University of Sydney Handbooks - 2018 Archive

Download full 2018 archive Page archived at: Fri, 21 Sep 2018 05:39:45 +0000

International Relations

About the major

International Relations is the study of the international political and economic system. It explores the historical development of that system and provides students with a comprehensive understanding of actors, institutions, and processes of the international politics. The major focuses on territorial states that acknowledge no superior authority over issues vital to national interest. You will analyse the nature of this system – the rules and forces governing the behaviour of states, the factors that lead to military conflict or peaceful co-operation, and the current trends towards both a more globalised, integrated, and a more fragmented world.

In your first year, you will be introduced to the core theories, concepts and institutions in international relations, and the history of international system.

The second and third year units progressively build upon these foundations, further developing your understanding of central issues, including international security, international organisations, international political economy, and international law. Students will also explore the role that international institutions play in shaping policy decisions at the global level.

Graduates from this major will have the skills desired by public, private and non-profit organisations, domestically and internationally

Key research and teaching areas include:

  • Politics at the global level: the study of the politics of countries around the world, and the way these nations interact in the international arena (foreign affairs, strategic behaviour and diplomacy);
  • The policy-making process at the international level, and;
  • War and peace, security, terrorism, the international political economy, global cultures, international environmental politics, human rights and security.
Requirements for completion

A major in International Relations requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:

(i) 12 credit points of compulsory 1000-level core units *
(ii) 12 credit points of compulsory 2000-level core units *
(iii) 18 credit points of selective 3000-level units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project units

A minor in International Relations requires 36 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:

(i) 12 credit points of compulsory1000-level core units *
(ii) 12 credit points of compulsory 2000-level core units *
(iii) 12 credit points of selective 3000-level units

* Selective units can replace core units already completed in another major

First year

In level one, all students are given a basic grounding in the core elements of both politics and international relations. Students will be introduced to political theory, comparative political systems, and the history of international system and international relations theory. Students can also take an additional optional unit on the Politics and Political Culture.

Second year

Students will take a dedicated unit in Political Analysis and a core unit in International Relations, which covers the main sub areas of the discipline; international security, international organisations, international law, and international political economy. There are opportunities for students to take additional international relations units depending on the overall structure of their degree.

Third year

All students will be required to complete an interdisciplinary unit focusing on real world problem solving. In addition, students can choose from a broad range of selective units.


If you commenced your degree prior to 2018, admission to honours requires a major in International Relations with an average of 70% or above.

If you commenced your degree in 2018, admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in International Relations with an average of 70% or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing honours.

Government and International Relations offers systematic and extended study in key areas of politics and international relations. Two advanced course work units cover national, comparative, and international politics.

Students are also required to take a research design unit that prepares them for the research they will complete in the extended dissertation. The content of this research is to be negotiated with a dedicated project supervisor, who will be a member of the academic staff with expertise in the chose area.

Advanced coursework

Students with a keen interest in international relations can take 4 advanced units in the subject and also complete a research project on a topic of their choice. There is also the possibility of exchange visits to designated University partners across the world.

Contact/further information

School website:

Learning Outcomes
  1. Explain and apply in real world contexts, the key concepts, theories and methods used across the discipline of International Relations.
  2. Identify and compare key actors and components of the international political system, including states, intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, transnational corporations, global civil society and individuals.
  3. Identify important changes and continuities in the historical development of the international political system.
  4. Evaluate ‘real world’ political events and issues in the light of normative and empirical theories of international relations.
  5. Engage in independent evidence gathering using a range of methods and sources, including digital sources, to answer research questions about international relations
  6. Demonstrate effective oral and written skills in communicating ideas about politics to different academic and non-academic audiences using a range of media.
  7. Demonstrate knowledge of the multidisciplinary nature of international relations by establishing connections with the disciplines that have shaped and continue to influence international relations: politics, economics, society, culture, history, language, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
  8. Demonstrate problem-solving skills, and interpersonal and communication skills through project work and interdisciplinary study