A guide to studying International Relations at university - including what to expect, application tips and future career opportunities. Featuring the University of Gloucestershire.

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A guide to studying International Relations at university - including what to expect, reasons to consider it, application tips and a careers overview


What is International Relations at University?

International Relations university courses give students an understanding of the international political system with a focus on policies, decision-making and analysing many enduring issues, particularly those that go beyond national borders and how these issues affect the world as a whole.

Why consider studying International Relations at university?

There are many global issues, including climate change, poverty, organised crime, migration and human rights and it is often the challenges that we cannot solve as one nation that motivate students to study this course and pursue a career working on these issues.

Politics is at the heart of this course but international relations is a distinct discipline with influence from sociology, criminology, social policy, law, history and human geography. It is a combination of these topics that appeals to students who choose this course.

What to expect if you study International Relations at university?

There are a range of modules offered, therefore it is vital to look in detail at the type of modules available at each university and what you are interested in studying. Examples of modules you can study include examining foreign policy, crimes against humanity, conflict and peace building, geopolitics of environmental change, humanitarian intervention and disaster relief, injustice and freedoms and international governance and law.

If you are interested in studying more than one subject at university then you could also consider International Relations as a joint honours degree, for example, International Relations with Modern Languages, Law or History. International Relations courses will have traditional lectures but will also have seminar style teaching to enable discussion and analysis of issues, which is a core skill. You may have computer workshops analysing data around particular issues as well as a simulation of an international political crisis, which will give understanding of the practical elements of diplomacy. You may well have the opportunity for international experience, e.g. international field trips or studying abroad for a period of time.

What careers does studying International Relations at university lead to?

Studying international relations will give a broad, diverse range of skills including intercultural and global awareness, consensus building, collaboration, data analytics, critical analysis, problem solving and oral and written communication. International Relations graduates are in demand across a whole range of sectors which include the military, intelligence, social research, public affairs, journalism and media, banking and transnational corporations.

Application tips for International Relations university courses

Whilst International Relations may not be a subject taught at A-Levels, it is still essential that you convey your interest through your personal statement, demonstrating your passion for global political issues. This could be through talking about issues in current affairs that interest you, discussing any volunteering you have done or even a particular aspect of a subject you have studied which has intrigued you in relation to international relations.

The UCAS website lists universities that offer International Relations courses and the Prospects website has a dedicated page on International Relations and gives information about the discipline and prospective careers.

With thanks to the event speaker:

Dr Rachel Bennett, Course Leader for International Relations at the University of Gloucestershire

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