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International Relations


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
Limited places are also open for exchange students.
Please note: this course takes place in The Hague. Traveling between University buildings from Leiden to The Hague may take about 45 minutes.


This course focuses on the study and practice of global politics and international relations in the post-Cold War era. Students will receive a critical introduction to a range of theoretical approaches and contemporary issues that help them to understand the diversity and complexity of our world across space and time. The course emphasizes the connections between the development of international relations today and global history, with an emphasis on how the Cold War impacted upon the conduct and nature of global politics and transformed the study of international relations.

We live in a complex world in which political, economic, security, and cultural issues and practices are interconnected. It is therefore imperative to study global developments from a variety of different levels of analysis, including regional and national ones. Power is changing in world politics. While the state remains a crucially important actor in international affairs, power is also concentrated in global and regional institutions, and non-state actors increasingly influence global politics. In addition, this course encourages students to adopt a critical approach to global politics and international relations, also from a non-Western perspective. It is central to consider how people across the world perceive and shape global politics today.

The course begins with three lectures that consider how we can critically study today’s rapidly changing world, the legacies of the Cold War, and the evolution of International Relations theory. The course continues by tackling a number of key issues and policies in international relations. These issues and policies include: Nuclear Proliferation and ‘Rogue States’, the geopolitical consequences of the fall of the Soviet Union, the legacies of decolonization and the Non-Aligned Movement, regionalism, globalization and neoliberalism, polarity and universalism, the nature of (inter)national conflict and intervention, the rise of old / new major powers, terrorism and environmental politics. Throughout the course, students will learn and apply key theories and concepts used in the study of international relations. By following this course students will gain a solid and critical understanding of the history and dynamics of contemporary global politics; they will learn to distinguish and apply major theoretical approaches to international relations; and they will develop an appreciation for key changes and challenges in world politics today.

Course objectives

This module aims to provide a critical examination of key theoretical approaches, issues and processes related to international relations since the Cold War.

By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of a number of theories, complex issues and concepts in global politics since the Cold War.

  • Apply complex conceptual tools to analyse and critique key events and processes in global politics.

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, develop the capacity for independent learning, and critique academic texts on and approaches in international relations.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Lectures are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Weekly lectures will cover issues both inside and outside the readings.


It is the intention that all plenary lectures for this course will be made available in web lecture form, no later than 10 days before the mid-term and final exams, respectively. Please note that these web lectures are intended as additional aid in studying for the exams, not as replacement for the lectures. Students should also not rely on the presence of web lectures for their study plans as they are an extra service and their availability cannot be assured. In the past technical problems have resulted in web lectures not being available.


Tutorials are held once every three weeks, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Attending all tutorial sessions is compulsory. If you are unable to attend a session, please inform your Tutorial-lecturer in advance. Being absent at more than one of the tutorial sessions will result in a lowering of your tutorial grade (40% of the end grade) with 1 point for each session missed after the first session. Please note that being absent at any tutorial session may have a negative impact on the grade of the assignment due for that particular tutorial session. This is at the discretion of the Tutorial-lecturer.

Assessment method


  • Final Exam:
    Written examination with short open questions and (up to) 50% multiple choice questions.


Partial grade Weighing
Tutorials 40%
Final Exam 60%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of Tutorial grade and Final Exam grade.

  • The Final Exam grade needs to be 5.5 or higher.

  • This means that a failing Exam grade cannot be compensated with a high Tutorial grade.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the Final Exam is lower than 5.5, there is a possibility of retaking the full 60% of the exam material, replacing the earlier Final Exam grade. No resit for the tutorial is possible.
Please note that if the Resit Exam grade is lower than 5.5, you will not pass the course, regardless of the tutorial grade.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2023 – 2024.

Exam review and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

For this course a text book will be used:

  • Ben Whitham and Andrew Heywood, Global Politics. New York, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2023.


General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Registration Exchange

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.



All other information.