Sunday, April 15

Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen

King's College, Aberdeen (Source)
As I come to the end of my four years studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen I thought I should write a little summary in the hope that it is of use to some people in the future.

Please do comment with any questions, I paint a bit of a negative picture, but have for the most part really enjoyed my time here.

I'm rather horrified to think that students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland starting this September will pay £9,000 a year (capped at  £27,000 for a degree, how generous).

Courses and class sizes

The general is that as you progress through your education the classes become more specialised and smaller with all teaching and tutorials led by the course lecturer. 

First year: 300+ students in introductory classes

Second year: 200+ students

Third & fourth year (Honours): This is where it's all supposed to get better. Classes are supposed to include less than 40 students and in many cases less. However, in my experience my classes have been at a minimum 40 and my final term courses have had between 50+ students in them. Take what you will from this, but I don't find a 'discussion' group of 28 to be particularly god.

“This is getting ridiculous”
A lecturer who shall remain nameless

Course structure

Students are expected to take eight courses in their first year at the university, spread across two terms from late-September to June. You will be required to take a 'Sixth-century' course in a multidisciplinary topic such as sustainability. 

A recent change has meant that rather than taking both introductions to Politics and International Relations new students will take only one Politics and International Relations course per semester in First year. 

That's only 1/4 of your time studying the topic, with the remainder having to be chosen from other subjects such as History or Sociology. Now this is certainly not necessarily a bad thing, but for those who are sure that they want to study Politics and/or IR it is certainly a negative factor that you will do so little in your first year. For reference in my first year 2/3 of my courses where in Politics and IR!

This move is not unsurprising given that senior staff at the University were sent to leading American schools such as Harvard and more teaching orientated institutions like William & Mary. 

For a full list of Politics and IR courses click here

Academic staff

Many of the lecturers really are great and engaging, a few that spring to my mind are Dr Teti, Dr Vij and Dr Glencross, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. The staff they have are generally good and if their interests match yours it's a real plus

However, the department has lost ~6 or more lecturers over the four years that I have been here and is on its third head of department.

Unfortunately the outlook for the future does not look particularly rosy. A major recruiting drive for over 100 new academic staff was recently launched and while other Arts and Social Sciences like History and Sociology are gaining additional staff, Politics and International Relations are not.

University Library (Source)


Great new library and modern lecture theatres & tutorial rooms in a lovely location. Obviously there are less pleasant rooms, but on the whole it's good.

An area in which Aberdeen University cannot really be criticised.

The City

Aberdeen is very much what you make of it with many loving it and many hating it! It's certainly not as busy or as exciting as Edinburgh or Glasgow, but it's pretty close to the highlands and Aberdeenshire has some lovely countryside. For what it's worth the university is always near the top of student satisfaction surveys :) so most people must be happy!

International Relations is a great topic to study and if Aberdeen is your only choice I would jump at it! I do not regret the time I've spent here, I'm just a little sad to see the department shrinking with areas's I really enjoyed studying such as Asia not really covered any more.

Again any questions do just comment.


  1. Than you for this article =) I'm starting next Autumn with a joint degree in History and IR and your review is making me feel a bit less worried for the future =)

    1. That's great! I was worried I'm being a bit negative. The history department is really great by the way and they keep class sizes small in the final year.

    2. Well, I think you gave an image of something that is good but not perfect, which is better than those "it's all the best" reviews. =)