Our exciting and intensive one-year MSc programme, jointly taught by the Departments of Geography and Politics and International Relations, officially launched in September 2012. The programme brings the best of geopolitical and geographically sensitive research together with approaches from Security Studies.
Our approach is to work between the practical and the critical. We explore the workings of the professions and practitioners of geopolitics and security in government, policy, industry and activism, and through the insights and reflections of critical academic research. In 2014 we won the University team teaching prize for innovation and excellence in the MSc.
Our ethos is interdisciplinary, collaborative and informal. Our students benefit from small group seminar and tutorial style teaching, working directly with senior researchers. Part of our programme also now functions as a research training component of Royal Holloway’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber-Security.
We are looking for well-qualified applicants with at least a 2:1 degree in a relevant subject and/or relevant work/professional experience.
The programme director is Professor Peter Adey of the Department of Geography. He is an expert in security, emergency governance and mobilities and will be happy to talk through the details of the programme with prospective applicants.
The compulsory and core courses provide detailed grounding in sovereignty and territory concepts and disputes, border zones and boundary conflicts, and specific regional issues such as the polar regions and resource claims and important communications modes and infrastructures, such as social media. They also give particular insight into the practice or ‘doing’ of geopolitical and security policy, strategy and analysis.
Some of our compulsory courses also now form part of the training component of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber-Security, funded by the EPSRC and led by the world renowned Information Security Group. This means that our students mix and collaborate with the next generation of cyber security academics and professionals.
These specialist (electives) options provide in-depth analysis of themes such as risk, resilience and security; counter-terrorism; rising powers and international targeting law.
Class sizes are seminar based, with between 5-20 students.
The below are a sample selection of courses and their outlines available from year to year.
Contemporary geopolitics of the Polar Regions
The aim of this option is to explore and assess the contemporary geopolitics of the Polar Regions, which have increasingly attracted attention. No longer considered peripheral to world politics, the Arctic and Antarctic occupy centre stage in the contemporary debates about global climate change, resource geopolitics and the so-called ‘scramble for resources’. The option situates the Polar Regions within debates about the global commons and the challenges involved in either regulating use and or determining property rights. Students will be introduced to relevant literature in geopolitics and IR including regime analysis and securitization of resources and territory.
Resilience and the Governing of Emergency
The notion of resilience is now the subject of legislation, practices, technologies and philosophies organised in relation to prepare, prevent or respond to some manner of threat, disaster, catastrophe, but most typically, an emergency. A similarly ubiquitous term, the ‘emergency’ has figured heavily within assertions of a contemporary legal ‘State of Exception’, or is used to describe the complex effects pertaining to the irruption of threat, both natural or social. This option explores Emergency through its articulation in an evolving apparatus of resilience planning that is widely considered across the state, non-state organisations and private industry. Taking examples from biosecurity and preparedness apparatus from the UK and the US, the option will explore in-depth techniques through scenario-building and simulated training exercises.
Media and the Military
Modern warfare necessitates a relationship and a continuing dialogue between the media and the military because wars are fought not only overseas but also at home, in the realm of public opinion. The military and the media are ‘locked’ into an inter-dependent relationship where the media need the military for access and protection, and the military need the media to ‘tell their story’. This course critically explores this inter-relationship – historically, strategically, geopolitically and with reference to shifting technologies and research methods. It aims to provide students with practical skills in the development and management of media and information operations in moments of military crisis. In order to do so, we adopt ‘the scenario’/simulation as an innovative teaching and training method.
Media, War and Conflict
The post-9/11 global security situation and the 2003 Iraq war have prompted a marked increase in interest in questions concerning media, war and conflict. This course examines the relationships between media, governments, military, and audiences/publics, in light of old, new, and potential future security events. It reviews theories of media effects in conflict situations, and focuses on a number of important themes, including embedding, sanitisation, legitimacy, and terrorism and publicity. It explores the role of ethics, technology, and professional norms that inform war reporting. Students will be encouraged to analyse a range of media and consider conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues in light of ongoing conflicts around the world.
United States Foreign Policy
This course examines US foreign policy: the historical development of the US’ role in the world from the Founding Fathers to the present Obama administration; the different ideologies that drive foreign policy decision-making, such as American Exceptionalism and democracy promotion; the controversies US foreign policy has been associated with, not least surrounding the War on Terror and now tactics such as the use of drones in Pakistan; in-depth analysis of Us involvement key regions such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea; as well as looking at arguments that the US is now in decline as a superpower, particularly with the rise of China.
Internet and New Media Politics
This course provides an advanced level analysis of the impact of the Internet and other digital information and communication technologies on political life. Drawing predominantly, though not exclusively, upon specialist academic journal literatures, it focuses on a number of important contemporary debates about the role and influence of new technologies on the values, processes and outcomes of: global governance institutions; public bureaucracies; journalism and news production; representative institutions including political parties and legislatures; pressure groups and social movements. It also examines persistent and controversial policy problems thrown up by ‘information society’ ICTs, specifically: privacy and surveillance and the power of new media. The approach will be comparative, drawing on examples from around the world, including the developing world, but the principal focus will be on the politics of the United States and Britain.
Human Rights from Theory to Practice
This is a course in the political theory of human rights. Its aim is to explore some of the central issues which arise in the justification, interpretation and implementation of human rights. The course is divided into two parts. The first part considers some key philosophical issues surrounding human rights, including how human rights are justified; the relationship between rights and related concepts such as human dignity, respect and duties to others; whether some rights are more basic or fundamental than others; whether human rights are genuinely universal or instead a product of Western liberal societies; and whether groups can have rights, such as the right to national self-determination. The second part examines the nature and limits of some basic human rights such as the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religious conscience, freedom of movement (using the example of immigration); and also some contemporary human rights controversies such as whether minority cultures have rights to cultural survival, and what rights the world’s poor have against citizens in richer states.
The Rise of China and Chinese Foreign Policy
This course seeks to understand China’s rise with a focus on its foreign relations. The “rise of China” is proven to be one of the most important developments of the early 21st century. It is widely believed that China will (or even has already) replace the US to become the next leading superpower – using PPP measurement, China has already replaced the US to become the largest world economy since 2014. Many argue that a rising China and a declining US will be engaged in security competition with considerable potential for war. Others argue that given its economic and political openness, the current international order is well able to accommodate China’s peaceful rise. What are the implications of China’s emergence as a global power? Can China rise peacefully? What are China’s strategic intentions? Will China overthrow the exiting international order, or become a part of it? How to deal with the rise of China? The course will enable students to understand China’s emergence as a global power and Chinese foreign policy
Non-State Violence, Civil War and Security
This course will trace the evolution of non-state violence, reasons for its existence and its impact. Examples analyzed include civil war parties, rebel groups, terrorists or warlords. After the end of the Cold War, research and politics have increasingly turned to conflicts that include these actors and that take place within countries, so-called intra-state conflicts. This type of violence clearly outnumbers the ‘classical’ interstate war between countries, and it is marked by heterogeneous conflict parties, interests and effects. Today’s challenges include rebel groups which undermine peace agreements, criminal groups which organize themselves in ways that allow them to evade effective law enforcement, and terrorists who threaten the daily life of civilians in many countries. At the same time, non-state violence often occurs in territories where states are weak or failed and cannot guarantee citizen’s security. In such case, state and civil society actors are also faced with a decision whether or not to cooperate with violent actors who might have an effective monopoly of force over a given territory.
The dissertation is an up-to 15,000 word assignment carried out during the summer that will test your critical and analytical skills in a piece of primary research in a topic of your choice. This will be supported by a selected supervisor.
We will strongly encourage our students, where possible, to develop professional connections with relevant organisations and individuals. The dissertation can be a great opportunity to develop career-related opportunities.
Recent projects include topics such as: Estonia’s digital embassy; Europe’s Common Security and Defence Policy; Geo-engineering; The politics and production of tear gas; Strategic cultures and the Senkaku islands dispute; The historical memory movement in post-Francoist Spain; State and indigenous cartographies of the Tibetan region; Geopolitical superpowers and comic book cinema; The geopolitics of maritime protected areas
During term, the programme is supported by regular formal meetings with your personal tutor to discuss progress through the term, and a bi-weekly ‘catchup’ tutorial led by Professor Klaus Dodds (between 5-10 students).
This sessions mean students are given a chance for the course to ‘breathe’, and to devote time to reflect on questions and themes as they come up and cross the different modules and courses in the programme.
The programme is shaped by several key themes which reflects the research expertise of the teaching staff, the high profile and externally funded research projects we are involved in, and our wider community of post-doctoral researchers and PhD students. Our staff have presented their work to international conferences, specialist workshops hosted by European embassies and government departments, and acted as consultants for governments around the world.
We also also have a substantial record of working with external parties including UK government departments, international agencies, non-governmental organizations and specialist bodies addressing areas that reflect our teaching interests in security policy making, polar geopolitics,
contingencies preparation and social media/diplomacy.