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BA (Honours) International Studies

Our world is divided into many different societies. Yet it is increasingly interconnected. Relationships between nations, companies, cultures and individuals extend across regions and the globe. The BA (Honours) International Studies enables you to explore the political, economic and cultural issues that these complex interconnections create. The core concerns of this degree course range from international politics, diplomacy, cooperation, war and security to international economics and development; from cultural and religious interactions between different societies to global environmental problems. Although International Studies at the OU has a particular emphasis on development and the issues and problems facing developing countries, this degree is also concerned with the overall political make-up of the international system and the sources of order and disorder within it. Throughout your studies, you'll have specialist, subject-based academic support and the chance to join in online communities of other social sciences students for teaching, learning and peer support.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Key facts

Code: Q11 Made up of: 360 credits

There are no formal entry requirements to study this degree.

Fees: Our fees depend on where you are ordinarily resident. We have a range of funding options to help you with payment. When you apply to study we will tell you the fee and funding options that are available to you. Before you apply you can read What you can expect to pay.

Career relevance and employability

An international studies degree is applicable to a wide range of professions in the private and public sectors, including international agencies and government bodies (national and European), businesses and non-governmental organisations. If you choose one of the language options, it may add to your professional opportunities.

Employers value the diversity of transferable skills that this degree course develops, along with breadth of mind and ability to critically analyse processes of change. You'll be able to analyse problems relating to a range of international issues including: co-operation and conflict; cultural difference; development and international economic change. Key transferable skills include the ability to:

  • use a range of communication technologies to independently research, select and present information
  • analyse and critically evaluate information and data
  • write and communicate concisely and clearly
  • assemble reasoned arguments for particular audiences
  • use a range of formats: essays, presentations, reports, collaborative working, online forums
  • use strategies to update your knowledge
  • value critical feedback to reflect on your progress and improve your work.

These skills will also be valuable for other roles not directly related to your degree - whether you're already working, volunteering or changing careers.

There's more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU's Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.

Educational aims

International studies is concerned with analysing and understanding the fact that our world is made up of many different, interacting societies. As an academic discipline its core concerns range from international politics, diplomacy, cooperation, war and security to international economics and development; from cultural and religious interactions between different societies to the international spread of technology and environmental problems. International studies is also concerned with questions of the overall character and political make-up of the international system as a whole, and the sources of order and disorder within it, as well as the distinct political, economic and cultural aspects of this. International studies as an academic subject often goes under alternative labels such as International relations or Politics and international relations.

This is a broad-based degree in International Studies drawing on a number of other academic disciplines. Your studies will:

  • introduce you to the key concerns and tools of study in contemporary international studies, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which these can be informed by an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing especially on politics and international relations, development studies and economics
  • increase and develop your knowledge and understanding of a wide range of issues, processes and institutions operating in the contemporary international system in such fields as international politics, development, international economics, cultural and moral orders and the field of technology
  • enable you to develop the skills and confidence necessary to make critical, informed evaluations and judgements about questions of international politics and policy
  • provide you with the materials, support, guidance and opportunities you need to develop as an independent learner.

Learning outcomes

The International Studies degree provides you with the opportunities to acquire, develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding and a range of skills and abilities.

The degree focuses on achievable outcomes for students from diverse backgrounds, who have chosen an interdisciplinary International Studies degree and who are learning at a distance.

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of:

  • the historical development and contemporary make up of the international system and in particular the origins and spread of the modern system of nation states
  • the conceptualisation and explanation of order and disorder, and especially of conflict, competition and cooperation, in the international system
  • the range of political, economic, cultural and technological processes and interactions between different states and societies, and among a range of different actors, across the international system
  • the main debates, theories and current research and scholarship in the discipline of International Studies and related debates and theories in the disciplines of politics, development studies and economics.

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • define and use key concepts, abstract models and theories from a range of disciplines in order to study the international system
  • interpret, use and present different kinds of evidence to evaluate ideas and arguments
  • compare and evaluate competing ideas and arguments about the international system
  • analyse complex situations, synthesise information, construct reasoned arguments and exercise judgement using concepts, models, theories and evidence appropriately.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to transfer and use relevant key skills in your workplace and daily life. The knowledge and understanding of the international system you will have gained, and the political, economic and cultural issues it raises, are directly relevant to a wide range of professional, social and public settings. The degree will enable you to make informed, reasoned choices and judgements in matters relating to issues of international public action.

Practical and/or professional skills as well as key skills are an integral part of all modules at all levels. They are developed as a consequence of module work throughout the programme and are also built into aspects of the assessment process.

Key skills

When you have completed this degree you will be able to demonstrate the following skills:

  • select, summarise and synthesise information from a range of materials and sources and interpret, read and record/note appropriately
  • express and present ideas and arguments succinctly and clearly in written form in a coherent and organised manner, with sources referenced appropriately
  • perform basic numerical operations
  • interpret and present basic descriptive statistics in tables, graphs and diagrams
  • search for, access, process and prepare information using computers including internet-based information
  • conduct independent research and study to investigate a question or problem
  • analyse tasks and make plans for tackling them that use your time effectively
  • identify and use sources of support and feedback to reflect upon your learning and practise skills
  • locate information in order to develop your knowledge and understanding.

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