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Unit information: International Security in 2021/22

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name International Security
Unit code POLIM3012
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Herring
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The concept of security is used very frequently in relation to international issues. This unit introduces you to the subject of international security, including theoretical, normative and policy issues. It covers traditional and non-traditional approaches. The unit begins by surveying different approaches to the study of security. It explores the idea of (de)securitization, that is, how issues are put onto our taken off the security agenda. We then examine in turn gender; the environment; nuclear weapons; conventional arms transfers; terrorism; ethnic conflict; the news media and public opinion; the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the aftermath; and the relationships between security and development. Throughout you will be encouraged to explore different perspectives in order to assist you in developing your own understanding of these issues and in deciding which, if any, you find most persuasive.

This unit aims:

  • To assist you in becoming familiar with contemporary approaches to and issues in international security.
  • To develop your ability to think independently about texts on international security.
  • To assist you in developing your own views on international security issues and the ways they are studied.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit the student should have:

  • Thorough knowledge of approaches to international security
  • The ability to understand a range of relevant concepts and related theories – in particular the liberal democratic peace (& its war ethos), the nuclear and terrorist threats, the arms trade and its consequences, genocide and ethnic cleansing, conflict and development, humanitarian intervention and trans-national violence
  • Knowledge of the contemporary historical dimensions of international security
  • The ability to integrate theoretical and empirical material
  • The ability to analyse news politically
  • The ability to make articulate, concise, persuasive and well-paced presentations in small groups
  • The ability to present articulately, concisely and persuasively and to support a presentation with effective written material
  • The ability to engage in constructive discussion

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: an oral presentation supported by a handout Summative assessment: a 4,000 word essay.

A full statement of the relationship between the programme outcomes and types/methods of assessment is contained in accompanying Programme Specifications and section B7 of the Major Change to Current Programme forms for the programmes of which this unit is a part. The assessment for each unit is designed to fit within and contribute to that approach in terms of intellectual development across each of the two teaching blocks, and in relation to knowledge and understanding, intellectual skills and attributes, and transferable skills.

Reading and References

  • Baylis, J. Wirtz, J. Cohen, E and Gray, C. Strategy in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to Strategic Studies, Oxford University Press, 2002
  • Booth, K. & Dunne, T. (eds), Worlds in Collision: Terror and the Future of Global Order, Palgrave, 2002
  • Buzan, B & Herring, E. The Arms Dynamic in World Politics, Lynne Rienner, 1998
  • Chomsky, N. The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo, Pluto, 1999
  • Hough, P. Understanding Global Security, Routledge, 2004
  • Kaldor, M. New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Globalised Era, Polity Press, 1999