This degree has three stages, each comprising 120 credits.
- You’ll begin Stage 1 with a choice of two introductory modules – focussing on social sciences or the environment. You’ll follow this by examining the issues that face contemporary society.
- Next, in Stage 2, you’ll study a core module in international development followed by a module selected from politics, history or the environment.
- Finally, in Stage 3, you’ll take a core module in international relations and conclude your degree by building on your study in your chosen specialism.
Stage 1 starts with one of two options – a core social science module covering geography, economics, sociology, psychology, politics and international studies; or an interdisciplinary exploration of key environmental issues. Finally, you’ll continue your investigation of the issues that face contemporary society through the different disciplines that make up the social sciences.
The core of your studies at this stage includes such vital issues as the rise of China, India and Brazil; international efforts to tackle poverty and inequality; the impact of conflict and civil wars on development; and the role of technology in changing patterns of development. You'll also study a further module in the environment, history or politics, and we recommend that you study the modules in the order shown below for each route.
In Stage 3, you’ll deepen your understanding of international relations; global politics; international economics; and the problems of international justice, governance and security. You’ll also study a further module in the environment, history or politics depending on your choice of route.
We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 17 March 2021.
We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The BA (Honours) International Studies uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:
- studying a mixture of printed and online material – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
- working in a group with other students
- finding external/third party material online.
For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit Disability support to find more about what we offer.
Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment
This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:
- Knowledge and understanding
- Cognitive skills
- Practical and professional skills
- Key skills
The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.
Read the detailed learning outcomes here
If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.
It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.
You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. We will need to know what you studied, where and when and you will need to provide evidence of your previous study.
For more details of when you will need to apply by and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.
Classification of your degree
On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our BA (Honours) International Studies.
The class of honours (first, upper-second, lower-second or third) will depend on your grades at Stages 2 and 3.
You’ll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony.
As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.
There are no formal entry requirements for this qualification.
At The Open University we believe education should be open to all, so we provide a high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.
Even though there are no entry requirements, there are some skills that you'll need to succeed. If you're not quite ready for OU study we can guide you to resources that prepare you, many of which are free.
Answer a few quick questions to check whether you're ready for study success
How much time do I need?
Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner
- Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
- This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week.
Preparing for study with an Access module
Students who start their study with an Access module are more likely to be successful when they advance to Stage 1 of their qualification. They’re specially designed to give you a gentle introduction to OU study, boost confidence in your study skills, and help you gain a broad overview of your chosen subject area.
You’ll also benefit from:
- feedback from your tutor through regular one-to-one phone tutorials
- support from a dedicated team throughout your study
- detailed written feedback on your work.
The Access module we’d recommend studying in preparation for this qualification is our:
People, work and society Access module
What you will study
This multidisciplinary module provides an excellent introduction to studying with The Open University; you'll get to cover a wide range of subject areas, including childhood and youth studies, social science, psychology, health, business and law.
View full details of People, work and society Access module
Skills for career development
Employers value the diversity of transferable skills that this degree course develops. You’ll be able to analyse problems relating to a range of international issues including: co-operation and conflict; cultural difference; development and international economic change. Key transferable skills include the abilities to:
- use a range of communication technologies to independently research, select and present information
- analyse and critically evaluate information and data
- write and communicate concisely and clearly
- assemble reasoned arguments for particular audiences
- use a range of formats: essays, presentations, reports, collaborative working, online forums
- use strategies to update your knowledge
- value critical feedback to reflect on your progress and improve your work.
An international studies degree is applicable to a wide range of professions in the private and public sectors, including international agencies and government bodies (national and European), businesses and non-governmental organisations.
Many graduate-level jobs are open to graduates of any discipline, particularly in business, finance, management consultancy and the public sector. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.
Exploring your options
Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice. This includes online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.
In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point. Some careers will require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.
- government social research officer
- charity officer
- politician's assistant
- public relations account executive
- social researcher
- diplomatic services operational officer
- market researcher
- newspaper journalist
- civil service administrator
- risk analyst
- investment banker
- international trade researcher
- TEFL teacher
- terrorism analyst.