International Relations BA

Year of entry

2023 course information

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UCAS code
Start date
September 2024
Delivery type
On campus
3 years full time
Work placement
Study abroad
Typical A-level offer
AAB (specific subject requirements)
Typical Access to Leeds offer
Full entry requirements

Course overview

A seminar in session

International Relations explores how states interact and co-operate with each other. This degree offers you a historical understanding of the development of the ‘society of states’ and how it is changing today.

You’ll explore the political dynamics that influence interstate cooperation, as well as how organisations like the UN promote international peace and security. You’ll also gain expertise in data analysis, research and critical thinking, as you examine what obligations we may have to international society.

We offer a wide range of optional modules which allow you to develop your interests in specialist areas. You’ll gain a diverse skillset that will be valuable to you as a citizen, as well as in your future career – whatever path you choose to take.

Course highlights

  • Study in our world ranked School of Politics and International Studies.
  • Explore the latest real-world challenges across a range of political subjects and gain a global understanding of them.
  • Learn from influential academics who are helping to shape policy and hear from inspiring guest speakers.
  • Get the opportunity to study abroad and develop an international perspective or undertake a work placement to gain practical experience.
  • Prepare for your future with careers and employability support.
  • Add an analytical focus to your degree with the opportunity to apply for a Quantitative Research Methods pathway, helping you develop advanced analytical skills that are in high demand by employers worldwide.

Course details

Year 1

In Year 1, you’ll be equipped with the research and academic skills needed to study international relations. You’ll understand how states have developed historically, and the divide between the Global North and South. You’ll also learn how our systems of international politics are currently changing, and how states’ political systems are different from one another.

Year 2

In Year 2, you’ll learn about international organisations and the role they play in world order. You’ll develop a critical understanding of rival theories in international relations and examine important debates in global security. Along the way you’ll improve your own research skills, while optional modules let you focus on a particular country or region’s political landscape.

Final Year

In your final year, most of your time will be dedicated to your dissertation. This independently researched project is on a topic of your choice, and allows you to demonstrate your interdisciplinary, critical and research skills. You’ll also take a choice of modules on topics such as terrorism, UK foreign policy and Europe’s relationship with the wider global community.

Quantitative Research Methods Pathway

At the end of Year 1, you'll have the opportunity to apply for our Quantitative Research Methods Pathway. This will help you develop advanced analytical skills, which are in high demand across the public, private and third sectors.

You will learn statistical analysis techniques and their application to real data (eg survey data, countries’ statistical data) using statistical software. You will also write a dissertation in which you will analyse quantitative data to examine questions about politics, development or international relations.

You are not required to have done Mathematics at A level for this pathway. You will need to attain an overall grade of 2:1 in first year and a 2:1 in the Comparative Politics module.

Course structure

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our terms and conditions.

Year 1 compulsory modules

The Politics of Global Challenges: Becoming an Independent Researcher (40 credits) – This module will introduce students to key themes and topics when studying politics and international studies. You’ll understand how you collaborate in an academic community, and gain key skills for academic work, research, and scholarly independence. You’ll also be introduced to the main themes and questions surrounding the politics of global challenges.

International Politics (20 credits) – You’ll start this module with a brief historical context, covering some of the key developments in world politics to date. You’ll be introduced to many of International Politics’ most important concepts including the international system, war, peace, sovereignty, collective security, inequality, and international organisations. You’ll also be introduced to regionalism in international affairs, and in particular to the international politics of Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

Making of the Modern World (20 credits) – In this part of the course you’ll understand how our world became increasingly integrated and connected, approaching the concept from economic, political, military and social perspectives. You’ll examine the concept of modernity through major historical events, including the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution – while also challenging their dominant narratives. Later, you’ll learn how colonialism has impacted land, health and the climate catastrophe, how colonialism has been resisted, and colonialism’s more persistent features.

Global Development Challenges (20 credits) – In this module you’ll learn about challenges in global development such as poverty, health, hunger, education, work and environmental sustainability. We’ll introduce you to ideas of development, rights and gender, which you’ll use to better understand what these challenges are caused by. The module will also teach you how to analyse, synthesise and communicate ideas and information, which will be useful outside an academic setting.

Freedom Power and Resistance (20 credits) – This module introduces Western political thought, establishing a grounding in key ideas and theories that have shaped modern politics. You will critically reflect on public life and gain a foundation for further study of political theory. You’ll focus on the work of five influential thinkers, investigating the historical context in which they wrote their ideas and theories, and the potential to apply these to the modern world. This enables you to develop essential study skills in reading and writing political theory.

Year 2 compulsory modules

Approaches to Analysis (20 credits) – You will learn here about the different ways we approach research, with a showcase of the latest research in POLIS. This helps introduce you to key ideas like designing and implementing a research project, along with key methods in politics, international development and international relations. You’ll gain practical experience of gathering evidence, while many of your other skills developed will transfer well to employment.

Theories of International Relations (20 credits) – This module explores rival approaches to International Relations Theory. You’ll analyse each theory, assessing their strengths and weaknesses and developing your critical thinking skills. You’ll also attend lectures and seminars which look at contemporary international developments. These let you put the theories you’ve learned about into practice, and let you consider how theory and practice relate to each other.

Global Security Challenges (20 credits) – This module introduces you to debates on security in international relations. You’ll look at the concept, role and making of security in today’s international system, and receive an outline of the theories and concepts used in security studies. You’ll also analyse important challenges framed as security threats, debate different ideas of security, whose security we can discuss and today’s security threats, including conflict, terrorism and climate change.

Year 2 optional modules

You will choose 60 credits of optional modules from a range of related topics, typically including:

Forced Migration (20 credits) – This module allows you to consider forced migration as part of contemporary global challenges. You’ll explore how forced migration must be studied in relation to international conflict, environmental changes and global governance. Your studies will focus on the lived experiences of forced migrants, paying close attention to race and gender in the process.

Politics and Policy in the EU (20 credits) – This module gives you the chance to explore the truth behind various “Euromyths”, such as the concept of a superstate overriding the will of national governments. You’ll examine how the EU actually works, as well as the roles played by its various institutions.

Analysing Data in Politics, International Development and International Relations (20 credits) – The focus of this module is basic statistical analysis, which allows us to answer complex questions around human behaviour. Combining mathematics with a hands-on, applied approach, you’ll learn how to use and apply numerical data and explain the results of your analysis. The skills learned here will greatly expand your dissertation topics and approaches, and are highly valued by employers as well.

Critically Analysing the Responsibility to Protect (20 credits) – The Responsibility to Protect is an agreement endorsed at the United Nations in 2005, establishing a responsibility to protect people from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. You’ll take a closer look at the agreement in the module, and whether it is ultimately helpful or harmful in our efforts to keep people safe.

United States Politics (20 credits) – This module explores the politics of the world’s only superpower: an area of particular interest within Britain, as the United States exerts significant influence on it. You’ll explore the origins of American political culture and the constitution, how the President, legislature and Supreme Court are selected, and how they wield power. You’ll also consider the influence that political parties, interest groups and the media have on the divisiveness of US politics.

Politics of Contemporary China (20 credits) – If you’re looking for a thorough understanding of contemporary Chinese politics, this module is an essential choice. It discusses the structure of the state, the evolving role of the Chinese Communist Party and how Chinese society is affected by economic and political reforms. You’ll also explore political struggles and development strategies in regions such as Xinjiang, and critically engage with relevant literature and policy debates.

State and Politics in Africa (20 credits) – This module investigates the concept of the ‘African renaissance’, brought about by the continent’s positive GDP growth rare and increasing election frequency after the instability of the 1980s. You’ll consider if such a narrative is credible, and learn more about the continent’s various social, political and developmental challenges.

North-South Linkages (20 credits) – This module explores the political-economic relationship between the industrialised Global North and the industrialised, developing Global South. You’ll learn about the key, drivers, characteristics and repercussions of the relationship, include points of conflict and whose interests it works in. You’ll also consider the roles played by organisations mediating the relations, as well as the structure of production, trade and regulation.

Final Year

Dissertation (40 credits) – Your dissertation is a piece of written work that’s 10,000 words long. As its topic is your choice (following agreement by the School Dissertation Committee) it’s an opportunity to follow through a topic you’re interested in but haven’t had the chance to research. You can also use it to further explore second and third-level modules in greater detail.

Final Year optional modules

You will choose 60 credits of optional modules from a range of related topics, typically including:

British Foreign Policy (20 credits) – This module focuses primarily on British Foreign Policy after the Second World War. It begins with the theory of foreign policy analysis, with later weeks focussing on regions, relationships and events crucial to the policy. Examples include the Anglo-American relationship, former colonial nations like India and Australia, the Post-War Settlement in Europe and the Cold War.

Gender and Security in Global Politics (20 credits) – This module offers a feminist, decolonised and intersectional perspective on security, violence and war. You’ll come to understand the key concepts around gender, sex and race in international security, explore gender-based violence, and how the intersection of gender, sex and race shapes our response to violence and war.

American Foreign Policy (20 credits) – Your focus in this module is the different schools of thought around American foreign policy: specifically, the liberal, realist, neoconservative and critical traditions. You’ll be given the tools to interpret and assess the United States’ foreign policy following the Cold War, why the invasion of Iraq was considered a necessity by President Bush Jr., and the impact of the Iraq War on the United States’ perception of its role in the world.

Terrorism (20 credits) – You’ll use this module to receive a deeper understanding of terrorism. Subjects explored include why people engage in terrorism, the threat it poses, and how it can be countered and prevented. You’ll come to understand the terrorist life cycle, as well as cases, concepts and debates surrounding the idea.

Europe in the World (20 credits) – This module considers the role of the EU in world affairs, along with other important topics like war, peace, human rights and international relations. It looks closely at key players such as the UK, the US, Germany, France and NATO, providing you with a detailed analysis of Europe in a post-Cold War world.

Nuclear Weapons and Global Politics (20 credits) – This module explores the role of nuclear weapons in global politics. You’ll learn how nuclear weapons have influenced state power and conflict, the role of international institutions and transnational activism. Core concepts you’ll study include deterrence, disarmament, security and terrorism, as well as how nuclear weapons have more broadly shaped our politics and society.

Global Political Economy (20 credits) – In this module you’ll receive a thorough grounding in the global political economy, as well as the tools to critically analyse it. It focuses on both global and regional institutions including the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. You’ll be guided in each case by core political economy issues, as well as the everyday and lived experience of capitalism.

Learning and teaching

We use a variety of teaching and learning methods on this course, including lectures, seminars and workshops. You’ll study independently as well, which helps you develop your research and critical skills. This will prepare you for taught sessions where participation, presentation skills and group work are essential.

While encouraging you to become a self-motivated learner, we will guide you through your studies and help develop the skills you need to become an independent thinker.

You’ll also be assigned a personal tutor, who you’ll meet with regularly. They’ll offer guidance and support, helping with your academic and personal development and making sure you get the most out of your time at university.

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.


Modules will use a variety of assessment methods. As well as assessed essays you could also be asked to complete case study-based projects, policy briefs, group presentations, work logs, research briefs, project proposals, development agency reviews or exams. In your final year you’ll also submit a 10,000-word dissertation.

Entry requirements

A-level: AAB

We do not require A-level Politics for courses in the School of Politics and International Studies.

In general we expect applicants to have two ‘traditional’ academic subjects at A-level.

See our accepted subjects document to see which subjects we accept.

When an applicant is taking the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) this can be considered alongside A-levels and may attract an alternative offer in addition to the standard offer. If you are taking A-levels, this would be ABB at A-level including grade A in the EPQ.

Alternative qualification

Access to HE Diploma

Complete 60 credits with 45 credits at level 3, including 30 credits at Distinction and 15 at Merit or higher.



Cambridge Pre-U

D3, D3, M2.

International Baccalaureate

35 overall (6,5,5 higher).

Irish Leaving Certificate (higher Level)

H2, H2, H2, H2, H3, H3.

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers

AB in Advanced Highers and AABBB in Highers; or A in Advanced Highers and AAABB in Highers, or AAAABB in Highers.


We will consider T-levels in appropriate subjects as they become available. In all cases applicants should have GCSE English at 4 or above.

Read more about UK and Republic of Ireland accepted qualifications or contact the School’s Undergraduate Admissions Team.

Alternative entry

We’re committed to identifying the best possible applicants, regardless of personal circumstances or background.

Access to Leeds is an alternative admissions scheme which accepts applications from individuals who might be from low income households, in the first generation of their immediate family to apply to higher education, or have had their studies disrupted.

Find out more about Access to Leeds and alternative admissions.

Typical Access to Leeds offer:

If you do not have the formal qualifications for immediate entry to one of our degrees, we offer a foundation year for UK students who meet specific widening participation criteria. Learn more about the BA Social Science (foundation year).


We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications. For more information contact the School of Politics and International Studies admissions team.

International foundation year

International students who do not meet the academic requirements for undergraduate study may be able to study a foundation year. Find out more about International Foundation Year programmes.

If you are applying from an alternative foundation year provider, please contact our admissions team to find out if your qualification is suitable for entry to our courses.

Study Group International Year One in International Relations

Taught at the Leeds International Study Centre, this two-semester course is equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree. It aims to help you develop the skills you need to join the second year of the BA International Relations at the University of Leeds. Find out more about the international year one.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English
If you're an international student and you don't meet the English language requirements for this programme, you may be able to study our undergraduate pre-sessional English course, to help improve your English language level.


UK: £9,250 (per year)

International: £24,500 (per year)

Tuition fees for UK undergraduate students starting in 2023/24 and 2024/25
Tuition fees for UK full-time undergraduate students are set by the UK Government and will remain capped at £9,250 for 2023/24 and 2024/25. The fee may increase in future years of your course in line with inflation only as a consequence of future changes in Government legislation and as permitted by law.

Tuition fees for international undergraduate students starting in 2023/24 and 2024/25
Tuition fees for international students for 2023/24 and 2024/25 are available on individual course pages.

Tuition fees for a study abroad or work placement year
If you take a study abroad or work placement year, you’ll pay a reduced tuition fee during this period. For more information, see Study abroad and work placement tuition fees and loans.

Read more about paying fees and charges.

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more about additional costs.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There is help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government. Find out more in our Undergraduate funding overview.


Apply to this course through UCAS. Check the deadline for applications on the UCAS website.

We typically receive a high number of applications for this course. To ensure we treat all applications fairly and equitably, we review applications after the UCAS deadline before making a final decision. All applications received before the UCAS deadline are guaranteed equal consideration. Please see our Admissions Guidance page for more details as well as advice on personal statements.

International students apply through UCAS in the same way as UK students. Our network of international representatives can help you with your application. If you’re unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Taught Admissions Policy 2024

This course is taught by

School of Politics and International Studies

Contact us

School of Politics and International Studies Admissions Team


Career opportunities

This course will give you in-depth understanding of one of the most important aspects of political life, as well as a range of transferable skills in research and analysis, critical thinking, communication and presentation that will be valuable in a wide range of careers in different sectors.

Our graduates have gone on to work in political research and analysis, the Civil Service, the media, marketing, PR, international organisations like the UN and World Bank and non-governmental organisations. They work as policy advisors, diplomats, advocacy workers, public affairs executives, youth or support workers and journalists. Others have pursued careers in education, the charity sector, banking and finance or law.

Graduate destinations have included the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, BBC, Oxfam, Royal Institute of International Affairs, Department for International Development, Amnesty International, the House of Commons, the New Statesman and many others.

Read more about career opportunities.

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

Leeds for Life is our unique approach to helping you make the most of University by supporting your academic and personal development. Find out more at the Leeds for Life website.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more about Careers support.

Study abroad and work placements

Study abroad

On this course you have the opportunity to apply to spend time abroad, usually as an extra academic year. We have over 300 University partners worldwide and popular destinations for our students include Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa and Latin America. 

Find out more at the Study Abroad website.

Work placements

Practical work experience can help you decide on your career and improve your employability. On this course you have the option to apply to take a placement year module with organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors in the UK, or overseas.

Find out more about work experience on the Careers website.