Back to: Politics and International Studies major Politics and International Studies major

The Politics and International Studies major gives you an understanding of the main political issues, institutions, ideas and actors that dominate the local, national and international agenda.

It explores the relationships between countries and regions, and the international system as a whole. The wide range of issues and topics covered includes globalisation, regionalism, environmental politics, American power and diplomacy, and international relations.


  • Diplomacy
  • Government
  • International relations
  • Multinational business
  • Policy development
  • Politics

Subjects you could take in this major

  • This subject is an introduction to contemporary Australian politics with an emphasis on what makes Australia unique and with an assessment of how democratic institutions have developed over time. In addition to examining the formal political system, we will also be debating the role of citizenship and participation in Australian political culture. So while dealing with institution arrangements such as parliament, the executive, the bureaucracy, policy-making, federalism and the High Court, we will also look at citizens’ activism, in social movements as well as in political parties, and examine key theoretical arguments and political ideologies. The subject is based on the proposition that politics is important because it is how we shape our future.

  • This subject provides students with an introduction to the actors, institutions, dynamics and key debates that make up contemporary international politics. It equips students to 'go behind the news' of world affairs and understand the deeper structural and political changes and challenges confronting states, citizens and non-state actors in our increasingly interconnected world. Topics covered include the changing nature of war; terrorism; nuclear proliferation; great power rivalry; and the roles of the EU, the US, China and India in international politics; human rights; humanitarian intervention; trade liberalisation and its critics; global inequality; climate change; and the refugee crisis. The topics will be used to demonstrate the relevance of competing theories of international politics, including realism, liberalism and critical theories (such as Marxism and feminism).

  • An accessible survey of the most important concepts and ideas in political thinking since Confucius and Plato, with particular attention to the major schools of Western political thought from Machiavelli to contemporary political theory. Emphasis will be on concepts such as sovereignty, power, liberty, and equality, and how these concepts are taken up in ideological formations, which include (but is not necessarily limited to) liberalism, Marxism, anarchism, and conservatism. Tutorial discussion focuses on eleven primary source texts of famous political essays, which may include: Machiavelli, 'The Prince', Rousseau, 'Origin of Inequality', Marx and Engels, 'The Communist Manifesto', Mill, 'On Liberty', Goldman, 'Anarchism', and Fanon, 'The Wretched of the Earth'.

  • The subject studies Australian indigenous politics in the comparative context of settler societies. First, it explores their historical dispossession and exclusion that left Indigenous people as citizens without rights, and economically and socially marginalized in their own country. Second, it evaluates the ongoing processes of recognition and inclusion, including anti-discrimination measures, land rights, state and federal policy measures, social policy and Indigenous initiatives that have marked the uneven path to reconciliation and recognition of the full rights and entitlements of Indigenous people, including special group rights and compensation.

  • This subject introduces students to comparative politics. There are many different aspects of and approaches to comparative politics, but all agree that this involves comparing at least two - and often many more - units of political analysis (e.g. countries, types of political system, electoral systems, areas of policy). This subject divides comparative politics by classical and contemporary approaches. Classical approaches to comparative politics examine the concept of authority and the rise of liberal, communist and fascist political ideologies and systems. Contemporary approaches to comparative politics explore institutional differences and voting systems between countries in addition to concepts of social capital, path dependency, political culture and economic development.

  • This subject examines the development of political theory in the last thirty years. It focuses on the emergence of key theoretical paradigms such as contemporary liberalism, communitarianism, multiculturalism, radical pluralism, post-structuralism and post-modernism and the ways in which these schools of thought have framed key conceptual debates on ideology, power and sovereignty. The subject maps this terrain and analyses it through examples such as immigration, violence, the role of religion in public life, markets and economic rationality, the environment and welfare reform. Contemporary political theory emerges as vibrant and dynamic and the subject demonstrates how theory is integral to a developed understanding of current political events.

  • This subject introduces students to the fundamental analytic skills that are used in social science research. It provides an introduction to the theoretical and epistemological foundations of social science research, familiarises students with the different methods of inquiry in the social sciences and provides an overview of key historical and contemporary debates and trends. Different theoretical approaches and their associated methods of inquiry will be introduced through practical examples in order to show their strengths and limitations.

  • This subject explores key questions in international relations, beginning with the basic questions of why the world is comprised of states and why they enjoy a monopoly on legitimate violence, and then expanding through a range of questions such as whether cultural identities are responsible for international conflict, whether the concept of ‘human rights’ is a remnant of colonialism, and who really controls the global economy. This subject provides an in-depth examination of the ideas and actors that have shaped world politics, and encourages a critical exploration of the politics behind current events in international relations, from environmental agreements to targeted killings by robot planes to indigenous land claims. Students will be encouraged to evaluate the theoretical assumptions and debates in international relations and how they influence global politics today.

  • This subject applies theories of political economy to issues of domestic and global concern. It focuses on the roles and institutions of government and markets, how these have been defined traditionally and how they have been changing over time. Select current issues and debates are examined to illustrate the complex interdependencies of government, markets and business in modern democracies like that of Australia. These include globalization, neo-liberalism, economic regulation and deregulation, and the governance of international trade, money and finance. Students who complete this subject should have an understanding of major theoretical controversies and issues in political economy that inform contemporary developments in and debates about the relationship between governments, business and markets.

  • This subject examines the role of the media in the contemporary politics of Australia and similar countries. Topics covered include theories of the media in democratic politics, how news is manufactured, the power of news media to set the public and political agenda, the impact of television and media on politics, and PR methods used by politicians and pressure groups to manage the media, and case-studies of how politics is represented.

  • This subject focuses on one of the tangible outcomes of the political process, with public policy often at the centre of contests for and over political power. Public policy has traditionally been designed and implemented by governments but increasingly market actors, non-government organisations, policy communities and networks are key actors, while many policy problems are global issues and beyond the purview of a single national government. Within governments, political advisors, lobbyists and interest groups are arguably usurping the influence of public servants, while politicians are answerable through the media and to the party and cabinet rooms, and less so to the parliament. Finally, the ‘public’ is not a homogenous group and certain forms of action privilege some groups over others. Using cases of both innovative and failed policies, this subject considers how problems are effectively framed and how ideas and evidence can be practically applied to policy solutions. The aim of this subject is to provide a professional grounding for future policy officers and analysts, political advisors and government relations practitioners as well as preparing students for undertaking internships.

  • This subject examines the various dimensions of terrorism and its manifestations. This includes the nation state's capacity to authorise and to create the conditions for the practices known as terrorism. In this subject we interrogate the role of the nation state and the rhetoric/s of anti-terrorism that both produce and contain acts known as terrorism. We look at the psychology of both the nation state and the terrorist through different anaytical approaches. To this end we examine the function of different terrorist acts - including suicide bombing in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, London and New York, assassinations and bombings in Northern Ireland and England, and practices of state terror in the context of acts of genocide, disappearance and torture. All of these examinations are used to assist in trying to think about a new way of conceptualizing violence performed by the state, the individual and the group.

  • This subject introduces ideas developed in feminist theory about the social and political construction of areas of experience relating to the body, gender and sexuality. Issues analysed in the subject include transsexualism, reproduction, eating disorders, pornography, sex work, sexual violence and sexual orientation. Students who complete this subject should be able to understand the ways in which issues connected with the body and sexuality are socially and politically constructed, understand the ways in which the construction of masculinity and femininity affects the learning and regulation of such areas of experience, and apply a variety of feminist approaches to the analysis of these issues.

  • This subject examines the key actors, ideas, interests and institutions in USA politics, including the Constitution, the President, Congress, the bureaucracy, political parties and ideologies, the courts, elections, the federal system, interest groups, the policy making process and political culture. It includes an examination of theoretical debates about the nature of US democracy, key controversies in US political history, such as the civil rights movement, as well as contemporary political debates and developments, such as the role of religion in US politics and the issue of political polarisation.

  • This subject provides students with training in applied social science research methods. Students will learn how to connect a research question with appropriate research design and methodology and acquire practical skills in utilising different research methods and tools, including analysing data and presenting results. The subject will enable students to develop a critical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods and the practical skills to carry out social science research.

  • This subject provides an introduction to Australian foreign policy, exploring its domestic and global contexts. It examines Australia's most important bilateral, regional, and multilateral relations in both historical and contemporary terms. It explores key themes including Australia's national identity, interests, security and prosperity, the Australia-US alliance, Australia's engagement with international organisations such as the UN, WTO, and G20, Australia's role as a regional power in the South Pacific, and Australia's increasing engagement with Asia. The subject also investigates key foreign policy issues on the contemporary Australian agenda including global climate change negotiations, human rights, overseas aid and asylum-seekers, trade and economic globalisation, transnational terrorism and arms control. Students who complete this subject will be equipped to articulate and debate the conceptual, analytical, and normative dimensions of Australian foreign policy.

  • This subject is an opportunity to study Australian politics over historical time, by examining points of crisis and conflict in our history, as well as by assessing the apparent resilience of our political structures. Wars and economic crises send shudders through political systems, but ours has been relatively stable, although the party system has had its ruptures. Aspects covered will include the development and current state of the mass party system, and the shifting relationships of both federalism and of executive government. We will also examine how the political system has responded, or failed to respond, to significant social changes such as the development of a multicultural society, and recognition of our geographical location in the Asia-Pacific, and to the challenges of social movements such as the women's, indigenous and environmental movements. Can our political system adapt, or is it broken? Is the party system dead, or just changing? Are our political traditions and ideologies exhausted, or are they morphing under new conditions? The subject is based on the proposition that one fruitful way to tackle such questions and assess our present is to understand the historical trajectories of key features of the Australian political system.

  • Elections lie at the heart of democracy. This subject examines why elections matter and how they feature in democratic theory and practice. Topics include electoral administration, voting systems and voter turnout, the role of political parties, the financing of campaigns and how elections are reported in the media. Students will also explore campaign strategy including case studies of famous and important election campaigns in Australia, the US and the UK.

  • This is a broad, historically-based survey course of Chinese politics. It is designed to offer an overview of and background to, contemporary Mainland Chinese politics and society. It is more historically oriented than many of the other survey courses offered in the Politics program. This emphasis on history is deliberate. We shall begin with the development of the Communist Party and its escape from the Shanghai massacre through to its period of governance in rural China, examining the background to the Long March in the process. This will be followed by a look at the Yan'an period in communist history - a time of ideological reformation and Mao Zedong's rise to power. The experience gained by the Party during this period served as a dream-model of how the country would be run in the future socialist state. This will bring us to the founding of the People's Republic of China in October 1949, and the adoption of the Soviet model of economic planning and governance. The study of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution will focus on the intense, revolutionary and binary politics behind these two campaigns. Then we will look at the reasons Mao initiated these campaigns and why they failed. The transition China has undergone since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 will form an important part of this course. From a state dominated by a revolutionary politics of commitment China has become a society that is almost entirely market driven. This transition from politics to economics is almost a parable of our post 9/11 times. Chinese politics gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the two types of politics that dominate our world. Chinese politics also gives us a chance to see how one state moved from a social dynamic that was intense, revolutionary and binary in form to one in which money and the commodity dominates. It also allows us to see how a politics of commitment can give way to the appearance of apolitical policy.

  • The new subject will seek to introduce undergraduate students to contemporary India. It will primarily focus on developments since 1947, the year of India's independence from British rule. The subject will cover three main areas: India's constitution and democratic structure; Indian society and social movements; and Indian foreign policy. Students will be introduced to the Indian constitution, the process of its drafting and its working since 1950, including the main amendments and the principal debates over its functioning. The main contemporary issues in Indian politics including those related to caste, secularism and development will be covered. The structure of Indian society and the nature of social movements will also be studied. The continuity and changes in India's foreign policy, starting with the era of Non-Alignment, will also be introduced in this subject. In summary, the subject will not just explore the critical dimensions of contemporary Indian politics and society but also introduce students to the intellectual debates on key issues.

  • This subject will examine the interplay of external and internal factors in inflaming conflict and tension in the Middle East, dubbed the 'crisis zone’. It will cover the role of foreign powers in a number of case studies: the Arab/Israeli conflict. Iran-Iraq war. the Gulf War of 1990-1991, the war on Terror, the Arab Uprisings and the rise of the Islamic Sate. These case studies will illustrate the difficulties in separating ‘national’ from ‘international politics’ and provide a nuanced appreciation of international relations in this vital region.

  • This subject will examine contemporary theories of democracy with a particular focus on dilemmas of citizenship in the 21st century. The first part of the subject will introduce the main aspects of democracy as an idea and as a form of government. From this basis—and with continuous reference to contemporary cases such as the Arab Spring, the Danish cartoon controversy, and the Occupy Wall Street movement—the course will examine dilemmas of citizenship as they arise in relation to free speech, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and sovereignty. In conclusion, the subject will consider possibilities of democratic renewal through comedy and other forms of pop culture.

  • Democracy is popularly regarded as the fairest system of government. Yet it is a widely and deeply contested concept in political theory. In practice it can vary from the highly participatory to the narrowly elitist. This subject examines the key concepts in democratic theory and the ways in which they are employed in different political ideologies and movements. It identifies the main principles in which are invoked to support the political structures of different societies. In so doing the subject analyses concepts such as freedom, equality and rights and their implications for the nature of democracy and the organization of the state and civil society. It will also explain the different forms of political agency that exist in democracies from the nation to the community and the individual. in recent years the ideals of democracy have been challenged through the emergence of terrorism, the growth of violence perpetrated by democracies, and attendant issues such as the displacement of people, migration and policies on refugees. This subject examines the status of democracy in the world today and the implications of contemporary challenges for the future of democracy.

  • This subject provides students with an in-depth analysis of the politics of the European Union (EU). It analyses the policy-making of the EU and examines the tensions of nationalism and Europeanism in the attitudes of the member states and other participants in the integration process and especially in recent crises. The subject analyses the institutions and participants in the EU, including a detailed examination of the objectives and roles of the 28 member states and the benefits and disadvantages of membership for these states. It scrutinises EU policies, including the Common Agricultural Policy and the Euro; Foreign and Security Policy and Immigration. It further discusses the issues raised by the EU's crises, including the contested issues of protest, belonging and legitimacy and Europe's boundaries.

  • This subject provides a comprehensive and critical introduction to global environmental politics. It introduces the ethical, political and institutional challenges raised by the global environmental crisis and the key policy and institutional responses. The subject critically explores the environmental treaty system, the role of the United Nations, and the complex relationship between global environmental and economic governance. The role of key non-state actors will also be examined, including the diverse and often competing claims of the modern environment movement and its critics and the changing practices of corporations. Key global debates about sustainable development, environmental justice and ecological security will be explored through a range of topics and case studies, including the idea of the 'ecological footprint' and the problem of over-consumption, the global politics of climate change, the relationship between trade and environment, the precautionary principle and the politics of risk. Questions of gender and ethnicity are explicitly addressed in the syllabus.

  • This subject explores the ideologies and actions associated with contemporary social movements that operate on a global scale and have attracted international attention, such as anti-globalisation, indigenous, labour, women's rights, green, human rights, radical Islam and anti-war movements. It examines the conflicts in which these movements are engaged and interrogates the extent to which their grievances are caused or inspired by globalisation. It analyses the impact of globalisation on transnational social movement strategies and tactics, and assesses the role of global social movements in transforming politics and society.

  • This subject offers an examination of the relationships between indigenous people and the major systems of social control such as the criminal justice system, education, welfare and health. It explores the experiences and outcomes of Indigenous exposure to selected agencies within those systems. It considers different theoretical perspectives on the processes of Indigenous marginalisation, criminalisation and victimisation, and examines specific issues such as exclusion, racism, differential policing, over-representation and access to justice. It explores and evaluates institutional reforms designed in partnerships with relevant communities to redress Indigenous disadvantage.

  • This subject will look at issues of gender and sexuality in an international context. It will cover war and militarism and their effect on women, the international division of labour, the effects of religious fundamentalisms, the politics of population and reproductive technologies, international trafficking in women, sexual violence and harmful cultural practices. Students who complete this subject should understand the ways in which gender politics might affect the study of international relations, understand how government policy and other forces operating in Australia and other Western countries are affecting the lives and opportunities of women and relationships between men and women in the rest of the world, be familiar with developments in feminist theory on the issues of human rights, cultural relativism, and have an understanding of international gender politics which can enrich their study of other subjects in the social sciences.

  • This subject provides an in depth study of the historic Indigenous political struggle for racial equality, land justice, heritage control, and for self determination, by focusing on the Yorta Yorta as a case study. It embraces a number of relevant Indigenous political and historic themes. These will focus on pre- and post-contact history, colonisation, government policies and administration, land/heritage management, and the Yorta Yorta politico-legal struggle for their inherent rights to land, heritage, water and self determination.

  • In this subject students will have active experience working for a Member of the Victorian Parliament (MP) in the settings of Parliament, the Parliamentary Library, Parliamentary Offices and electorate offices. Each student will complete a research project for a Member of Parliament on a topic of concern and interest to the MP. Academic supervision and support is provided by the School. Students have the benefit of developing their research and interpersonal skills while learning about the representative role of MPs and Parliament and their tasks of policy making and enacting legislation. Students are matched with MPs and do not make contact independently.

  • Why do people vote the way they do? How do elites make decisions when faced with foreign policy crises? Is emotion a positive or negative force in politics? What factors lead to political participation? Why did just about everyone fail to predict the global financial crisis? Political psychology helps answer questions such as these. In exploring such questions this subject will explore the personalities, thought processes, emotions, motivations and political behaviour of citizens and elites. We will trace the early roots of political psychology such as psychobiography. We will also explore the real world applications of political psychology such as how the Obama election campaign mobilised voters using the findings from political psychology, as well as how the Behavioural Insights Team influenced policy-making in Britain.

  • In this subject students will have active experience working for a senior person with a policy-making and / or management role in the organisation in which they are placed. The central task will be to complete a policy report or professional portfolio of relevance to the organisation. Academic support and supervision is provided by the School. Government, non-government and community-based organisations which have a public affairs focus or interest will provide placements.

    If primary research is carried out during the internship, ethics approval is the responsibility of the host organisation.

  • In this subject students will have active experience working for a senior person with a policy-making and / or management role in the organisation in which they are placed. The central task will be to complete a policy report or professional portfolio of relevance to the organisation. Academic support and supervision is provided by the School. Government, non-government and community-based organisations which have a public affairs focus or interest will provide placements.

    If primary research is carried out during the internship, ethics approval is the responsibility of the host organisation.

  • Contemporary societies are characterized by social differences and inequalities. Many differences are linked to social categories such as social class, gender, ethnicity, age, religion and disability. They indicate not only different life style decisions but fundamental inequalities of life chances and are responsible for systematic inequalities in income, health and life expectancy. Many of these inequalities are seen as unjust even though they continue and sometimes even increase. This subject will give a comprehensive overview about central social inequalities on a national and international level. It will discuss major sociological approaches to understand the existence and reproduction of these inequalities and how the understanding and theorizing of social inequalities has changed in recent decades.

Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

You can read more on the the Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Arts Extended pages.