the nature of Politics and by comparison between societies.

    Provides students with a knowledge and understanding of core debars in the subject, and fosters an attitude of self-motivated and independent learning.

    It enables students to research political phenomena, events and arguments/ideas.

    Provides a grounding in the key issues in contemporary politics and normative theory, British Politics, Irish Politics, European Politics, International Relations Policy and Comparative Ethnic Conflict (depending on modules chosen).

    Subject Specific Skills

    Able to evaluate different interpretations of political issues and events.

    Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of different political systems, the nature and distribution of power in them; the social, economic, historical and cultural contexts within which they operate, and the relationships between them.

    Apply concepts, theories and methods used in the study of politics to the analysis of political ideas, institutions and practices.

    Understand the nature and significance of politics as a human activity.


    Assessments associated with the course are outlined below:

    • Essays
    • Learning Journals
    • Presentations
    • Examination
    • Portfolio projects, including blog posts
    • Continuous assessment
    • Policy briefs/papers

  • Entry Requirements

    Entrance requirements

    Normally a 2.1 Honours degree or above, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in a Social Sciences, Humanities or Arts subject, or a 2.1 Honours degree or above, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in any subject with relevant professional experience.

    Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible and ideally no later than 12th August 2022 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.

    INTO - English Language Course(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)

  • Fees and Funding

    Tuition Fees

    Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £6,650
    Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £6,650
    England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £7,470
    EU Other 3 £18,200
    International £18,200

    1 EU 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, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements.

    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 are for the academic year 2022-23, and 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

    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.

    Politics costs

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

    How do I fund my study?

    The Department for the Economy will provide a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 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 £10,609 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.

    International Scholarships

    Information on scholarships for international students, is available at

  • Apply

    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.

    Download a prospectus