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Unit information: Theoretical Approaches to Security in 2021/22

Unit name Theoretical Approaches to Security
Unit code POLIM0029
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Joseph
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit provides students with an understanding of international security by means of a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches. The unit defines international security to include threats to groups as well as nations, to the biosphere as well as the polity, and from military to political, economic and environmental security. The unit therefore provides an introduction and overview to key theoretical, historical and policy issues in international security debates. It goes on to analyse how security has traditionally been treated by different academic and policy communities during the cold war, and examines the changing nature of security in a post Cold War context. It therefore provides a theoretical and conceptual foundation for the MSc in International Security.


This unit aims to provide students with a theoretical and empirical understanding of security issues and debates. The principal aim of the unit is to equip students to understand and analyse security challenges from different theoretical perspectives and assess the core assumptions as well as advantages and disadvantages of these approaches The unit will therefore develop the student’s interest in and knowledge and understanding of the role of security actors at the international, national and sub-national levels; theories of how ‘new’ security challenges emerge and are advanced or dismissed and why; and theories of international relations in which security debates are located.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit students will:

  • acquire knowledge of security issues at the international, national and sub-national levels;
  • be able to understand and critically evaluate key debates in international security.
  • understand how ‘new’ security challenges emerge and are advanced or dismissed and why.
  • be able to apply knowledge to ‘key issues’ in international security.
  • be able to use knowledge acquired in the unit as a foundation for optional units in the MSc programme

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

The final grade for the course will be based on the following:

Final Paper (4,000 words in length) 100% of mark

The assignment will address all the learning outcomes


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. POLIM0029).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.