The master’s in International Relations at Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities offers a comprehensive understanding of the complexities defining today's world, providing an outstanding platform for a career in the international arena.
Why study International Relations at Leiden University?
You will join the only master's programme in the Netherlands to offer five unique specialisations within the field of international relations. With a broad curriculum and flexible design, the master’s degree in International Relations allows you to tailor your degree to suit your career goals. Five specialisations are available, each with their own thematic focus, and each with further scope for customisation. You will be able to specialise in areas ranging from the European integration process to the global political economy.
At Leiden University, relevance and real-world issues are at the fore. During your master's programme, you explore the most current global events through a comparative, area studies lens. More than theory, you learn from professionals from some of the world's largest organisations. An important focus is developing your ability to conduct relevant, original and innovative research.
The International Relations master is taught by leading academics at Leiden University as well as experts from our network of professionals. Small classes provide plenty of direct contact with all lecturers and a high-level of guidance and support. You will acquire the knowledge and critical-thinking skills that will help you excel in any given occupation.
During your studies, you are eligible to apply to the prestigious MA in International Affairs at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, Bologna.
International Relations Degree
International Relations at Leiden University is an accredited degree programme. After successful completion of this programme, you will receive a legally accredited master’s degree in International Relations and the title Master of Arts (MA).
Why Leiden University
Leiden University offers ambitious students a world-class environment in which to reach their potential.
A top-ranked university
Leiden University's Humanities department consistently ranks in the top 30 Humanties departments worldwide in the THE World University Ranking. At Leiden University, the oldest university in the Netherlands, you can access resources found nowhere else in the world, such as those of the famous Leiden University Library and its collections of original manuscripts and periodicals.
An ideal location for the study of international relations
Leiden University offers you one of the best locations from which to explore and study the world, as well as launch your career. Our location close to The Hague, the legal capital of the world, brings you within easy reach of some of Europe and the Netherland's most important political and international organisations.
A centre of scholarly expertise
At Leiden University, we are among the leading centres in Europe for the study of international relations, with the largest concentration of scholarly expertise anywhere in the Netherlands. Many of our staff members enrich their research and teaching with additional insights garnered from their experience working in government, NGOs and other international organisations.
An individual approach to learning
At Leiden University we have a dedicated team of researchers in the field of International Relations. All classes are taught by accomplished scholars at Leiden. Small classes ensure every student has valuable time interacting with lecturers, each of whom is personally invested in you and developing your potential.
About the programme
The one-year master in International Relations offers an exciting and challenging mix of theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
The programme offers five specialisations:
Culture and Politics considers critical perspectives on culture as an inextricable part of global politics.
In European Union Studies we offer the only general MA-level study of the European Union in the Netherlands. It is an interdisciplinary programme in which you will concentrate on issues that make up the core concern of European integration.
Global Political Economy engages with the governance, structure, history and development of the global economy from a variety of theoretical standpoints and competing disciplinary and regional perspectives.
All specialisations (except European Union Studies) follow the same format:
Core course for your specialisation (10 EC)
Regionalism in World Politics (5 EC)
Preparatory course for your thesis (5 EC)
Elective (10 EC)
Ideas in World Politics (5 EC)
Thesis (15 EC)
Elective (10 EC)
You may choose electives (20 EC total) from a wide range of graduate level courses offered across the Faculty of Humanities. You will also have the possibility to exchange one elective for an internship at an organisation / institution in the field of international or foreign relations, in or outside of the Netherlands.
Please note that you will need to find your own internship, follow an internship procedure for approval, and that pursuing an internship may have consequences for the date of graduation.
Preparatory course and MA thesis
The preparatory course introduces you to core conceptual, methodological and theoretical issues you meet when you initiate, research, and write your MA thesis. In addition, a series of seminars will enable you to discuss specific issues related to International Relations. Your thesis is supposed to be based on original research that speaks to the core themes of the MA International Relations.
Peer feedback and assessment
Essays, reports and final thesis
The acquisition of advanced academic skills in the interpretation of texts and the analysis of complex conceptual problems, as well as the ability to independently conduct high-quality scientific research are key goals of the programme.
A second MA at Bologna: International Affairs
Due to a special agreement between the two universities, it is possible to earn a second master’s degree in International Affairs at the Johns Hopkins Bologna Center. Your Leiden MA degree in International Relations gives you access to the second year of the research-oriented Master of Arts in International Affairs, provided by Johns Hopkins SAIS Europe. Candidates admitted to the Bologna programme would be given a full year’s credit towards this two-year MA. Courses at SAIS Bologna emphasize economics, political science, history and foreign language proficiency, providing a cross-disciplinary approach.
“As a multidisciplinary programme, the Master's in International Relations offers an ideal environment to study phenomena that challenge traditional, state-centric understandings of international relations such as the increasing role of non-state actors in international security.“
“Many of our master’s students discover the quality of our programmes only after they join us. In the Netherlands, self-promotion is not a big part of our culture, yet Leiden University’s Humanities Faculty ranks alongside the most prestigious universities in the world, and is the established leader in continental Europe. What can our students expect from this programme? An education on par with the world’s best, with teaching by top researchers.”
Alumni: close-knit global community
“Your graduation from a master’s programme marks a new chapter in your relationship with Leiden University. Our alumni community is highly active in terms of network-building and development. They are valued by the university, and we support them with personal and professional development and free use of our facilities such as the Leiden University Library. This close-knit global community offers life-long support for all our former students in terms of reaching goals, maintaining friendships and expanding networks.”
Research: encouraging you to think beyond your own discipline
“Some of the most high-profile humanities research produced today is conducted at Leiden University’s Humanities Faculty. These faculty members are among a handful worldwide who can lay claim to such a depth and breadth of academic expertise. One example is our centre of excellence on Native American cultures, languages and history – a research group that is one of the best in the world. At Leiden, we can offer students expertise in most niche areas of interest. Our faculty members often work together across disciplines, and encourage students to think beyond the limits of their own discipline, which is where the future of innovative research lies.”
Careers: opportunities to develop your talent
“Decisions made during your studies have a big impact on your future. We offer you many opportunities to develop your talents both within and outside of the classroom, including internships, study trips abroad, student committees, and minors. These opportunities help define your objectives for after your studies, and equip you with additional skills and experience.”
For a detailed programme, see the e-Prospectus of the specialisation of your interest. Please note that the programme in the e-Prospectus shows the content of the current academic year.
Get the most out of your studies at Leiden University by taking part in our extracurricular activities.
Throughout the year activities, such as seminar series and excursions, are organised by the programme and the study association to encourage community building.
International Relations Seminar Series
Eight times a year the programme offers general MA International Relations seminars in which for example politicians, professionals from NGO’s or officials from other national level or international organisations will share their experiences and discuss aspects of current affairs.
European Union Seminar Series
The EU seminar series is jointly organised by the master's programme in International Relations and the Institute for History and the Europa Institute at the Leiden Law School. It is primarily aimed at the students who take our MA in European Union Studies. Throughout four sessions per semester, the students have the opportunity to engage with non-academic experts in their field of interest.
Are you interested in developing your leadership potential? The Leiden Leadership Programme (LLP) is an Honours Programme specifically developed for ambitious master's students at Leiden University and the Delft University of Technology who recognise the importance of leadership abilities. The LLP offers in-depth training sessions, assessments, seminars, and the creation of a Personal Leadership Roadmap – a five-year plan for reaching and developing your leadership potential.
Create a world of opportunities with a master's degree from Leiden University.
The MA in International Relations offers outstanding preparation for students seeking a profession that requires comprehensive knowledge of world affairs and strong analytical and critical-thinking skills.
Examples of the diverse roles of our graduates include:
Policy advisor at a ministry of foreign affairs;
Communications manager and project assistant at an NGO promoting reconciliation and peace;
Consular spokesperson at a ministry of foreign affairs;
Consultant at an NGO;
Project manager at a company specialising in geo-services, international development and project management;
PhD candidate and research assistant;
Communications officer at an international student federation.
Your master will qualify you for a wide-range of roles in almost every sector of the employment market. Many of our graduates work for public services, research institutes, international organisations, government bodies, NGOs, education, communications, policy development, political institutes and academia, amongst others.
A Leiden University degree
Leiden University master's graduates are sought-after employees at (inter)national organisations. Our graduates are known for their combination of robust academic training, in-depth and relevant knowledge, and critical, multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving.
Graduated in European Union Studies
"After graduating and finishing a seven month internship with the EEAS (European External Action Service) in South Korea, I got hired by the Boston Consulting Group in London within their Data and Research Services team. Hence, I am now living in London (UK) since July 2016 where I work as an associate analyst."
Monitoring the Brexit negotiations
"The nature of my job now entails handling busy consultants and supporting them in their analysis with quantitative and qualitative research approaches through databases such as Bloomberg, Datastream and Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ. I am now aiming to work more within the area of financial regulations and I am monitoring the Brexit negotiations and strategies with much fascination."
A unique practical perspective on EU politics
"The toughest challenge for my education was to specialise. With a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations, my undergraduate education was very broad and I wanted to focus on a more specific policy area. The Master’s programme in European Union Studies at Leiden University offered a unique practical perspective on EU politics which is the major reason why I decided to complete this master."
Graduated in International Relations
"Being from my own cultural background, from the U.S., I came to Leiden with a certain view on the world. Through studying International Relations I acquired much more cultural sensitivity about certain issues. I learned about the impression the U.S. leaves on the world, which opened up my world to different viewpoints.”
Recruiting students for our study abroad programmes
"I currently work at CISabroad, a studying abroad organization that has affiliations with over 200 U.S. universities. For the most part I recruit students for our study abroad programmes, but I also arrange the logistics of some of the student trips abroad."
"As a lecturer I found Lindsay Black very inspirational. He is a very smart man and I owe him a drink or two for being so helpful during the process of writing my thesis."
Graduated in European Union Studies (MA International Relations)
“After graduating European Union Studies I started with a graduate-traineeship in Brussels with the Benelux Union. European Union Studies is a really good start if you want to work in Brussels. Everyone here is expected to have a high level of EU knowledge, something that you will be taught in Leiden.”
My training in EU law at Leiden was very helpful “My first job was doing research on the implications of two pieces of EU-legislation on cross border healthcare in Europe, and specifically within the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. My training in EU law at Leiden was actually very helpful because I knew instantly where to look for information, official documents and probably even more important, how to read all these documents without getting lost. “
Advising on risks and opportunities that arise from EU-decisions “After that I got a job with Harwood Levitt Consulting, a Brussels based public affairs and political risk strategy consultancy. Here I work for and with clients in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector, advising them on risks and opportunities that arise from EU-decisions, as well as their messaging and other communications with EU-institutions, trade associations etc. “
A high level of EU knowledge “It helped me to have knowledge on EU law and EU institutions, because I deal with this in my work every day. All the other courses are perhaps less relevant for my current job, but especially important if you get in touch with others in Brussels and talk about what’s going on, you need to have a broad knowledge of what is happening. That is why networking, reading the news papers and getting the latest rumours is a must in the Brussels bubble.”
Our goal is to prepare you to make a difference in your future career.
Knowledge and skills
The master’s programme in International Relations at Leiden University aims to equip you with a range of important skills and knowledge that will help you stand out in any future career. Your specialised knowledge is complemented by a broad and contextual understanding as well as critical-thinking skills that can be applied to complex conceptual problems. In class, we encourage every student to participate in discussions to develop their ability to clearly and confidently articulate their ideas as well as fine-tune their logic and reasoning abilities.
You will have the opportunity to gain experience working an as intern in an organisation in the Netherlands or abroad. This experience is highly valued within international organisations, as are strong communication skills. Organisations where students from the MA International Relations programme may find an internship include:
Security Policy Department (DVB) of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Dutch Ministry of Defense
NGOs, for example Gender Concerns International or NGO’s focused on humanitarian aid
Think tanks, such as the Netherlands Institute for International Relations ‘Clingendael’, the International Centre for Counterterrorism and the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies
Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and embassies around the world (Latvia, Washington, USA, South Africa, etc)
European institutions - examples include Estonian presidency of the European Union, internships for members of the European Parliament
Media outlets such as Een Vandaag in Hilversum.
Netherlands Permanent Mission to the United Nations
Please note that you will need to find your own internship, follow an internship procedure for approval, and that pursuing an internship may have consequences for the date of your graduation.
Humanities Career Service
Our staff can help you identify both the career that is right for you, and the necessary steps to get you there. Our team at Humanities Career Service provide all Leiden University humanities students with professional advice and guidance on everything from internships and career planning to job applications. Humanities Career Service also organises regular workshops on topics such as effective interview skills and creating a successful CV.
Humanities Career Event
Each year, the Faculty of Humanities organises a Humanities Careers Event. This all-day event is your chance to learn everything you can about how to find the job you want and successfully attain it. The event includes workshops on a wide range of topics as well as opportunities to network with alumni and potential employers and attain tips, information and potential job leads.
Check out the video of the Humanities Career Event 2018!
Admission and Application
We invite motivated students from around the world to apply for the Master of Arts in International Relations. Admission requirements may vary per specialisation, please visit the specialisation of your interest to find out more about the entry requirements.
Your time at Leiden is about more than just studying. Some of your best experiences will stem from being a part of our lively and diverse student community, as well as from life in the beautiful city of Leiden.
Life in Leiden
Picturesque and the perfect size, Leiden is the ideal place to spend your university days. The Faculty of Humanities is located within the heart of the city, where dozens of cafes, shops and bars line its historic laneways and leafy canals. Small enough to run into familiar faces, but big enough to keep offering surprises – you will treasure your time at Leiden. And for adventures further afield, the major cities of The Hague and Amsterdam are a short train ride away, along with Schiphol Airport, which is just half an hour away by train.
Our study and student associations organise a huge variety of social, cultural, and study events to keep you busy all year round. You can also join the University Sports Centre, which offers scheduled group sports and fitness classes, amongst other activities.
Welcome and orientation programme
In August and February each year, Leiden University hosts the English-language Orientation Week Leiden (OWL), which welcomes both international and Dutch students. The OWL is an excellent way to get to know Leiden University, the city, and other students.
Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities has a number of study associations run by students and related to a particular department or programme. Study associations organise social activities such as informal gatherings, sports events, and parties, as well as study-related activities such as excursions and study trips.
The study association related to International Relations is Leiden ISSA.
International Student Associations
Leiden has several student organisations that specifically cater for international students. These associations organise regular social events and activities that help create the strong sense of community that exists within our international student body. The main two organisations are:
International Student Network (ISN) ISN Leiden is an international student organisation which hosts a range of activities and programmes. They also have a buddy programme which provides new students with the right support to assimilate into Leiden and the university.
AEGEE Leiden AEGEE is a leading European student association with sister organisations in over 40 countries across Europe. AEGEE organises many activities in Leiden, from dinners and pool nights to boat trips and guest lectures.
The Humanities Master’s Buddy Programme has been set up by the Faculty of Humanities to help all students who are new to the university to integrate quickly and easily into university life. Through the programme you will learn everything you need to know about the university, the student community, and the practical side of life in Leiden.
Come and meet us at the Leiden University Master’s Open Day!
About our Master’s Open Day
Are you thinking about joining a master’s programme at Leiden University? Come and visit our Master’s Open Day! This event is your opportunity to learn everything you need to know about our master’s programmes and how they can help you reach your goals. Attend presentations, meet our lecturers, learn about the careers of our alumni and hear first-hand the experiences of students and graduates on life at Leiden University.
If you have a question, there are various ways to get in touch with us.
Please note: The coordinator of studies cannot give any information about students’ chances of being admitted to the programme. The Board of Admissions will base their decision on your application as a whole.
Questions about the application procedure
Student Affairs Front Office
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 80 11
Email: Contact form
Or visit their website
Leiden: Plexus Student Centre
Kaiserstraat 25, ground floor
2311 GN Leiden
Monday till Friday between 11.00 and 16.00, Tuesday 11.00 to 21.00.