Your questions answered – MSc International Relations and MSc Public Affairs

Before studying for a masters in International Relations and Public Affairs you probably have a few questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about our programmes.

What is the difference between the two pathways in International Relations?

On our International Relations pathway you will examine the most relevant issues in the contemporary international system and processes of global governance.

On our innovative International Intervention pathway you will deepen your understanding of this complex area. This pathway also includes the option of a placement, allowing you to spend three months working in international politics.

What connections do the two Departmental Centres play with Masters degrees?

The International Intervention pathway is hosted in and led by academics and Professors in Practice within the Centre for International Intervention.

How much of my time will be spent in lectures and seminars?

You will spend 8 hours per week in lectures and seminars. This equates to 2 hours for each module, with 1 hour for lectures, and 1 hour for seminars.

How much time should I be spending working independently/studying?

Full-time studying means around 40 hours per week. Hence it is expected that students spend around 30 hours preparing for classes, studying and carrying out independent learning.

What is the structure for the part-time version of the course?

The department offers a part-time study opportunity in which instead of 4 modules per semester, you will take 2. Thus, cutting the workload in half.

What modules will I study?

Modules in the international politics and public affairs programmes range from conflict, intervention and security, economy and trade, global governance, negotiating and lobbying, political communication and campaigning. An updated list of modules can be found on our website.

What does the MSc in Public Affairs cover?

The MSc in Public Affairs includes modules on negotiating and lobbying, political communication, campaigning and global governance, and international public administration.

Do I have to do a dissertation and can I decide my dissertation topic?

The dissertation is compulsory on the International Relations pathway. On the International Intervention pathway and the Public Affairs programme, there is the option of either a placement or a dissertation. If you choose to do a dissertation you can decide on your topic, in conjunction with your supervisor.

How much is the dissertation worth and how long do I have to write it?

The dissertation is usually 10,000-15,000 words long. It is worth 60 credits and is written during the summer months.

Can I do a placement in all programmes and pathways?

The placement option is only available on the International Intervention pathway.

Will the university find a placement for me?

The department offers guidance in finding a placement through designated placement sessions and tailored advice provided by our placement tutor. The department has established connections to placement opportunities, but students will choose a placement of their preference in the UK or overseas and this will then need to be confirmed by the Politics department.

What happens if I cannot find a placement and I am on a placement pathway?

If you cannot secure a placement, the dissertation option remains available to you.

If I do the IR-International Intervention pathway, what will be written on my transcript/graduation certificate?

MSc International Relations (International Intervention).

What employment opportunities does a Politics MSc from Surrey open up?

Students from the Department of Politics have gone on to a wide range of careers. These include working for international organisations, national and local government, lobby groups and non-governmental organisations, as well as private businesses and media organisations.

For more information relating to our frequently asked questions about life at Surrey, click here. 

We hope you find this information useful. If you have any other questions, please get in touch with us by emailing

Author: Laura Cooper.