International studies

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International studies (IS) in this article describes the specific university degrees and courses which are concerned with the study of ‘the major political, economic, social, and cultural issues that dominate the international agenda’.[1] Predominant topics are politics, economics and law on a global level. The term itself can be more specifically defined as ‘the contemporary and historical understanding of global societies, cultures, languages and systems of government and of the complex relationships between them that shape the world we live in’.[2]

The terms and concepts of international studies and international relations are strongly related; however, international relations focus more directly on the relationship between countries, whereas international studies can encompass all phenomena which are globally oriented.


The history of the discipline of International Studies is strongly linked with the history of the study of international relations, as described in the International Relations entry. However, the study of International Studies as a separate entity to International Relations emerged throughout the 20th century, as an increasingly complex world began to be influenced by globalization, and a greater number of issues emerged (rather than only inter-country relations). The discipline was greatly influenced by the establishment of the International Studies Association,[3] which was established in 1959 by a ‘group of academics and practitioners’[4] with the aim of ‘seeking to pursue mutual interests in world affairs through the organization of a professional association’.[4] The establishment of the association reflected the increasing interest in global issues and reflected the need for international academic dialogue. Throughout the later stages of the 20th century and into the 21st century, many education institutions worldwide developed International Studies degrees (both undergraduate and postgraduate). The emergence and increasing popularity of these degrees reflect the general patterns of increasing global interconnectedness and globalization. In that, education providers are becoming more aware that the discipline is becoming increasingly relevant and necessary in the context of the 21st century. The discipline has become increasingly popular in Australia as well as in East Asian countries. Dr. Hanson and Dr. Weber of the University of Queensland state that;

‘Australia has become a highly popular destination for students wishing to undertake Coursework, Masters and Ph.D. programs in International Relations, Peace and Conflict Studies and Development. Collectively, these inter-related fields have come to be called International Studies, and many of Australia’s universities have responded to the increasing demand for programs in this area’[5]

In 2008, the third OCIS conference (Oceanic Conference on International Studies) was held at the University of Queensland’.[5] The conference brought together over 200 academics, with the keynote speaker Andrew Linklater (the Woodrow Wilson Professor of International Politics at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales) noting ‘how vibrant and intellectually stimulating International Studies now is in Australia’’.[5] The increasing popularity of the discipline in Australia led to the International Studies Association to establish an Asia-Pacific Regional Section of the ISA at the University of Queensland in 2009’,[5] which was seen as an ‘indication of the growth of this area’’[5] in Australia.


International Studies is sometimes also known as global studies. The terms can be used interchangeably and may be influenced by left vs right inclinations.

Purpose/aim of study[edit]

Many educational institutions have developed International Studies degrees and courses in order to engage students with the increasing number of issues and phenomena which have arisen in an increasingly globalized world. As such, most education providers justify the need for the degrees by relating the increasing importance of the discipline with real-world situations and employment opportunities. For example, the University of Technology Sydney states that the purpose of their International Studies degree is to ‘prepare graduates for careers and contributions in a world of social and cultural diversity being transformed by globalisation, allowing students to draw connections between global phenomena and local practices in work and life’.[6] Often, universities will relate the study of International studies with other industries. Monash University describes the relevance for International Studies; ‘as the world globalizes and nations and economies become more integrated, it is important to understand our world and the ideas and beliefs of our neighbors and trading partners. In order to compete in the international marketplaces of products, ideas and knowledge we need to understand and respect the cultures and beliefs of others.[7]

Types of programs[edit]

At many universities, International Studies is offered in both undergraduate and postgraduate pathways. As an undergraduate degree, the discipline is most often offered as part of an Arts Degree, as either a minor or major of straight Arts Degrees[8][9] or as specialist Arts Degrees.[10][2][11][12] It is also often offered as a postgraduate degree as an honors or masters as a progression from the undergraduate degrees offered by the various institutions.[13]

Types of studies[edit]

The International Studies discipline is usually offered as either part of an arts degree or as a specialist arts degree. As such, students are able to select from a very broad range of subjects to undertake. However, some areas of study which are regularly offered include:[2]

  • the political, social, economic and cultural relationships within the international system
  • foreign policy, diplomacy and other modes of interaction between the countries of the world
  • the significance of foreign societies, cultures, and systems of government
  • the international movement of people as immigrants, refugees, workers, students, tourists and investors
  • the role of international organizations
  • the globalization of the world economy
  • foreign languages
  • history

Different countries' approaches[edit]


As discussed, the study of the International Studies discipline in Australia occurs mostly within universities and generally approaches the subject as a holistic study of international affairs and phenomena. The study is also offered in some Australian high schools. The VCE system, operating within Victoria, offers International Studies as an elective to year 12 students.[14] The two units offered in International Studies VCE are ‘Global issues and conflicts’ and ‘International Relations’.[14]


There are several International Studies programs in Canada that offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the Glendon College International Studies Program, the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University, the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, the Balsillie School of International Affairs, the Centre for Global Studies at Huron University College, Centre d'études et de Recherches Internationales de l'Université de Montréal, International Studies degree at the University of Regina, the International Studies MA Program at the University of Northern British Columbia and the Institut québécois des hautes études internationales.


In Chile there are two undergraduate programs. The oldest, International Studies undergraduate program which is offered by the Universidad de Santiago de Chile. This programme emphasises four core areas: International Relations, Methodology, International Trade, and Defense and Security. This programme has also been recognized through the participation of their students in different simulations of the United Nations System, like the National Model of United Nations NMUN in New York and Kobe 2016,[15] and in the Modelo Naciones Unidas para Latinoamerica y el Caribe(MONULAC) in Antigua.[16] The university opened this undergraduate programme in 2008 and it represents a very promising development in the study of the Social Sciences in Latin America. The Instituto de Estudios Avanzados(IDEA) of the same university also offers a Masters in International Studies. In 2018, the Universidad de Chile opened a similar program in cooperation between different academic units like Facso and Instituto de Estudios Internacionales.


In the Philippines, De La Salle University's College of Liberal Arts offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in international studies. Students have the option to select one of the four majors available for the undergraduate program: American, Chinese, European, or Japanese studies. While for the graduate program, students can choose either Asian or European studies. Ateneo de Manila University's School of Social Sciences offers bachelor's degrees in Chinese and European studies.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK the British International Studies Association (BISA) develops and promotes the study of International Studies, Global Politics and related subjects through teaching, research and the facilitation of contact between scholars. International Studies is often related to or attached to the study in International Relations. At the University of Oxford, the Centre for International Studies "exists to promote and advance research in International Relations".[17] In this sense the use of the term International Studies differs to that of the Australian use of the term in that it is tied to the discipline of International Relations, rather than addressing them as separate entities. The Institute of Development Studies (IDS)] based in Sussex, is a leading global charity for international development research, teaching, and communications.

United States[edit]

There exist a number of institutions which promote International Studies in the United States of America. The Centre for Strategic & International Studies is a foreign policy think tank which aims to ‘provide strategic insights and policy solutions to decisionmakers in government, international institutions, the private sector, and civil society’.[18] The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies is a research center based at Stanford University which is a ‘primary center for innovative research on major international issues and challenges’.[19] Both institutions focus primarily on the study of international affairs and relations in relation to US foreign policy, and therefore differ in the Australian approach to International Studies. Alternatively, the undergraduate International Studies program at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY is a holistic program that more closely follows the Australian model. [20]

Career prospects[edit]

As stated, many institutions attempt to promote their International Studies degrees by promoting the career prospects for graduates. The University of Melbourne has stated that graduates of its International Studies major will be ‘attractive to prospective employees in the public and private sectors including international inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations’.[21] Similarly, RMIT University has stated that ‘the degree prepares you to apply your knowledge of globalization, language and culture in international workplace settings’,[22] such as ‘business, government and non-government organizations in a range of areas’.[22]

The discipline is also working under a premise that employment opportunities in the field of International Studies will steadily increase with the increasing level of interconnectedness which is occurring as a result of globalisation; ‘Opportunities for positions requiring international knowledge and skills are increasing and have created a need for graduates who are highly skilled, interculturally attuned and able to think and act globally/locally, as well as being bilingual’.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The British International Studies Association (2016). About International Studies. Archived 20 July 2018. Accessed 3/4/2017
  2. ^ a b c Flinders University. (2010). Bachelor of International Studies. Archived 24 September 2010. Accessed 21/9/2010
  3. ^ International Studies Association. (2010). Welcome to ISA. Viewed 21/9/2010 <>
  4. ^ a b International Studies Association. (2010). History and Purpose. Viewed 21/9/2010 <>
  5. ^ a b c d e International Graduate, Australia. (2010). International Studies in Australia. Viewed 21/9/10 <>
  6. ^ University of Technology Sydney: Arts and Social Sciences. (2010). Global Studies. Viewed 21/9/2010 < "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-11. Retrieved 2010-10-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>
  7. ^ ’Monash University: Arts. (2010). International Studies Program. Viewed 21/9/2010 <>
  8. ^ Monash University: Arts. (2010). International Studies Program. Viewed 21/9/2010 <>
  9. ^ The University of Melbourne, Faculty of Arts. (2007). International Studies. Viewed 21/9/2010 <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-03-05. Retrieved 2010-10-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>
  10. ^ University of South Australia: Program Information – 2010. (2010). Bachelor of Arts (International Studies). Viewed 21/9/2010 <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-08-05. Retrieved 2010-10-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>
  11. ^ University of New South Wales: Arts and Social Sciences - School of Social Sciences and International Studies. (2010). International Studies. Viewed 21/9/2010 <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2010-10-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>
  12. ^ The University of Queensland: School of Political and International Studies. (2010). Undergraduate Programs. Viewed 22/9/2010 < "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-10-16. Retrieved 2010-10-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>
  13. ^ RMIT University: Future Students. (2010). International Studies – Bachelor of Arts (Honours). Viewed 22/9/2010 <>
  14. ^ a b Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2010). International Studies. Viewed 22/9/2010 <>
  15. ^ "Brillante desempeño de nuestros estudiantes en "Debates Modelo" de la ONU". Universidad de Santiago de Chile.
  16. ^ Campo, Valentina del. "Estudiantes de la FAE son reconocidos en conferencia latinoamericana de Modelo de Naciones Unidas".
  17. ^ About Us, University of Oxford: Centre for International Studies, Retrieved December 30, 2012
  18. ^ Center for Strategic & International Studies. (2010). About Us. Viewed 22/9/2010 <>
  19. ^ Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. (2010). Introduction. Viewed 22/9/2010 <>
  20. ^
  21. ^ The university of Melbourne, Faculty of Arts. (2007). International Studies. Viewed 21/9/2010<"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-03-05. Retrieved 2010-10-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>
  22. ^ a b c RMIT University: Future Students. (2010). International Studies – Bachelor of Arts. Viewed 21/9/2010 <>

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]