Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Global Challenges and the Future of International Relations Theory
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 11 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 1,500 word essay  30%
Semester Assessment 1 x 4,000 word essay  70%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 1,500 word essay  30%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 4,000 word essay  70%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate a historically informed understanding of the field of International Relations and theoretical developments within it
2. Critically evaluate the state of the art in the field, including the theoretical, methodological and political advances and shortcomings in the field
3. Critically evaluate knowledge claims with an awareness of the normative, political and sociological dynamics of judgments made in this regard
4. Assess the key empirical and political problems relevant for the study of International Relations today and into the future
5. Develop original and reasoned arguments about ‘ways forward’ for International Relations in the 21st century

1. Demonstrate a historically informed understanding of the field of International Relations and theoretical developments within it

Brief description

In recent years increasing discontent has been expressed with the conceptual, methodological and political tools offered by the field of International Relations (IR) theory to address the current international, global and planetary challenges. This module introduces students to historical and contemporary debates in International Relations theory with the specific aim of generating focused debate on the contributions and the shortcomings of IR theoretical perspectives in addressing ‘the world’ at the end of the ‘first century of IR’. This course in advanced IR theory seeks to introduce, critically evaluate and address the contributions and the problems of IR theory today - theoretically, empirically and practically.

We focus on, first, reviewing the core contributions of the field to solving international and global problems. We then assess the current reviews, many of them critical, of the ‘state of the art’ in the field and reflect on what they tell us about the challenges that we face thinking through international relations today. We then focus in on three critics from the ‘edges of IR’: new theorists of the international, theorists of the pluriverse and developers of the implications of the Anthropocene and the posthuman. The students are then asked to respond – in terms of empirical concerns, theoretically, and with regard to policy and politics – to the current predicament.

On this advanced IR theory module students are asked to think broadly, to think critically, and to think into the future as they evaluate their own, and the discipline’s, tools for understanding the world around us.


- Review of IR theories since early 20th century
- Review of current ‘state of the art’; nature of the field and its successes and failures as identified by commentators in the field
- Detailed examination of a selection of contemporary critical accounts of IR theory and IR field
- Examination of empirical challenges in international, global and planetary relations
- Development of theoretical, empirical, methodological and political responses to address the future of IR theory

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 present their arguments most effectively. 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 best advantage. They will learn to be clear in their writing and speaking and to be 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 may involve splitting students into groups where oral discussion will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication. The presentation of work should reflect effective expression of ideas and good use of language skills in order to ensure clarity, coherence and effective communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context in which support and assistance is available from both the convener and 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. Seminars provide opportunities for students to reflect individually and collectively on their performance. The need to contribute to the seminars and to meet deadlines for written work 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 electronically. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information, images and narratives on the web. Students will also be expected to make use of the resources that will be available on Blackboard and through Aspire.
Personal Development and Career planning The discussions in particular will help to develop students’ verbal and presentation and team-working skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing them through to completion will contribute towards students’ portfolio of transferable skills
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one central goal of the module; the submission of essays will require that students develop independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare for seminars will also enable students to develop independent project skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems
Research skills The submission of the essays will reflect the independent research skills of students. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills. Research preparation for seminars will also enable students to develop independent project 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, ideas and issues on the module. These subject specific skills include: • Collect and understand a wide range of material relating to the module • Ability to evaluate competing perspectives • Demonstrate subject specific research techniques • Apply a range of methodologies to complex historical and political questions
Team work In seminars students will be obliged to prepare, present and discuss as a group the core issues related to seminar topics and particular case studies. Such classroom debates and discussions are a vital component of the module learning experience.


This module is at CQFW Level 7