International summit

MA in International Relations

This masters degree will equip you with the tools to analyse key global challenges. This includes how the world responds to international division, rising powers, national and global security threats, the rise of populism, and global ethical dilemmas. You’ll gain a comprehensive grounding in core conceptual, empirical and theoretical debates in international relations. You’ll develop your knowledge of research methods as you progress, culminating in an extended, independently researched dissertation. You’ll also deepen a number of skills that are crucial to enhancing your career development and academic and professional research skills.

Key features of the course

  • Engage with some of the most important global challenges facing the world today.
  • Emphasises real world issues, including international division, rising powers, national and global security threats, the rise of populism, and global ethical dilemmas.
  • Learn a range of theoretical approaches, concepts, methods and scholarly debates within International Relations.
  • Develops your independent research skills culminating in a dissertation project.

Masters degree

Course 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.
How long it takes
2 years
Read more about how long it takes
Study method
Distance learning
Course cost
See Fees and funding
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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Course details


To gain this qualification, you need 180 credits from the following:

Compulsory modules Credits Next start
MA International relations part 1 (D818) PLANNED
90 02 Sept 2023
MA International relations part 2 (D828) PLANNED
90 Sept 2024

You should note that the University’s unique study rule applies to this qualification. This means that you must include at least 60 credits from OU modules that have not been counted in any other OU qualification that has previously been awarded to you.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

The learning outcomes of this qualification are described in four areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills
Read more detailed information about the learning outcomes.

Credit transfer

If you’ve successfully completed some relevant postgraduate study elsewhere, you might be able to count it towards this qualification, reducing the number of modules you need to study. If you're awarded module exemption against part 1, the first opportunity to start studying is September 2024. You should apply for credit transfer as soon as possible, before you register for your first module. For more details and an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.

On completion

On successful completion of the required modules you can be awarded an MA in International Relations. You will be entitled you to use the letters MA (IR) (Open) after your name. You will 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. 

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 15 March 2022.

Entry requirements

You must hold a UK honours degree or equivalent to be accepted for the MA in International Relations. A degree in International Relations, International Studies or a closely related subject would be ideal. If your degree is not in International Relations, you will be required to show some knowledge of the subject and 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.

Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum score of 6.5 under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see the IELTS website for details. If you’re not sure whether your English skills are good enough, there is some help and guidance at our Skills for OU Study website.

How long it takes

This qualification has a required study order. You will be able to complete this masters qualification within two years by studying one module each year.

Career relevance

This qualification will give you advanced knowledge and a critical understanding of International Relations and contemporary global changes. It develops your social science research skills, applying these in a variety of projects and an independently researched dissertation. Students graduating from this degree will have demonstrated analysis of complex situations, finding, evaluating and using a variety of sources, and presenting work to a variety of audiences.

The MA will be relevant for careers in a range of sectors including the civil service, international organisations and charities, think-tank and policy research, and serves as excellent preparation for further academic research (e.g. a PhD).

Careers and Employability Services have more information on how OU study can improve your employability.