Specialization in International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies – Københavns Universitet

Videresend til en ven Resize Print Bookmark and Share

Institut for Statskundskab > Uddannelser > Kandidatuddannelser > Specialization in Inte...

Specialization in International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies

Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Isabel Bramsen, Lise Philipsen, Ole Wæver. 

Please note: The specialization will be offered both the Spring 2017
and Autumn 2017, the latter however only if more than
20 students are accepted to the program

Why a specialization in International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies?

This specialization takes its point of departure in the strong International Relations (IR) tradition of the Department – but it adds a particular focus on diplomacy and conflicts. The specialization provides candidates with deep knowledge and key competences to analyze international conflicts, understood broadly as anything from separatism, civil wars, terrorism, international controversies, status rivalry to diplomatic tensions. While the object of analysis is conflict, the specialization is not limited to the tradition of conflict theory, but has a strong component of other conflict-focused theories within IR and diplomatic studies. This unique approach to studying conflicts makes the specialization the place to go for graduate students who want to work with international conflicts and diplomacy in an in-depth and theoretically advanced manner. It offers an ambitious program, which challenges students to work systematically by effectively linking theory, methods and empirics. 

This particular profile is internationally quite unique as other Nordic peace research communities do not have a strong theory dimension. In turn our many brilliant IR students will be challenged in a productive way by confronting work that does not spin out of the standard repertoire of IR-theories. By seeing how different evolving conversations have produced different overlapping intellectual universes, they gain an increased reflexivity in relation to using theories. In turn the specialization will emphasize methods and strategies of analysis, training students in developing and applying their own analytical skills, knowledgeable of but not hostage to one particular set of theories. 

Below follows an introduction to the proposed specialization explaining: 1) why you should take the specialization, 2) which competencies you can gain, and 3) the organization of the specialization. 

1) Why should I take the specialization in International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies?

Because you are interested in international relations, conflicts and diplomacy

Have you ever followed a media debate on whether to intervene militarily or “do nothing” in an international conflict – and thought to yourself:  “What’s the alternative?” Or followed a brutal war from distance, thinking: “Why didn't foreign policy makers and diplomats do anything to mediate or solve the conflict? Could it have been prevented?” This specialization in International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies is designed for students interested in such challenging questions, looking for ways of addressing complex issues of violence, conflict dynamics and international diplomacy. The specialization will provide students with strong theoretical and analytical skills when it comes to accessing international problems. Moreover, it will give students a deeper knowledge of a range of international institutions, regions and conflicts. 

Because you would like to be part of a community of students and researchers with similar interests

The specialization is grounded in the Department’s internationally recognized IR research community. The specialization offers students a unique opportunity to take advantage of this research environment and take part in relevant seminars organized by the Centre for Resolution of International Conflicts and the Center for Advanced Security Theory. You will be able to meet and engage with scholars who present and discuss their work. Being part of a group of students and researchers with similar interests enables you to network, develop new ideas and discuss current developments in international conflicts. Apart from the specialized courses and workshops, study groups, student labs and social activities will be arranged to ensure the cohesion of the group. 

Because you aim for an internationally oriented career

Today’s interconnected conflicts and changing international system leave policy makers, diplomats and practitioners with a great challenge of embracing complexity when responding to contemporary conflicts in an effective and sustainable manner. The specialization provides important tools for kick-starting an internationally oriented career, particularly in the areas of foreign policy, trade, diplomacy, global affairs, peacebuilding and conflict resolution, whether as a researcher, civil servant or in an NGO, in Denmark or in an international organization.   

2) Which competencies do I obtain from taking the specialization? 

The specialization provides students an in depth understanding of and ability to apply theories of international relations, conflict and diplomacy. We strive to attract the best students and offer steep individual learning-curves, based on continuous feedback, evaluation and group discussions. The specialization is open for exploration of various aspects related to international conflicts such as gender and peace, trade wars, new media, mediation, strategy, negotiation techniques, diplomacy, peace-building or human rights. The specific competencies of the graduate student will depend on the topic of the elective courses and their individual choice of focus in their Master thesis. 

Overall you will help improve your:

  • Ability to critically reflect on different approaches to international conflicts and diplomacy
  • Empirical knowledge of current forms of diplomacy, conflicts and conflict patterns
  • Knowledge of theoretical trends and key debates within International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies
  • Ability to apply key theories to analyze historical and contemporary conflicts
  • Ability to identify and analyze the causes, dynamics and positions in a conflict
  • Ability to compare and synthesize diverse approaches to diplomacy, conflict analysis, prevention and resolution
  • Ability to critically discuss and evaluate current research on international conflicts
  • Ability to analyze and access different conflict and diplomatic tensions and their possible resolution 

3) How is the specialization organized?

Candidates attain the MSc in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies by (1) satisfactorily completing the compulsory core course Approaches to International Conflicts – From theory to methods, and (2) by satisfactorily completing elective coures amounting to an additional 15 ECTS within the field of IR (see below). Finally, students are required to do their Master’s thesis within the fields of IR, diplomacy or conflict studies. The electives should preferably be completed within the political science program at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen the same semester as the core course. This allows for synergies across courses and cooperation among students and faculty members during the semester. In addition, it allows for joint guest lectures, reading circles etc. The specialization’s two core courses are offered once each academic year in the Fall semester, and we recommend that students take the core course at the beginning of their specialization. The master’s dissertation seminar is offered every Spring semester.  

Approaches to International Conflicts - From Theory to Methods



The course enables students to comprehend sophisticated theories of international relations, diplomacy and conflict and use them actively in the analyses of contemporary international conflicts. 

Conflict and violence are complex phenomena involving situational dynamics, micro-level tensions, broader discourses of violence, identity negotiations and dynamics that can be analyzed at multiple levels. Previously wars and conflicts have been conceptualized as geopolitical battles between two states competing over land or other resources. Today, wars and international conflicts are often also characterized by being de-territorialized and protracted intrastate conflicts with asymmetric power relations - internationalized or transnationalized to varying degrees. In other words, conflicts and wars involve not just competing states, but also global networks of trade, diasporas, activism, new media, NGOs, lobby groups and citizen diplomacy. These are developments that IR theories, diplomacy and conflict theories struggle to make sense of. 

The course is focused around the concept of conflict understood in a broad sense. Conflict may range from diplomatic conflict to different versions of armed conflict, be it asymmetrical conflict, ethnic conflict or more classical security dilemmas. In the course we explore different approaches to conflict by moving through today's most decisive and novel theories – stretching from neorealism to micro-sociologies of conflict and diplomacy. We structure the course in terms of level of analysis from theories devoted to patterns of power on a macro level, to theories devoted to the micro-mechanisms that may generate or resolve conflict. Regardless of their radically different approaches to power and objects of analysis, what these theories have in common is that they seek to explain conflict, and generate answers to how conflict develops. The different theories therefore provide different and politically decisive answers to how we should respond to the current security climate in international relations. The aim of the course is to enable students to better grasp how the theories we use affect our possibilities for responding to international problems and from this basis be able to conduct their own, more balanced analyses of conflicts. 

The core course provides an overview of contemporary approaches to international conflicts. It builds on the sophisticated theoretical tradition within the Department and combines it with new theories of international conflict and diplomacy. The main perspectives within international diplomacy and conflict resolution are thus introduced together with relevant international relations theories. The course further advances students’ competences with regards to applying these theories analytically in concrete and focused analysis of international conflicts. The course is taught by a team of Faculty members. It will be taught in a combination of lectures, group work, written assignments and student presentations with an emphasis on active learning. 

Every class will consist of an introduction to a distinct theoretical approach which will then be applied to a practical case. You will engage with core concepts and dilemmas of the different academic traditions and learn to understand theories more comprehensively on their own terms, rather than as recipes. You will be challenged to understand theories with precision and in depth and to combine theories and empirics in new ways, as well as being able to think through practical implications of different approaches. 


In addition to the lectures, the course includes a two intensive week sessions where students will further develop their knowledge and skills in international diplomacy and conflict analysis by applying them to a number of specific cases. 

  1. The first part of the workshop is held at the beginning of the semester and consists of conflict analysis, input from conflict negotiation practitioners and a mediation exercise, where students will have to understand different sides of a particular conflict and mediate from this basis. The workshop moves students from abstract theories to operationalization and concrete empirical analysis. The mediation simulation gives the students a hands-on experience with and understanding of practices of addressing and diplomatically handling international conflicts.


  1. In the second part of the workshop at end of the semester students will be expected to build further on and apply their knowledge from the core course and at least one of the electives in the specialization. The workshop begins with a common case, which the whole class will reflect on and discuss. From there the students can freely choose conflict and theory. The workshop exercise provides the students with practical and theoretical tools, methods and concepts relevant for analyzing and addressing international conflicts. The workshop seeks to demonstrate the complementary use of various research methods. The output of the workshop is a poster presentation, where students are expected to reflect upon choice of theory and methods. It must have a clear problem statement and a clear argument.


Students will be working all days of the workshops as each day has an assigned task that must be completed. The skills and results of the workshop can be used in further projects in relation to the specialization, e.g. master thesis, other project papers and orals exams. It will provide a higher level of reflection on the combination of theories and methods for answering a particular question. 


Preconditions: Participants should have completed a comprehensive course in International Relations theories. The course aims at a high theoretical level. Students are expected to read ahead of classes and participate actively during the semester.  

Exam: Written free assignment with grades. 

Electives Courses


The student will choose elective IR courses (within the area of International Relations theory, diplomacy and conflict studies) from the Political Science, University of Copenhagen course catalogue. Students choose freely between graduate level courses. 

Master’s Dissertation


All students enrolled in the specialization will meet regularly in thematic groups to discuss research design, draft chapters etc. in cooperation with supervisors. The aim is further strengthen the community and learning process. 


  • Registration for specialization via self-service during the registration period
  • Registration for specialization core courses via self-service during the registration period

Conditions of admission

If more than 30 students are signed up for the specialization programme the admission is based on the following criterias:

  1. The grade for the course: 'International Politics' at the Bachelor's degree in Political Science
  2. Study Seniority        

Read more on: Facebook or contact Isabel Bramsen regarding the specialization or the Student Advisory Service regarding administrative and admission questions
 Til toppen