MA International relations part 1

At the forefront of your learning with this module will be equipping you with the tools to analyse and interpret key global challenges. These include how the world responds to international division and the rise of new powers, national and global security threats, the crisis of democracy, and global ethical dilemmas. By focusing on these real-world issues, you'll gain a deep and comprehensive grounding in the core empirical, conceptual and theoretical debates in International Relations, as well as develop your skills in a range of research methods.

Vocational relevance

This module has practical and vocational relevance by building policy-relevant knowledge and skills. The real-world focus and the skill set it develops will be of particular interest if you're looking to go on to further academic research, advance your existing career or seek employment in a range of professions. This could include the civil and diplomatic service, internationally focused non-government and policy organisations, the charities sector, and think tanks. 


D818 is a compulsory module for:

D818 is an optional module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module is comprised of the following blocks, and each block presents ‘big questions’ that relate to contemporary, ‘real world’ global challenges:

Block 1: How can international divisions be understood? 
The focus of the first block will be on two forms of international division: divisions over territory and economic divisions over income and wealth. These divisions – why they matter, where they originate from and how they can be addressed – are at the heart of many debates in IR.

Block 2: What challenges do rising powers pose to international order?
Block 2 analyses the current international order and changes within it, its key actors, and how International Relations scholarship can best be used to research the shifting centre of gravity in international politics.

Block 3: How is security produced in the international system? 
This block introduces and explores the concept of ‘security’ within International Relations. You'll be introduced to key debates in security studies, asking what we mean by security within International Relations, whose security matters, and how security is produced.

Block 4: Can global threats to survival be met? 
Block 4 explores wider challenges to the international system and the ways in which the political system responds to them. The focus will be on climate change and global health, and gives you the opportunity to practise and understand negotiating through a negotiation simulation.

Block 5: How does the crisis of democracy affect international relations?
This block explores the links between domestic factors and international relations. In particular, it examines how democracy affects international relations. You'll also trace how the global status of democracy has changed over time and the impact this has had on international relations.

Block 6: Is a global ethics possible?  
In the final block, you'll examine ethics in global politics. This encompasses dilemmas around humanitarian intervention and questions about the ethics of decision-making, how ethical standards develop and are maintained, and what this tells us about the nature of international society more broadly.

Each block follows the same pattern over their four weeks and focuses on:

  • setting up the ‘real world’ debates and dilemmas that the block addresses
  • the core conceptual teaching, deepening your knowledge and understanding of conceptual perspectives in International Relations (IR)
  • core IR theories, with two theories covered in each block
  • research methods in IR.

You'll have the chance to develop your research skills throughout the different assessment points, culminating in a piece of independent research on a topic of your choosing for the final project.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be assigned a tutor and be part of a tutorial group. The bulk of the tuition will be delivered online with some additional phone or email support. The tutors are all experts in teaching and research in IR, and will provide guidance on your assessment through tutorial support and feedback.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

The tutor-marked assignments comprise a mix of academic essays, policy reports and briefings. The end-of-module assessment is an independently researched project on a topic of your choice.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

MA International relations part 1 starts once a year – in September. This page describes the module that will start in September 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in September 2034.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

To undertake this postgraduate study successfully, you will need to have an undergraduate honours degree, ideally in International Relations, International Studies or a closely related subject. Although your degree need not be in IR, you must show some knowledge of the subject, together with the study skills expected of a graduate in this field. You should be aware that a degree of at least 2.1 or equivalent will greatly increase your chances of successfully completing the MA.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

The Open Learn course China and the USA: cooperation or conflict? is adapted from our undergraduate module International relations: continuity and change in global politics (DD313).  It gives you a flavour of some of the topics and issues that you will be studying.

To familiarise you with the requirements and demands of postgraduate study, the OpenLearn course Succeeding in postgraduate study has been designed to develop the skills and confidence to pursue your learning further.


Start End England fee Register
07 Sep 2024 Jun 2025 £3820.00

Registration closes 08/08/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in September 2034.

Future availability

MA International relations part 1 starts once a year – in September. This page describes the module that will start in September 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in September 2034.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

You'll have access to a module website which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • online resources and activities 
  • audio and video materials
  • interviews with leading experts
  • directed further readings
  • assessment guide
  • online forums. 

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

We will offer support for students with a range of disabilities. This includes offering alternative module material and assessment formats where necessary.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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