The MPhil in International Relations is a two-year (21-month) course which offers intellectually rigorous training in the recent history of world politics, in the theoretical or conceptual study of International Relations as well as the appropriate research methods.
The course equips students with the skills they require to undertake research and study at an advanced level and also to undertake many forms of professional work in the field. This MPhil is a very popular course, attracting students from the world’s leading institutions. Entry is competitive and students come from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities.
The objective of the course is to give students, in their first-year, a thorough mastery of the major facts, methodologies and perspectives in the field as well as to develop research skills. This is supplemented in the second year by specialised course work on two optional subjects and a 30,000-word thesis.
The MPhil course has both substantive and research methods training elements:
Two core subjects, on which written examinations are held at the end of the second year.
Two optional subjects, also leading to written examinations at the end of the second year.
Quantitative and Formal Methods in IR course, assessed by coursework.
A thesis of not more than 30,000 words.
At the end of your first year, you’ll be required to pass a Qualifying Test. Failure to do so means that you cannot proceed to the second year’s work. The Qualifying Test has three parts:
A formally assessed essay of up to 4,000 words on research design as it bears on some aspect of International Relations that has to be submitted on the Monday of 6th week of the Trinity Term. This will normally be in the area of the proposed MPhil thesis.
A single three-hour written examination paper, with questions drawn from the two compulsory subjects (The Development of the International System, 1900-1950, and Contemporary Debates in International Relations Theory), as taught in the first two terms. This exam is taken at the start of Trinity Term.
Satisfactory completion of research training, which includes attendance at various classes and workshops and submission of two pieces of coursework.
These two subjects are covered by the first-year MPhil class which meets once a week over the first three terms. They are:
(a) The Development of the International System since 1900 The history of relations between states in peace and war, and the development of the international system since 1900. It will include such topics as: the pre-1914 system; the balance of power and the causes of the First World War; the effects of the peace settlement and the rise of liberal and realist approaches to international relations; collective security and the League of Nations system; political and economic co-operation in the interwar period; the USA., Soviet Union, Middle East and Far East in the inter-war years; the impact of domestic politics and ideology on foreign policy; the causes of the Second World War; the relationship between politics and strategy in the Second World War; post-war reconstruction and the origins of the Cold War; the evolution of the Cold War; decolonisation and self-determination; regional conflicts; integration in Western Europe; détente and the end of the Cold War; the evolution of international economic institutions; the evolution of security institutions; and international relations in the post Cold War world.
(b) Contemporary Debates in International Relations Theory Ideas about, and explanations of, international relations, concentrating mainly (but not exclusively) on the major theoretical approaches in the academic study of international relations since 1945. The key theories and approaches to be examined include: realism and neo-realism; theories about war, security and the use of force in international relations; classical liberalism and transformation in world politics; theories about inter-state co-operation and transnationalism; the concept of international society; constructivism and the impact of law and norms in international relations; neo-Marxist and critical theory approaches to international relations; normative theory and international ethics.
Teaching in some options may not be available every year. Students are advised during their first year (usually in March/April) of the availability and the teaching arrangements for the optional subjects.
The options are chosen from the following:
European international History since 1945
The Politics of the United Nations and its Agencies
The USSR and Russia in International Relations Since 1945
The United States in International Relations Since 1945
The International Relations of the Middle East
International Political Economy
The Function of Law in the International Community
The International Relations of East Asia
Classical Theories of International Relations
The International Relations of the Developing World
The International Relations of Latin America
International Normative Theory
Global Institutional Design
Special Topic: Post-Conflict State-Building.
Candidates normally select their optional subjects towards the end of the first year of the course. It is not necessary to make a decision before arriving.
Research Methods Core Subjects
(a) The Advanced Study of International Relations These four two-hour classes are designed to introduce students to the field of International Relations: the main schools of thought, contemporary theoretical debates, methodological issues in the field, and approaches to conducting research.
(b) Quantitative Methods in International Relations Four two-hour workshops. These are supplemented by the lecture series on Statistical Analysis, offered in Michaelmas Term.
(c) Philosophy of the Social Sciences Eight lectures offered in Michaelmas Term
The MPhil thesis is a substantial piece of research presented in a 30,000 word thesis, which demonstrates a grasp of a particular sub-field, a set of design and methodological issues, and the ability to develop and sustain an independent line of argument.
Some recent thesis titles include:
Fragmentation & Consolidation in the Shadow of External Powers: Lebanese Identity and Foreign Policy, 1991-2005
Explaining Lithuania's Policy on EU Accession, 1991-2002
The Politics of the World Bank Inspection Panel
Costly Brotherhood: How to Explain Russia's Relationship with Belarus in 1994-2004
Stalemate: U.S. Policy Toward Iran, 1979-2001
The capacity of conditionality to empower: the streamlining of IMF and World Bank conditionality and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals
‘Securitising’ the asylum-seeker? A study of official discourse on asylum in the UK and Australia since 9/11
"The Beijing Consensus on Growth: China's Newest Export?"
The Currency of Defeat: Asymmetric Warfare Theory and Israel's Loss of the War in Lebanon
ASEAN Intervention in the Cambodian Conflict, 1978-1998
From the NPT to Ottawa: the Changing Face of Multilateral Arms Control
The Balance of Power and Security Order in Post-Cold War Asia
‘YOU SAY TOMATO’ An enquiry into the relationship between collective preferences and trade
The Meaning, Evolution, and Implementation of the Responsibility to Protect, 2001-2005
Suicide from fear of death”? The changing logic of preventive war 1945-2004
Pursuit of a Doctrine: The First Clinton Presidency 1993-1997