Insegnamento a.a. 2019-2020


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
CLEF (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SPS/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Mission & Content Summary


This course serves as an introduction to the study of important issues in contemporary international relations, by integrating economic and political analysis. The goal of the course is to teach students basic concepts and theories that are useful for making sense of contemporary debates and developments in international politics. We study current events and the recent history that has shaped the international system, with a specific attention devoted to big powers (the United States, China, and Russia), important blocs/regions (BRICs and the Middle East), and two topical international organizations (the United States and the European Union). The class surveys big-power relations, international cooperation, security and conflict, trade, and international political economy topics. By the end of the class, students are able to analyze current international developments and policy arguments about global affairs.


  • IR Theories.
  • US: The reluctant superpower.
  • Russia: The hollow superpower.
  • China: The rising superpower.
  • A divided world: The Middle East.
  • The United Nations:
    • Decision-making and power distribution.
    • Development.
    • Funding.
    • Peace and security.
  • The European Union:
    • Decision-making and power distribution.
    • A (dis)united Europe.
    • Euro: The (un)common currency.
    • Europe after Brexit-

The course also includes a Case Study on the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and a number of seminars (one-hour lectures) with specific experts on relevant topics in international relations. For instance, the 2017 iteration of the course hosted seminars on Syria, Migration, Populism, International Terrorism, and Cybersecurity.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Identify and analyse the key issues in current international politics.
  • Describe developments in today's main big powers, both domestically and in their foreign policy, and the interplay between each of them.
  • Assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Nations and the European Union in today's global predicament.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Evaluate the potential evolution of the international system, and of the foreign policies of the main big powers.
  • Speculate on potential solutions to long-standing problems in international politics (e.g. the role of UN peacekeepers in conflict prevention and resolution).
  • Discuss and criticize the policy options on the future of the UN and the EU.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Interactive class activities (role playing, business game, simulation, online forum, instant polls)


  • Most classes consist of traditional face-to-face lectures, between the teacher and students.
  • The course includes a number of guest speaker's talks. For example last year the course features 5 different such talks (on Syria, Migration, Populism, International Terrorism, and Cybersecurity).
  • The course includes 1 interactive class activity, i.e. a role-playing/simulation on the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Students are divided into 4 groups, each taking up the role of an important actor during the crisis, and through the study of background material try to assign responsibilities for the failure of the UN mission to protect the Rwandan population and avoid (or respond to) the genocide.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  x x


Students have the option to sit a written partial exam for two-thirds (67%) of the class grade, after the first two Modules of the course. In case they pass the written partial exam, they are able to attend a second written partial exam at the end of the course for the remaining third (33%) of the grade. Students that do not pass or do not sit the written partial exam are able to attend the written general exam for 100% of their grade.


Students only are able to attend the written general exam for 100% of their grade.

Teaching materials


  • Teaching material (slides and readings) are provided to students in advance of the start of the course, through Bboard.
  • Almost all teaching material provided are compulsory, but no course manual is recommended for this course.
Last change 28/05/2019 18:16