International Politics and Intelligence Studies

Key Facts

Code L250
  • Typical A-level offer

    BBB with B in any subject

  • Course Length

    3 Years

Further details on entry requirements

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International Politics and Intelligence Studies explores the secret world of ‘cloak and dagger’. Secret services don’t just spy. Some of them do ‘covert’ or ‘special‘ operations to help friends and fight enemies. Some states use their secret services to overthrow governments or assassinate enemies. History shows that some of these activities are done by democracies. So how do we reconcile special operations with democratic values and international law? How, indeed do we reconcile secrecy and accountability? How do we make judgements about the morality of intelligence? This degree scheme allows you to learn how spies and code-breakers discover what enemies (and sometimes friends) don’t want them to know. You will scrutinise how knowledge of threats is acquired and analysed and used. You will study how intelligence is central to fighting terrorism and combatting the spread of nuclear weapons. You will assess the value and the limitations of secret services and look at when and where it all goes wrong - from Pearl Harbour to 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq. By exploring intelligence you will deepen and broaden your understanding of international security, international politics, and international history.

Top 10 in the UK for student satisfaction in the subject area of International Politics (NSS 2016)
91% student satisfaction on our International Politics and Intelligence studies degree scheme (NSS 2016)

Department of International Politics: 95% student satisfaction (NSS 2016)

92% of undergraduates from the Department of International Politics who graduated in 2015 were in employment or further education six months after graduating (DLHE 2015)

  • Overview
  • Modules
  • Employability
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Student Views


Questions about intelligence - its collection, use, and influence - are central to intelligence activities and the war on terror. They are also central to intelligence when viewed from a longer historical perspective. The BA International Politics and Intelligence Studies degree is not only concerned with the history of intelligence and its contemporary uses, but also the efficacy and morality of ‘covert operations’.

Why study International Politics and Intelligence Studies at Aberystwyth?

Founded in 1919 after the end of World War I, the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth is the world’s first university department of International Politics. The Departemnt has over 30 academic and research staff whom are all research active and all contribute to undergraduate teaching programme. The Department's vibrant and cosmopolitan learning environment welcomes students from all over the world, and provides a lively venue for contemporary and international political debate.

The Department is renowned for its pioneering research and is recognised as number one in the UK for the study of international politics. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (2014), the Department of International Politics was placed best in Wales with 76% of publications submitted rated as world leading and internationally excellent.

Our lecturers are committed to excellence in both teaching and research, providing you with an outstanding and dynamic learning environment. Research excellence feeds directly into undergraduate teaching, so that you are exposed to the very latest and most innovative ideas in the field even before they have become generally available through publication. We firmly believe that the synergy between research and teaching makes for a thought-provoking education.

The Department operates a prestigious Parliamentary Placement scheme, enabling you to gain valuable experience working alongside an MP (House of Commons, Westminster) or an AM (Welsh Assembly, Cardiff) for a period of 4-6 weeks during the summer. During this time you will write reports and speeches, undertake research projects, and respond to constituency issues. There may be further opportunities for you to get involved in elections and various international issues.

The Department also has links with carefully selected universities in Europe, Australia or Canada, offering you an excellent opportunity to expand your academic and social horizons by spending a part of your university experience abroad.

The Department is also home to Interstate, the oldest student-run international politics journal in the United Kingdom, providing a unique opportunity for you to publish your work (particularly advantageous if you wish to progress to postgraduate study) or gain valuable experience working as part of the editorial team.Stimulating student societies foster a strong sense of community within the department, offering a programme of political debates, visiting speakers, conferences and workshops, alongside numerous social activities such as an annual ball.

Last, but not least, the Department also offers a number of degree schemes and modules taught entirely or partially through the medium of Welsh. Further details may be obtained from the Department.

Our Staff

Lecturers in the Department of International Politics are all research active and qualified to PhD level, and most also have a PGCHE.


Please note: The modules listed below are those currently intended for delivery during the next academic year and may be subject to change. They are included here to give an indication of how the course is structured.


Modules delivered partially or entirely through the medium of Welsh

Dulliau Ymchwil + Traethawd Estynedig


Career prospects

This degree scheme opens up a wide range of careers in the political and public affairs arena, such as Security Service officer, Government research officer, public affairs consultant, social researcher, and Civil Service fast streamer, but would also be useful for such roles as local government officer, journalist, public relations officer, market researcher or work in the diplomatic services. The research and analytical skills you will develop during your degree will also provide a sound basis for postgraduate study and for a career in academia.

Transferable Skills

Studying for a degree in International Politics and Intelligence Studies will equip you with a range of transferable skills which are highly valued by employers. These include:
• the ability to express ideas and communicate information in a clear and structured manner, in both written and oral form
• effective problem-solving and creative thinking skills
• the ability to work independently
• time-management and organisational skills, including the ability to meet deadlines
• self-motivation and self-reliance
• team-working, with the ability to discuss concepts in groups, accommodating different ideas and reaching agreement
• research skills


The University operates a Year in Employment scheme (YES), which offers any undergraduate student a fantastic opportunity to take a year out between their second and third year to work in an organisation in the UK or overseas. YES provides a very rewarding and worthwhile experience, both personally and professionally, and can help you to stand out from the crowd in a very competitive job market. The University’s Career Service will help you to explore your options and secure a suitable work placement. 

GO Wales

GO Wales is administered by the University’s Career Service, working with local businesses to create paid work placements of a few weeks’ duration for students. It gives you the opportunity to gain valuable work experience which will enhance your CV and make you more attractive to potential employers.

Teaching & Learning

What will you learn?

In the first year you will study a range of modules which will establish a firm foundation for your further studies. A core module will introduce you to the study of international politics and enable you to critically assess central approaches to the study of international relations and apply different methodologies to the analysis of topical issues in world politics. You will also be able to choose other modules from a wide selection reflecting a broad chronological and thematic range, so you can study the topics that appeal most to your own personal interests.

In the second and third years, you will take a core module which provides an analytical foundation to the critical study of intelligence and international security, and will explore key aspects of national security policy-making, counter-terrorism, and the role of intelligence in it. You will also select optional modules from an extensive list designed to broaden your knowledge in the areas of intelligence, espionage and international security. A compulsory dissertation in the final year allows you to demonstrate your substantive knowledge in your chosen subject area, deploying critical research skills and independent enquiry.

How will you be taught?

Students on our International Politics degrees are usually taught through a combination of lectures and seminars. Lectures introduce a topic and raise key points, while small-group seminars allow for more informal discussion and in-depth analysis of a topic. Seminars, therefore, are an invaluable means for you to test out your ideas or reflect on your own experiences, as well as sharing those of others. 

Crisis Games play a very important role in the life of the Department, and form part of a twice-yearly residential course away from Aberystwyth. The Department of International Politics was the first university in the UK to use crisis simulations to connect classroom learning with the real-world complexities of international politics. In recent years the Crisis Games have been based on the humanitarian crises in the Congo and Darfur, an Arctic environmental disaster, nuclear testing in North Korea, Saudi Arabia and the politics of the Middle East, the Northern Ireland peace process, the US presidential election, and war between Russia and Georgia. During the course of the simulation you will learn about aspects of international politics which cannot be taught in lectures and seminars, especially the constraints which political leaders face in responding to various crises. For many students, the Crisis Games are the highlight of the course.

Most modules are assessed through a variety of methods and combinations, including essays, reports,  examinations, book reviews, learning logs and presentations.

Your personal tutor

You will be assigned a personal tutor throughout your degree course, who will help you with any problems or queries, whether these are academic-related or personal issues. You should feel free to contact them at any time for help and advice.

Student Views

The work we do covers a wide and interesting range of topics, whilst probing into the heart of controversial events in current affairs. We have the best building and facilities on campus to work in, and our seminars always result in stimulating discussions which open the mind to perspectives new and old from across the globe. Our department also organises brilliant activities both as part of modules and as extra-curricular events, from tours of the Welsh Assembly with talks from high-ranking civil servants to international exchange programmes and realistic crisis games! Edward Silva

What I love about this course is that we are able to analyse and compare different forms and types of politics, some which may never have been given the light of day beforehand. In this course, there are not only highly interesting lectures but also very engaging seminars. Before coming to Aberystwyth, Politics was an interest of mine but now having been through one semester in this course it has become my passion. This course is perfect for those, who like me, are curious about the workings of politics around the world. Ryan Hunter

Entry Requirements

A Levels BBB with B in any subject

GCSE requirements (grade C min):
English or Welsh

BTEC National Diploma:

International Students

International Baccalaureate:
30 points overall

European Baccalaureate:
70-75% overall

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