International Organisations

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ulrich Sedelmeier CBG 10.02


This course is available 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.

This course has a limited number of places (it is capped).


Students should have a background in International Relations. Prior familiarity with international relations theory is an advantage, but not necessary.

Course content

International organizations abound, ranging from the World Trade Organization to the United Nations. These institutions are forums for international cooperation and global problem solving, and they often have profound effects on the everyday interactions of states, with ultimate consequences for the lives of people worldwide. At the same time, the contemporary liberal international institutional order is increasingly challenged domestically and internationally. This course draws on theories of international institutions to explain comparatively the role of International Organisations in international politics. These questions include why states create International Organisations, why states transfer certain powers to them, how decisions in International Organisations are made, what impact they have, why they have become increasingly contested, and how they have adapted to such challenges. The course explores these questions across a wide-range of issues, including international peace and security, international economic relations, global environmental politics, and human rights. International organisations to be discussed include the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, NATO, the International Criminal Court and regional organisations like the European Union, the African Union, and ASEAN.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term, Lent and Summer Term.

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

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT, 1 essay in the LT and 1 presentation in either MT or LT.

Formative essays are 1,500 words. Class teachers will mark the essays and provide feedback on student presentations.

Indicative reading

Ian Hurd (2021): International Organizations: Politics, Law, Practice, 4th edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press);

Volker Rittberger, Bernhard Zangl and Andreas Kruck, and Hylke Dijkstra International Organization: Polity, Policy, Politics, 3rd ed. (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2019).


Essay (30%, 2000 words) in the MT.
Take-home assessment (70%) in the ST.

For the summative essay, students will choose one question from a fixed range of questions.  The questions will be posted on Moodle before Week 9 of the MT and will focus on the theories and conceptual material covered in the first part of the course.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 12.9
2:1 69.1
2:2 15.2
Third 1.1
Fail 1.7

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 79

Average class size 2021/22: 11

Capped 2021/22: Yes (72)

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.