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International Relations: Theories and Approaches


Admission Requirements

Only students of the Advanced MSc International Relations and Diplomacy programme can take this course.


This course serves as an advanced introduction into theories and approaches of international relations (IR). The first part of the course examines a broad range of IR theories, including realism, liberalism, constructivism, and critical approaches to IR, and debates on concepts such as power, anarchy, norms, and institutions. In the second part, we apply theories to several substantive issues central to international politics, such as the causes of war and peace, nuclear proliferation, rising powers, humanitarian intervention, among others. Assignments will provide students with the opportunity to think critically about existing approaches, apply them to explain processes and events in international politics and build on them to develop their own stance with respect to a pressing policy concern in contemporary global politics.

Course objectives

Objective 1: Students will deepen their understanding of international relations theories and approaches by examining the core debates of the field and learn how to apply these theories to contemporary global politics.
Objective 2: Students will be given the opportunity to hone their research, writing, and presentation skills.


On the right-hand side of the programme front page of the E-Prospectus you will find a link to the online timetables.

Mode of instruction

This course is a seminar. Most time is spent on the discussion of the reading material.

Study load: 280 hours

Attendance Policy
Attendance is mandatory, subject to course structure (see syllabus for details).

Assessment method

Active participation in class through written work and debates.

Assignments include:

  • Short reflection papers (30%)

  • Final essay (70%)

Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Brightspace.

Failed partial grades or components should be compensated by passed partial grades or components. The calculated grade must be at least 5,5 to pass the course. It is not possible to re-sit a partial grade or component once you have passed the course.

  • Passed partial grades obtained in the academic year 2022-2023 remain valid during the academic year 2023-2024.

  • Passed partial grades obtained in the academic year 2023-2024 remain valid during the academic year 2024-2025.

  • Should a student fail the overall course, s/he can complete the course in the second year of the programme.

Reading list

The readings for the first session and recommendations for book purchases will be available on Brightspace a few weeks before the start of the class. These will include journal articles and book chapters.

Students with limited previous training in International Relations may purchase the following book for background reading:

  • Dunne, Tim, Milja Kurki and Steve Smith eds. 2016. International Relations Theories, 4th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Students with no previous training in International Relations may purchase the following text book for background reading:

  • Baylis, John, Smith, Steve and Patricia Owens eds. 2019. The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 8th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


The programme will register the students in Usis based on the group division. Use Brightspace for course information.


Dr. Eamon Aloyo Dr. Carina van de Wetering