International Relations: Theories, Concepts and Debates

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Yuna Han CBG.10.08 and Dr Tristen Naylor CBG.10.07


This course is compulsory on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Relations and Chinese, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and International Relations. This course is available on the BSc in Environment and Development and BSc in Politics. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available to General Course students.

Available as an outside option to Year 1 students only. 

Course content

An examination of the concepts designed to explain the nature of contemporary international relations.

1. The emergence of the discipline and the nature of its subject matter.

2. Key agential concepts in IR: state; empire; international and subnational agents; foreign policy.

3. Key structural concepts in IR: the states system; Euro-centrism, globalisation, post-colonialism; global governance; security.

4. Key institutional concepts in IR: international society; great powers; diplomacy; war; balance of power; international law and human rights.

5. Key sociological concepts in IR: power and sovereignty; intervention; gender; anarchy.


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 2 hours of classes in the ST.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students are required to write three essays of approximately 1,500 words. They will also be required to give at least one class presentation.

Indicative reading

A full course description and guide to reading will be provided: relevant course texts include J Baylis & S Smith (Eds), Globalisation and World Politics, 2nd edn, (Oxford UP, 2001); C Brown, Understanding International Relations, 2nd edn (Macmillan, 2001); R Jackson & G Sørensen, Introduction to International Relations (OUP, revised edn., 2003).


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.

Sample papers are included in the full course description.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
First 23.2
2:1 61.7
2:2 11.9
Third 1.8
Fail 1.6

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2018/19: 171

Average class size 2018/19: 15

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication