BA in International Relations


Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description

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

Taught by experts in a stimulating research environment, you’ll examine the ways in which states behave and what obligations they may have to wider conceptions of international society. You’ll explore the political dynamics that influence interstate cooperation, and the roles of international organisations like the UN in promoting international peace and security.

Quantitative Research Methods (QRM) pathway

At the end of Year 1, you’ll have the opportunity to apply for a place on our BA International Relations with Quantitative Research Methods pathway. This pathway 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 (e.g. 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, this pathway is open to all students as long as you have attained an overall 2.1 in your first year and a 2:1 in the Comparative Politics module.

Course content

Core modules in Year 1 will equip you with the research and academic skills you need to study international relations. You’ll also gain an understanding of the historical development of states, the divide between the Global North and South and diverse political theories while exploring current changes in the system of international politics and comparing the systems within different states. You can also start to put your studies into context, with optional modules on topics like development or British politics.

Year 2 allows you to build on this foundation, as you explore international organisations and their role in the world order. You’ll develop a critical understanding of rival theories in international relations and examine important debates in security studies. Our modules are designed to help you improve your own research skills and give you an insight into the research methods used in the social sciences. A range of optional modules will allow you to focus on the political landscape in different countries or regions, and you could also choose a related module on development, public policy or a range of broader topics.

The only compulsory module in your final year will be your dissertation – an independently researched project on a topic of your choice, which showcases your knowledge and skills. In addition, you’ll complete your study with optional modules covering topics such as terrorism, UK foreign policy and Europe’s relationship with the wider global community. You can choose up to two optional modules from a range offered across the school in areas such as political psychology, the politics of aid or political theory.

Course structure

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time.


Year 1

Compulsory modules

  • Studying and Researching in POLIS
  • Comparative Politics
  • Making of the Modern World
  • International Politics
  • Freedom, Power and Resistance: An Introduction to Political Ideas

Optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

  • British Politics
  • Global Development Challenges
  • Contemporary Africas: Politics, Society and the Environment

Discovery modules

  • You may choose up to 20 credits of discovery modules.
Year 2

Compulsory modules

  • Theories of International Relations
  • Security Studies
  • Approaches to Analysis

Optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

  • Politics and Policy in the EU
  • Comparative Politics of Pacific Asia
  • Politics of Contemporary China
  • United States Politics
  • Revolution and Reaction: Political Problems in the 20th Century
  • Justice, Community and Conflict
  • Analysing Data in Politics, Development and International Relations
  • Career Planning for POLIS Students

Discovery modules

  • You may choose up to 20 credits of discovery modules.
Year 3

Compulsory modules

  • Dissertation

Optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

  • The End of British Politics?
  • The Politics of Aid
  • Extreme Right Parties in Contemporary Europe
  • Britain and the EU
  • Dirty War: Insurgency, the State and Cities
  • Introduction to Programming for Social Science
  • Video Games: Politics, Society and Culture

Discovery modules

  • You may choose up to 20 credits of discovery modules.

126002_photo-1563711246253-b4af863acbd4.jpg Sebastiano Piazzi / Unsplash

Broadening your academic horizons

At Leeds we want you to benefit from the depth and breadth of the University's expertise, to prepare you for success in an ever-changing and challenging world. This course gives you the opportunity to broaden your learning by studying discovery modules.

Learning and teaching

We use a range of teaching and learning methods to help you gain diverse skills. These will include seminars and workshops where you can discuss in more depth the topics set out in traditional lectures. We emphasise the importance of participation, presentation skills and group work.

Independent study is also a vital element of the course, as it allows you to develop your research and critical skills while preparing for taught sessions.

You’ll also have a personal tutor – one of our academics – who will be on hand to offer you guidance and support on academic issues, such as module choices, as well as career and personal matters.>


Modules will use a variety of assessment methods. As well as traditional exams, you could also be asked to complete projects based on essays and case studies, policy briefs, group presentations, work logs, research briefs, project proposals or development agency reviews. In your final year, you’ll also submit a 12,000-word dissertation.

Entry requirements

A-Level: AAB

We don’t require A-level Politics for any of our degrees and we welcome applications that include vocational A -level subjects such as AVCE (single or double awards). Any combination of these with A-levels is acceptable.

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

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 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.

International foundation year

If you have the ability to study for a degree but don’t have the qualifications to enter directly to level one, you might consider studying a foundation year. We have formal links with the following foundation year programmes:

  • University of Leeds International Foundation Year (IFY)
  • Northern Consortium of UK Universities (NCUK)
  • Study Group Leeds International Study Centre (LISC)

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

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.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component.

Career opportunities

This course will give you an 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.

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.

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.

Last updated Feb 2020

About the School

Our wide range of research-informed courses encompass undergraduate, taught postgraduate and research degree programmes, as well as online and professional development courses.

Our wide range of research-informed courses encompass undergraduate, taught postgraduate and research degree programmes, as well as online and professional development courses. Read less