Contemporary Issues in International Relations

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Luca Tardelli CBG 10.05

Prof. Peter Trubowitz CBG 10.16


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: the rise of China; tensions between Russia and the West; violent conflict in the Middle East; 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 45 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent 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 of Michaelmas Term and Lent Term.


Formative coursework

Students will receive feedback on the first short answers submitted in the MT as part of their weekly coursework. Students will then be expected to produce 1 formative policy memo in the LT and submit the outline of their summative policy memo in the LT. In addition, students will be expected to deliver short class presentations in both the MT and LT.

Indicative reading

• John Baylis, Steve Smith and Patricia Owen (eds), The Globalization of World Politics 8th ed (OUP: 2020)

• Chris Brown, Understanding International Relations 5th ed (Palgrave: 2019)

• Jenny Edkins and Maja Zehfuss (eds), Global Politics: A New Introduction (Routledge: 2019)

• Mary Kaldor and Iavor Rangelov (eds), The Handbook of Global Security Policy (Wiley-Blackwell: 2014).


Policy memo (70%) in the ST.
Continuous assessment (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%). The coursework is the submission of weekly short answers to the class questions (10%).

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: 98

Average class size 2019/20: 12

Capped 2019/20: Yes (110)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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