MA in International Relations

MA in International Relations

The MA in International Relations is a taught one-year (or two year part-time) programme that focuses on the challenges faced by peoples and governments under conditions of war, peace and transformation.  The course

  • Provides a detailed grounding in the fundamental theories in, and approaches to, contemporary International Relations, international history and conflict
  • Evaluates the changing nature of international relations in the face of power politics, transnationalism and global forces.
  • Examines shifts and changes in major international matters such as the nature of conflict/war/peace, diplomacy, foreign policy, decision-making, crisis management, terrorism, humanitarian intervention and the international economy.
  • Blends an exploration of the contemporary world with a study of the past. It demonstrates the usefulness of historical insights, knowledge and techniques as an essential complement to social scientific approaches in the study of contemporary international relations.
  • Develops specialist knowledge in the fields of International Relations and international history, including sub-fields such as theory, foreign policy, strategy and security
  • Suitable for a wide range of students from many backgrounds such as law, history, politics, the humanities, the social sciences and even business. 

Teaching Team

It is delivered by experienced staff who have strong interests in modern and contemporary international relations/history, foreign policy and military/strategic history and politics.

All are committed teachers, researchers and communicators of knowledge. They are integrated into the academic networks of North America and Europe as well as Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The staff include:

  • Professor David Ryan: US foreign policy, humanitarian intervention and international history
  • Dr David Fitzgerald: US contemporary relations, counterinsurgency and civil-military relations,
  • Dr Detmar Klein: the history and politics of identity, nationalism and the national questions of Central and Western Europe.
  • Dr Mervyn O’Driscoll: Irish foreign policy; nuclear diplomacy; European integration; International Relations theory. 

What will I study?

The MA delivers small student-focused and interactive classes that blend traditional instruction (lectures, seminars, debates) with new techniques.

The MA consists of

  1. Three compulsory modules:

[HI6026] US Foreign Policy and Contemporary History

[HI6055] Understanding International Conflict

[HI6056] Issues in World Politics

  1. Two electives from:

[HI6035] Foreign Policy and Diplomacy; Case Studies in Crises and Decisionmaking

[HI6045] War and Peace: the European State System from 1648 to 1990

[HI6060] The Politics of Terrorism

[HI6063] Work Placement and Portfolio

  1. 20,000 word research dissertation

Employment Prospects

Graduates will be well-placed, either to continue with further study of the period (preparation for doctoral-level research), or to apply for jobs in the private and public sectors including major corporations, lobbying/advocacy, the European Union, teaching, foreign service, various think tanks, civil service, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations. Past students work in several government departments such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of An Taoiseach. They have also found positions in the European Union and other international organisations. Some gain employment in financial services and multinationals, as well as the media and teaching.

Student Profile

Since graduating from the MA in International Relations programme in 2014, Laura Cashman has had a varied and interesting career, working on three continents and in different sectors. Read more about Laura's story here.

Graduate Testimonies

Since its inception in 1999 the MA has successfully graduated in excess of 250 students and has established a unique tradition of innovation. It has a proven international appeal for over a decade and a half now. It attracts a diverse mix of students from different national, cultural and academic backgrounds. Former and present students originate not alone from Ireland but also from the United States, South America, Europe, Russia, Africa and the Middle East. This fits with the School of History’s long and successful record of welcoming visiting overseas students. 


Aisling Carty:  From Amnesty International Malaysia to EP Parliamentary Assistantship with Mairéad McGuinness MEP to EuroCham Indonesia

Aisling Carty, who completed the MA in International Relations programme course at University College Cork between September 2008 and October 2009, has gained an internship with Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM).  Her Master’s thesis concentrated on finding a new definition of failure in humanitarian military intervention. She was awarded first-class honours in her MA. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Single Honours History from Trinity College, Dublin. She moved to Malaysia in June 2010 and began an internship with Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) in July. She is currently working for AIM as assistant administrator and assistant coordinator for World Human Rights’ Day. Then Aisling worked with Policy Action (Public Affairs Consultancy) from April to August 2011, before moving on to become an intern with Mairead McGuinness leading to her appointment in January 2012 as Mairead McGuinness’ Parliamentary Assistant. She is currently Project Manager with EuroCham Indonesia (the European Business Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia)


What Aisling Says about the MA International Relations

“My master’s course gave me a strong understanding of international relations. The course covered a wide selection of topics; theories and perspectives in international relations and foreign policy analysis. My thesis topic centered on two case studies of cases of humanitarian military intervention; NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, and the US and UN intervention in Somalia in 1992-3. From examining these cases, I formulated a new criteria by which a case of humanitarian military intervention can be seen to have failed, in line with the just war model. I chose this topic as my main area of interest within international relations was human rights. Throughout my course in Single Honours History, I covered various periods of history; Ireland from 1800 to present, Continental Europe 1870 onwards and History and Heritage. These courses strengthened my interest in politics and international affairs.”


Paul Kelleher from the EU Malaysia Chamber of Commerce to the European External Action Service to ASEAN

Paul Kelleher completed the MA in International Relations (History) at University College Cork between September 2008 and December 2009.  His Master’s thesis was on Kosovo and secessionism in International Relations. He received a first class honours for his MA.  He received a Bachelor’s Degree in History and English from University College Cork also. Following on from this Paul undertook an internship at the EU Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EUMCCI) as a Communications Executive in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He became a stagiare with the Asia Directorate of the European External Action Service of the European Commission in Brussels (2011), and then Political Advisor in the Tapei Representative Office in the European Union and Belgium (2011-13). He is currently Project Manager with ASEAN IPR SME Helpdesk which supports EU small and medium-sized enterprises in dealing with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He manages the outreach of the project to over the ten member states of ASEAN.


What Paul says about the MA in International Relations

 “I had always maintained a huge interest in politics and global affairs prior to my MA in International Relations. My Masters’ course covered a wide range of topics, including foreign policy analysis and theories and issues in international relations. My MA thesis topic was Kosovo and secessionism in International Relations. It was a subject I both enjoyed and embraced. Most of my research was done on the ground in Kosovo talking to people with firsthand experience of the conflict and its aftermath. I also met with many EU, UN and US officials during my time in Pristina. My desire to research Kosovo as a topic for my thesis was fuelled mainly by my genuine interest in history, politics, European and international affairs, minority and human rights along with issues of secession and self-determination in many regional conflicts around the world. At undergrad level I also conducted various other forms of research in areas such as US foreign Policy, Northern Ireland, the conflict in the Balkans, the Cold War, Latin American conflicts and Cuba under Castro, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the TRNC in Cyprus. I have also conducted extensive research on the perception of Slobodan Milosevic in the western media at undergraduate level final year. I am working more in the area of trade and investment now. Asia has been a wonderful eye-opener and I would recommend the experience to anyone”

Further Contact Information

Course Coordinator
Dr. Mervyn O'Driscoll
School of History
University College Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 4903477

School Administrators

Deirdre O'Sullivan/Geraldine McAllister,
School of History
University College Cork
+353 (0)21 4902755

School of History

Scoil na Staire

Tyrconnell,Off College Road,Cork,Ireland.