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MA in International Relations

MA in International Relations

The MA in International Relations is a taught one-year (or two year part-time) programme. It focuses on the challenges faced by peoples and governments during international transformation. That includes conflict, cooperation and peace, as well as power competition and power shifts. The programme:

  • Blends an exploration of the contemporary world with a study of the past drawing on the tools and uses of history, in addition to social scientific approaches.
  • Provides a grounding in the theories in, and approaches to, contemporary International Relation and international history.
  • Evaluates the dynamic nature of international history in the face of shifting power politics and global forces.
  • Examines issues such conflict, peace, diplomacy, foreign policy, decision-making, crisis management, terrorism and humanitarian intervention.
  • Develops knowledge in International Relations and international history, including theory, foreign policy, diplomacy, law, strategy and security
  • Suits a range of students from backgrounds such as law, history, politics, the humanities, languages, the social sciences, business and accountancy

MA in International Relations Brochure 2021

Teaching Team

It is delivered by experienced small, supportive and tight-knit team who are student-centered. The team possesses wide interests in modern and contemporary international relations/history, foreign policy, strategy, peacekeeping, intelligence, European integration, insurgency/counterinsurgency, and military history and politics.

All are committed teachers, researchers and communicators integrated into academic networks throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.

The staff include:

  • Dr Jérôme aan de Wiel: Interests: intelligence history, espionage, humanitarianism, European integration, modern Irish and European 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.
  • Katherine McGarry: comparative European politics, Mediterranean politics, European integration since 1945, Euroscepticism, the politicisation of European integration (especially in France, Spain, Denmark and Ireland).
  • Dr Mervyn O’Driscoll: Irish foreign policy; nuclear diplomacy; European integration; International Relations theory. 
  • Professor David Ryan: US foreign policy, humanitarian intervention and international history.

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 (90 credits) consists of

  1. Four compulsory modules (35 credits):

[HI6026] US Foreign Policy and Contemporary History, 10 credits

[HI6092] International Relations Theories and Approaches, 10 credits

[HI6035] Foreign Policy and Diplomacy; Case Studies in Crises and Decision-making, 10 credits

[HI6056] Issues in World Politics, 5 credits

  1. Two electives from:

[HI6045] War and Peace: the European State System from 1648 to 1990, 10 credits

[HI6060] The Politics of Terrorism, 10 credits

[LW6633] Public International Law, 5 credits & [LW6566] Contemporary Issues in Public International Law, 5 credits

[GV6115] European Security, 10 credits

[HI6063] Work Placement and Portfolio, 10 credits

  1. 20,000 word research dissertation

Employment Prospects

Graduates are well-placed 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, international organisations, teaching, foreign service, various think tanks, civil service, humanitarian/aid agencies and non-governmental organisations.

For example, past students work in several government departments such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of An Taoiseach. Some have positions in the European Union and other international organisations. Many also gain employment in financial services and multinationals, as well as in the media and teaching.

Student Profile

Since graduating from the MA in International Relations programme in 2014, Laura Cashman 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 300 students and established a tradition of innovation. It has a proven international appeal attracting 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 overseas students. 


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

Aisling Carty gained a BA in History from TCD before undertaking the MA. Her Master’s dissertation developed a new definition of failure in humanitarian military intervention. She was awarded first-class honours in her MA.

She began an internship with Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM). She worked for AIM as assistant administrator and assistant coordinator for World Human Rights’ Day. Then Aisling worked with Policy Action (Public Affairs Consultancy), before moving on to become an intern with Mairead McGuinness leading to her appointment as Mairead McGuinness’ Parliamentary Assistant. Then she became Project Manager with EuroCham Indonesia (the European Business Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia) and now holds the position of Director, Global Strategy and Business Development – Global Business Intelligence at J.D. Power.

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 new criteria by which a case of humanitarian military intervention can be seen to have failed, in line with the just war model. 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 a Master’s dissertation was on Kosovo and secessionism in International Relations. He received a first class honours for his MA, after his Bachelor’s Degree in History and English.

Paul undertook an internship at the EU Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EUMCCI) as a Communications Executive in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then he gained a stagiare with the Asia Directorate of the European External Action Service of the European Commission in Brussels. After that he was the Political Advisor in the Tapei Representative Office in the European Union and Belgium (2011-13). Next he became 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 managed the outreach of the project to over the ten member states of ASEAN. Paul is now the Corporate Relations Director, Asia-Pacific, Diageo PLC.

What Paul says about the MA in International Relations

 “I maintained a huge interest in 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 embraced. Most of my research was on the ground in Kosovo talking to people with first-hand experience of the conflict and its aftermath. I met with many EU, UN and US officials during my time in Pristina. My desire to research Kosovo was fuelled mainly by my interest in history, politics, European and international affairs, minority and human rights along with issues of secession and self-determination. At undergrad level I had 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.”

Further Contact Information

Dr Mervyn O'Driscoll
School of History
University College Cork

+353 (0)21 490 3477 

School Administrator

School of History
University College Cork

+353 (0)21 4902755

School of History

Scoil na Staire

Tyrconnell,Off College Road,Cork,Ireland.