University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

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Politics and International Relations

This major is only available to students enrolled in the Politics and International Relations degree.

About the major

This major is the dedicated major in the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Politics and International Relations). It is only available to students on the Politics and International Relations Stream. To complete this Stream, students must complete this major and additional units. The major covers all aspects of political, cultural and economic relations at both the domestic and international levels. It explores the world-shaping political forces that extend far beyond national boundaries and impact our lives in unexpected ways.

You will engage with contemporary issues contemporary conflict, environmental politics, nuclear proliferation, the global refugee crisis, the crisis in the international political economy and the rise of populism among other pressing global issues. Politics and International Relations is one of the most exciting and dynamic subjects to study at university and is taught by a team of leading academics and researchers.

Key research and teaching areas include:

  • comparative politics: looking at the way politics is conducted in different nations, and the impact of different political systems and structure on the distribution of power in society;
  • politics at a domestic level: the study of Australian politics, including the role of political parties and elections, interest groups and social movements, and the position of Australia in its region;
  • 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);
  • War and peace, security, terrorism, the international political economy, global cultures, international environmental politics, human rights and security.
Requirements for completion

A major in Politics and 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

* 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 will also undertake specialised study focusing on contemporary issues in politics and international relations which will introduce the various ways to respond to world events.

Second year

Students will take a dedicated unit in both politics and international relations. All students will also take a unit in Political Analysis. Students will engage critically with current events through further specialised units that delve into current events and contemporary issues in politics and international relations in more depth.

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.

Fourth year

The fourth year offers students increased opportunities through project units, which encourage students to use their research skills and knowledge to contribute to public debate. Our work placement and internships program provides students with enquiry-based learning activities and the chance to conduct research for organisations in the areas of public policy and international affairs.


Admission to the alternate Fourth year option, honours, is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Politics and International Relations with an average of 70 percent or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing honours.

The Department of 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 politics can take four 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.

24 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2020.

Contact and further information

School website:

Advanced Coursework pathway

The Advanced Coursework option provides students with the opportunity to broaden and deepen their subject knowledge and conduct a semester-long project that can be either research or vocationally based.

Placement pathway

The placement pathway exposes students to real-world projects that will enhance their career-ready skills. This pathway aims to provide students with a high level of skills that contemporary employers require.

Example pathway

Sample pathway for Poltics and International Relations major. Program information can be found under the Politics and International Relations stream.

Sample pathway

First year

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Second year



Third year

3000 level Interdisciplinary Project unit

PIR 3000 elective unit

PIR 3000 elective unit

PIR 3000 elective unit