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Degree type


Course length

3 years full-time


Durham City

UCAS code


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Typical offers

Typical offers
A Level AAA
International Baccalaureate 37

Course details

Our BA in International Relations will give you a grounding in global politics and so much more. Taking a research-led approach you’ll develop an understanding of many of the relationships that shape our complex and interconnected world. Issues that range from regional studies and global security to the balance of power and social norms.

Study is structured around three main themes: political thought, political institutions and international relations. Following an introduction to these themes, you’ll begin to tailor the course to your interests and aspirations with a selection of optional modules. These include areas such as security, interdependence, liberty, comparative studies of political economies, democratic practice, and the role of global politics in the environment.

You can further tailor your course by applying to add a work placement, or an international dimension with an overseas study year in locations such as Boston College in the USA, the University of British Columbia in Canada, the University of Hong Kong or the National University of Singapore.

The School of Government and International Affairs is home to a number of research centres and institutes. This innovative work is fed into the BA, so you can be sure the curriculum is informed by contemporary political debate.

The critical analytical and research skills that underpin the course, coupled with an understanding of global current affairs and the connections between countries, governments, NGOs and the business sector, will put you in a strong position to pursue a career in areas including social policy, international finance, business, journalism and the charity sector.

Course structure

Year 1

Core modules:

Introduction to International Relations provides an overview of the field of international relations including its historical context and traditions of thought. The module addresses core concepts in the field including power, sovereignty, the international system, the international society, the state and norms.

International Security, Interdependence and Organisation introduces the major theoretical and analytical problems in the field, including the concept of war, conflict and security; interdependence among states and international organisations; and the practice of interdependence in global politics and security.

Perspectives of Political Economy through an enquiry-based learning approach to contemporary issues in everyday life, the module introduces you to the central concerns of political economy as an inter-disciplinary social science that focuses on the relationship between political and economic systems, agents and institutions.

Researching Politics and International Relations introduces a range of strategies used to produce knowledge in politics and international relations. This module examines the strengths and weaknesses of a range of research methods. You will gain some practical experience of carrying out research in politics and international relations.

Examples of optional modules:

  • Democratic Political Systems
  • Introduction to Political Theory
  • Introduction to Comparative Politics.

Year 2

Core modules:

The Research Project is an extended piece of work produced within a structured framework that will help prepare you for the demands of writing a dissertation. You will gain a deeper understanding of politics as an academic subject and as an aspect of wider human activity.

International Theory develops knowledge of the major debates in contemporary international relations theory. The module helps to build a wider understanding of theoretical, conceptual and methodological matters in the study of domestic and international politics.

International Organisations examines the role of key organisations in international relations, and their external impact. Looking at organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the World Trade Organization, NATO, ASEAN, etc., you will gain an understanding of the dynamic nature of global governance with emphasis on the dynamics of the global international environment.

Examples of optional modules:

  • International Theory
  • The Politics of Pacific Asia
  • Foundations of Western Political Thought
  • International Organisations
  • Sovereignty, State and Empire
  • Capitalism: History and Theory
  • Middle East in the International System
  • Debates in Political Theory.

Year 3 (Year 4 if undertaking a placement year or year abroad)

The Dissertation is a detailed and critical examination of a relevant area of politics. It develops your ability to plan and manage your own learning and provides you with an opportunity to research a specific topic in greater depth and present your findings and conclusions.

Examples of optional modules:

  • British Political Thought
  • Muslims and Politics in the Modern World
  • Theories of Liberty
  • The American Presidency
  • China in Global Political Economy
  • Israel: Politics and Society
  • Elections and British Politics
  • Advanced Topic in International Political Theory: the International Politics of the Everyday.

Additional pathways

Students on BA International Relations can apply to be transferred onto either the ‘with Year Abroad’ or ‘with Placement’ pathway during the second year. Places on these pathways are in high demand and if you are chosen your studies will extend from three years to four.


You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.


Learning is made up of lectures and small-group seminars. The small-group format, supported by one-on-one guidance is embedded into the learning experience so you gain more from your studies. Formal learning is supported by an extensive programme of School-based seminars where staff and guest speakers share their expertise.

Using a blend of assessments, simulations, independent learning and classroom-based activities, the degree strengthens your skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, decision making and cognitive flexibility, all of which are highly valued by employers.

As you move into the final year, the focus on self-directed learning and independent research increases, particularly around the dissertation.


Assessment takes various forms including examinations and unseen essay questions, essays, group projects and the final-year dissertation. The dissertation is an in-depth study of a topic of your choice which makes up one-third of your final-year marks.

Entry requirements

A level offer – AAA including a social science or humanities subject.

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma – DDD and A levels as above.

IB Diploma score – 37 with 666 in higher level subjects, including a social sciences or humanities subject.

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study. Please contact our Admissions Selectors for more information.
  • If you do not satisfy our general entry requirements, the Foundation Programme offers multidisciplinary degrees to prepare you for a range of specified degree courses.
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.

Alternative qualifications

International students who do not meet direct entry requirements for this degree might have the option to complete an International Foundation Year.

English language requirements

Country specific information

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £9,250 per year
EU students £24,750 per year
Island students £9,250 per year
International students £24,750 per year

The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students 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 are informed by both academic researchers and our links with industry. This specialist expertise develops the knowledge and skills that our students need to succeed in a competitive job market.

We offer a series of employment-related events which include talks from visiting speakers who explore the range of careers open to politics and international relations students, and offer advice about applying for jobs. We also host a regular Civil Service Fast Stream event in which Durham alumni give first-hand advice about how to excel in the recruitment process.

Graduates are equipped with an academic and practical skill set that will take them into a wide range of fields including local and national government, newspaper and broadcast journalism, the charity sector, business and finance, publishing, law, manufacturing, teaching and academia, and the armed forces. They have gone on to achieve great success in the political arena and beyond, with roles including Chief Operating Officer for the GB Equality and Human Rights Commission, Head of Defence Inquests and Disclosure in the Ministry of Defence and Political Officer in the British Embassy Mogadishu.

Of those students who graduated in 2019:

  • 97% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 76% are in high skilled employment
  • With an average salary of £26,000.

(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here

Department information

School of Government and International Affairs

Based in the School of Government and International Affairs, we offer a range of courses that are flexible and interdisciplinary in nature. Alongside the study of political theory, comparative politics, and international relations you can choose from a wide selection of modules in areas that align with your interests. You can also apply to add a work placement or year abroad to your studies, adding an extra dimension to the learning experience.

As a research-intensive discipline we employ a range of techniques that integrate new and innovative research into the curriculum and introduce a variety of research-oriented skills and projects. You will be taught by academics with a genuine passion for their subject, whose areas of expertise include government, political theory, political economy and international relations.

Regional expertise covers areas such as Europe, East Asia, the Middle East and the wider Muslim world, Africa and America. As well as incorporating our own research into the undergraduate syllabus we also welcome visiting professors to work with students at all levels.

Our students graduate as self-aware, reflective and ambitious global citizens, equipped with the critical skills to succeed in the workplace, both inside and outside of the political arena.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 100 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • Top 10 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).


Set in its own grounds 1.5 miles from Durham’s historic city centre, the modern Al-Qasimi Building, by our students loving referred to as "The Ski Lodge", is home to the School of Government and International Affairs. Providing a social centre to our students as well as an exceptional environment for learning, it is also a base for a number of research institutes including the Global Policy Institute, the Institute of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and the Durham Global Security Institute, which host a number of academic events throughout the year open to all students.


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