International Relations: Theories, Concepts and Debates

This information is for the 2022/23 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 not available as an outside option. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

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

Course content

This course offers an introduction to the study of International Relations (IR). It surveys mainstream 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 totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term, Lent Term and Summer Term.

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

Formative coursework

Students are required to write two essays of 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.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 144

Average class size 2021/22: 13

Capped 2021/22: Yes (143)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication