module specification

GI5005 - Approaches to International Relations and Foreign Policy (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Approaches to International Relations and Foreign Policy
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 300
72 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
158 hours Guided independent study
70 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   2000-word essay
Coursework 50%   2000-word essay
Running in 2024/25

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

One of the central questions for the discipline of International Relations is to explain the behaviour of states in the international system. On this module you will explore two of the most important and significant approaches to addressing this question: IR theory and foreign policy analysis respectively.

On the first half of the module, you will explore the various theoretical perspectives which can be used to understand the dynamics of the international system and how they condition state behaviour. It explores both explanatory and critical approaches to this issue, the former seeking to explain how the international system operates, with the latter seeking to transform the nature of world politics in one way or another.

The second half of the module approaches the question from the perspective of foreign policy analysis, focusing on the decisions, structures and processes within states that produce international action. You will examine both models of foreign policy decision making and comparative national approaches to foreign policy.

Therefore, the module aims to:

• Develop your understanding of two key areas of the discipline of International Relations: IR theory and Foreign Policy Analysis;
• Enable you to apply theories and models to international affairs;
• Enhance your ability to explain and critically analyse contemporary world politics;
• Enable you to develop your academic writing skills, so you will be able to write about international politics with confidence.

Prior learning requirements

Successful completion of GI4005 (or equivalent for direct entry students). Available for Study Abroad?

No (study abroad students take the one-semester versions GI5005A or GI5005S).


Part I: The importance and development of IR Theory; Realism and Neorealism; Liberalism and the Democratic Peace Thesis; the English School; Marxism; Critical Theory; Poststructuralism; Feminism; Environmentalism; Constructivism etc. (LO 1, 2)

Part II: What is foreign policy?; the ‘level of analysis problem’ and state-centric approaches; rational action in foreign policy; the role of bureaucracies and organisations in foreign policy making; pluralism and the breakdown of international and national barriers; economics, public opinion and other domestic variables; belief systems and foreign policy decisions; case studies such as the United States, Russia, the UK and developing countries. (LO 3, 4)

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Most weeks teaching will consist of a two-hour combined lecture and workshop and a one-hour seminar. Each lecture/workshop will comprise an interactive lecture followed by an activity undertaken in small groups, with the result of these activities fed back in a plenary session towards the end of the two-hour session. The seminar will involve small group discussions, debates and group work.

The module makes extensive use of blended learning, with full use of the dedicated Weblearn site for the module.

Reflective and independent learning will be encouraged through the regular interactive lectures and seminar discussions. Students will be required to attend all classes, to engage in the set activities, to prepare in advance by attempting assigned readings, to complete coursework ahead of deadlines, to access markers’ comments on their work and act on the feedback they receive.

Learning outcomes

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

1. Analyse the key debates in International Relations theory;
2. Evaluate competing theoretical perspectives on the international system;
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the nature of foreign policy and the domestic and international variables that influence foreign policy decisions;
4. Apply foreign policy theories and models to decision-making.