Politics and International Relations

Will my degree be recognised?

Degrees from European universities are automatically recognised in the UK.

Outside of Europe, politics and international relations courses in English tend to be offered by reputable universities with high rankings in world league tables and extensive global partnerships. A degree from a non-European institution of type is highly valued by British universities and employers, allowing you to continue your studies or find a job without difficulty should you decide to return to the UK afterwards.

Does it make sense to study politics and international relations abroad?

One of the key qualities to succeed in the field of international relations is the ability to understand and negotiate with people from other cultures. Studying abroad not only provides you with a better understanding and more diverse perspectives of world affairs, but also allows you to gain first-hand experience in the field itself, whether it is through navigating life as a foreigner or making friends with people from all corners of the world. Plus, you will get to learn a foreign language, an extremely valuable asset in international relations.

The kinds of employers that international relations graduates tend to want to work for are very international in their nature. They are constantly on the lookout for candidates who feel at home in an international setting. Living overseas for an extensive period of time is good preparation for a career at these organisations, both in terms of building your network and your skillset.

What grades do I need to get in?

This really depends on the university you apply to.

There are some world class universities where you will need world class grades just as there are in the United Kingdom. Some universities abroad, however, may accept you with lower grades. Additionally, entry requirements for international relations courses are among the most flexible, as applicants don’t need to have done any particular subjects at A’ Level.

Sometimes grades can play a limited role in the admission process. For example, anyone with 3 A’ Levels can apply to Sciences Po, the 4th best university for international relations according to QS World University Rankings. However, the application process for this course involves additional interviews. It’s your performance in the interview, not your education history, that decides whether you get accepted. Similarly, the entry requirement for the International Relations and International Organisation at the University of Groningen, ranked among the best in The Netherlands, is around ABB at A’ Levels.

Where should I look for the best politics and international relations degrees abroad?

Naturally, international relations students are drawn to the hubs of international organisations, such as Geneva and Brussels, not least for the work experience opportunities. However, there are many good international relations study programmes offered by reputable institutions outside of these hubs. Here are some of the ones we think you should investigate.

1. Multidisciplinary programme in humanities and social sciences at Sciences Po Undergraduate College (France)

Sciences Po is among the finest international relations schools in the world. For an indication of the quality of education at this institution, look no further than its alumni network. The university produced seven of the last eight French presidents, 12 foreign heads of state and several heads of international organisations, including the UN, WTO, IMF and ECB. For the last three years, QS World University Rankings has placed Sciences Po in the top 5 for Politics and International Relations, together with Harvard, Oxford, Princeton and the London School of Economics.

Sciences Po undergraduate students follow a unique interdisciplinary curriculum. Their degree consists of common core of social sciences courses – law, economics, history, political science, humanities and sociology, a major – Economy and Society, Political Humanities or Politics and Government, and specialised courses with a regional focus. Teaching and learning activities are conducted entirely in English at Le Havre, Mention and Reims campuses, where students can study in-depth about North America, Africa, Asia, Middle East and Mediterranean. Due to this multidisciplinary nature, a bachelor’s degree from Sciences Po will open the doors to a wide range of careers.

Another aspect that makes Sciences Po’s educational programme stand out is the international exposure. All undergraduate students learn French and another foreign language. They also spend the final year abroad at a partner university or in an internship at an international organisation. Through these opportunities they develop the language skills and intercultural competence much needed to succeed in a competitive field like international relations.

2. “International Politics and Government” undergraduate programme at Universita Bocconi (Italy)

Economics and politics intertwine. This serves as the core of the “International Politics and Government” bachelor’s programme at Universita  Bocconi, ranked among the most prestigious business schools in Europe. Built on Bocconi’s strengths in business and economics education, the three-year course aims to train a new generation of policy makers competent in both quantitative and qualitative techniques.

The international affairs education at Bocconi is not conventional. Besides political science courses, students will receive training in mathematics, statistics, policy evaluation and negotiation skills. This model enables them to acquire the competencies needed to design and implement policies that are both economically efficient and politically sustainable.

Learning a foreign language is compulsory for all undergraduate students. The language skills become handy in the final year, when they go on an exchange semester to a partner university or do an internship. Due to the unique focus on business and economics, international affairs students at Universita Bocconi are able to secure work experiences at regulatory authorities and financial and private firms dealing with non-market environments.

3. “International Relations and International Organisation” undergraduate programme at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands)

Ranked one of the best international relations bachelor’s programmes in The Netherlands, this is a great choice for anyone with a deep interest in international organisations.

The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, from the history and function of international organisation to international monetary issues and European law. Language training is compulsory, but the rest is flexible. You have the freedom to tailor the course to your interest through a broad choice of optional modules. Additionally, in the third and final year, you are encouraged to develop specialised expertise by taking a minor at the university or overseas, which is also good preparation for a Master’s degree. If you don’t intend to continue your studies upon graduation, you can opt for an internship instead.

Want to get a taste of what it’s like to be an international relations student at the University of Groningen? The faculty is offering a web class! This online course is specially designed for secondary school students. You will get to do some reading, writing essays and answer multiple choice questions. The course takes about 10 hours in total.

4. “International Relations and Global Affairs” undergraduate programme at Universita Cattolica de Sacro Cuore (Italy)

Cattolica prides itself on offering one of the most holistic international relations curricula in Europe. The three-year bachelor’s programme allows students to develop interdisciplinary knowledge of political, economic, historic, sociological and legal aspects of complex international issues. All undergraduate students follow the same curriculum, which includes courses in History of International Relations, International and European Union Law, Economic Geography, Social Psychology, Geo-politics and Geo-history and Politics in Media.

International relations students benefit from a diverse range of foreign language courses at the university. In addition to European languages, you can learn Arabic and Chinese during your degree.

5. "European Studies” at The Hague University of Applied Science

Studying international relations at a university of applied science is a truly different experience. The focus is less on political science theories, and more on the tools you need to function effectively at the workplace, whether it is an international organisation or and global business.

After gaining a strong foundation in European politics, business and culture and strengthening your public speaking and international communication skills in the first year, you are allowed to choose a specialisation for the remaining three years of your degree. This choice will set you on your future career path. If you want to change the world through government service or non-profits, you can follow the public sector track where you will explore European politics and international relations in further depth. If you want to make your mark with innovative and sustainable business, you can specialise in the private sector, learning the “ins” and “outs” of export and international business strategy. Along the way, you will continue to hone your research and professional skills, with an emphasis on foreign languages and negotiation.

All international relations undergraduate programmes study abroad in the first semester of their third year and complete a group project for an external organisation in the second semester. Moreover, in the fourth and final year, they undertake a compulsory five-month internship at an international employer. These activities make the international relations education at The Hague University of Applied Science extremely varied and relevant.

6. International relations bachelor’s degrees in Asia

If you are looking for a less Euro-centric international relations education, the good news is you can now study the subject in English at many Japanese and South Korean universities.

What else should I bear in mind?

For international relations graduates who wish to take a Master’s degree in The Netherlands, it is worth noticing that where your Bachelor’s degree is taken does have an impact on your academic trajectory at some research universities. For example, if your Bachelor’s degree comes from a university of applied science, you may need to undertake a pre-master course before you can officially enrol in the Master's in International Relations programme at the University of Groningen.

Some thoughts from politics and international relations students at overseas universities

Matthew Green

About A Star Future

A Star Future provides information and guidance to British students looking to pursue their undergraduate studies abroad.

Through our presentations in schools and our websites we aim to ensure that British-educated students are well informed about their choices.

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