Top Scottish Universities for International Relations

If you’re looking for a place to study current political affairs and world conflicts, check out these top Scottish universities for International Relations


St Salvator's Quad, September 5th, 2017

The University of St Andrews has one of the best International Relations departments in the UK (photo by Jiri Vondrous/

If you’re a prospective undergraduate who’s looking to find out more about international conflict, public policy, and the sociopolitical effects of these laws on the world, check out these top Scottish universities for International Relations. 

Those who want to find out more about top university courses in Britain should check out the Studying in the UK section of our website. 

  • Top Scottish Universities for International Relations: The University of St Andrews 

Not only is the University of St Andrews one of the most prestigious institutions in Scotland when it comes to its International Relations and Politics departments, but it is also the top-ranked university in the UK for Politics, according to The Guardian’s league tables.

If you’re looking into doing a Masters, check out the Peacebuilding and Mediation MPhil, which allows you to study abroad for a semester before undertaking an invaluable industry placement. 

Highlights of the Programme

The International Relations department at St Andrews is particularly well-known for leading research on topics like terrorism, international conflict in the Middle East, and gender politics

Recent Honours modules that have been offered include Asian Security, Geopolitics of Energy in the Caspian Region, and Music, Politics and International Relations: there’s plenty of academic variety on offer to inquisitive students. 

Why St Andrews? 

When you apply to the International Relations programme as a prospective undergraduate, you can choose between the BA and MA courses: the former allows you to spend some time studying at the much-vaunted William & Mary in Virginia

This experience will give you an invaluable insight into how “North American and British approaches to international relations” differ and compare: you’re unlikely to get this kind of cultural immersion in any other Politics degree in Scotland. 

More generally, St Andrews is a gorgeous seaside spot on the east coast of Scotland: if you’re looking for a small-town experience with easy access to the North Sea and an assortment of excellent pubs, restaurants, and cafés on hand, look no further. 

Take Note: don’t write off St Andrews if you’re looking for a social university experience. Despite the small-town size, this university always ranks very highly in nationwide league tables for student satisfaction, the flat parties tend to be a lot of fun, and Raisin Weekend is an unforgettable experience

  • Top Scottish Universities for International Relations: The University of Edinburgh 

You’ll have the choice of up to 6 different courses when you look at the International Relations and Politics department at the University of Edinburgh. 

These include: 

  • International Relations (MA): the standard IR degree, with a focus on global conflict and international security. 
  • International Relations with Quantitative Methods (MA): a course that combines the qualitative study of international politics with a focus on using and understanding quantitative data
  • Politics (MA): a thorough and analytical study of major public policy and political theories, with an emphasis on globalisation and political data analysis in your second year. 
  • Politics, Philosophy and Economics (MA): the classic combination of topics, allowing undergraduates to combine a study of both economic and public policies with a new-found understanding of ethics and rationality when it comes to decision-making. 

Highlights of the Programme 

The International Relations course itself is particularly strong on a number of areas, including the Middle East conflict, the politics of various African countries, and the role of US foreign policy in shaping the world as we know it. 

If you’re especially interested in the theories and practices behind international laws, think about applying to the MA in International Relations and International Law, which includes a number of “compulsory law courses” that will help to broaden your legal knowledge.

Why Edinburgh?

If you apply for the International Relations MA, you’ll have the excellent opportunity to study abroad sometime during your third year: Edinburgh has a lot of brilliant connections, meaning you can choose between hundreds of university destinations across the globe for your study abroad experience. 

Applying to Edinburgh will also give you free reign of a gorgeous and unique city, with a embarrassment of riches when it comes to atmospheric old-man pubs, cheesy night clubs, high-quality restaurants, and green, leafy, bracing outdoor spaces for picnics and long strolls. 

  • Top Scottish Universities for International Relations: The University of Glasgow

If you’re looking for a comprehensive rundown of various political theories through the ages, the core ideologies behind the practice of international relations, and an Honours track that includes a number of innovative courses on topics ranging from “ideas of national belonging” to the impact of Covid-19 on the world, you should apply to study IR at the University of Glasgow. 

Highlights of the Programme 

There are a number of highlights to the International Relations MA at the University of Glasgow, especially the wide variety of modules that you can take during your third and fourth years. 

These include courses on the Politics of Terror, the insightful Politics of the EU, the prescient Global Environmental Politics, and the innovative Visual Global Politics unit. 

Why Glasgow?  

The University of Glasgow has a fantastic reputation for key factors like teaching excellence, high-quality research output, and its international faculty ratio

More generally, prospective students will love the social aspect of studying at this university: Glasgow is a dynamic and vibrant city that’s also diverse and youthful. 

The University of Glasgow is based in the West End of the city, and whether you want to mill around the leafy grounds of Kelvingrove Park, get drinks and street food bites at the Dockyard Social, or eat some glorious grub at the iconic Ubiquitous Chip, you’ll find something that takes your fancy in this area. 

The Final Thoughts 

Whether you’re a Scottish student who’s looking to minimise debt by applying to a university with free tuition fees or an international applicant who wants to experience top-quality teaching in a gorgeous, old-town setting, you should check out these top 3 Scottish universities for International Relations. 

If you want to find out more about your course options and the university application process in both the UK and the US, check out the A&J Education website and book a free consultation with one of our experts.

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