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Degree type


Course length

2 years full-time


Durham City

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Course details

The MSc equips you with the knowledge and skills to carry out research related to the Arab world. From history and culture to politics and language, this course has been designed to provide rigorous, research-driven, interdisciplinary education and training in a broad range of social science research methods, as well as building the transferable skills you will need for Economic and Social Research Council recognition. 

Studied over two years full-time, it is an ideal choice for high-calibre students who have not previously completed any substantive research training and who have few or no Arabic language skills. The course includes a period of language study on a placement in a Middle Eastern country, designed to develop your language skills to a level that enables you to effectively communicate in a research or employment context in the Arabic-speaking world.

As a student on this research-informed course, you will have access to the wealth of ongoing research being carried out in the School. Our researchers work at the cutting edge of their field,  with areas of expertise including political philosophy and the history of political thought, comparative political science, international relations and the wider discipline of international studies, political economy and international political economy, and area studies.

We pride ourselves on turning students into independent researchers who take responsibility for their own learning. The knowledge, skills, and understanding developed on the course will prepare you to undertake research for a doctoral degree in Politics, International Relations, or International Studies, and provide a background that will help you take your first steps into professional research.

Course structure

Core modules:

Arabic Language 1 provides an introduction to the grammar of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). It is designed for those with little or no prior knowledge and provides you with the language skills necessary for the further study of Arabic, in particular the study of Arabic texts in the original language.

Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Practices across Social Science Research introduces contemporary social scientific research from an interdisciplinary and mixed-methods perspective. Examining quantitative, qualitative, computational, historical statistical and mixed methods of research you will learn how and why the different methods are used within and outside of academia, including areas such as public policy and the public and private spheres.

International Politics of the Middle East will familiarise you with key concepts and theories in the study of politics and international relations of the Middle East. You will directly address the complex nature of the politics and international relations of this region in areas including security, economic, identity and political dynamics. 

Empirical Research in Politics, International Relations and Security provides an overview of the types of research designs most frequently used in empirical research in politics, international relations and security. It aims to bring together theoretical and conceptual insights with the generic research skills modules, focusing explicitly on how to effectively combine theory and evidence-based research.

Quantitative Methods and Analysis is designed to assimilate and develop your knowledge, critical understanding and skills in quantitative data analysis. You will develop the skills to use statistical techniques for exploration and description of data sets and make appropriate statistical inferences about associations between social phenomena.

Qualitative Methods and Analysis contributes towards your preparation for carrying out qualitative research projects. You will build the advanced knowledge and skills needed to understand, conceptualise and critically appraise qualitative social sciences research, including different approaches to research and design and analysis of qualitative data.

Year Two

Arabic Language 2 consolidates your understanding of the grammar and syntax of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) acquired in Arabic 1. It develops additional fluency in the reading of extended texts in MSA, consolidates translation skills both into and out of Arabic, and prepares you for living abroad. 

The Dissertation provides an opportunity to engage in a substantial piece of independent work in a related area of your choice. The 12,000-word dissertation is the culmination of the MSc programme, bringing together elements of learning from across the course. 

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Advanced Ethnographic Research
  • Multilevel Modelling
  • Simulating Data in R
  • Systematic Review
  • Advanced Statistics for Psychology and the Behavioural Sciences
  • Computational Social Science
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Contemporary Political Philosophy
  • Core Concepts
  • The Politics of Global Europe
  • Designing Political Inquiry
  • Global Governance
  • Global Political Theory
  • International Organisations
  • Ideologies and Political Thought
  • International Relations Theory


Teaching is centred around the School of Government and International Affairs, a vibrant learning community that is home to multiple research centres and institutes, including the Institute for Middle East and Islamic Studies.

The course is largely delivered via lectures, smaller student-led seminars or tutorial groups, and active learning sessions. Each module is built around 300 hours of learning, a large proportion of which is made up of independent reading, preparation, and written assignments. Each module includes a minimum of 20 hours of class contact, which gives you the opportunity to review course material in group discussions. 

The dissertation is an important part of the course. To support you in this, you will be appointed a dissertation supervisor based on a broad match with your dissertation topic. As well as providing dissertation-specific support and guidance, you can also contact your supervisor for general academic support.

To keep your learning up-to-date and relevant, we integrate new and innovative research into the curriculum. In addition, we deliver regular seminars and lectures available for all postgraduate students, providing opportunities to engage with important contemporary issues in political and international studies.

Assessment methods vary across the modules studied. Most are assessed by essays, with others including examinations or presentations. As the course progresses, we provide ongoing feedback through formative assessments to help you recognise your strengths as well as identify any areas that may require improvement. 

The course culminates in a 12,000-word dissertation which is conducted and written up as an independent piece of work with support from your appointed supervisor. The dissertation is worth one-third of your final mark.

Entry requirements

  • UK 2.1 Bachelor degree, or equivalent.
  • Two satisfactory academic references. In cases of applicants who have significant relevant experience, one work-related reference and one academic reference would be considered appropriate.
  • No prior substantive research training and few or no Arabic language skills.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £15,250 per year
EU students £26,750 per year
Island students £15,250 per year
International students £26,750 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities

School of Government and International Affairs

Our courses focus on developing self-aware, thoughtful and ambitious global citizens with the skills and knowledge to secure rewarding and stimulating careers inside and outside of politics.

This is underpinned by additional employability support from the University through its careers programme, through employment-related events and by maintaining the alumni network which stretches across the globe.

Our postgraduates achieve successful careers in a wide range of fields including local and national government, diplomacy, newspaper and broadcast journalism, the charity sector, business and finance, publishing, law, manufacturing, teaching and academia, and the armed forces.

Former postgraduate students have taken up roles with leading employers including the House of Commons, Clifford Chance, Accenture, British Airways, Ernst and Young, British Telecom, Goldman Sachs, PwC, the Royal Navy, House of Fraser, Channel 4, HSBC, Teach First, Durham University, Black Rock and the Audit Commission.

For further information on career options and employability, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability web pages.

Department information

School of Government and International Affairs

Part of the School of Government and International Affairs, politics and international relations at Durham is centred around the areas of political theory, comparative politics, international relations and political economy. Our academic staff have a genuine passion for politics and are leading experts in the study of these areas, as they exist across Europe, East Asia, the Middle East and the wider Muslim world, Africa and America.

We are a research-led School offering high quality learning in essential quantitative and qualitative research methods alongside in-depth study of key areas of political and international theory. These include Comparative Institutions and Political Behaviour, Environmental Politics, Global Security and Peacebuilding, International Political Economy and International Relations.

The learning and research community is vibrant and active and is one of the biggest groups at the University comprising a postgraduate body of nearly 50 different nationalities. Our institutes and research centres support key research agendas by organising guest lectures, running regular paper presentations and acting as focal points for networking.

We believe that in a democracy, active citizenship requires awareness and participation and the ability to comprehend public debate. Our vision is to offer a study of politics that not only includes but goes beyond career preparation to consider how to be better human beings and good citizens.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 100 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • 8th in The Complete University Guide 2024


For a current list of staff, please see the School of Government and International Affairs pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • Over 80% of SGIA research outputs were rated 'Internationally Excellent' or 'World Leading' (REF 2021)


The School of Government and International Affairs is based in the modern Al Qasimi Building. The modern structure is set in its own grounds not far from the historic centre of Durham, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Facilities include spacious environments for both learning and socialising and the building is also home to the renowned Global Policy Institute, the Institute of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and the Durham Global Security Institute.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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