International Relations (Security) MA/PGDip

Course details: Details | Why study this course | Modules | Fees and funding | Entry requirements | How to apply.

This programme will appeal to a wide range of students who have an interest in security issues and practices, including civilian and military officials who want to deepen their understanding and upgrade their qualifications. You will develop an understanding of the core concepts that inform the study and practice of security.

We offer a flexible programmes and a wide choice of modules (part-time students also welcome).

In the Department of Political Science and International Studies we offer much more than a degree. As a student here, you have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of events, with some or all of the costs paid for by the School. 

Please be reassured that the vote to leave the European Union does not mean there will be any immediate material change to the UK university sector’s participation in EU programmes nor to the immigration status of prospective EU students starting in 2016/17 and 2017/18. Visit our EU Referendum information page for more information.

Course details: Why study this course | Modules | Fees and funding | Entry requirements | How to apply.

The degree provides an advanced understanding of issues in international security since the end of the Cold War. It focuses on security in relation to issues of force and power in international relations, and is placed within the relevant theoretical and empirical contexts of contemporary debates.

You can expect to gain an understanding of the wide-ranging nature of security studies, an appreciation of the historical importance of security issues, and an insight into future problems and debates that will affect the stability of the 21st-century world order.

You will develop an understanding of the core concepts that inform the study and practice of security, including:

  • The changing meaning of security and what issues are considered to be security issues
  • The different concepts that inform the study and practice of security, such as explanations of war, deterrence, balance of power theories, alliance formation and management, and collective security
  • The concepts that inform the use and control of military force, such as arms races and arms control, coercion, military intervention, and peacekeeping
  • Classical strategic thought
  • The range of the security issues of the post-Cold War and post-9/11 periods, including terrorism and local and global insurgency and the challenges these pose

One of the real strengths of our masters programmes is the wide range of available modules, giving students the ability to tailor their course of study to their own academic interests.

Who is the programme for?

This programme will appeal to a wide range of students who have an interest in security issues and practices, including civilian and military officials (most probably junior or mid-level officials), who want to deepen their understanding and upgrade their qualifications. It will also be of interest to students who seek to develop a deeper understanding of these very important aspects of international relations and of the world we live in.

More information on: International Relations MA (with specialist pathways)

Pre-Masters in International Development and Relations


This pathway is designed for flexibility, allowing you to choose over half of the MA content from a wide range of optional modules. This degree comprises the following modules:


  • 40 credits - Security Studies
  • 60 credits - Dissertation  MA students to submit a 13,500 word dissertation (not applicable to Diploma Students)

You'll take at least 40 credits from the optional modules A list. These are modules that we believe best fit this degree. We recommend that you also take some or all of your remaining credits from this list. 

Optional Modules A (at least 40 credits from the following)

We also offer you the opportunity to choose from our much longer list of Optional Modules B.

Optional Modules B (up to 40 credits from the following)

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

Fees and funding

Masters degree fees 2018-19
  Full time Part time
Home/EU students £9,000 £4,500
Overseas students £17,010  -
Postgraduate diploma fees 2018-19
  Full time Part time
Home/EU students £6,000 £3,000
Overseas students £11,340  -

Please check with the Department for the latest fees information.
Learn more about fees and funding.

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

The Postgraduate Student Loan has increased its maximum loan amount to £10,280. For more detailed information view our Postgraduate funding page.

Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships may be available. International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

For further information contact the School directly or visit

Scholarships and bursaries in the Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS).

Entry requirements

For the MA programme you require a good Honours degree or its equivalent. For those whose first language is not English, an IELTS Certificate is required.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students:

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

We advocate an enquiry-based approach to learning, which means that we encourage you to become an independent and self-motivated learner. Through the programme of study we offer, we will develop the qualities that employers value in today's university graduates - qualities that will set you apart in your future career.

To help you develop the above-mentioned skills, we adopt a range of teaching methods. They may include:

  • Lectures - listening to experts sharing their knowledge and discoveries in challenging and provocative ways. Students are expected to 'read-around' the subject matter of their lectures, adding to their understanding and developing their critical faculties and analytical skills.
  • Seminars - where you present and discuss your ideas and knowledge in smaller groups and debate interpretations and opinions with other students.
  • Tutorials - are your opportunity to discuss your work with your tutor, usually in small groups.
  • Workshops - are problem solving sessions facilitated by a member of academic staff; these sessions usually involve students working in groups.

Our lecturers and tutors will ensure you have all the resources you need to make the transition from A levels to the more rigorous demands of a degree.

More about teaching and learning at the University of Birmingham.

Enhancing your Student Experience

In the School of Government and Society we offer much more than a degree. As a student here, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, you have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of events, with some or all of the costs paid for by the School.

Some of these are targeted to help you build skills and experience for your CV, others are more open events designed to expose you to high-level speakers on current debates relevant to all Government and Society students.

Mathew Clarke, Hamburg MUN (December 2012), "In December 2012 I went to Hamburg to take part in a Model United Nations (MUN) Conference with the MUN Society at the University. The experience was eye opening allowing me see how to apply the topics I had learnt at Birmingham to a real world event. While I had been to other non-MUN conferences, which were not with the university, both in the UK and around the world this was a truly unique event."

Ana Alecsandru, UNA Youth Conference - New Nuclear Realities (February 2013), "This event allowed me to gain an insight into the challenges facing the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. The programme included interactive discussions with high profile nuclear professionals regarding the current situation of the international non-proliferation regime and the nuclear disarmament under the auspices of the United Nations and IAEA."

Georgiana Chiriac, Harvard Model United Nations (February 2013), "Overall, This opportunity was excellent for me and for the entire delegation in terms of gaining knowledge and expertise at the highest level, as well as with regards to personal growth and development."

Read more of our students' experiences and profiles on the school website.


Departments from across the School of Government and Society are all based within the recently refurbished Muirhead Tower. Following a £50million refurbishment, Muirhead Tower offers state-of-the-art teaching and research study facilities including free wifi throughout the building and dedicated study areas for postgraduate research students.

Muirhead Tower comprises 12,000sq.m of floor space between two towers. The tower includes a number of sustainable features including solar shading (known in the trade as brise soliel) to control temperatures, as well as low energy fans; timed lighting to reduce energy waste; natural ventilation systems and a heat source taken from the University’s combined heat and power generator.

The space has been designed to create modern, attractive spaces for teaching and research accommodating 150 academic offices, 230 "hubs" for post graduate research students, teaching rooms for up to 100 people and a 200 seat lecture theatre.

Graduates from the School 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.

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 by inviting backgrounds for students to meet.

More information about careers and employability

Careers Support for Work Experience and Internships

The Careers and Employability Centre provides a dedicated service to help you find work experience or internship opportunities outside of your studies, either part-time during term-time, or over the summer vacation. Right from the start of your degree you will have access to our interactive careers service, through which many regional, national and international employers advertise their vacancies, and your college internship officers will go out and about to find vacancies that will be a useful addition to your CV. 

Ever wondered what it would be like to work in a New York Theatre?  Interested in working in the city? Fancy travelling to India to take part in a project to promote urban cycling?  Interested in public diplomacy, economics, media relations or PR, journalism or international affairs?  The University of Birmingham offers a range of work experience bursaries, where you can apply for up to £9,000 to help fund work experience or an internship, a research placement, or volunteering, anywhere in the world during the summer vacation.  The funding can help you pay for accommodation costs, travel expenses, or living costs, and will help you rise above the competition.

Through our mentoring scheme, we also provide students in any year of undergraduate study with the opportunity to be mentored by successful Birmingham graduates from a diverse range of career backgrounds, such as marketing, finance, politics, and international affairs. In your final year of study you can also apply to be part of our Alumni Leadership Mentoring programme, and receive one-to-one mentoring from high-profile Birmingham alumni.  This year’s mentors include Martin Devenish, Partner and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, and Mike Coupe, a director at J Sainsbury’s.

Find out more about support for work experience and internships, bursaries, or mentoring.

Funding for work placements, research placements and internships
The Careers and Employability Centre offer a range of award schemes for students from a range of backgrounds that are looking to undertake a variety of work experience placements and internships.