Why study Political Science and International Relations?

voting hand ballot box © Restricted/University of Canterbury

Are you interested in making a difference in your community? Understanding New Zealand politics or international problems? What makes good democracy? Public policy challenges like health, the environment, peace, security or human rights? How power and resources are allocated in society to address inequality or help support human and economic development? Religious and ethnic tolerance? Do you want to study these subjects and pursue a career based on your interest? If so, you should study Political Science and International Relations.

The Department of Political Science and International Relations at UC is recognised for its strength of research, teaching and mentoring networks, field trip teaching, and real-world problem solving.

Undergraduate courses

Political Science and International Relations students should consider taking a course at each level from one of the subfields.

Explore the full list of Political Science and International Relations courses.

Postgraduate courses 

The BA (Hons) in Political Science and International Relations is a research-focused degree consisting of one year of intensive study, working in small classes with enthusiastic lecturers teaching in their specialist fields. It is an opportunity for you to develop skills as an independent researcher capable of moving on to the Masters or PhD degrees. It is also excellent preparation for employment as a researcher or analyst. The programme provides opportunities for internships and interaction with politicians and policy makers.   

For admission to the MA programme students will normally be required to have achieved at least a Second Class First Division BA (Hons) in Political Science and International Relations, or a related subject, with the approval of the Head of Department. Detail on MA requirements are available here. The department has particular research interests in New Zealand government, nationalism and ethnicity, development, conflict mediation, science and technology policy, the Asia-Pacific region, and security studies.

Political Science and International Relations offers a new qualification, Master of Policy and Governance.        MA course requirements can be found here.

UC's Masters in International Relations and Diplomacy is the only degree of its kind in Australasia, arising in response to a growing demand from students for more specialised study of foreign policy and diplomacy. In addition, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had requested a more focused and practical training in foreign policy-making and international affairs.

The programme is unique in that it offers a multi-disciplinary introduction to the advanced study of foreign policy and international affairs.

There is a field trip to Wellington and input from many experts in the field.   Former diplomats assist with delivery of the course as adjunct lecturers while others share their professional expertise as guest speakers at seminars.   This gives students a chance to build a professional network within their chosen field of study.   See the full list of Diplomacy and International Relations courses.


Scholarships specific to students of International Relations and Diplomacy can be found on the database. 

Students may also search the general database.

Ordinarily only students with a Distinction or Merit Class standing or equivalent in an MA programme are considered for admission into the PhD programme. The MA is expected to have been awarded in Political Science although related disciplines will be considered for admission. In rare instances students with a BA Honours are considered but this is largely discouraged. It should be noted that possession of the minimum entrance requirement is NOT a guarantee of admission. There must, for instance, be agreement on a suitable topic to ensure that proper supervision can be provided.

The Head of Department, the Graduate Committee, and potential supervisors review all applications for doctoral study, in consultation with other members of the department. A candidate's undergraduate and honours record, confidential letters of recommendation, statement of interest, and samples of written work are reviewed. In some cases a telephone interview may be necessary to clarify information. In addition, whether the department and university have appropriate staff and facilities to allow candidates to pursue their research interests are considered.

Formal application is through the Registry, which also passes the application to the department for consideration.

The primary requirement for completion of a doctorate in Political Science and International Relations is the composition and defence of a substantial piece of original advanced research in the form of a thesis. Upon admission students may also be required to attend appropriate Honours papers and to participate in other activities that the student's doctoral committee deems appropriate for the thesis topic undertaken.


There are several scholarships available for students of Political Science and International Relations.

There are also general scholarships open to applications from POLS students. See the Scholarships webpage for general postgraduate awards and funding opportunities.

Interested in Political Science and International Relations?

Find out more