nl en

Introduction to International Relations and Organizations


Admission requirements

This course is open to Erasmus Exchange Students (Public Administration), Students of the Minor Bestuurskunde: Openbaar Bestuur, Beleid en Management, and Leiden University students (elective/keuzevak).


This course introduces students to the core theories, most prominent empirical cases, and main debates in the field of International Relations (IR) and International Organizations (IOs). The course will be focused on a broad introduction to the international political system, mainstream theories of international politics (realism, neo-liberal institutionalism, liberalism and social constructivism), and the nature of main IOs such as the UN, regional organizations, NATO, as well as international non-governmental organizations. The course will focus on issues such as war and peace, terrorism, human rights, poverty and development, climate change, nuclear non-proliferation. Particular attention will be paid to examples of different kinds of international organizations and how they work “in the real world”. Overall the course will address questions such as: How do IOs foster interstate cooperation and state compliance? How do IOs shape state interests and identities? Why do IOs often fail? How should we think about the pathologies of IOs as global bureaucracies?

Course objectives

1) To understand the major theories (e.g., neo-realism, neo-liberal institutionalism, liberalism and social constructivism) and concepts of international relations (e.g., power, anarchic system, balance of power, conflict and cooperation)
2) To critically evaluate theories and approaches to international relations and understand how they apply to real-world case studies
3) To identify and explain the role of the key actors in international relations (e.g., states, NGOs, international and intergovernmental organizations)
4) To improve understanding of how the global and regional systems work, the main problems of international governance, and how to tackle global policy issues more effectively


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and class discussions.
The class meets primarily as a lecture in which the core theories/concepts/case studies are presented by the lecturer to reveal their insights and limitations. This is a reading-intensive course whose success depends critically on students’ preparation and active participation (e.g. by asking questions). We will cover a great deal of material in this course, and the readings will vary, requiring participants to absorb and gain mastery over a range of theoretical perspectives and information about a variety of International Relations issues and empirical cases. This will require a collective “piecing together” of theoretical arguments and empirical evidence.

Course Load

140 hours:
Lectures (partly in seminar format, including presentations): 7× 2 hours.
Written exam: 3 hours
Self-study: 123 hours (including reading / research for paper)

Assessment method

The final grade is the weighted average of:
Written exam: 50%
Individual research paper: 50%

You can find more information about assessments and the timetable of exams on the website. Details for submitting papers (deadlines) will be posted on Blackboard. On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website, uSis and Blackboard.

More information about participation in exams can be found in the Rules & Regulations.

Students that want to take part in a resit for a written exam, are required to register via uSis. Use the activity number that can be found on the ‘timetable exams’.


The Blackboard page will be available at the latest 2 weeks before the start of the course. All course materials will be communicated through blackboard.

Reading list

Jackson, R., and Sørensen, G. (2013). Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches, 5th edition, Oxford University Press.


Elective and minorstudents have to register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.

Exchange students will be registred by the OSC.

Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted there.


Dr. D. Rimkutė