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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

The study of politics and international relations combines two fascinating and complementary disciplines. Politics is a rapidly evolving field. It touches every area of our lives, covering issues from national security and inequalities in society to the climate crisis.

With international relations you’ll develop an understanding of many of the relationships that shape our complex and interconnected world. The degree will equip you with a systematic and rigorous understanding of the two disciplines while developing many transferable skills that are valued by employers. 

Studies are structured around three main themes: political thought, political institutions and international relations. Following a general introduction, you’ll begin to tailor the course to your interests and aspirations with optional modules in areas such as security, interdependence, crises and conflict, comparative politics, democratic practice and the impact of global politics on the environment.

You can further tailor your course by applying to add a year-long work placement, or an international dimension with an overseas study year. If you are selected this will increase the course from three years to four.

The School of Government and International Affairs is home to several research centres and institutes, and many lecturers are actively engaged in research. 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 a deep understanding of global current affairs and the connections between nations, ruling parties and the business sector, will put you in a strong position to pursue a career in social policy research, journalism, academia, the charity sector, the Civil Service, the Foreign Office and more.

Course structure

Year 1

Core modules:

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.

Introduction to Comparative Politics introduces methods, approaches and key concepts in comparative politics. Drawing on historical texts and contemporary research you will explore a range of policy-relevant issues and begin to develop a problem-solving view of politics.

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.

Introduction to Political Theory provides an overview of the role that key political ideals, values and theories play in shaping modern political thought: justifying and evaluating political institutions and public policy, and influencing political behaviour and change.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Democratic Political Systems
  • International Security, Interdependence and Organisation
  • Perspectives of Political Economy. 

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.

Foundations of Western Political Thought examines some of the main currents of European political thought in the ancient and modern worlds. It will also develop your ability to interpret major texts in the history of political thought.

Analytical Politics introduces the theoretical models and mechanisms of politics. Learning how to apply these models to a range of political issues and processes will develop your problem-solving skills and help you link theory and evidence. 

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.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • 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 
  • Gender and Politics 
  • 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.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • British Political Thought 
  • Muslims and Politics in the Modern World 
  • Social and Political Philosophy
  • Theories of Liberty 
  • The American Presidency 
  • China in Global Political Economy 
  • Israel: Politics and Society
  • Elections and British Politics 
  • Woman, Gender and Politics in the US
  • Advanced Readings in Political Economy
  • Special Topic on the American Presidential Election
  • Are Voter Really Rational? The Political Economy of Political Behaviour and its Discontents
  • Advanced Topic in International Political Theory: the International Politics of Everyday. 

Additional pathways

Students on BA Politics and 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 are 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.

Teaching is centred around the School of Government and International Affairs, a vibrant learning community which is home to multiple research centres and institutes. Innovative research is fed into the curriculum, challenging you intellectually and keeping your learning relevant to the world around you.


Assessment takes various forms including examinations and unseen essay questions, essays, group projects and the final year dissertation. 

The range of assessment methods vary between modules. They have been designed to assess your knowledge and understanding of course material, test critical thinking skills, enhance written and oral communication skills, and assess your ability to relate your learning to real-world issues. Modules are assessed during the year of study, with each module offering multiple opportunities for feedback from your tutors.

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. 

Contextual offer – BBB 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 also consider other level 3 qualifications, including T-levels.
  • 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.
  • 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

The tuition fees for 2025/26 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.

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

Government & International Affairs, School of

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 2020-21:

  • 94% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 78% are in high skilled employment
  • With an average salary of £29,500.

(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

Government & International Affairs, School of

Our courses address some of the biggest global political issues from multiple perspectives. We aim to develop the knowledge and understanding that will help you impact the world in a positive way.

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.


  • 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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