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International Relations

The study of International Relations (IR) draws on politics, economics, history, law and sociology. The IR undergraduate curriculum emphasises the prevention of organised violence in political life.

1st Year

Introduction to the Discipline - INTR1012A Year 1

The course introduces key components of the international system. These include: the state, international organisations and non-state actors. Students are introduced to the concept of foreign policy and theories and analytical methods. Furthermore, it introduces positivist International Relations theory.

Africa and South Africa's International Relations - INTR1010A

This course builds on the knowledge established in the introductory course. It focuses on foreign policy decision-making and theory.


Within a BA degree, a student can choose to major in international relations. International relations offers a progression of units over three years.

While units cover the traditional concepts and practices that define the field of IR, special emphasis is given to the need for new ideas and approaches for dealing with emerging post-apartheid and post-Cold War concerns, especially in Africa.

Students who are considering an undergraduate major and a possible career in international relations must ensure that they complete all units up to and including the third year units.

2nd Year

International Law and Security - INTR2008

Students study the causes of conflict in the international system. Also considered is the manner in which conflict is perceived and explained by International Relations theories. In addition to this the course evaluates threats to international security. Measures preventing and ending conflicts are also covered. Students are then introduced to International Law and mechanisms created to bring order to the international system.

International Political Economy - INTR2007

This course gives students an overview of the field of the international political economy (IPE). Theories explaining IPE are studied. The various economic concepts relating to this field are defined and applied in problem-based scenarios. Students also learn to analyse economic data.

3rd Year

International Relations Theory and Methods - INTR3025 (S1) [Compulsory]

The course introduces students to the various sub schools and expands the postivist based theories. The concepts of critical theory and constructivism are also introduced. Students learn to apply quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Transnational Issues in International Politics - INTR3012 (S2) [Compulsory]

Newly recognised transnational concerns are analysed. It examines the history and contribution to the international system.

Issues studied include:

  • International drug trafficking
  • The international media
  • Land mines proliferation
  • International organisations

South African Foreign Policy - INTR3024A

This course defines and analyses the goals and objectives of South Africa's foreign policy agenda. Specific attention is paid to South Africa's foreign policy aspirations both in Africa and globally.

Foreign Policy Analysis - INTR3023 (S1)

Approaches to foreign policy are examined. Using case studies, the variables determinig foreign policy are explored. The value of independent variables such as history, culture and personality are evaluated.

Intermediate Political Economy - INTR3022 (S1) [E]

Complex economic theories are introduced. Student’s use of quantitative research skills to analyse economic data is expanded. Students are asked to critically evaluate existing policies of IPE actors.

US Foreign Policy - INTR3013 (S1) [E]

This course considers the issues and concerns which influence the foreign relations of the strongest state in the international system. The goals and priorities of America’s global role are analysed. An emphasis is placed on United States-Africa policies during the post-Cold War era.

International Organisations III - INTR3002 (S2) [E]

Regional Studies Middle East - INTR3010 (S2) [E]

This course provides an understanding of the dynamics of domestic, regional and international politics in the Middle East. The course examines:

  • The Arab-Israeli conflict
  • Prospects for peace
  • The impact of political Islam and the foreign policy of selected Arab states

Regional Studies East Asia - INTR3008 (S2) [E]

This course explores economic and political interaction in East Asia. It also investigates the international relations of Asian nations with countries outside of East Asia. Some of the themes covered include:

  • The international political economy and security of East Asia
  • The rise of China
  • Japan’s relations with East Asia

Regional Studies Africa - INTR3021 (S2) [E]

The course expands on issues such as the impact of colonialism and the roles played by African states in regional organisations, the African Union and in international fora. The International Political Economy of Africa is examined. The roles of sub-state actors in shaping African states international relations are also discussed.