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Why Study Politics & International Relations at UCD?

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Politics and international relations deal with the conflicts, potential for cooperation, and exercise of power that arise when people have to live together both within and across societies. Politics is inescapable, since we all have to live with other people to some extent, which is why Aristotle claimed over two thousand years ago that politics was the most valuable science and pursued the most important goals. For Ireland in the 21st century – by some measurements the most globalised country on earth – political questions on both national and international levels are more pressing than ever before.

In studying politics and international relations, we try to understand what happens, to figure out what should happen, and to determine how this might be realised. Much of political study involves seeking to understand national and international political institutions, systems and forces – parliaments, presidents and power, votes, vetoes and violence – but it also seeks to explain the changes that occur in these and to articulate what further possibilities for change exist. But politics equally involves what is called political theory, examining what institutions, options and lives we ought to have: what justice demands, what freedom requires, what democracy could be. This is equally true on the international scale – we can explain war, trade and global poverty, discuss the existing mechanisms for coping with these issues and examine what moral demands these facts place on individual nations and individual human beings.

Why Study with Us?

University College Dublin’s School of Politics and International Relations is the largest and most diverse in the state and combines a variety of approaches to all political matters with special expertise in particular areas. Such areas of particular expertise include: European studies, development studies, comparative politics, Irish politics, political theory, international relations and British-Irish studies. It was ranked in the Top 100 Universities in the world for Politics and International Studies by Subject in 2022.

Our school has a strongly international group of students and staff, and our graduates are found all over the world, in governments, universities and other organizations. In Ireland and the EU, our graduates are found at the highest levels of government and are equally prominent in the media, civil service and business sectors.

The study of politics informs you about the world around you, teaches you to analyse and evaluate that information and trains you to present that information in a compelling and useful way. These skills have meant that our graduates are always in high demand.

How Can I Study Politics & International Relations?

(opens in a new window)Politics & International Relations can be studied as part of a (opens in a new window)BSc Social Sciences (DN700)(opens in a new window)BA Humanities (DN530), or a (opens in a new window)Law with Politics degree (DN600)This page explains the details of each degree. 

First Year Modules

Career Opportunities

A wide range of employment opportunities in the public and private sector is open to graduates of the various Politics programmes both in Ireland and abroad. Areas include:

  • The Irish Civil Service
  • The European Commission
  • International Agencies such as UN, IMF and World Bank
  • NGOs
  • Print and Broadcasting Media
  • The Diplomatic Service
  • Business Administration and Research
  • Public Representatives
  • Academic Life

Please see below for the list of employers. Graduates are also extremely well qualified to pursue further study at Masters and PhD level. 

Admissions & Contact

Please note that the School is not involved in the admissions process of undergraduate students, including CAO applicants, mature students, international applicants or transfer students. If you have queries related to the admission process, please refer to UCD Admissions and/or contact the UCD Student Desk. If you have queries related to the contents of Politics and International Relations, please contact us at (opens in a new window)spire@ucd.ie.

The (opens in a new window)UCD Undergraduate Prospectusis available online.

Politics is a broad subject, our core courses will give you the key skills needed. After that you can decide to take a broad overview of politics as a discipline or you can focus your studies on the following areas;

Irish Politics

Studying Irish politics opens up questions about how decisions are made within this country, who the main political actors are, and how the main institutions of state function. It includes finding out what the main political parties stand for, and the ways in which they may resemble or differ from parties in other countries. Courses are also offered on the politics of Northern Ireland, with opportunities to study the troubles and the peace process, and the international as well as domestic aspects of the politics of conflict resolution.

Political Theory
  • Examines critically key ideas and values at stake in politics, including freedom, equality, community, democracy and justice.
  • Considers what, if anything, makes political authority legitimate - power or the consent of the governed.
  • Explores whether all these principles apply globally or only among citizens within national democratic states.
International Relations

Studying International Relations teaches you;

  • The development of the modern international system, focusing especially on the post-Cold War era.
  • Contemporary international politics: war and other forms of inter-state conflict, global trade and communication, migration, economic inequality, global environmental issues, terrorism, human rights, and the role of multinational corporations and transnational pressure groups.
  • EU decision-making and of key developments in EU history, and examines the implications of EU membership for national sovereignty.
European Politics
  • You will learn what the EU is all about. This includes an introduction to the composition and competencies of the major actors (European Commission, Council of Ministers, European Parliament, European Court of Justice). We also explore how the EU works and how European law is made.
  • You will also learn about how the EU’s policy output and powers affect the lives of European citizens.
  • In addition, we analyse the dynamics of decision-making under the Lisbon Treaty, focusing on the impacts of Eastern enlargement on the EU, and the future of the EU.
Comparative Politics

We study the political systems of all the world’s democracies. In addition, we examine how a comparative approach can deepen our understanding of issues such as the distribution of power, state-society links, voting behaviour, political parties, government and policymaking, and public policy.

Development Studies

You will have acquired a good understanding of key current debates about development: why and how have some countries ‘developed’ while others have not? In addition, students will become aware of how global institutions work for or against development and of how particular issues - including trade, foreign aid, migration, and conflict - interact with development.

Human Rights

You will learn the concept and justifications of human rights, the kinds of moral rights that people have and the practical and theoretical challenges that a theory of human rights has to face.

Democracy and Citizenship
  • Examines diversity in contemporary societies, which is the focus of a number of important debates - for example, the long-standing debate on what is needed to include women as equals in society and political life.
  • Investigates new demands for equal treatment from those who differ from what is taken to be the social mainstream in race, origin, sexual orientation, religion, language and other cultural practices, or abilities, among others.
  • Nationalism & Ethno-conflict
  • Engages with the debates on the nature of ethnicity, identity, nationality and the ways ethnic conflict comes about.
  • Evaluates the different ways in which ethnicity is manifested and managed, and the changing forms of nationalism in the contemporary world.
Political Research and Data Analysis

The digital revolution has confronted politics and society with a multitude of new challenges and upset the traditional balance of power between government, individual citizens, and broader society. The explosion of online and social media, the proliferation of digitised information, and improved electronic access to political decision-making provide new opportunities to study existing and emerging political processes. You will learn how to use quantitative research methods and statistical programming languages to understand politics in the digital age. These relevant practical and analytical skills will benefit you academically and professionally throughout your career.

The following are a range of modules that have been offered in recent years. 
Please note that the module offering may vary year-to-year and not all modules listed below are current.

These are a range of employers according to the Graduate Outcomes Survey.

The Irish Civil / Public Service
  • Houses of the Oireachtas
  • Department of Justice and Equality
  • Enterprise Ireland
  • Ireland Chamber of Commerce
  • Health Service Executive
  • Dublin City Council
  • Higher Education Authority
  • Royal College of Surgeons Ireland
  • University College Dublin
  • SCAO Cambodia
  • Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland
  • Irish League of Credit Unions International Development Foundation
  • UCD Students Union
International Agencies
  • United Nations
  • UNISEF Australia
  • Bureau Brussels
  • Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  • Statista
Business Administration and Research
  • Accenture
  • AIB (Allied Irish Banks)
  • Altair
  • AXA XL
  • Bank of Ireland
  • Coyne Research
  • CTR Solutions
  • Dell
  • Deloitte Ireland
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Grant Thornton
  • Glennon Insurance Brokers
  • Hensoldt
  • JDX Consulting
  • KPMG
  • Ladbrokes
  • Linkedin
  • Notting Hill Finance
  • Safran
  • Sanderson Recruitment
  • SRI Executive
  • The Travel Corporation
Media, Education and Others
  • Bunsen
  • Dublin Business School
  • EF Education First
  • Monsoon Accessorize
  • Second Captains
  • Shane English Language School
  • Sound Postings Office of Yo Yo Ma

Having had an interest in politics before college, the variety of available options from the School of Politics and International Relations really appealed to me as a prospective student. Once I started the course, I understood why SPIRe is ranked as the top political science department in Ireland. The first year of the course really gives you a solid foundation upon which to build. As you develop interests in particular areas of politics and international relations you can easily branch out into specific topics such as EU politics, development, conflict resolution and international political economy. For anyone who finds themselves really invested in the programme initially, SPIRe also offer a fantastic ‘Single Subject Major’ programme which gives you the opportunity to truly engage with every facet of political science.

Stephen Crosby, Former student 

My drive to learn more about politics has been like building blocks creating a skyscraper towards my passion giving me a glimpse into the future I want. This has been achieved by studying in the School of Politics and International Relations. With the variety of topics in politics to pursue I have been given an insight into National and EU Politics, International Relations, Sustainable Development Goals, International Political Economy and Political Theory. As auditor of the Politics and International Relations society in UCD, it is a pleasure to grow my knowledge of the realities of the world surrounding us through politics in a variety of events that we as a society create to give students a new, non-partisan perspective of Politics and International Relations.

Claudia Lyons, Student  

UCD School of Politics and International Relations (SPIRe)

School Office: G301, Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.