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International Relations: European Union Studies

The one-year Master of Arts in International Relations, specialisation Culture and Politics offered by the Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University, considers the cultural dynamics of power, dominance, and resistance, and more generally explores critical perspectives on the complexities of culture as an inextricable part of global politics.

The programme (60 EC total – 30 EC per semester) consists of a Core Course Culture and Politics and two general core courses (Ideas in World Politics and Regionalism in World Politics) as well as a combined thesis seminar and methods course and a thesis. The remaining 20 EC (10 EC per semester) can be acquired by choosing two electives (max.20 students per elective): one elective has to be chosen from the field of Culture and Politics, the other elective can be picked from the complete list of electives that are offered for the MA International Relations.

Please note that there may be additional entry requirements for electives that are offered by other departments, and that the number of places available for Culture and Politics students might be limited. Also make sure you read the details under ‘more info’ for more detailed information about the curriculum and your options.

All students have to apply for admission, see mastersinleiden.

All students of the February 2019, September 2019, and February 2020 intakes please refer to the more info tab for a full overview of the curriculum.


Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Semester 1

History of European Integration 5
EU Law 5
Economics of the EU 5
Institutions of the EU 5
Regionalism in World Politics 5
Thesis and Methods in International Relations Research 5
EU Seminar 0

Semester 2

Choose three courses of the following: (Students of the February intake can only select electives from block IV – schedule to be announced during the September semester) Please note: contents of the electives subject to change, specifically when no teacher is indicated yet.

Electives (choose three of the following courses):

External Economic Relations 5
EU Environmental Policy and Law 5
EU External Relations: the Neighbourhood and Beyond 5
EU Public Affairs & Lobbying 5
Social Europe 5
Jean Monnet Module. From Multi- to Interdisciplinarity: Europe in the World 10
Economic and Monetary Union 5
EU and Energy Policy 5
Euroscepticism 5
Justice and Home Affairs 5
Migration Law and Policy in the EU 5
Parliaments in the European Union 5

Mandatory components:

EU Seminar 0
MA Thesis European Union Studies 15

More info

Objectives Structure Master thesis and requirements for graduation Specialisations Contact information


The programme has the following objectives
1. to enable students to acquire academic knowledge, understanding and skills, and train them in the use of scientific methods in the field of International Relations;
2. to enable students to develop the following academic and professional skills:

  • independent academic reasoning and conduct

  • the ability to analyse complex problems,

  • academic writing; prepare students for an academic career and further education; prepare students for a career outside academia.


During the first semester students take the following compulsory basic courses of 5 EC each:

  • History of European Integration

  • Institutions of the EU

  • EU Law

  • Economics of the EU

  • Regionalism in World Politics

  • Thesis Seminar and Methods in International Relations Research

Whilst each course maintains its own unique identity, their content has been designed to produce an integrated interdisciplinary core of overlapping and mutually reinforcing conceptual tools of analysis. In addition to these six courses, students attend a number of EU Seminars (continued in the second semester).

During the second semester, students can choose three electives from a wide range of courses (15 EC total) and write their thesis. By writing the thesis, students will explore a topic of their own choice in-depth. Students wishing to replace one of the three electives with an elective from the International Studies specialisation or with an external course or internship, please contact the Co-ordinator of Studies to discuss your options.

The September 2019 semester of students who started in February 2019 (30 EC):

  • EU Law (5 EC)

  • History of European Integration (5 EC)

  • Regionalism in World Politics (5 EC)

  • EU Seminars

  • Thesis (15 EC)

For students starting in February 2020, the programme looks slightly different:

February semester, 30 EC:

  • Institutions of the EU (5 EC – block III)

  • Economics of the EU (5 EC – block III)

  • Thesis Seminar and Methods in International Relations Research (5 EC – block III)

  • Three electives (15 EC – block IV)

  • EU Seminars

September semester, 30 EC:

  • History of European Integration (5 EC)

  • EU Law (5 EC)

  • Regionalism in World Politics (5 EC)

  • EU Seminars (continued)

  • Thesis (15 EC)

Master thesis and requirements for graduation

The thesis will be based on original research and will be 13.000 – 15.000 words in size (excluding footnotes and bibliography, including annexes) and contain an integrated interdisciplinary approach (for students of the February 2014 intake and earlier: 20.000 words).
Students are guided in writing their thesis by thesis supervisors. Students are also expected to follow the course Thesis Seminar and Methods in International Relations Research during the semester prior to the one in which they plan to write the Thesis. This seminar consists of a number of meetings in which students are given the opportunity to present their work and to comment on the work of others.

The thesis is a written report of research which the student has carried out under supervision by a lecturer but with a high degree of independence. In principle, the thesis must be of sufficient quality (possibly following some modifications) to be published in an academic journal in the relevant field. The thesis must demonstrate among others that the student is able to:

  • completely independently formulate a research question which displays insight into the methodological principles, central issues and state of the art of his or her field of research;

  • independently formulate a realistic research plan which fulfills the criteria set in the relevant field of research;

  • critically and analytically report on existing academic debates and propose creative solutions based on secondary literature;

  • apply the more complex concepts/methods of his or her field to a corpus of primary source material (whether existing or collected during the student’s own research);

  • formulate ideas clearly and correctly.

Graduates of the programme have attained the following learning outcomes, listed according to the Dublin descriptors:

1. Knowledge and understanding

a. Comprehensive knowledge and understanding of

  • the contemporary and historical dimension, the evolution and interdependency of bilateral and multilateral relations among states and non-state actors,

  • the importance of government institutions and frameworks for the development of these relations,
    b. and the main areas and issues of current global and regional politics and international relations. knowledge of the main academic terminology, theories and paradigms pertaining to the past, present and future of current global issues and politics, with a special focus on ideas and approaches related to the humanities.

2. Applying knowledge and understanding

a. the ability to locate, analyse and critically assess primary documents emanating from relevant sources and secondary (academic) sources, relating to areas and issues relevant to International Relations, including the process of European integration;
b. the ability to conduct independent multi-disciplinary research and to formulate and conduct substantial pieces of academic research (including a master’s thesis) in the field of International Relations, thereby showing the ability to comprehend and apply relevant theoretical insights and methodological approaches;
c. with regard to major regional and global areas and issues, the ability to successfully transfer and apply research to non-academic settings and environments;
d. the ability to initiate and conduct research into the relevant areas and issues of regional and global politics, economics and culture;
e. the ability to follow and understand the evolution of academic and non-academic discussions on the complex interdependency of national, regional and global politics;
f. the ability to apply and evaluate qualitative and, if applicable, quantitative methods to the relevant contexts.

3. Judgement

a. the ability to independently and critically evaluate evidence and sources relating to the variety and interdependency of areas and issues of regional and global economics, politics and culture;
b. the ability to evaluate the historical, political, economic and cultural factors that shape the interests and behaviour of major state and non-state actors in the contemporary world, including the European Union;
c. the ability to recognise, reflect upon and judge between different academic opinions and arguments on the complexity and interrelationship of contemporary politics, cultures and economics.

4. Communication

a. the ability to clearly and convincingly present academically-supported arguments and analyses with respect to the evolution of relations among states, international organisations and non-state actors before peer-group and professional audiences both orally and in writing;
b. the ability to present research in the relevant areas and issues.

5. Learning skills

a. the learning abilities required to be able to follow post-master’s professional training or a PhD training of a largely self-determined or autonomous nature.
In addition to the above programme-wide achievement levels, graduates will have obtained the following achievement levels per specialisation:

Specialisation in European Union Studies

1. Knowledge and understanding

a. comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the main policy areas (including external policies), institutions and decision-making procedures of the European Union);
b. knowledge of the main academic paradigms and theories pertaining to the past, present and future evolution of the process of European integration;
c. knowledge and understanding of the problem areas of the European Union, including issues such as foreign and security policy, relations with neighbouring countries, economic and monetary union, institutional reform, agricultural and rural policy, cultural policy.

2. Applying knowledge and understanding

a. the ability to critically analyse primary documents emanating from the European Union and other relevant sources that relate to the European Union and its member states;
b. the ability to follow the evolution of academic and non-academic discussions on European Union policy issues.

3. Judgement

a. the ability to evaluate evidence and sources relating to the European Union and its member states;
b. the ability to assess different academic opinions and arguments about European issues;
c. the ability to evaluate policies of the European Union and its member states.


European Union Studies is one of the specialisations of the Master International Relations.

The Master International Relations has five specialisations:

  • Culture and Politics

  • European Union Studies

  • Global Conflict in the Modern Era

  • Global Order in Historical Perspective

  • Global Political Economy

Contact information

For more information, please contact the Co-ordinator of Studies.

Career Preparation

Career Preparation in the MA International Relations

The programme

How can you use the knowledge and the skills that you acquire during the MA International Relations? What skills do you already have, and what further skills do you still want to learn? How do you translate the courses that you choose into something that you’d like to do after graduation?

These questions and more will be discussed at various times during your study programme. You may already have spoken about them with your study coordinator, the Humanities Career Service or other students, or made use of the Leiden University Career Zone. Many different activities are organised to help you reflect on your own wishes and options, and give you the chance to explore the job market. All these activities are focused on the questions: ‘What can I do?’, ‘What do I want?’ and ‘How do I achieve my goals?’.


You will be notified via the Faculty website, your study programme website and email about further activities in the area of job market preparation. The following activities will help you to thoroughly explore your options, so we advise you to take careful note of them:

Transferable skills

Future employers are interested not only in the subject-related knowledge that you acquired during your study programme, but also in the ‘transferable skills’. These include cognitive skills, such as critical thinking, reasoning and argumentation and innovation; intrapersonal skills, such as flexibility, initiative, appreciating diversity and metacognition; and interpersonal skills, such as communication, accountability and conflict resolution. In short, they are skills that all professionals need in order to perform well.
It is therefore important that during your study programme you not only acquire as much knowledge as possible about your subject, but also are aware of the skills you have gained and the further skills you still want to learn. The course descriptions in the e-Prospectus of the MA International Relations include, in addition to the courses’ learning objectives, a list of the skills that they aim to develop.

The skills you may encounter in the various courses are:

  • Collaboration

  • Persuasion

  • Research

  • Self-directed learning

  • Creative thinking

Courses of the MA International Relations

Courses of the study programme obviously help to prepare you for the job market. As a study programme, we aim to cover this topic either directly or less directly in each semester.


If you have any questions about career choices, whether in your studies or on the job market, you are welcome to make an appointment with the career adviser of the the Humanities Career Service 071-5272235, or with your coordinator of studies, Janneke Walstra