Contemporary Issues in International Relations

This information is for the 2022/23 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.

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

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; the war in Ukraine and tensions between Russia and the West; violent conflict in the Middle East; US foreign policy under President Joe Biden; European security and the future of NATO; challenges to multilateral cooperation and liberal internationalism; China’s growing involvement in Africa; the international protection of human rights; international financial crises; poverty and global inequality; climate change and environmental security; migration and refugee crises; and the global response to COVID. 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 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term and Lent Term, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 formative opinion piece in the MT. 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.
Presentation (20%) in the MT.
Class participation (10%) in the MT and LT.

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%). Participation in the class discussion will also be assessed (10%).

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 22.7
2:1 58.3
2:2 16.1
Third 1.4
Fail 1.4

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 88

Average class size 2021/22: 11

Capped 2021/22: Yes (96)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (MT)

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