Theories of International Relations

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jonathan Agensky CLM 4.08


This course is compulsory on the MSc in International Relations (Research) and MSc in International Relations Theory. This course is not available as an outside option.

It may not be combined with IR410 International Politics. 

Course content

This course examines the ways that different theories conceive, analyse and explain the character of international relations. The purpose of the course is to provide a thorough interrogation of these theories, exploring debates both within and between them. Theoretical approaches to be considered include: classical and neo-realism; liberal institutionalism and neo-liberalism; Marxism; constructivism; English School theory; critical theory; post-structuralism; and feminism. The course also interrogates issues relating to the philosophy of science and philosophy of history.

Watch a short introductory video on this course:



13 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 4 hours of seminars in the ST.

The course is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars. 23 one-hour lectures, twice weekly during weeks 1-3 of MT and weekly thereafter, and 20 two-hour weekly seminars also from week 1 of MT. In line with IR departmental policy, students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of both MT and LT


Formative coursework

Students are required to submit formative coursework and to deliver at least one formal seminar presentation. All students are expected to prepare for and participate in seminar discussions. 

Indicative reading

Chris Brown and Kirsten Ainley (2010) Understanding International Relations, 4th Ed. (Palgrave Macmillan); Patrick Jackson (2010), The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations, (London: Routledge); Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal (eds, 2010), The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, (Oxford: Oxford University Press); Scott Burchill et al (eds, 2009), Theories of International Relations, 4th ed. (London: Palgrave).


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (50%, 4000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 28.3
Merit 47.8
Pass 20.4
Fail 3.5

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2014/15: 26

Average class size 2014/15: 9

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 88.6%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)