Inside the MA in International Relations: Q&A with Dr. Mervyn O’Driscoll, Coordinator of the Program, School of History

(For purposes of this interview: Dr. Mervyn O’Driscoll = MD  North American Officer Caela Provost = CP)

CP: Could you please give us a brief overview of the MA in International Relations postgraduate course?

MD: This MA has something for everyone in terms of content, but it guarantees that you will gain a strong grounding in International Relations approaches and historical perspectives. Together these will provide you with theoretical sharpness, applicable frames of reference, and concrete research tools.

The MA has a strong taught component which will provide you with a comprehensive, all-round induction into International Relations, the History of International Relations, and international history. The 20,000 word supervised dissertation grants you the freedom to develop your research and argumentative skills to a high level in a topic of your choosing, during which you will be supervised by an academic with appropriate expertise.

The MA will induct you into the evolution of international politics and history in the modern and contemporary eras drawing on a wide variety of empirical and conceptual tools from the Historical and International Relations disciplines. It addresses innumerable traditional and topical issues such as war and peace, terrorism, crisis decision-making, the art of diplomacy, great power politics, global governance, human rights, intervention, and regional integration (particularly the EU). Attention is devoted to states, international organizations, and transnational actors.

Staff dispose of considerable expertise in US diplomacy and foreign policy, transatlantic relations, military intervention, terrorism, small state diplomacy, comparative European politics, Euroscepticism, international peacekeeping and conflict resolution, neutrality, nuclear diplomacy, insurgency and counterinsurgency, political extremism (fascism, Nazism, populism), military history and strategy, European integration, British foreign policy, nationalism, and Irish foreign relations.

CP: What, in your opinion, makes this course unique?

MD: Unusually this MA combines History and International Relations. The staff disposes of expertise in international history, diplomacy, and contemporary history. They are deeply familiar with the field of International Relations and trained in, or taught on, such programs internationally before their appointment at UCC.

The MA in International Relations has a longer pedigree than the majority of comparable MAs in the Republic of Ireland. It was founded in 1999 and drew on over 20 years of the School of History’s undergraduate teaching in the field. Since 1999 approximately 300 have graduated successfully from the MA program. This represents an extremely high success rate of more than 95% with most students earning the top two grades.

The experience of its staff which encompasses small states and European, in addition to great power (the United States, Russia), perspectives.

CP: Is this course affordable for international students? Are there scholarships available?


  • In US and North American terms this MA in International Relations is very affordable. Tuition fees are in the ballpark of c. $13,000 (dependent on currency fluctuations).
  • The University is developing a QUERCUS scholarship program for high achievers choosing to enroll on an MA program. Recipients will probably have their tuition fees reduced to the Irish level of c. €6,500-7,000 (dependent on currency fluctuations). This scholarship program is in an advanced stage of development and the intention is announce it in good time for incoming students to benefit in 2017/18.
  • The College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences will also offer some additional scholarships.
  • Accommodation and living costs are not encompassed in such scholarships.

CP: What type of student does the MA in International Relations aim to attract?


  • The MA aims to attract a diverse range of students from any liberal arts, humanities or social science background. Their background and training will be highly relevant to the field of International Relations and the History of International Relations.
  • Candidates will normally hold a primary degree in these areas and those with a GPA of 3.2 or above will gain an automatic place on the program. Those with a GPA of between 2.7 and 3.2 may also be considered but they will be required to provide additional information, documentation, work samples etc., and entry cannot be guaranteed.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must sit either an IELTS test or an equivalent gaining an overall score of 6.5 or above. Further information on English language requirements can be found at http://www.ucc.ie/en/study/postgrad/how/

CP: How does this program, MA in International Relations, differ from a public policy/government program? Can you briefly explain how the course discusses international relations through a historic lens?

MD: This degree is a MA in History degree with a focus on international relations. There is a long-running interdisciplinary conversation between History, International Relations and Political Science ever since Historians played a significant role in the establishment and development of IR, but many other subjects and disciplines have contributed including Sociology, Philosophy and Economics. As such the field of IR is broad and multidisciplinary. Today in all countries, most departments dedicated to International Relations employ historians for their empirical rigour and wide historical perspective. Historical inquiry is an essential part of the International Relations discipline as most of its practitioners draw heavily on the findings of historians, historical evidence and arguments. In fact, modern IR theoretical arguments are frequently driven or informed by historical findings. There is, therefore, a very useful and practical synergy between the two though they are rarely taught in tandem.

This program addresses this and it will ensure that those trained in IR through Public Policy/Government departments have the facility to draw on historical sources, borrow historical arguments and are in possession of suitable historical training and understanding. Conversely Historians of international relations with an imperfect knowledge of the theoretical literature which forms the bedrock of International Relations will be instructed in this. The two areas have much to learn from one another. As our MA in International Relations is delivered by Historians proficient in International Relations theories our graduates have a broad frame of reference and a definable skill base in both areas. Consequently, our graduates have succeeded in many walks of life and work not least academia, diplomacy, business and public service. So stand out from the crowd and acquire deep and wide international perspective.

CP: What career offerings await students who choose to enroll in this course?


  • Former graduates work in the private or public sector, including the various foreign services, think tanks, international organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), development organisations, multinational companies and media outlets. Several work with the European Union (EU), in diplomatic services or with various civil services (Irish, British, European)
  • Its graduates have also achieved notable international success in winning doctoral and postdoctoral research funding and places in top-tier universities in Ireland, Britain, the European Union (EU), the United States and Canada.


CP: Is there anything else you’d like to add to give students a better idea of what to expect from this degree?

MD: I am available via email should you have any questions: mervyn.odriscoll@ucc.ie


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