Module code: POL2036

Module Overview

This module develops students' understanding of international security through a focus on the ways in which international relations is shaped by great powers. By studying how the United States, Russia, and China, define their interests and approach to international order, the module places its emphasis on the practice of international security in a series of flashpoints and crises in which great powers' security relations interact. Students will understand the security implications of resource scarcity and the globalisation of production. The module includes a crisis management exercise in which students are tasked with managing an evolving security crisis in real time.

Module provider


Module Leader

KITCHEN Nicholas (Politics)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 106

Seminar Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

This module builds on knowledge acquired in modules such as POL1013 Introduction to International Relations and prepares students for more narrowly-focussed modules at Level 6 such as POL3060 American Foreign Policy and POL3066 Critical Terrorism Studies.

The module begins by introducing international security and developing a theoretical approach to studying great powers and their security interaction. It then focuses in turn on three great powers - the United States, China and Russia - in order to understand their individual approaches to security and international order. The module then considers a series of flashpoints and crises leading up to a practical crisis management exercise, before concluding with a consideration of the future of great power politics.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Policy Paper (2500 words) 70
Coursework Crisis Management Briefing Paper (1000 words) 30

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The module assessments aim to develop and test a student’s ability to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of key concepts and issue in international security.

  • Critically engage with the subject matter.

  • Present and develop a clear argument, within a limited word count.

  • Analyse the issue (rather than merely describe it).

  • Critically evaluate an approach or competing approaches.

Thus, the assessment for this module consists of:

1. National Security Council Crisis Response Briefing Paper (1000 words), following the group crisis management exercise in week 7. The brief should include:

  • An assessment of the crisis and the implications for the national interest

  • (approx. 300 words)

  • Options for responding and what actions the government should take, if any, and details of any contingency planning that should be set in hand

  • (approx. 500 words)

  • What the government’s public line should be, in the form of a draft official statement (approx. 200 words)

2. Policy Paper (2500 words), written from your assigned national security council to your Head of State, detailing your strategy towards the South China Sea.

The Policy Paper must comprise of three sections, in the following order:

  • An Executive Summary that sets out the problem and makes a policy recommendation
    (no more than 500 words)

  • An assessment of three Policy Options(one of which should be the recommended option)
    (approx. 1200-1500 words)

  • A Background section, setting out the dynamics of the security issue being addressed, and providing an assessment of the actor’s relevant security interests
    (approx. 500-800 words)

Formative feedback will be provided in a number of occasions throughout the module.

Module aims

  • Build on the more general knowledge acquired on POL1013 Introduction to International Relations, through a deeper exploration of contemporary issues in international security
  • Prepare students for more narrowly defined examinations of security in modules such as POL3065 American Foreign Policy and POL3066 Critical Terrorism Studies
  • Provide students with an overview of the role of great powers in international security, and the cultural intelligence to understand divergent perceptions of national interest
  • Enable students to understand contemporary security 'flashpoint' and crises
  • Enable students to gain an appreciation of the practice of international security crisis management, exposing them to a high stakes and stressful 'situation'
  • Enable students to write effectively for decision makers as a key empoyability skill

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate familiarity with major debates in international security K
002 Demonstrate understanding of contemporary great powers' differing approaches to international security K
003 Understand the dynamics of contemporary security flashpoints and crises K
004 Apply theory to empirical analysis. KCT
005 Develop analytical, political and strategic policy advice skills. PT
006 Work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time-management. PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Introduce students to new topics, and develop student ability for student-led discussion of the topic, with a focus on analytical and critical skills.

The learning and teaching methods include:

A mixture of lectures and seminars, with significant student-led learning, including through engagement with digital resources. Students will be expected to contribute actively during seminars, having prepared to contribute to debates based on extensive reading.


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: POL2036

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Public Affairs MPA 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law with International Relations LLB (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
International Relations BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2024/5 academic year.