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THE UK: Subject Guides

International Relations & Politics at the University of Sheffield (UK)


The world and politics can often seem complex and difficult to understand, especially when it involves individuals who act differently to how we do, speaking in jargon and languages about subjects we have little understanding of. However, the knock-on effects of what is decided in large buildings between an elite few can be felt by millions, all around the world.


We spoke to Jonathan Joseph, an International Relations professor from the University of Sheffield about the course he teaches....



What one aspect of the course you teach do you personally look forward to each year, and why?

‘I enjoy exploring the connection between ideas and practice as this actually justifies studying international relations and shows it can make a difference. My peacekeeping and state-building course aims to show how ideas about people and their security have changed, and the impact this has had on practices of international intervention. For example, I look at changed ideas about security and state sovereignty and the difficult trade-off between the rights of states and the rights of populations. Recent thinking by the UN and other international organisations shows a new way of understanding these challenges, but I highlight the way that this is often in tension with existing organisational structures and the power relations that influence these.’




Tell us a bit about the faculty or staff in the department, and where they come from.

‘In nationwide assessments, we have been awarded the highest grades for teaching and research quality. This means that our staff are political scientists with significant international reputations. It also means that you will have the opportunity to study with them, as all professors are appointed to teach as well as conduct research. 


We have a diverse and cosmopolitan staff whose interests span a wide range of area of politics and international relations. Our staff are leading experts in their field and are internationally known for their outstanding research (ranked number one in the last RAE). Among those working in the area of IR we have theorists like John Hobson who is known for his groundbreaking work on European bias in understanding world relations, Jonathan Joseph who works on global governance and power politics, and David McCourt who works on the role of the state in international politics. Our American and Australian colleagues Garrett Brown and Hayley Stevenson both do innovative research at the boundary of political theory and global governance and justice. Ross Bellaby’s work spans security, terrorism and international intelligence. Janine Clark works in the area of peace and conflict studies while Graham Harrison is known for his work on Africa and the World Bank. Rhiannon Vickers specialises in foreign policy while Simon Rushton researches in the area of global public health. Finally we have colleagues working at the interception of IR and International Political Economy, notably, Nicola Phillips and Genevieve LeBaron. This outstanding mix of different interests and specialisms creates an extremely vibrant environment where new synergies and challenges are constantly developing.’ 



What are the benefits of studying this course at this particular university?

‘Sheffield is an internationally leading department, and is the top-ranked department of politics in the United Kingdom. We were ranked first in the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and scored a top mark of 24/24 in the last review of our teaching provision conducted by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). We are also an incredibly welcoming department with accessible staff and an excellent sense of collegiality. Students coming to Sheffield will be part of a department that has a long and distinguished history and yet which maintains a cutting edge approach to the discipline. In International Relations, our staff are well-known for their innovative and challenging approach to both issues and theories.


Our student community is incredibly vibrant, and you’ll make friends right away.  Our Politics Society (Pol Soc) is run by students for students, and hosts a wide range of events – both academic and social! Recent highlights include a trip to London to visit the Houses of Parliament and a charity quiz night in the students unions. Pol Soc also supports The Exchange, which is a student-led programme that brings high-profile speakers into the University to speak to staff and students alike. Both Pol Soc and the Exchange play a central role in Departmental life, and members of academic staff enjoy working with our students to put on shared events.


Our student community is also incredibly diverse, and we welcome students from all over the world. This year we welcomed undergraduate students from across Europe and a further 33 students from beyond the EU. We have students from South Korea, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Ghana, Colombia, Mexico, Maldives, India, Brazil and Kazakhstan to name but a few!  Sheffield is a clean, safe, friendly and welcoming city, and our overseas students enjoy studying and living here.  Sheffield is England’s fourth-largest city. It’s located roughly in the centre of the country, on the edge of the incredibly beautiful Peak District National Park, about two hours by train from London and served by several international airports in the region.’



Why is it an exciting time to study international relations?

‘More and more politics students want to study international relations. When they look at the news, it seems that the most interesting things are those that have an international dimension, whether economic, political, cultural or environmental. It is a challenging time for all not simply because there might be new issues, opportunities, problems and threats, but because we are in the process of rethinking the way we understand the world and our place within it. Studying IR at Sheffield brings this to the fore and we are committed to rethinking world politics and to rethinking the way we study it.’



Can you give a few examples of the roles and positions which graduates have gone onto?

‘During your time with us, you will develop academically and will graduate with a set of important transferrable skills that are suited to a wide range of professions. You also have opportunities to acquire additional skills and experience through options that we offer, which include the Degree with Employment Experience, the Study Abroad and Erasmus programmes, and the Work-Based Learning Dissertation. Our graduates go on to forge a variety of careers, including working for government and non-government organisations, international organisations, the public sector, political research, journalism, the media and post-graduate study. We love to keep in touch with our graduates, and we have a thriving alumni network of former students who graduated as far back as 1965, when the Department was established. Just think – in little more than three years from now, you too could be part of our alumni!’



Find out more about the International Relations and Politics BA at Sheffield, or browse all Politics courses.

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About Author

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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