Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hours


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 3000 word essay  40%
Semester Assessment 5000 word essay  60%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Describe and compare the different theoretical approaches to international organisation.
2. Critically assess the different theoretical approaches.
3. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the origins and workings of the United Nations.
4. Discuss the historical and contemporary international role and significance of the UN.
5. Analyse the extent to which the UN has fulfilled/is fulfilling the 'Purposes and Principles' set out in the Charter.
6. Discuss and evaluate the UN's responses to contemporary global challenges (e.g. terrorism, HIV/AIDS, drugs, migration, transnational crime, the environment).
7. Discuss and evaluate the academic and policy debates over UN reform.
8. Demonstrate through written work and seminar discussion an ability to evaluate different theories of international organisation as they relate to the UN (and the wider UN system).


The module aims to give students:
i) an advanced understanding of some of the key theoretical approaches to International Organisations;
ii) a thorough appreciation of the history and development of the UN's international role and;
iii) a detailed knowledge of some of the contemporary challenges facing the Organisation in the 21st century.

Through examining how the UN operates in practice, as well as some of the activities it has engaged in, students will be expected to critically assess the theoretical approaches covered in part one of the course, and encouraged to develop their own answers to some of the questions which have been central to theorising on IOs, including: Why do states create IOs? Do IOs matter? Do they have agency? What it the future for IOs?

This module addresses a gap in the department's current provision as there are currently no modules on offer which focus upon International Organisations in general, or the United Nations in particular.

Brief description

This module examines some of the key theoretical approaches to International Organisations and critically examines them in the light of the historical and contemporary workings of the United Nations. It also introduces some of the important contemporary challenges facing the UN in the 21st century.


Part One
1. Introduction: International Organisations in historical context
2. IO Theory I: (Neo)Realism & Neoliberal institutionalism
3. IO Theory II: Regime Theory & Constructivism

Part Two
4. Origins and Structure of the United Nations
5. International law & international norms
6. Human Rights and Decolonisation
7. International Peace and Security: Cold War and Post-Cold War
8. The Secretary-General in world politics

Part Three
9. Contemporary challenges I: The UN and 21st Century threats
10. Contemporary challenges II: Legitimacy and reform

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to assert themselves to advantage. They will understand the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to the best advantage. They will learn to be clear and direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and presentations will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication. Fellow students will be encouraged to question the paper-giver to critique their approach or to suggest areas for the development of the chosen topic; in turn each will discuss the contributions and ideas of the other.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the convenor and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their essay and presentation topics. The need to conduct a seminar presentation and to meet an essay deadline will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time and opportunity resources well.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as BIDS and OCLC).
Personal Development and Career planning The discussions in particular will help to develop students' verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay and a presentation, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards their portfolio of transferable skills
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of two essays will require that the student develops independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems.
Research skills The submission of two essays will reflect the independent research skills of the student. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: - Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module - Ability to evaluate competing perspectives - Demonstrate subject specific research techniques - Apply a range of methodologies to complex political problems
Team work Seminars will consist in part of small-group discussion where students will be obliged to discuss as a group the core issues related to seminar topics. Such class room debates and discussions are a vital component of the module.


This module is at CQFW Level 7