MA Peace and Conflict Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The United Nations and International Security

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI71112
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The United Nations is seen by some as an emblem of peace and as a valiant attempt to remake the post-war world order. Conversely it is seen by some as a failing institution desperately in need of reform, hamstrung by great power rivalry. This course will take a closer look at the organ of the United Nations that has primary responsibility for international peace and security: the UN Security Council. We begin by critically evaluating the role of the United Nations – is it intended to govern and fulfil human rights? Or is it intended to prevent war between militarily powerful nations? This leads us to ask difficult questions about what we mean by ‘security’ and ‘security for whom’.

This course critically evaluates key questions facing the United Nations in the modern era, looking at current debates over reform, relative power between permanent and elected states, the practice of diplomacy, the implementation of peacekeeping, and the relationship between the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course, students will have:



Teaching and learning methods

Weekly contact hours will consist of one two-hour workshop each week. These sessions will be interactive and will consist of a range of activities including; mini-lectures, debates, discussion and presentations.

Knowledge and understanding

An advanced level of understanding on the role and function of the United Nations and an understanding of key challenges facing the United Nations. Students will have a critical understanding of current debates on international security, as they relate to the United Nations.  

Intellectual skills

The ability to critically evaluate the United Nations and a range of tools used by the UN. The ability to analyse sources and to work independently to identify  
further appropriate reading. The ability to synthesise information to construct an argument. Transferable skills and personal qualities: advanced skills in research and the ability to  
communicate ideas orally and in writing. The ability to pursue independent research and show critical judgement of material.  

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 20%
Written assignment (inc essay) 80%


2400 words



15 mins



Recommended reading

  • Bosco, David L. 2014. 'Assessing the UN Security Council: A Concert Perspective'. Global Governance 20: 545-561.
  • Luck, Edward C. 2006. The UN Security Council: Practice and Promise. Routledge Global Institutions. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Sebastian Von Einsiedel, David M. Malone and Bruno Stagno Ugarte,2016 The UN Security Council in the Twenty-First Century,. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
  • Lowe, Vaughan, Adam Roberts, Jennifer Welsh and Dominik Zaum, eds. 2008. The United Nations Security Council and War. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Bellamy, Alex, and Dunne, Tim 2016, The Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect, Oxford University Press: Oxford

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Slack Unit coordinator

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