International Relations: Theories, Concepts and Debates

This information is for the 2020/21 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 with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totaling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term, Lent Term and Summer Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online. This course includes 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 upload at least one blog post responding to the essential readings.

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).


Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
First 22
2:1 63.6
2:2 10.7
Third 1.4
Fail 2.3

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2019/20: 170

Average class size 2019/20: 12

Capped 2019/20: Yes (200)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication