Module code: POL2034

Module Overview

The form of globalisation that has characterised the international system over the post-Cold War era, a phenomenon that both drives and is driven by international institutions, treaties and regimes, is seemingly reducing the capacity of nation-states to respond to pressures emanating from the international economic and security environment. Economic challenges, including the recent global recession, require intimate cross-border cooperation (at the regional and global level); climate change presents a threat that requires urgent global-cooperation (be it between local authorities and cities in different national contexts, or at the national level), and public health continues to have drastic impacts on economy, development, and wellbeing that reach beyond individual states. Furthermore, the end of the Cold War has ushered in a host of new security challenges that states are unable to tackle on an individual basis, from preventing and dealing with the consequences of state failure, international terrorism and crime, as well as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

A key question that the module will examine is the extent to which these challenges are leading to a shift away from an international system characterized by the notion of state sovereignty and the control of policy development and implementation by the central political authority of the nation-state, to a diffusion of power and competencies, both ‘horizontally’, to private actors such as NGOs and Transnational Corporations, and ‘vertically’, downwards to the regional level and upwards to international organisations. The module will critically assess the analytical leverage that can be attained to these questions through the application of diverse perspectives within IR theories, covering not only realist, liberal, and constructivist schools of thought, but also critical approaches such as Marxism and post-structuralism. It will also focus on approaches drawn from political science theory, notably the literatures on multi-level governance, public policy theories,  and the ‘new’ institutionalism.

In the course students will tackle a number of contemporary debates on international organisations that are central to public debate - the meaning and forms of international organisations, issues of authority, power and legitimacy; how states and non-state actors (particularly NGOs and business) have shaped the nature and scope of international cooperation and the effects that participation in international institutions upon policy-making, styles of governance and institutional configuration at the national and sub-national levels. We will also examine not only the role of hegemonic powers, in particular the impact of the United States over the post-war and post-Cold War eras, but also the implications of the rise of new powers such as China and India upon international organisations. The module will then examine relevant case studies: environmental governance; global health governance; the WTO and the governance of international trade; the IMF, World Bank and the governance of finance and development; the United Nations and security governance. The module will conclude by assessing the implications of the growth of international organisations for the role of the state as a national and international actor.

Module provider


Module Leader

HADFIELD Amelia (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: 97

Seminar Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 20

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • Introduction: What are International Organisations?

  • Theorising International Organisations

  • Power, Legitimacy and Authority in International Cooperation

  • Compliance, Policy Transfer and Domestic Institutional Change

  • The Global Politics of the Environment

  • The Role of Non-State Actors in the International System: International Corporations and NGOs.

  • Global Trade: The WTO

  • Global Finance and Economic Development: The World Bank, IMF and G8

  • Global Security: The United Nations between Security Governance and Power Politics

  • The Future of International Organisations: The Retreat of the State?

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework POLICY BRIEF (2000 WORDS) 60
Coursework REFLECTIVE ESSAY (1500 WORDS) 40

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

  • Their ability to choose relevant theories and apply them to various practical dimensions of international organisations

  • Their understanding of the significance of international organisations to politics, power and hegemony.

  • An appreciation of the legal, political and socio-economic dimensions of international organisations, as well as the way in which international organisations work.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Policy brief 1 (2000 words) – 60%

  • Reflective essay (1500 words) - 40%


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

Module aims

  • Iintroduce students to the function of key international organisations including the WTO, IMF, World Bank, United Nations. The module will also introduce students to key debates on the international governance of climate change and public health, as well as trans-national corporations and Non-Governmental Organisations.
  • Develop students' sustainable thinking by enabling them to apply the theoretical knowledge to particular cases of international governance, as well as by developing an understanding of the key forces shaping the development of international organisations and the implications of the development of international organisations for policy-making processes at the national and sub-national levels
  • Introduce students to theoretical approaches to the development and implications of international organisations, including not only the mainstream and critical international relations theories, but also political science approaches such as public policy theory and new institutionalism

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate a coherent grasp of the development and function of key international organisations including the World Bank, IMF, G8, WTO, UN, international corporations and NGOs K
002 Develop sustainable thinking by gaining the ability to use theory in their critical analysis of the development and implications of the institutionalisation of international cooperation through international organisations KC
003 Apply their theoretical knowledge to the working of international organisations in the context of today's greatest challenges, including those about environment and public health. KCPT
004 Develop skills in self-critically managing their learning, and gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information for their analysis from a variety of secondary and primary sources. KC
005 Build resilience through the assessment by constructing reasoned arguments, synthesize their relevant information and exercise critical judgement, both individually and through group work. KC
006 Develop students' skills on effective communication as well as fluent speech and writing, which will contribute towards students' professional development, through simulation of negotiations in international organisations. PT
007 Work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time-management, but also gain teamworking attributes with the use of cutting-edge digital platforms such as Teams channels and Surrey's interactive module pages PT
008 Apply their theoretical knowledge to practice with support from experienced leaders within international organisations. Simulations will give students the practical experience of problem-solving through international organisations diplomacy, preparing students for relevant internships and career paths. KCPT
009 Be introduced to the diverse global environment that surround international organisations, where different member state preferences are key determinants. This will in turn help students develop an intercultural understanding KC
010 Through the participation of guest academics and practitioners of international organisations, students will build on a global network that will help them develop into future leaders in academic and policy environments KCPT

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:

The purpose of this module is to introduce students to the main theoretical lenses and conceptual debates on international organisations and apply them to a number of empirical issues. Accordingly, the lectures involve theories and case studies to understand specific international organisations. These are followed by student-led seminar discussions on a given set of prescribed topics and questions around international organisations. The carefully scaffolded learning strategy also provides students the opportunities to apply critical lenses to practice through simulation games. These exercises will be based on the nature, structure and working of international organisations in the context of today’s most pressing problems, such as climate change and pandemics.

The learning and teaching methods include:

11 x 2 hour seminars (Split between lectures and seminar work), prescribed reading, independent learning, policy and document analysis

Additional captured content and digital resources will be provided on SurreyLearn

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: POL2034

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Business Economics and Data Analytics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Environment and Sustainability BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Public Affairs MPA 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Business Economics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Economics and Finance BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Economics BSc (Hons) 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
Politics and Economics 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 2025/6 academic year.