International Relations: Theories, Concepts and Debates

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Sinja Graf


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.

Students who have this course as a compulsory course are guaranteed a place.

Available as an outside option to Year 1 students only.

Course content

This course offers an introduction to the study of International Relations (IR). It surveys mainstream, middle-way and critical theories to the subject. The course also places these theories into conversation with each other to highlight key concepts and debates in the study of IR. We will begin by exploring the history of the modern inter-state system and the formation of IR as an academic discipline. We will proceed with studying major theories that analyse and/or criticize the modern international order before engaging several key topics from various perspectives. Overall, this course asks whether IR has developed based on particular (Anglo-American/European) experiences and viewpoints and whether it can and should become more global in its representation of diverse histories, concepts and theories.


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.

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.

Indicative reading

A full course description and guide to reading will be provided. Relevant course texts include:

R Devetak, J George & S Percy (Eds) An Introduction to International Relations (Cambridge, 2017)

J Baylis, S Smith & P Owens (Eds) The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford, 2016)

Robbie Shilliam, Decolonizing Politics (Polity, 2021)

R B Persaud & A Sajed (Eds) Race, Gender, and Culture in International Relations. Postcolonial Perspectives (Routledge, 2018).


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

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2018/19 - 2020/21 combined)

Classification % of students
First 21.4
2:1 60.5
2:2 13.9
Third 1.4
Fail 2.8

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 183

Average class size 2020/21: 9

Capped 2020/21: Yes (134)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication