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Human, Social, and Political Sciences - HSPS Tripos


flags.jpgWhat is Politics and International Relations?

Politics and International Relations is about the world in which we live collectively and the ways in which it became what it is today and continues to change. It considers the choices that political actors – from governments to citizens to international institutions – make and the structures and constraints under which they make them. It examines the ways that people conceive the world as they believe it might be and the realities with which they struggle in trying to make it so. It analyses the ways in which people have tried abstractly to make sense of the political and international worlds and the political contexts in which they have done so.

What is special about Politics and International Relations at Cambridge?

The course in Politics and International Relations at Cambridge aims to understand the political and international worlds as part of a single whole. It draws together analysis of contemporary politics and the historical development of political thinking.

The course is taught by the Department of Politics and International Studies. The Department has around thirty teaching staff, and three members of the Department hold prizes awarded by the University for outstanding teaching. The Department is located in a purpose-built building with superb teaching facilities.


The structure of the course

First year: Four papers

  • Politics
  • International Relations
  • Plus two options from Sociology, Social Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Archaeology, Social Psychology, Cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt, Akkadian, Egyptian.

Second year: Four papers

  • History of Political Thought (either the Greeks to the 17th century or the 18th and 19th centuries)
  • International Organisation
  • Comparative Politics (including at present modules on the politics of the USA, Africa, the Middle East, China, and western and eastern Europe)
  • Either an optional essay paper in Politics and International Relations or a paper in another subject.


Third year: Either a dissertation and three papers or four papers

  • An optional dissertation on any topic. (Students who do this take three other papers. Otherwise students take four papers.)
  • A general paper in Politics and International Relations.
  • Students can then choose their remaining two or three papers from a long list of options, including political thought, the politics of particular regions of the world, the politics of the international economy, and the politics of security and international development. Students can also opt to take papers from other subjects.

Careers and afterwards

Students taking Politics and International Relations have gone on to careers in the media, law, the civil service including the Foreign Office, teaching, consultancy and finance, advocacy with non-governmental organisations, and energy management. Many have also gone on to take postgraduate degrees.

Further information

If you are interested in applying for this course you can find more information on how to apply on the University's Undergraduate Study pages. You can also find more information about Politics and International Relations on the website of the Department of Politics and International Studies at

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