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2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: POL2009 Module Title: THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM
Module Provider: Politics Short Name: POL211
Level: HE2 Module Co-ordinator: GUERRINA R Dr (Politics)
Number of credits: 20 Number of ECTS credits: 10
Module Availability

Year Long

Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment
Weighting Towards Module Mark( %)
Essay (2000 words)
Portfolio (2000 words or equivalent)
Formal exam (2 hrs)
Qualifying Condition(s) 
  •  Portfolio entries will be linked to attendance.
  • 50% attendance at tutorials/seminars is required to take the final exam 

Module Overview

This module builds on the students’ knowledge of international relations by looking at current discourses on international affairs. It will critically evaluate current concept of the “international system” and the key actors currently operating within it. The module will also explore current issues and trends in international relations and their influence on national and international politics. Finally, the module will use the case study of the European Union to explore the complexities of inter-state relations in an increasingly globalised world.


POL 101 and POL 105

Module Aims
This module seeks to build upon Level 1 Politics modules by introducing students to the specificities of political relations in the international system. It will:
  • Consolidate students’ understanding of the role of the state in international relations. In this context, it will engage with the complexities surrounding the position of the state in the international system by looking at current trends in international relations and assesses the role of various international actors.
  • Introduce students to a variety of theoretical approaches at the heart of contemporary debates about the role of the state in international affairs.
  • Engage with current and future challenges, thus presenting the student with a comprehensive overview of the issues at hand.
  • Introduce students to a number of intergovernmental organisations currently operating within the international system.
  • Develop students' understanding of the role of the EU in international politics.
  • Develop a combination of subject specific and transferable skills, such as writing, research and analytical skills.
Learning Outcomes
Subject Specific Learning Outcomes
By the end of the module all students will be able to:
  • Show contextualised understanding of the role of intergovernmental organisations in contemporary international relations.
  • Be able to critically assess current trends in international politics.
  • Show detailed understanding of the role of the EU as an international actor.
  • Show competence in research, writing and analytical skills.
  • Evaluate the role of the state in international affairs.
Generic Learning Outcomes and Skills
Cognitive Skills
  • Information gathering and organisation.
  • Synthesis and analysis.
  • Exercise of critical judgement in order to construct and present an argument.
  • Reflect on their own learning and seek and make use of constructive feedback.
  • Manage their own learning self-critically.
  • Engage in interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary debates.
Transferable skills
  • Writing skills.
  • IT skills.
  • Self-organisation and time-management.
  • Research skills.
  • Problem-solving skills.
Practical skills
  • Presentation skills.
Module Content

Introduction – This part of the module will provide students with an overview of key issues and concepts driving the discussion that will take place throughout the year. These are likely to include:

  • What is the international system?
  • What are the key actors in the international system?

Key issues – This part of the module will provide students with the conceptual framework for the analysis of the international system. Topics covered are likely to include:

  • Globalisation – economic and political considerations.
  • Regionalism.
  • Security.
  • Development.
  • Migration, social exclusion and demographic trends.
  • Human rights and international law.
  • Ecology and environmental security.

Actors in International Politics – This part of the module will look at key actors currently operating within the international system. These are likely to include:

  • The State.
  • The role of non-governmental actors – general considerations.
  • The role of international organisations: the UN and the WTO.
  • NATO.
  • European intergovernmental organisations – the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

Europe in the International System – The EU as an International Actor – This part of the module will look at the role of the European Union as a global actor. Topics covered are likely to include:

  • The institutionalisation of Common Foreign and Security Policy.
  • Foreign and Security Policy – the limits of political integration?
  • Trade and commercial links.
  • Development and Aid.

Current Trends and Future Challenges – The module will conclude by exploring future challenges. Topics covered are likely to include:

  • EU-US relations: power and weakness?
  • The challenge to the state as a national and international actor.
Methods of Teaching/Learning

Lectures, seminars, debates and discussions, independent learning, prescribed reading.

Selected Texts/Journals


Baylis, J. & Smith, S. (2001) The Globalization of World Politics, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Bretherton, C. & Vogler, J. (2004) The European Union as a Global Actor, 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge.

Harrison, E. (2004) The International System: Strategies, Institutions and Reflexivity. London: Routledge.

Hill and Smith (2005) International Relations of the European Union. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Hardt, M. & Negri, A. (2002) Empire. Cambridge, U.S.A.: Harvard University Press.

Kegley, W. & Wittkopf, E. (1999) World Politics: Trends and Transformations. New York: Worth and Saint Martin’s Press.

King, R. & Kendall, G. (2004) The State, Democracy & Globalization. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave.

Paul, T V. & Hall, J A. (eds.) (1999) International Order and the Future of World Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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