Contemporary Issues in International Relations

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Peter Trubowitz CLM 4.02 and Dr Ulrich Sedelmeier CLM 5.06


This course is compulsory on the BSc in International Relations. This course is available on the BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

This course provides an opportunity to gain an analytically deeper understanding and reflect critically upon some of the most topical issues that currently confront international relations and which shape the development of the contemporary international order. These include but are not limited to: violent conflict in the Middle East; international terrorism; the rise of China; tensions between Russia and the West; North Korea and the challenge of nuclear proliferation; US foreign policy under President Donald Trump; challenges to multilateral cooperation and liberal internationalism; human rights; humanitarian intervention; financial crises; poverty and global inequality; climate change and environmental security; migration and refugees.  The course encourages students to engage in debating the nature of, and possible responses to, contemporary challenges and crises in international politics. The course complements IR100 with a more applied policy focus, while emphasising the need for critical analytical depth when reflecting on the origins, nature and implications of current affairs. Students will develop an awareness of the relationship between the discipline of International Relations as a field of knowledge and the practices of world politics.


10 hours and 30 minutes of lectures, 8 hours of classes and 4 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours and 30 minutes of lectures, 7 hours of classes and 6 hours of classes in the LT.

Lectures will be 1.5 hours to provide ample time for questions and answers. The classes in in MT and LT include longer 2-hour classes for student presentations and a role-play.

In line with departmental policy, students on the course will have a reading week in Week 6 of each term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to write a short 600-750 'opinion piece' in MT, a 1,500 word ‘policy memo’ in LT, and to give one individual presentation on a particular issue or problem in LT.

Indicative reading

Robert Art and Robert Jervis (eds), International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues 11th ed (Pearson: 2012)

John Baylis, Steve Smith and Patricia Owen (eds), The Globalization of World Politics 6th ed (OUP: 2013)

Chris Brown and Kirsten Ainley, Understanding International Relations 4th ed (Palgrave: 2009)

Barry Buzan and George Lawson, The Global Transformation: History, Modernity and the Making of International Relations (CUP: 2015)

Jenny Edkins and Maja Zehfuss (eds), Global Politics: A New Introduction (Routledge: 2013), pp.147-169


Policy memo (70%) in the ST.
Class participation (10%) in the MT and LT.
Presentation (20%) in the MT.

Students on the course will write a 2,500 word 'policy memo' (70%) on a particular contemporary issue.  Students will also give a group presentation on a particular issue or problem (20%). Participation in class discussion will also be assessed (10%).

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Capped 2017/18: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication