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International Relations Theory


Credits: 8 ECTS

First semester

Compulsory courses




The objective of the course is to provide students with foundational knowledge of International Relations theory that will serve as the basis for the entire masters. The course is intended for (a) students with no previous background in IR, (b) students with a limited background in IR more focused on policies and (c) practitioners and students with extensive professional experience returning to university.

While no previous knowledge is assumed, the course nevertheless swiftly covers the necessary content to develop a comprehensive understanding of the how International Relations theories have developed over the last 80 years. Beginning with realism and liberalism, and moving on to sociological-based theories and critical theories, students will learn about the similarities and differences between them, and how they can be applied to important questions regarding the world.

The course is divided into two parts. The first part (Lectures 1 and 2) provides the historical context into which IR as a discipline emerged in 1919, conceptualizes the Westphalian state as a central unit of analysis, as well as sketching the primary concerns of the subject: security, sovereignty, war and order. The second part (Lectures 3-12) explores the main competing theoretical perspectives on international relations, and how they have evolved in collaboration, or competition, with each other, and broadened our awareness of what IR includes within its study.

Fortnightly seminar groups provide students with an opportunity to discuss the themes raised in the lectures, as well as contextualise them in some of the big debates in international politics.


The overall grade for this course is calculated based on: two pieces of coursework completed during the semester (25% and 35%), a participation assessment of seminar activity (10%) and a one-hour exam (40%). There is a 0.25-point (out of 10) reduction of the essay grade for each day the paper is late. Specifically:

  • The first essay: answering a question chosen by the student based on a list covering the first six lectures. It will be between 2000 and 2500 words in length (25%).
  • The second essay: answering a question chosen by the student based on a list covering the final six lectures. It will be between 2500 and 3000 words in length (35%)
  • Participation is assessed over the duration of the course and is based on the personal development of the student’s ability to participate, and the qualitative nature of interventions, be they in group discussions, presentations or other forms of discursive interaction (10%).
  • A one-hour exam during exam week will require you to answer ONE questions in essay form, from a choice of no less than six (35%).