Brussels is an ideal place to study International Relations. You will find yourself studying in a city where global decisions are made on a daily basis and your access to the institutions, conferences, seminars and events enhances your understanding of the subject.
Day after day we experience what it means to live in an internationalising world. Grasping its essence, however, is all but evident. The MA in International Relations tries to grasp the complexity of international processes and to offer the necessary tools to understand its different dimensions (political, legal, economic) and the role of various actors (states, international organisations, business, etc.). The programme is built on the interaction of theory (how we approach the world), method (how we explore the world) and substance (what we know about the world). Students can choose five out of seven courses from a wide variety of electives. This allows them to assemble their personal programme, tailored to their interests and background.
The programme builds on the long tradition of the University of Kent as a leading university in the field of international relations. By offering an MA in International Relations in Brussels, we place this expertise in the unique context of a European and international capital, host to the EU and NATO. More than a context, this aspect of Brussels as hotspot of international policy-making is actively integrated into the programme and reflected in the high number of high-profile diplomats and policy-makers lecturing at BSIS.
We are committed to offering flexible study options at BSIS and enable you to tailor your degree to meet your needs. This programme is available with start dates in September and January; full- and part-time study options; split-site options, and students can combine two fields of study leading to a degree that reflects both disciplines.
For more information on study options, see the course structure tab.
About the Brussels School of International Studies
The University of Kent's Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) is a specialist postgraduate centre offering advanced English language-based degrees covering the spectrum of international affairs. We host three academic schools of the University of Kent which allows students to specialise in one programme while informing their personal approach to international studies with another, via a secondary specialisation.
The broad selection of taught and research programmes available, ranging from politics and international relations to law, migration and conflict studies, means you can choose a degree that best reflects your interests. Degrees are full degrees of the University of Kent, and the University is also recognised by the Flemish Community in Belgium (NVAO) and Flemish Government. The University of Kent is the only UK university with a campus in Brussels.
BSIS is known as a friendly, diverse, and cohesive community of approximately 250 students from about 55 different countries. Students benefit from close access to professors, a research-active environment, and exposure to practitioners from Brussels-based organisations.
Home to the main institutions of the European Union and numerous organisations, such as think tanks, lobby groups, NGOs and multinational companies, Brussels is at the heart of Europe. You can earn a degree from a top 20 British university while enjoying unparalleled opportunities for networking, academic development and professional advancement facilitated by the School's excellent location in the 'capital of Europe'.
Fees for this and other Kent Postgraduate Politics programmes can be found on the Student Finance page.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Politics and International Relations was ranked 15th for research power and in the top 20 in the UK for research impact.
An impressive 96% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international excellence.
We are committed to offering flexible study options at the School and enable you to tailor your degree to meet your needs by offering start dates in September and January; full- and part-time study; split-site options, and allowing students to combine two fields of study leading to a degree that reflects both disciplines.
Standard and extended versions
The MA is offered in both a standard version (90 ECTS credits) and an extended version (120 ECTS credits) and in each case students may take the programme with or without a secondary specialisation. Those on the extended version take more modules to gain extra credit.
To be awarded the standard MA (90 ECTS), you must take three modules from the list for International Relations and a further three modules from the full list of modules offered at BSIS. For the extended MA (120 ECTS), you must take four modules from the list for International Relations and a further five modules from the full list of modules offered at BSIS.
Modules for International Relations
The following modules are offered to our current students on the MA International Relations programme. At BSIS, you have a wide range of optional modules to choose from and this can be within your chosen degree, or as part of a secondary specialisation (for more information on specialisations, please see below.) This list of modules is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation:
Modules marked with * are compulsory.
Students may not be registered on more than 3 modules per term (full-time) or 1 or 2 modules (part-time) and each module will run in either Autumn or Spring.
On this programme you may not take more than three law modules (standard) or four law modules (extended).
The MA in International Relations allows you to choose secondary areas of specialisation from the range of programmes offered at BSIS. This leads to the award of an MA degree in, for example, 'International Relations with Human Rights Law'.
To include a secondary area of focus on the standard programme, you must choose three modules from the list for MA International Relations, two modules from one of the programmes listed below (your secondary area of study) and one module from the full list of modules offered at BSIS.
For the extended programme, you must choose four modules from the list for MA International Relations, three modules from one of the programmes listed below (your secondary area of study) and two modules from the full list of modules offered at BSIS.
- with EU External Relations
- with Human Rights Law
- with International Conflict and Security
- with International Development
- with International Law
- with International Migration
- with International Political Economy
- with Political Strategy and Communication
On both the standard and extended programme, you must also submit a dissertation on a topic in International Relations and complete the methodology module Fundamentals, Dissertation and Research.
This programme aims to:
- provide a programme that will attract, and meet the needs of, those seeking advanced training in the discipline of international relations
- provide you with a research-active learning environment which gives you a good grounding in the study of international relations, including its political, social, and economic aspects
- examine how state, non-state and supra-national actors behave and interact through a dynamic appreciation of different levels of analysis
- ensure that you acquire advanced knowledge of the theories of international relations, the heritage and development of the discipline, its major debates, its inherent nature as an interdisciplinary study, and a critical appreciation of the essentially contested nature of politics in general and international relations in particular
- ensure that you acquire an advanced understanding of the relationship between the theoretical, methodological, and empirical content of the issue-areas studied
- for the MA and MA (120 ECTS): develop your general research skills and personal skills (transferable skills), in particular through a substantial dissertation.
Knowledge and understanding
You gain knowledge and understanding of:
- historical and theoretical issues at the forefront of the discipline of international relations, together with familiarity with appropriate bibliographical sources
- the epistemological and methodological principles in their application to the study of international relations
- key ontological, theoretical, and methodological problems of international relations
- current challenges to international order, co-operation, identity, social formations, and global issues, and possible strategies to address them
- the changing role of the state in the context of globalisation and regional integration and the implications for international peace and security
- for the MA and MA (120 ECTS): how to carry out an independent research project and write in a scholarly manner demonstrating familiarity with academic conventions, deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- general research skills, especially bibliographic and computing skills
- gathering, organising and deploying evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and some primary sources
- identifying, investigating, analysing, formulating and advocating solutions to problems
- developing reasoned arguments, synthesising relevant information and exercising critical judgement
- reflecting on, and managing, your own learning and seeking to make use of constructive feedback from your peers and staff to enhance your performance and personal skills
- managing your own learning self-critically.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- applying concepts, theories and methods used in the study of international relations, the analysis of political events, ideas, institutions and practices
- evaluating different interpretations of political issues and events
- describing, evaluating and applying different approaches to collecting, analysing and presenting political information
- developing a good understanding of the main epistemological issues relative to research in the social sciences, including some major theoretical and epistemological debates in the social sciences, such as explanation of, and understanding the differences between, positivist, realist and other accounts of social science and the practical implications of the major alternative philosophical positions in the social sciences for research.
You gain the following transferable skills:
- communication: the ability to communicate effectively and fluently in speech and writing (including, where appropriate, the use of IT), organise information clearly and coherently, use communication and information technology for the retrieval and presentation of information, including, where appropriate, statistical or numerical information
- information technology: produce written documents, undertake online research, communicate using email, process information using databases;
- working with others: define and review the work of others, work co-operatively on group tasks, understand how groups function, collaborate with others and contribute effectively to the achievement of common goals
- improving your own learning: explore your strengths and weaknesses, time-management skills, review your working environment (especially the student-staff relationship), develop autonomy in learning, work independently, demonstrate initiative and self-organisation
- important research management skills include the setting of appropriate timescales for different stages of the research, with clear starting and finishing dates (through a dissertation), presentation of a clear statement of the purposes and expected results of the research, and developing appropriate means of estimating and monitoring resources and use of time
- problem-solving: identify and define problems, explore alternative solutions and discriminate between them.
For many students, coming to Brussels is a great opportunity to seek out internship and job opportunities. There is a wealth of opportunities in the city to gain valuable work experience in the institutions, organisations and companies in Brussels which could potentially lead to a career post graduation.
At the Brussels School of International Studies, students have access to the services of Key2advance, a dedicated careers service that provides students with assistance in developing skills and accessing the international job market. The weekly career workshops cover all aspects of the job market starting with rewriting your CV and cover letters to learning networking skills. This leads to a networking event during the Autumn Term that allows students to meet and network with employers and alumni.
The University of Kent has its own excellent network in the city which has developed over the last 20 years. These networks enable students to take up internships with some key players in the Brussels job market such as NGOs, charities, public relation firms, think tanks, lobbying companies and the international institutions. Students will find there are many opportunities for an internship during their time at BSIS and In addition, our students and alumni comprise a tightly-knit network through which internship opportunities pass frequently.
Recent examples of internships are with the Red Cross, Norwegian Refugee Council, Weber Shandwick, Coca cola, International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, Transatlantic Business Council (among many others).
Kent has an excellent record for postgraduate employment: of Kent graduate students who graduated in 2016, 98% of those who responded to a national survey were in work or further study within six months (DLHE).
Students have access to excellent e-library facilities online via the Templeman library in Canterbury; inter-library loans within Belgium; 50,000 online journals are also available off-campus. Students also have outstanding access to libraries in Brussels, such as at our partner universities Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Université Libre de Bruxelles, the Royal Library of Belgium, among others. The School’s resources include a dedicated selection of more than 1,000 key texbooks on the subject of international affairs and law. In addition, postgraduate research students have their own designated room with computer terminals and access to wi-fi in all areas at the Brussels centre.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. The Brussels School produces its own journal, The Brussels Journal of International Studies, which was founded in 2003. Details of recently published books can be found within the staff research interests section.
Global Skills Award
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
Students should hold a bachelor degree for entry to this master's degree.
We accept a wide range of subjects for entry and you do not need to have necessarily studied Political Science or law previously. Typical first degrees of our students include Economics, History, Classics, Languages, Philosophy, Geography & Psychology (among others).
The standard of the degree will normally be at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree from countries such as the UK, Ghana, Nigeria or Kenya, or a minimum Grade Point Average of 3.0 under the American system from an accredited institution or equivalent. We do review candidates application on a case by case basis and extensive work experience may compensate for a slightly lower degree result.
We accept a wide range of qualifications and you can find the general entry requirements for some countries on the University’s main website. If your country is not listed or you need further clarification, please contact the School directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students can apply before completion of the bachelor degree and if successful in obtaining a place, you would be made a conditional offer.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Our research interests span a broad spectrum of the discipline, with particular strengths in the fields of conflict analysis and resolution, political theory and European politics. The strength of the School’s research culture is reflected in the numerous books and articles published and in the existence of its three core research groups: Conflict, Security and Human Rights; Comparative Politics; and Political and Social Thought.
Critical Social Theory
Political action spans from fixing glitches in the smooth functioning of the system to rendering the unthinkable thinkable. Our job is strictly the latter - to discern available opportunities for a less unjust world, and fashion arguments to make these changes politically thinkable and socially feasible. Drawing on various trajectories of critical theory (i.e. as originated by the Frankfurt School, Michel Foucault, the Critical Legal Studies movement, and the British School of IPE), our cluster of scholars works on contemporary social phenomena while seeking to discern emancipatory perspectives of social criticism, citizen mobilisation and political reform. The thematic scope of our research extends from religion to capitalism, security and development policies.
Fragmentation and Contestation in the International Law of Armed Conflict
Research in International Law at the BSIS is clustered around questions that engage the performative significance of the International Law of Armed Conflict within a context of institutional and interpretative fragmentation. The focus of this research theme is accordingly on the overlap and contestation between various international law regimes – international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international human rights law – and how they come to interact with, influence and potentially govern situations of actual or emerging global conflict. Special attention is directed at the role of practice and how regimes of international law become used not only by states but also by non-state actors and international lawyers. In this way, the International Law of Armed Conflict is understood as a historic but no less dynamic project situated at the intersection of normative ideals and an evolving professional practice.
Migration in Global Politics
Migration is one of the most politicised topics in the world, but the study of migration is a multi-faceted, dynamic and interdisciplinary field engaging with a range of topics. How and why do diaspora members engage politically in their countries of origin? What integration strategies do stigmatised and vulnerable migrant groups develop? What is, for instance, the impact of Islamophobia on Muslim migrants? How do states react to, and shape, migrant integration? What patterns of citizenship acquisition and renunciation can we identify? Researchers in this cluster study not only movement – migration – but also integration and, closely linked to integration, citizenship. The research in this cluster focuses on:
Political engagement of diasporas in their countries of origin; Identity formation of migrants and diasporas, both with respect to countries of origin and destination; Migrant integration in countries of destination; Migration as a survival strategy.
Political Violence, Security Governance and Development
This cluster focuses on social and political dynamics leading to war and peace, and, crucially, what is in between. It studies insurgency formation, states’ security governance policies, temporary rebel orders, peace processes as well as foreign intervention in its many guises, violent and non-violent. We also pay close attention to how securitisation agendas are articulated for more classic development interventions in the Global South. Our research covers various geographical areas such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Sahel region and Madagascar.
Russia, the EU and the neighbourhood
The end of the Cold War has resulted in the eastward extension of Euro-Atlantic structures, mainly the European Union and NATO. Yet, it has left fundamental questions unresolved, in particular the position of Russia in Europe and the position of former Soviet states in between. Despite attempts to establish a Strategic Partnership, relations between the EU and Russia got entangled in a logic of competition and mistrust. With the crisis over Ukraine they derailed into confrontation and deep crisis. This research theme seeks to understand the dynamics of this process by taking a critical look at the foreign policies of the EU and Russia, their interaction and the role of the neighbouring states themselves. It explores the nature of different integration initiatives and the role of perceptions. More specifically the research focus is on these aspects: EU-Russia relations Russian foreign policy EU foreign policy European Neighbourhood Policy / Eastern Partnership EU enlargement Eurasian Economic Union Energy relations Power and identity Democracy promotion and normative hegemony.
Security, Identity, Memory
What is the relationship between security and identity? How can historical grievances become the subject of contemporary foreign and security policies? Why do states and nations seek to defend their historical memory by means of law at times? How might the legal framing of public remembrance infringe upon freedom of speech and freedom of association? What are the ethical pitfalls of countering contemporary hybrid threats? This research cluster is situated at the intersection of various distinct research fields: International (and Global) Security, International Relations Theory, Critical Social Theory, Transitional Justice and Memory Studies. More specifically, the research focus is on these aspects: Ontological security (security of being) Memory wars and memory laws in Europe Legitimacy and radical critique of contemporary security policies Critical geopolitics EU and NATO security governance
Social Justice and the Reconfiguration of Capitalism in the European Union
As societies are becoming ever more tightly entangled in the network of globally integrated markets, issues of justice not only emerge with renewed urgency: they change, reflecting the changing nature of capitalism. Our research charts the dynamics of this change by relating narratives of European integration to new modalities of post-neoliberal capitalism, and the plethora of social afflictions and policy paradoxes these have engendered. We also chart the matrix of effective governance in this context by articulating a ‘political economy of trust’ aiming to reconfigure state-economy relations so as to attenuate the increasing social uncertainty we hold to be at the root of social pathologies (such as growing inequalities and the rise of xenophobia).
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Bojan Savic: Lecturer in International Relations (Brussels)
Game theory; qualitative and quantitative research strategies in relation to conflict and development.View Profile
Dr Albena Azmanova: Reader in International Relations
Political traditions and democratisation; globalisation and political identities; European integration.View Profile
Dr Tom Casier: Senior Lecturer in International Relations
EU as an international actor; EU-Russian relations; Russian foreign policy.View Profile
Professor Richard G Whitman: Professor of Politics
European studies; international relations; international role of the European Union.View Profile
Dr Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels: Senior Lecturer in Migration and Politics
Dr. Klekowski von Koppenfels' current research interests focus on the concept of diaspora and transnational engagement of migrants, in particular with respect to Global North migrants, although she remains interested in the phenomena more broadly.View Profile
Dr Yvan Guichaoua: Lecturer in international Conflict Analysis (Brussels)
The dynamics of insurgency formation; rebel governance and state responses in Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Niger since 2004.View Profile
Fees for this programme can be found on the Student Finance page.
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