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Durham University


L253 Politics and International Relations BA Undergraduate 2021


Please note: 2021-22 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Applicants will be informed of any changes which we are required to make to course entries as a result of Covid-19.

UCAS code L253
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications
Contextual Offers You may be eligible for an offer which is one or two grades lower than our standard entry requirements. Find out more.
More information Still have questions?
Department(s) Website

Course Summary


The programme aims to give students a systematic and rigorous understanding of the disciplines of Politics and International Relations. Teaching is structured around three main streams: Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. Students move from introductory in each of these areas in their early years to more specialised options, enabling students to focus on a specific sub-field or topic, analyse the politics and international relations of specific regions and countries, and engage in theoretical examinations that help us make sense of a complex, inter-connected, and rapidly changing world.

Students will gain an appreciation and a more nuanced understanding of, as well as the ability to engage with current issues and debates, including those at the forefront of current research and enquiry. Upon completion of their studies students will be able to describe and comment on current research and possess knowledge and skills that enable them to complete their own research, employing appropriate techniques and analysis methods.

Course Structure

Year 1

Compulsory modules:

  • Researching Politics and International Relations
  • Introduction to Comparative Politics
  • Introduction to International Relations
  • Political Theory.

Plus two of the following:

  • Democratic Political Systems
  • International Security, Interdependence and Organisation
  • Global Regions in International Relations ORONE module offered by another department OR ONE module offered by the Centre for Foreign Language Study.

Year 2

Compulsory modules:

  • Research Project 
  • EITHER Foundations of Western Political ThoughtOR Analytical Politics
  • EITHER International Theory OR International Organisations.

Plus THREE of the following modules which can include the one above not chosen previously. These may vary annually but in the past have included:

  • Democracy, Conflict and American Society
  • International Theory
  • The Politics of Pacific Asia
  • Foundations of Western Political Thought
  • International Organisations
  • Sovereignty, State and Empire
  • Global Political Economy
  • Middle East in the International System
  • Democratic Theory
  • Politics and Identity in Contemporary Germany
  • Class, Nation and British Politics
  • Analytical Politics
  • Crises and Conflict in European Studies OR ONE module offered by another department OR ONE module offered by the Centre for Foreign Language Study.

Year 3

Compulsory module:

  • Dissertation (Double).

Optional modules vary but in the past have included:

  • The Ethics of Violence in International Relations
  • British Political Thought Since 1850
  • Advanced Topic in International Political Theory
  • Social and Political Philosophy
  • Theory and Ethics of Political Violence
  • Culture and Conflict in American Politics
  • Muslims and Politics in the Modern World
  • China in Global Political Economy
  • Israel: Politics and Society
  • The American Presidency
  • Democratic Practise in the US Campaigns
  • Parties, MPs, and Parliamentary Politics in Britain
  • Political Economy of Development
  • Politics of Inequality
  • Origins of Political Institutions
  • Suffrage Politics: from Past to Present
  • Women, Gender and Politics in the US OR ONE module offered by another department OR ONE module offered by the Centre for Foreign Language Study.

We review course structures and core content (in light of e.g. external and student feedback) every year, and will publish finalised core requirements for 2021 entry from September 2020.

Placement Year

You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.

Course Learning and Teaching

Teaching is at the centre of the activities of the School of Government and International Affairs, where you will enjoy a vibrant and challenging intellectual environment. The School places great importance on research-led teaching, which integrates new and cutting-edge research into the curriculum and will introduce you to a variety of research-oriented skills and research-based projects. Teaching takes the form of lectures and small group seminars, with an emphasis on encouraging our students to become independent thinkers, able to locate, analyse, and question subject material with the skills learned in the course of their studies.

Students on this degree learn through a diversity of assessment methods, including but not limited to examinations and unseen essay questions, essays, group projects, and a dissertation. Modules are assessed during the year of study, with each module offering multiple chances for assessment and feedback on student work. In your final year, you will submit a dissertation, which allows you to explore in depth a topic of your choice. You will be assigned a supervisor to assist you in the design and production of your dissertation.

All of these are supported by a virtual learning environment, Durham University Online (DUO). Seminars provide the opportunity for students to engage in discussion of a particular topic and/or to explore it in more detail than might be covered in a lecture. Student participation is an important part of seminars. This emphasis on small-group teaching reflects a conscious choice to enhance the quality of the learning experience rather than the number of formal sessions.

Small-group teaching and one-to-one attention from the personal academic advisor (provided for all students when they enter the degree) are part of the learning experience throughout, but by the final year classroom time gives way, to some extent, to independent research, including a dissertation – supported by one-on-one supervision – that makes up a third of final year credits.

In this way, the degree systematically transforms you from a consumer of knowledge in the classroom to a generator of knowledge, ready for professional or postgraduate life. These formal teaching arrangements are supported by “drop-in” surgeries with teaching staff and induction sessions that begin in the week before the start of the course and continue at key times throughout each year of the degree.

Our degree, through the diversity of assessments, simulations, independent learning, and various classroom based activities aim to provide students with multiple opportunities to develop a range of important transferable and employability skills including: complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating work others, time management, judgment and decision making, and cognitive flexibility.

As a student in the School of Government and International Affairs, you can also attend an extensive programme of research-focused seminars where staff, guest speakers, and visiting scholars present their cutting-edge research.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

A level offer – AAA including a social science or humanities subject. 

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma – DDD and A levels as above.

IB Diploma score – 37 with 666 in higher level subjects, including a social sciences or humanities subject.

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study. Please contact our Admissions Selectors.
  • If you do not satisfy our general entry requirements, the Foundation Programme offers multidisciplinary degrees to prepare you for a range of specified degree courses. 
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £21,730.00 per year
Home Student £9,250.00 per year
Island Student £9,250.00 per year
International non-EU Student £21,730.00 per year

The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities

School of Government and International Affairs

Of those students who graduated in 2018:

  • 87% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 86% are in a professional or managerial job
  • Average salary of £25,000.

(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here


Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information

School of Government and International Affairs


From soapboxes to statecraft, you will learn how and why nations are run the way they are.
Our expert staff will help you to develop a thorough knowledge of the structure and functions of the modern state, the history of ideas about the nature and purpose of politics, and the development of particular regions and their political systems.

Teaching is at the centre of the activities of the School of Government and International Affairs (SGIA), where undergraduates enjoy a vibrant and challenging intellectual environment. The School places great importance on research-led education, which integrates new and cutting edge research into the curriculum and introduces students to a variety of research-oriented skills and research-based projects.


  • World Top 150 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2021.
  • Top 10 in The Complete University Guide 2021.
  • 8th in The Guardian University Guide 2021.


For a current list of staff, please see the School of Government and International Affairs web pages.


The School of Government and International Affairs is a concentration of research expertise in political processes and institutions, political thought, and international and area studies. Teaching takes place both in the Department’s own rooms and in conveniently located lecture rooms.

The University Library has an excellent collection in politics as well as specialised research collections such as the European Documentation Centre. Colleges provide additional library resources as well as computing facilities.