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Durham University

Postgraduate Modules 2019/2020

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run in each academic year. Each module description relates to the year indicated in the module availability box. Please be aware that modules may change from year to year, and may be amended to take account of, for example: changing staff expertise, disciplinary developments, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback.

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA49430: International Organisations

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to give students a holistic understanding of International Organisations (IOs) as an international phenomenon and familiarize students with the theoretical approaches used to analyse and explain IO’s role in international relations. Students will gain an understanding of the history of international and regional organisations, their functions, their development, their internal dynamics, and major scholarly debates on their current role in international relations;
  • This module also aims to enable students studying international relations to experience how international negotiations work within an international organisation through participation in a simulation of United Nations committees. Students would be assigned roles, which may include countries, committee positions, or occasionally other organisations or political figures to represent. They would be required to develop positions and then to negotiate their interests against motions or other representations within the simulated Committee.


  • The module aims to lay the foundations for a systematic understanding of the increasingly complex network of IOs in the contemporary global environment;
  • It will familiarise students with the key theoretical approaches and debates for analysing IOs and their role in international relations;
  • It will also familiarise students with the internal structural dynamics of these organisations through the analysis of key actors and decision-making processes;
  • The analysis of the institutional framework will be placed in the context of past and present political, economic, social and environmental global challenges;
  • The March Model UN days will introduce students to the structures and processes of the United Nations; how a Model United Nations works; assignment of roles, introduce committees and subjects under debate; and how to prepare position papers;
  • The June Model UN Days will be the running of the simulation. Where possible, students will be assigned roles which are specifically relevant to their chosen programme of study (eg: students studying an MA International Relations (Middle East) might be assigned to play a Middle East state).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will acquire knowledge and understanding of:
  • • Historical trends in the development of existing global institutional framework to include the main IOs in international relations;
  • • Internal and external dynamics of IOs in the context of a constantly evolving global environment;
  • • The value of theoretical approaches for the empirical analysis of IOs;
  • • An awareness of major global challenges facing international institutions in areas such as economic development and competition for resources, security, human rights and environmental sustainability.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • • Identify and analyse subject-related literature, including primary material such as reports and statistics;
  • • Advanced ability to identify and engage with conceptualisations and/or theorisations of major elements of international relations, particularly in relation to institution-building and the creation of IOs;
  • • Utilising a range of resources to understand the goals, internal dynamics, and effectiveness of IOs;
  • • An understanding of how taught elements of international relations theory can be operationalised within international organisations and negotiations;
  • • An understanding of, and ability to work to, the rules of order of international parliamentary organisations in general and Model United Nations in particular;
Key Skills:
  • Students will also develop some important key skills, suitable for underpinning study at this and subsequent levels, such as:
  • • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level;
  • • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution;
  • • Advanced ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources, as well as primary sources, and policy reports;
  • • Ability for independent thinking informed by the academic debate at an advanced level.
  • • Advanced essay-writing skills and the ability to work to a deadline;
  • • Effective written communication of research and policy applications;
  • • Ability to reflect critically on their own work and performance.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching and learning are through a series of 1-hour lectures and an associated series of 1-hour seminars.
  • The lectures will provide formal instruction and will draw attention to scholarship on the theoretical and empirical analysis of IOs and their role in international politics.
  • Tutorials will allow students to engage in in-depth exploration of scholarly debates on IOs and to develop and test their own understandings of IOs and how they work.
  • Formative assessment in the form of a 1,500-word essay allows students practice in developing their skills in formulating a coherent and logically consistent written argument ahead of the summative assessments.
  • Summative assessment by a 2,500-word position paper will be submitted before the simulation.
  • Summative assessment by a 1,500-word reflective essay review will be submitted after the Model United Nations.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 Fortnightly 1 hour 9
Seminars 4 2 per term 1 hour 4
Model UN Talks 1.5 days March 7 hours 11
Model UN Simulation 2 days June 7 hours 14
Preparation and Reading 258
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Position Paper 2500 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Reflective Essay 1500 100%

Formative Assessment:

A formative essay (1,500 words) to be submitted at the end of the Michaelmas Term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University

    If you have a question about Durham's modular degree programmes, please visit our User Guide. If you have a question about modular programmes that is not covered by the User Guide, or a query about the Postgraduate Module Handbook, please contact us using the Comments and Questions form below.