MA Course Descriptions

The courses regularly taught in the Master’s programme are described in this section, though other courses may be offered on an occasional basis. Each course is are worth 6 ECTS.

Fall 2019

The Theory and Practice of International Relations (6 ECTS)
Course Instructor: Dr. Tongfi Kim (Vesalius College)

This foundational course introduces students to the major theories and core concepts of the discipline of International Relations (IR) and their practical application to historical and contemporary policy issues. Students analyze the different theoretical schools (in particular the ‘grand debate’ between liberalism and realism as well as constructivism and critical theories) as well as Western and non-Western traditions of IR thinking and make the first connections on how the intellectual foundations of IR theories are related to the theoretical and conceptual assumptions behind state and non-state approaches to diplomacy and global governance). The course will examine the influence of state actors and non-state actors on global affairs and will challenge students to reflect on the possibilities and constraints related to reforming the current practice of International Relations.

Theories and Applied Issues of Global Peace, Security and Strategic Studies
(6 ECTS); Course Convenor: Koen Troch (Royal Military Academy)

This core foundational courses introduces students to the major theories, concepts and discipline-specific assumptions of the subfields of peace studies, security studies and strategic studies. Students will be encouraged to compare and contrast the differences and similarities between the three different sub-disciplines and build connections between the different practical approaches related to military tools, civilian tools and overarching ‘comprehensive strategies’. In addition, students will be introduced to global perspectives on the core concepts of ‘peace’, ‘security’ and ‘strategy-making’.  Run in parallel to, and in dialogue with, the core foundational course The Theory and Practice of International Relations, students are encouraged to draw connections between major IR theories and theoretical approaches within peace, security and strategic studies.

The Role of International and Regional Organizations (6 ECTS)
Course instructor: Christina Bache (Vesalius College and LSE)

This is the third ‘Core Foundational Course’ and is offered to provide students with the necessary grounding in the role of international and regional organizations in global peace and security issues as well as in managing (or failing to manage) global governance processes and international order. Since International and Regional Organizations have become multifunctional entities required to address a plurality of issues at the intersection of security, development, finance, trade and legal issues, the course will provide a comprehensive perspective on the history, institutional design, core processes, functioning and impact/effectiveness/performance of international and regional organizations. Complementing and contrasting state-centric or state-dominant perspectives of International Relations and global politics (such as the Foreign Policy Analysis and Diplomacy course offered in the Core Foundations Trimester), this module deliberately focuses on the strengths, weaknesses and need for reform of core intergovernmental organizations across the major policy fields of security, trade & finance, development, environmental issues, migration, human rights and international law. This course is jointly offered together with the MA in Global Peace, Security and Strategic Studies and therefore combines peace and security perspectives with wider issues in global governance and diplomacy.

Research Methods  (6 ECTS)
Course Instructor: Dr. Olesya Tkacheva (Vesalius College)

This course focuses on the most important foundations in common  research methods, skills and tools for all MA Students. The course introduces students to the main quantitative and qualitative methods required for International Relations as well as peace, security and strategic studies and trains students in basic research design required for writing the MA thesis in the following semester. The course thus provides the main building-blocks for mastering advanced research skills as well as major tools for extended research papers and thesis-writing. This course is offered in parallel to the MA Thesis Preparatory Seminar, where students practice more in-depth the core elements of the MA thesis, choose their core research question and MA thesis topic as well as the appropriate research method encountered in this course (see below). The course is thus designed to be an essential tool by which to acquaint MA students with the appropriate research techniques and methodologies in the canon of International Relations (IR) and Social Science Research Methods, as well as with the tools by which to grasp and analyze major aspects of Peace, Security and Strategic policies.

MA Thesis and Capstone Preparatory Seminar (6 ECTS)

Instructors: Dr. Sven Van Kerckhoven (Vesalius College) and Dr. Vsevolod Samokhvalov (University of Liege)

In coordination with the Research Methods course, the MA Thesis and Capstone Preparatory Seminar will provide students with further training on academic writing skills and academic conventions, structure, topic choice and application of research methods related to the MA Thesis. In addition, it will provide students with basic understandings and nuts and bolts of the Capstone course; students meet with their MA supervisors to discuss initial ideas for the thesis and practice the core elements of thesis writing, including the drafting of the research question, literature review and theoretical framework. In the second half of the course, students will also tentatively incorporate their research design (developed in parallel in the research methods course) in the initial outline of the thesis and beginnings of the theoretical framework for the thesis. Students learn to contrast theoretical work with the policy-oriented conventions of the Capstone course. In addition, students follow selected evening lectures on global perspectives on selected issues of diplomacy and global governance.

The Theory and Practice of Diplomacy and Global Governance (6 ECTS)
Course Instructor: Richard Higgott (Vesalius College/ IES)

The second of the foundational courses introduces students to the major theories, concepts and discipline-specific assumptions of the subfields of diplomatic studies and the theory and practice of global governance. Students will be encouraged to delve into the historical and theoretical conceptual debates of diplomatic studies, the changing nature of diplomacy in the wider context of state-centric and non-state-centric approaches to global governance. In addition, students will be introduced to global perspectives on the core concepts of ‘peace’, ‘security’ and ‘strategy-making’. Run in parallel to, and in dialogue with, the core foundational course The Theory and Practice of International Relations, students are encouraged to draw connections between major IR theories and theoretical approaches within the study of diplomacy and global governance.

Spring 2020


*Global Perspectives on the History and Ideas of Peace (6 ECTS)
Instructor: Gianluca Sgueo (NYU/Vesalius College)

This course provides students with a global overview of the history of ideas and culture related to different conceptions of peace and practical effect of ‘nonviolent movements’ and ‘civil resistance’. Building bridges between different cultural perspectives of, approaches to and ideas related to peace (comparing and contrasting Western conceptions with variants of Indian thought, Islamic Thought, Confucian Thought as well a African and Native American conceptions), the course invites students to reflect on the plurality of conceptions of peace in a global context. Furthermore – combining theory and history of ideas with practice- the second half of the course provides students with the opportunity to critically assess the effectiveness and limitations of nonviolent peace movements around the globe and examine the link between civil resistance, non-violence and conflict resolution/prevention.

Mediation, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution in Theory and Practice (6 ECTS)
Instructor: Zafer Kizilkaya (VUB/Vesalius College)

This elective module provides students with a comprehensive overview of the main theories and approaches to mediation, negotiation and conflict resolution. The course draws on major case studies of successful resolution of different types of conflicts across the globe and challenges students to assess and practice themselves core approaches to mediation and negotiation of conflicts in different scenarios with particular emphasis on the role of culture. The course brings together different strands of the sub-disciplines of conflict resolution, negotiation and mediation in order to provide students with a solid grounding in diplomatic and non-violent approaches to peacemaking. The course also includes sessions provided by mediation experts and practitioners from, inter alia, the EU, UN and government departments.

Peacekeeping, Peacebuilding and Peace Enforcement (6 ECTS)
Instructor: Dr. Maria Almagro (Vesalius College/Cambridge)

This elective course examines the United Nations (UN) approaches to ‘peacekeeping’, ‘peacebuilding’ and ‘peace enforcement’ in both theory and practice. It examines the major theoretical and conceptual debates and assesses the effectiveness of the three approaches to global peace and security in concrete cases. While the main focus will be placed on the evolutions, successes and limitations of UN policies, the course also considers approaches by other actors, such as regional organizations and NGOs. Students will analyze the commonalities and key differences between the three approaches and will consider critical evaluations of the conditions for success or failure. The course also covers the state of the art of theoretical debates between ‘liberal’ or ‘mainstream’ approaches to peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peace enforcement as well as critical theories.


*History of Global Conflicts and Global Security (6 ECTS)
Instructors: Dr. Ethan Corbin (Vesalius College/NATO Parliamentary Assembly) and Antonio Calcara (IES)

This compulsory thematic course of the Security Studies Track (counts towards Trimester III) is an interdisciplinary perspective on the causes, course, outcomes and resolution of major conflicts since 1945. Students will apply historical and IR methods and theories in order to understand and analyze the major conflicts and their effects on regional and global security. The core guiding question to answer throughout the module is ‘why have the 20th and early 21st centuries been so conflict-ridden, despite efforts by governments to establish international organizations and mechanisms to preserve peace? To answer this question, one must take into account the empirical studies and theoretical approaches that form the basis of international conflict and security studies. Especially important are comparative analyses of the origins and causes of inter-state conflicts since 1914. However, such studies assume a certain measure of historical knowledge of the political, economic, and ideological background to, influence on, and consequences of, not only of the 20th- and 21st-century conflicts being analysed, but also of selected conflicts from earlier historical epochs. Such studies also require some knowledge of the diplomatic and military history of these same conflicts. This module, then, will focus on the historical context of selected international conflicts with the objective of enabling students to gain an understanding of the complexity, nature, and dynamics of those conflicts.

Terrorism, Counterterrorism and (De-)Radicalisation (6 ECTS)
Instructors Maj. Koen Troch (Royal Military Academy/Vesalius College) and Thomas Renard (Egmont Institute)

This elective seeks to enhance students’ understanding of ideological, strategic, and operational characteristics of global terrorism, radicalization as well as counter-terrorism strategies in the 21st Century. Students will define terms associated with the movement, and explore the development, motives, tactics as well as the variety of conditions of radicalization and terrorism, with a specific focus on terrorist groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South-East Asia. The course will provide both a critical assessment of the contributing factors behind the emergence of terrorism as well as of the methods and policies used by national and international actor to prevent and counter terrorism. Policy debates, statements and literature from a diversity of actors, including jihadists themselves, will be introduced to create a comprehensive understanding of all perspectives involved in the movement. This course places heavy emphasis on the professional writing, briefing, conduct, and other skills needed for careers in the counter-terrorism and the security field. The course will be organized in cooperation with the Institute of Economics & Peace and also involves a critical assessment of their Global Terrorism Index.

Emerging Security Threats in Theory and Practice (incl. Cybersecurity, Energy Security, Environmental Security) (6 ECTS)
Instructor: TBD

This elective provides a comprehensive analysis of so-called ‘emerging security threats’ or ‘new security’ challenges, driven by technology, climate change and contemporary issues. The course provides a theoretical analysis of ‘classical’ and ‘new’ security challenges and provides a critical assessment of the extent to which this distinction may or not may play out in theory and practice. The course assesses major security threats, such as cybersecurity, the use of drones, energy security, the climate-security nexus as well as the use of non-conventional weapons by non-state actors and reviews responses and policies by states and international organizations. In line with the general objectives of the MA GPSSS of a global perspective, the course will assess the impact of these security threats from different regional perspectives. The course will be led by Dr. Jamie Shea and a variety of guest speakers and practitioners.


*History and Theory of Strategy (6 ECTS)
Instructor Major Koen Troch (Royal Military Academy)

This elective is aimed at GPSSS wishing to deepen their understanding of the history and theory of grand strategy and strategy-making. Building on the Core Module on Theories and Applied Issues of Global Peace, Security and Strategic Studies, this elective module focuses on key authors of grand strategy since Sun Tsu and Thucydides and allows students to delve into the theory of strategy-making across time in Western and non-Western contexts. Students will also learn to apply strategic thinking to major contemporary dilemmas global affairs. Issues to be explored throughout and across the weekly topics include different levels of strategy (political, operational, tactical), the relationship between leadership and strategy, strategy and geopolitics, strategy-making and morality as well as comprehensive and focused approaches to strategy implementation.

Geopolitics (6 ECTS)
Instructors: Jordan Becker (Vesalius College / US Mission to NATO) and Antonio Calcara (IES)

This module explores the major concepts, theories and in particular concrete policy issues of the sub-field of geopolitics. Geopolitics provides a distinct perspective on the interplay between geography, power and foreign policies and has –in its beginnings in the 19th century- been associated with a ‘realist’ view of international relations. Yet, in recent years ‘critical geopolitics’ has added further nuances to the study of geopolitics. Students will explore the evolution and impact of geopolitical developments across major regions and will apply those insights to assessing underlying dynamics of cooperation and conflict.

Comparative Regional Security Complexes and Strategic Cultures (6 ECTS)
Instructor: TBD

This elective course assesses major security developments from a ‘comparative regional security studies’ perspective in the regions of Maghreb and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. The course examines the differences and commonalities of the evolution of security complexes in the different regions and provides students with in-depth analyses of the institutions, actors, processes and security challenges from a comparative perspective. In addition, students are introduced to the concept of strategic cultures, which will be assesses in each security complex. This elective builds on the Core Foundations Course The Role of International and Regional Organizations (Trimester I) by encouraging students to examine in detail the historical political, social and economic conditions shaping the regions in questions as well as the regional security complex.


*Current and Future Challenges in Diplomacy
Instructor: Dr. Jurgen Dieringer (Vesalius College)

This course addresses current and future challenges in diplomacy. Students will learn to analyse contemporary problems and issues appearing in diplomatic horizon by using theoretical presumptions and applying them to the cases selected. It combines theoretical models from International Relations and Comparative politics to identify the major processes and actors currently setting and shaping the diplomatic agenda. Given the immense speed of change and in international relations since the end of the Cold War, the methodology of diplomacy has changed from traditional club diplomacy to network-based diplomacy. Against this background we will see how actors widen and reshuffle the toolbox of diplomacy in order to meet these challenges. The course puts special emphasis on the current crisis of the West and the threats to multilateralism, on security challenges, new technologies and the strive for the last free spots on earth (and beyond).

*The Design, Successes and Failures of Global Governance (6 ECTS)
Instructor: Dr. Guy Burton (Vesalius/LSE)
(Professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs & Director, Centre for the Study on Rapid Global Change, Uni of Waterloo, Canada)

This elective course provides an in-depth assessment of the design, successes and failures of global governance. Tracing the evolution of global governance designs through diplomatic treaties, initiatives, alliances and international and regional organizations since the First World War, students will examine institutional, procedural systemic and leadership factors of differing designs of global governance tools and institutions and will analyze examples of flawed and more successful global governance architectures. In the second part of the course, students will develop the tools to evaluate different global governance policies since the end of the Cold War and will analyze conditions for successful and unsuccessful global governance initiatives. Finally, students are encouraged to apply the knowledge gained throughout this course to reflecting on reforming institutional set-ups and policies in global governance.

Social (In-)equality, Human Rights and Global Justice (6 ECTS)
Instructor: James Gledhill (Vesalius College/ University of Amsterdam)

This course examines social equality and human rights from a global justice perspective. It analyzes the nexus between socio-economic inequality and human rights within and among different layers and sections of society on the one hand and the implications and consequences for conflict, national and international security as well as ‘global justice’ and stability on the other. The course is approached from the overarching framework concept of -and debates about- ‘global justice’ (including a critical analysis of the concept and its practice) and explores the inter-linkages between justice within states and global justice in the global governance sphere. This exploration is carried out with a focus on the actors, such as regional and international organizations within global governance. Finally, students are encouraged to apply their analyses to develop their own solutions on how ‘more just’ conditions and ‘global justice’ can be promoted.