International Institutions

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mathias Koenig-Archibugi CBG.3.38


This course is available on the MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Relations (Research), MSc in Political Science (Global Politics) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All students are required to obtain permission from the Teacher Responsible by completing the online application form linked to course selection on LSE for You.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). In previous years we have been able to provide places for most students that apply, but that may not continue to be the case

Course content

International organizations and other international institutions are created and expected to provide solutions whenever governments face challenges across borders, such as conflict and war, humanitarian emergencies, pandemics, climate change, financial crises, trade restrictions, economic development, and human rights. But their role in world politics is controversial. Some perceive international institutions as effective and legitimate alternatives to unilateral state policies, while others view them as cover for the exercise of power by dominant states. Many are disappointed by the gap between the lofty aspirations and their actual performance in addressing global problems— and wonder how that gap could be closed. Global power shifts, geopolitical tensions and hostility to international governance pose major challenges to international cooperation. 

While some observers tend to lump all international institutions together, in reality the functioning, power, and effectiveness of international institutions differ widely – across organisations, issues, regions, and over time. The first part of the course introduces influential explanations for key questions about international institutions: why they are created, why they differ, who makes the key decisions and how, when and why they help solve international problems, and how they relate to one another in complex webs of global governance. The second part answers these questions in relation to specific international organizations, including the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as well as international institutions in the areas of human rights, environmental protection, and global health. The course also considers international organizations that promote regional integration.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of  40 hours across Autumn and Winter Term. Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of each term, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 formative essay in the AT and 1 formative assessment in the WT. Each seminar participant is required to give presentations on seminar topics.

Indicative reading

Volker Rittberger, Bernhard Zangl, Andreas Kruck and Hylke Dijkstra. 2019. International Organization: Polity, Politics and Policies, Third Edition, London: Red Globe Press

Ian Hurd. 2018. International Organizations: Politics, Law, Practice, Third Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Aggarwal, V. K. and Dupont, C. (2014) Cooperation and conflict in the global political economy. In: Ravenhill, John, Global political economy. 4th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Fehl, C. (2004) 'Explaining the International Criminal Court: A 'Practice Test' for Rationalist and Constructivist Approaches', European Journal of International Relations 10(3): 357-94

Niemann, A. (2006) ‘Beyond Problem-Solving and Bargaining: Genuine Debate in EU External Trade Negotiations’, International Negotiation 11: 467–97


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the WT.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 17.3
Merit 64.5
Pass 18.2
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2022/23: 28

Average class size 2022/23: 9

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: 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.