Cooperation in the Contemporary World

Cooperation in the Contemporary World – a short introduction

There has never been a more timely opportunity to better understand why cooperation is so important in international politics.

Achieving cooperation in international politics is complex and there are a myriad of different approaches for partners and enemies alike to consider. We are all affected by decisions made by politicians and yet we often don’t understand the diversity and complexity involved in how to cooperate.  From attempts to mitigate the damaging effects of climate change to concerted efforts designed to foster peace in post-conflict societies, this course reflects the challenges and possibilities for cooperation in the 21st century. 

Cooperation in the Contemporary World will explore the puzzle of cooperation and will introduce you to the diversity and complexity of all its forms. You will have the opportunity to choose from a range of practical case studies, each led by a different leading expert and designed to enable you to consider what approaches can be used to make sense of these issues, as well as some of the political strategies that were used to meet them.

What is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course - these are free, open to anyone, online courses designed to offer a taste of higher education to learners from across the UK and around the world. The University of Birmingham is offering a series of MOOCs in partnership with Futurelearn, the UK’s first MOOCs provider established by the Open University.

Delivered by world-class academics from the University of Birmingham, the courses enable learners worldwide to sample high-quality academic content via an interactive web-based platform from a leading global University, increasing access to higher education for a whole new cohort of learners.

The courses have been developed by senior academic staff and their content is quality-assured in line with our other programmes. While these courses do not offer credits towards admission to the University of Birmingham, we hope these courses will inspire you to further explore the fascinating world of politics and international relations studies.

Course knowledge requirements

This course is aimed at anyone interested in developing their understanding of contemporary international politics. It will be of particular interest to those considering studying politics, international development or related fields including conflict, cooperation or international relations and security. Whilst no prior knowledge is required, we actively encourage the participation of individuals with practical experience within NGOs, the armed forces, aid/donor agencies, government agencies, policy making and think tanks.

This course draws on the insights of leading researchers from the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS); Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS); and International Development Department (IDD) within the School of Government and Society at the University of Birmingham, and so will also provide an insight for anyone interested in further study.

Course Duration and Week by Week content

Duration: 3 weeks
Time: 4 to 6 hours per week

  • Week 1 - Cooperation between Partners
    (NATO and European Union)
  • Week 2 - Cooperation between Diverse Actors
    (Climate Change and Peace Building in Nepal)
  • Week 3 - Cooperation between Enemies
    (Cold War and Sino-Japanese Relations)

See our: Course Inforgraphic (PDF 161KB)

Meet your team of experts

We have gathered together a team of experts to explore 'Cooperation in the Contemporary World' with you. They include:

Lead Academic

Subject Leads

How to apply

The next start date for this free online course is currently to be confirmed. Please register your interest is participating at the FutureLearn website.

Related courses

If you love this course, why not take your studies further? Discover related undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses on offer from the School of Government and Society.


Learning, teaching and assessment in our free online course takes place through a variety of means, including:

  • Short 3-7 minute video presentations
  • Pause for Thought questions, designed to encourage reflection and discussion. These were optional but we recommend that learners spend a little time considering the questions and browsing the comments made by educators and fellow learners
  • Independent study - optional readings for extended participation in discussion
  • Time to Talk discussions which are educator moderated but student-led
  • Multi-choice question tests

Sneak Peek

When you sign up for the University of Birmingham's course on Cooperation in the Contemporary World you experience the best we have to offer in free online flexible learning. All study materials are available from day 1 of the course and for as long as you stay enrolled. This means that even when the course has officially finished, you can still access all of it online at So, if you would like to revise, or even if you did not get to complete the course, you can study and learn at a time that suits you.

See our: Typical course page (PDF 384KB)

Optional Pre-Course Materials

Professor Nicholas J. Wheeler provides an insight into theory that underpins the study of cooperation in international politics.


Professor Mark Webber is an International Relations specialist and specific focus of his current research is the politics of NATO and European enlargement. Here he shares his thoughts on 'A world without NATO':


The course first ran May 12 to June 01 2014 and was enjoyed by educators and learners from around the world (PDF 393KB).

What have our MOOC learners said?

I particularly appreciate the way the educators get involved in the discussions - I get a real sense that they value learners' opinions and are willing to engage as equals."

The willingness of the educators to engage has been outstanding! (Rises from chair. Applauds wildly)."

A well organised and brilliantly supported week one... I have learned so much and now have access to materials I would never have thought to seek out thanks both to the team and also to the other students... The course is a truly wonderful learning experience - a link should be sent to the UKs political leaders to read to show them how to stimulate understanding and interest in the EU."

5 star rating for this course. I have learned a lot about cooperation in the contemporary world. I am very grateful for this course. It is clearly presented and very informative. Just EXCELLENT but unfortunately too short! A special vote of thanks to the Course Team, the University of Birmingham and Future Learn for making this possible."

Excellent short course. The most valuable parts for me was hearing the insights from the different experts directly. Participating through the "Pause for thought" is very useful, since it allows you to build your own opinions and strengthen the learning. I have to congratulate the designer of the course for putting so much good information in such a compact format, and the experts for speaking so clearly and naturally, making it almost as an in-person session."

Where can this course lead?

You can, of course, sign up to receive a Statement of Participation for this MOOC. However, if you really loved this course, why not...

Follow our work?

The School of Government and Society also holds a range of Events, provides News and media updates on our website, via Twitter (School, POLSIS, IDD and MOOC), thought provoking opinion and analysis via The Conversation and much more.

Take your studies further?

The School of Government and Society has a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses on

Graduates from the School's political science and international studies courses have gone on to work in a range of careers, with recent graduates working with organisations such as the United Nations, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, local authorities in the UK and overseas, and the Department for International Development (DFID).

Our range of international development focused courses cater for those professionals who have worked in governments, non-governmental organisations (either international, regional, national or local) or on donor-funded projects, as well as for recent graduates wishing to work for such organisations, who have some experience of developing countries.

The School takes employability very seriously and as well as linking students to the central careers services, also incorporates opportunities to enhance their employment prospects, including highlighting work experience opportunities, encouraging volunteering in extra-curricular projects (such as student seminars and events), and providing optional seminars and podcasts.