What you learn in a Politics and International Relations degree
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Globalisation – its pains, gains and everything in between – still matters.  As technology disrupts one sector after another, it can be easy to forget that the processes by which we become integrated into a single global society are still impacting the economic, strategic and political forces of our age.

As its early phases level off, governments push to re-set the terms of the global economy. From the US’s imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminium to its punitive actions against China, as well as the European Union’s pushback against refugees crossing the border into the UK; these events have serious consequences that ripple throughout the world – particularly on the poorest and most vulnerable populations.

The global flow of money, goods and services may no longer show the spike we saw in the 1990s and 2000s, but we must now contend with massive flows of information. With technology making greater connectivity and communication possible, businesses and governments are scrambling to deal with the massive amount of data crossing borders as we speak.

All this means there’s never been a better time to pursue a degree in International Relations and Politics.

The study of intersecting disciplines – from economics to history and political science – will let students discover how national governments and international bodies work, as they also analyse public policies and their relationships with each other.

Current and past political conflicts are dissected to unearth different models of governments and ideologies. Works from leaders and luminaries from Machiavelli to Confucius, or from Adam Smith to Karl Marx can often be examined.

It’s a journey that will sharpen critical thinking skills, nurture cross-cultural understanding, improve public speaking capabilities and build important networks that could one day transition to bigger bodies like national parliaments or the United Nations. It’s a cacophony of valuable skills as we face up to the 4th Industrial Revolution, but also to right the wrongs of today for a better tomorrow.

Here are five leading universities on this noble mission:


Where better to learn about the world that in one of its most influential capitals? QMUL, located in the bustling city of London, has the enviable advantage of being in the thick of the action.

At its School of Politics and International Relations, students join part of the first institution to be awarded the Engage Watermark Gold Award for excellence in public engagement.

Source; QMUL. Students visit 10 Downing Street as part of their studies

Both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are offered to students in this field of study, together with the option to integrate them with courses like Business, Politics and Languages, to gain a well-rounded education. There’s also the new International Politics BA (Paris) degree, in which students benefit from a unique teaching and learning experience in the intellectual centre of France.

On the research front, students also capitalise on the dynamic and diverse selection of interdisciplinary research initiatives the school undertakes, including European Policy and Politics, Political theory and International relations.


Class at Exeter’s Department of Politics get to the heart of the political, historical, institutional, social, economic and cultural forces that mediate the exercise of power within and between nations.

At this university, ranked 5th in the nation for world-leading and internationally-excellent research, teaching comes in the form of lectures, tutorials and seminars, with a growing emphasis at each successive level on student-led learning. There’s even a US field trip available to students at the Cornwall campus.

“I love how students are on first name terms with our lecturers and seminar leaders. I’ve experienced a variety of teaching styles from academics who love to prove theories through interactive roleplays, discussions and debates over topics, or using more traditional PowerPoints,” says Aaron Chahal, Politics and International Relations student at the Penryn Campus.

The aim behind Exeter’s educational philosophy is to develop students’ analytical skills, help them become independent and critical learners while ensuring they explore the in-depth and wide-ranging theories and concepts involved.


One thing that makes the Leeds School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) stand out is the way in which its academic research informs and ignites teaching. Through the academic tuition and theoretical training offered here, students are prepared to be future graduates capable of tackling the current challenges of our global society.

Source: University of Leeds

“The ideas that we generate, the research that we create is not just academic; it has real-world policy impact,” says Adrian Gallagher, Associate Professor of International Security at Leeds.

At the undergraduate level, students explore real-world issues in action locally, nationally and internationally. The aim is to make each student a “top class graduate” able to make a difference in society.

The Master’s qualifications on offer here – such as the Global Development MA, Security, Terrorism and Insurgency MA, or Public Administration MA (double degree with China) – allow students to deepen their knowledge of a subject, enhance their career opportunities or take it into a whole new direction.


The University of Dundee believes strongly in merging research with its teaching. Whether it’s for areas like politics in the Middle East, the politics of Russia, humanitarian intervention or sub-state nationalism, students here are taught by an impressive array of experts and authors in the field.

Ranked second in the UK for overall satisfaction (National Student Survey 2017), Dundee’s students don’t only gain a high quality education, but do so in an environment that’s encouraging and fun. The compact city campus is only a five-minute stroll from the best shops, bars, arts and leisure venues in Dundee, yet quiet and relaxing enough for students to find success.

Source: University of Dundee

Sara Lonegard, from Sweden, who is studying towards an MA Politics and International Relations says: “I’ve loved being at the University of Dundee particularly the close working relationships I’ve developed here. I’ve found that the professors are really invested in their students, they always make time for you and encourage you to come to their office hours, are happy to talk through any course work you have and help you in your career as well.”


With a flourishing scholarly community of over 700 students and staff, Loughborough students are in good hands in their mission to tackle the big questions of our political lives.

Ranked 5th in the UK for Politics (Guardian University Guide 2019), students can look forward to a renowned education with a unique combination of courses.

For those pursuing a career in the European Union, this is the place to be. Loughborough specialises in European Studies (among the first institutions to do so) and is highly acclaimed for its teaching and research in this field. The department is also home to world-leading authorities on anarchism, radicalism, and modern Britain, Germany and Austria.

At Loughborough, students are encouraged to undertake an international placement, recognising that participation in different cultural contexts presents a fantastic opportunity to broaden their horizons and perhaps learn a new language.

One student said: “There are so many things in the world that you will not understand or see if you don’t go out so going out was definitely a life-changing experience for me.”

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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