Search our site
Search our site

International Conflict MSc

Mode Duration Start date
Full time 1 year September 2017
Part time 2 years September 2017

Choose Kingston's International Conflict MSc

This unique course covers the theory and history of international conflict and of intra- and inter-state disputes in the contemporary international system. It draws on subjects such as international relations, politics, economics, sociology and history. The course will enable you to examine and analyse the issues and dynamics that shape and influence conflict in the modern world, as well as explore the tools to manage and resolve it.

Find out more about this course:

Key features

  • The case studies, backed up by the theoretical and historical foundations taught in this course, bridge the gap between traditional international relations courses - the rationale of which is based on institutional and/or statist approaches - and those that specialise in conflict management and resolution.
  • Kingston University is established as one of the leading centres of expertise on conflict, conflict dynamics and processes of conflict management and resolution. You will be taught by highly acclaimed academics and experts, including presentations by leading figures from politics, the media and international organisations.
  • Our year-long (30-credit) modules provide increased contact time with academic staff. You will also be fully supported in preparing your dissertation, in which you will research an area of interest in depth.
  • Lively discussion is encouraged, with visiting speakers, leading academics and figures from human rights and international organisations contributing to the debate.

What will you study?

You will look at the theory and history behind international conflict at all levels of interaction, from the interpersonal to the international. You will also examine how conflict manifests itself in the contemporary international system, and the techniques available to manage and resolve violent disputes. In addition, you will explore key questions, such as the role of religion and gender in conflict, weapons proliferation, the function of outside actors, and the effects of conflict on civilians. You will apply your skills in a piece of original research of 12,000-15,000 words.


Seminar presentations, essays, and dissertation.

Course structure

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list.

Core modules

  • This module covers two aspects key to understanding and managing conflict within international relations.  First, it looks at theoretical and analytical approaches to conflict.  Drawing on insights from a range of social science disciplines – including history, psychology, anthropology, sociology, politics and international relations – this module critically examines the range of theories that have been put forward to explain how conflict arises and how it escalates.  It also explores the way in which identity (such as religion and ethnicity), structural inequality, frustration and aggression can all play a part in creating the conditions for confrontation and conflict.  Second, the module explores the wide range of ways in which international conflict can be managed and resolved and how a sustainable peace can be built in post-conflict situations. The module therefore explores topics such as

    • The role of international law and international organisations in the management of conflict;
    • The prevention and containment of conflict;
    • Humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping;
    • Mediation and negotiation;
    • The role of NGOs and aid organisations in conflict; and
    reconciliation and reconstruction.

  • This module approaches questions of security and conflict in the contemporary world by providing opportunities for their in-depth analysis in two contrasting ways: first, by focussing on a range of contemporary issues and dynamics raised by recent conflicts and security questions, each of them discussed with the help of a range of contrasting examples. Then, the second part of the module will provide an opportunity to explore two cases of conflicts and/or security crises, the study of which will allow in-depth discussion several of the issues explored in the first part of the module together.

    Both parts of the module provide opportunities to use and challenge various theoretical and conceptual approaches of conflict and security issues at an advanced level. The range of issues analysed and studied in the first half of the module, as well as the choice of case studies selected each year for the second half, will evolve through time, but both will offer rich and contrasting grounds for an in-depth practical and critical understanding of contemporary security and conflict situations and management.

    So for instance, issues, themes and dynamics explored and analysed in the first half will include: New forms of conflict in the post-Cold War period; Ethnicity and national citizenship in contemporary conflicts; Terrorism, insurgency and political violence; Issues of gender in conflict; Sovereignty, the Nation-State and international intervention; New forms of international conflict management,  etc… Then, in the second half of the module, examples of case studies which will be developed may include: Recent conflicts in West Africa; Conflicts in Bosnia; the Northern Ireland conflict; etc. In analysing each of these conflicts, several of the issues and themes developed in the first part will be highlighted and explored within the case study itself – for instance the West African conflicts case study will provide ample opportunities to revisit and discuss issues such as ‘New forms of conflicts in the post-war period’; ‘Refugees, mass migration and citizenship’, ‘Ethnicity and national citizenship in contemporary conflicts’. Students select two case studies in the second part of the module.

  • The Masters programme culminates in the dissertation, an extended project that allows the student to engage in independent research, applying and developing the content of the taught modules to a topic of their choice.

    The dissertation is prepared for in Semester 2, and is then fully engaged in what is effectively a third semester.

    The student’s dissertation research is supported by supervision, with the primary emphasis on independent study.

  • How is research conducted? What constitutes good research? How do you develop and carry out an independent piece of research?

    This module is an integral part of this Master’s course. Students are trained in the use of research sources, such as libraries and archives. The module guides students through a range of research techniques and methods and enables them to analyse how to choose the most suitable for a particular research project.

    The module is designed to support other content-led teaching, especially the relevant core modules. In the first semester students are encouraged to apply skills to their course modules and evaluate what constitutes reliable, accurate and verifiable information. In the second semester students design a research proposal drawing on the lessons from the first semester. This will then form the foundation for students researching and writing a dissertation over the summer.


Optional modules

  • This is a core module on the MA Criminology programme that aims to deconstruct the fundamental elements of criminology. In so doing, it develops a critical understanding of the concepts of ‘crime’, ‘offender’ and ‘victim’, and their relationship to each other and to broader concepts of ‘harm’. The first part of the module explores a range of contemporary issues in crime and victimisation, fostering a critical awareness of their theoretical underpinning and of the role of power in defining and enforcing crime, and in labelling offenders and victims.  

    In the second part of the module students will engage critically with the concept of ‘justice’ and criminological debates concerning to what extent justice is or is not accomplished through formal responses to crime. Within this section students will study the development, transformation, and the politics of policing as the gate keeping institution to ‘justice’. Students will then study the philosophical justifications to punish, its theoretical explanations, and analyse its historical and contemporary forms. The module recognises the increasingly international nature of crime control and incorporates a comparative analysis of criminal justice. In so doing students will think critically about the role of structure and agency in understanding convergent and divergent practice in crime control and punishment.


  • This one semester module is an elective primarily offered to students taking an MA in Media & Communication or an MA in Film but it is also relevant to those taking postgraduate degrees in politics, political communication, human rights and conflict. It deals with some of the most hotly debated issues in different societies about how to balance core freedoms (expression, press and protest) with the state protecting what and who may be potentially harmed by certain forms of expression through censorship.  Even then these remain open debates as new forms of subversion and resistance emerge with new technologies or through the use of the body to express protest. The module explores these at two levels. The first outlines different approaches to and principles governing censorship depending on whether expression is through images; words, ideas and beliefs; information; and action. These are then explored in more depth in sessions that draw on staff specialisms here, for instance, in film, news, information-privacy, protest movements, etc.

  • This module will enable students to acquire a thorough understanding of the multifaceted character of politics by outlining key orthodox and critical paradigms in political theory as well as examining different normative frameworks within an evolving global politics. It combines the examination of theories and ideologies concerning the state with a historical and issue-based exploration of the interplay between different political actors including states, intergovernmental organisations, multinational corporations, NGOs and the civil society in the context of normative frameworks for global governance.

  • This module will be examining some deeply troubling events in recent history and politics and the various ethical, legal and political responses that they have generated. It has been argued that the Holocaust was a critical turning point, a catastrophe which required a fundamental ethical, legal and political rethinking of how the rights of human beings could be protected when states in the modern world engage in the systematic attempt to murder large numbers of people, including many of their own citizens. The module begins with reflections on the Nazi attempt to eliminate a whole group of people (the Jews) and to murder and enslave millions of others. It then considers a range of responses, including the Nuremberg trials, the Genocide Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It examines a number of cases of genocide and crimes against humanity that have nevertheless occurred subsequently. It evaluates the repeated failure for decades to halt or prevent these crimes and then considers the rethinking caused by the genocides in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the setting up of ad hoc tribunals and an International Criminal Court to prosecute perpetrators and provide justice to victims. It concludes with reflections on how much progress has been made in protecting citizens in a world of sovereign nation states and what forms of justice can work after such crimes have been committed. These are highly contested questions and the module is designed to encourage the critical analysis and evaluation of a wide range of arguments that have been put forward from a variety of perspectives.

  • This module is one of two core modules for students on the MA Human Rights, and can be taken as an option by some students in related fields who are interested in learning about the human rights architecture, its actors and their activism. It is aimed at clarifying central themes in the history and evolution of human rights, and looks also at the institutions and mechanisms operating at the international and regional levels to protect, promote and defend human rights. Through case studies, students will learn about the roles, functions and activities of key human rights actors and institutions at the international, regional and domestic levels. The module will include a critical evaluation of the challenges facing human rights actors and institutions in defending, protecting and promoting human rights and end with a critical consideration of the interplay between human rights actors, institutions and activism.

  • This module is a core module for students pursuing the MA in International Politics and Economics and the MSc Political Economy, Macro-economics and Finance. The module is a recommended option for the MA in International Relations and an elective for other masters courses.

    Globalisation has made the study of the global political economy and its challenges a vital area of research and debate. This module equips students to join in the renaissance of political-economic thought on the international plane. It concentrates on the themes of capitalism, imperialism and the state.

    The module outlines the nature of International Political Economy (IPE) as a distinctive field of study. Students encounter a range of approaches to studying broad theoretical and policy issues including the role of the state in society, labour and the labour process, the role of finance in the international system, the nature and origins of profit, inequality, theories of imperialism, capitalist crises, and economic growth and development.

    The module develops from classical approaches and debates to more contemporary perspectives on studying the global political economy. Students will carry out a case study on such topics as: the impact of foreign investment or the policies of the International Monetary Fund on an underdeveloped country or region; the political economy aspects of a particular financial crisis; the political economy of a nation’s economic development from an internal and global perspective. 

  • This module is one of two core modules for the students on the MA Human Rights, and can be taken as an option by some students in related fields who are interested in learning about practical strategies for campaigning for human rights. The main premise of this module is to critically assess the possibility of achieving human rights in various different contexts. Students will explore what is meant by human rights and the protection of human rights. They will consider, in detail, the scope and content of a number of core rights. Through case studies illustrating various campaign methods and strategies, students will gain practical knowledge of how to design and deliver campaigns that have impact. They will simulate practitioners in the field and gain relevant expertise in campaign design. This module blends contemporary debates and contested issues with practical strategies of how to achieve the protection of human rights.

  • This module introduces students to the study of terrorism and political violence, and engages with the primary debates in the field. The first half of the module addresses definitional, epistemological and methodological issues raised by the study of political violence. The module will also outline the history of modern political violence and the evolution of the way it has been defined and studied. In this context, the module will explore the nature and evolution of various forms of contemporary political violence, including: wars; ‘new wars’; insurgency and counterinsurgency; irregular warfare; guerrilla warfare; state and non-state terrorism; and counter-terrorism. Throughout, focus will be given to a range of mainstream and critical approaches to the field, ensuring that students become aware of the rich variety of perspectives which can be adopted in relation to the subject. In the second half of the module, time will be given to examining a range of human rights issues and debates which arise in relation to political violence and terrorism.

  • This module is a core module for the MSc International Relations.  It can be taken as an option module by students studying in related masters fields.

    How do we understand the contemporary international system?  The module: 1) explains and critiques a number of the leading theories that have been put forward to explain how the international system operates; and 2) applies those theories to a series of case studies. This combination facilitates the exploration of international relations through the practical application of theoretical standpoints.

    In the first part of the module we explore the key ideas and philosophies underpinning the study of international relations (IR), including:

    -          traditional realist theories of interstate relations and great power politics;

    -          Marxist inspired theories of structural inequalities;

    -          contemporary pluralist theories focusing on the interaction of state and non-state actors.

    In the second part we apply the theories explore in Part 1 to a series of student led international relations case studies of major international issues, both historically and contemporary. The cases will be chosen by the students with guidance from the module leader.

    As a bridge between Part 1 and Part 2 the students will explore a case study provided by the module leader to give the students a framework for what is expected in the student led case studies.


You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Contact us

Admissions team


This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

View Penrhyn Road on our Google Maps

Contact us

Admissions team


This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

View Penrhyn Road on our Google Maps
Favourite this course

Find a course

Course finder


Find us on Facebook

Postgraduate study
Site menu