MA Peace and Conflict Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course description

I read the course description and course unit outlines and felt so excited,

I immediately knew it was the course for me.

Zoe Clarke, UK / MA in Peace and Conflict Studies graduate
This interdisciplinary MA explores the processes through which actors have attempted to define and build peace in areas affected by war and violence, particularly since the end of the Cold War.

Drawing on expertise from the fields of politics, history, anthropology and the arts, this newly revamped course will offer you the opportunity to engage with conflict management, conflict resolution, conflict transformation, peacebuilding and statebuilding theories and practices.

Moreover, the programme will critically address the conceptualization of peace and the implementation of peacebuilding projects by global, regional, national and local actors, including the UN, the International Financial Institutions, development agencies and donors, INGOs, and local organisations in conflict-affected environments.

In particular, it will focus on social agency for peace, the question of the nature of the `peaceful state', and the ever-fraught question of the reform of the international system.

The dynamics of these various contributions to peace will be the focus of a guided research visit with the range of peace and conflict management actors present in either Bosnia Herzegovina or Cyprus (in Semester 2).


You will be able to develop a critical understanding of:

1. Key issues and debates related to the theories in Peace and Conflict Studies such as conflict management, conflict resolution, conflict transformation. We will investigate how thinking about peace has changed across the different generations of theorising, with particular reference to the main debates in International Relations theory.

2. Concepts and practices used within the international peace architecture, especially peace negotiations, mediation, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and statebuilding. We will examine how these practices are supposed to work together and explain why peace processes stagnate or falter despite such concerted efforts.

3.  The range of international actors and organisations, their policies and practices, and the benefits as well as shortcomings of their interventions. Here, we will also analyse the factors that are blocking international and localised efforts to promote peace.

4. The range of social science topics that influence peacebuilding, statebuilding, conflict management, etc., (including political, historical, anthropological understandings of peace and related programming strategies). Students will become familiar with the methodological and normative underpinnings of these disciplines.

5. The analytical and policy literature concerning peacebuilding, international governance structures, statebuilding, and the role of key actors and institutions including NGOs and military and other security actors. Students will be able to evaluate the theory and policy tools in the context of the recent history of peacebuilding and statebuilding since the end of the Cold War.

6. An understanding of local approaches to peacebuilding, including an awareness of the problems and critiques associated with `bottom up' approaches. Students will examine current debates on the nature of everyday peace and hybrid forms of peace, related questions about `local agency' and forms of resistance, activism, and social mobilisation.

7. You will experience the on-the-ground realities of peacebuilding and statebuilding through a research fieldtrip to Bosnia and Herzegovina or Cyprus. You will encounter the range of actors involved in the peace process (from international to regional, national, and local actors) and you will be able to conduct your own research.

Special features

I was scared and excited at the same time since it meant moving abroad for the first time. Now, I can say that, although challenging, this was one of the most enriching experiences of my life.

I had a chance to meet many interesting people, both professors and students from all over the world. I also had the opportunity to undertake many inspirational experiences and above all, the fieldtrip research in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During the fieldtrip, I had the opportunity to meet and interview local peacebuilders. The meetings were so interesting that I decided to focus my dissertation on one of the topics of the interviews. Besides, I believe that talking to people who work to create peace every day is fundamental to understand local peacebuilding and I believe it is an essential step for those who want to work in the field of peace and conflict.

Irene Baraldi, Italy / MA Peace and Conflict Studies graduate

The programme is developed to offer a novel configuration for research and teaching which will uniquely associate perspectives of practitioners, non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners, theoreticians, policy makers and analysts in sustained intellectual engagement.

Additional voluntary workshops and events throughout the year further enhance study including:

  • case briefings (e.g. Timor Leste, Sri Lanka, Arab Uprisings);
  • policy sessions:UN system and INGOs;
  • Manchester Peace and Social Justice Walk; and
  • workshops with key thinkers in the field

You will also benefit from additional activities, such as:

  • student organised trips;
  • case study internships;
  • attendance at the annual peacebuilding conference in Manchester and participation in student panels.

Research trip

The fieldtrip is a working research trip. It is linked to the semester two core course unit on conflict sensitive research methods. The fieldtrip will take place towards the end of second semester and is designed to allow you to use, in a safe space, the research methodologies you've discussed in class.

The fieldtrip is to challenge the notion of conflict tourism, and instead to encourage research responsibility. That means that the fieldtrip is largely student organised, with students taking responsibility for organising meetings, being on time, making sure that research subjects are consenting to talking etc.

Experience of this research organisation is an important learning opportunity. The fieldtrip is not primarily about the information (data) gathered during the trip but also about the processes whereby the data is gathered.

These encourage us to think about the responsibilities of the researcher, the ethics involved and the sensitivities required in dealing with others.

Accommodation and travel costs are covered by The University of Manchester.

Teaching and learning

Delivery of the course will take a range of forms, including lectures, seminars, tutorials, directed reading, a research/field trip and independent study. Much of the delivery will be problem based/enquiry-based learning.

This MA will be influenced and informed by the research of both staff and postgraduate research students at the department including research projects on:

  • political space in the aid industry;
  • local/hybrid approaches to peacebuilding;
  • the contribution of BRICS nations to peace and security programming;
  • critical peace studies;
  • the role of the state in peace and security programming;
  • ethnographic approaches to understanding violence;
  • refugees and internally displaced persons;
  • the political economy of conflict;
  • performance in conflict zones.

Coursework and assessment

Students will be assessed through several methods, with the aim of building up numerous academic and professional skills. 

Forms of assessment will include:

  • research essays (3,000+ words);
  • the running of group workshops;
  • reflective journals/learning logs;
  • contribution to group discussion boards (electronically);
  • oral presentations;
  • literature reviews/research design.

Course unit details

Students will take all of the following Core Modules (15 Credits Each): 

  • Peace and social agency:

This module will introduce students to key theories and concepts related to the study of peace, security and conflict. It will expose students to key debates related to these topics (both conceptual and practical) and provide students with an appreciation of the diversity of relevant policies at the international, regional, national and sub-national levels. It will provide them with an analytical toolbox which can be used to explore issues related to peacebuilding in theory and practice-tools which can be used in this module, other modules on the degree and in their professional lives. 

  • Practical approaches to studying conflict-affected societies

TThis module explores issues of epistemology, positionality and research methods associated with field research in peacebuilding environments. This unit will involve a compulsory research trip that is intended to challenge the notion of a conventional field trip and to expose students to the practical and ethical dilemmas of field research.

  • Dissertation (12 000 - 15 000 words) which is worth 60 Credits.

Optional Modules: Students are expected to choose 90 credits (45 per semester) from the list of optional course units.

Course unit list

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Peace and Social Agency, Security and Intervention: Theories and Practices POLI70991 15 Mandatory
Practical Approaches to Studying Conflict Affected Societies POLI71102 15 Mandatory
Dissertation POLI72000 60 Mandatory
Humanitarianism and Conflict Response: Inquiries HCRI60031 15 Optional
Anthropology of Violence and Reconstruction HCRI60131 15 Optional
Humanitarian Diplomacy and Negotiation in Practice HCRI60222 15 Optional
Governing in an Unjust World: Justice and International Relations POLI60182 15 Optional
The Ethics Of Killing POLI60221 15 Optional
Global Governance POLI70422 15 Optional
Debating Justice POLI70611 15 Optional
Democracy: Theory & Practice POLI70872 15 Optional
Critical Environmental Politics POLI70921 15 Optional
Comparative Democratisation in Eastern Europe and Latin America POLI70952 15 Optional
Gender, War and Peace POLI70962 15 Optional
The Arab Uprisings and Revolutionary State Formation POLI70981 15 Optional
The Politics of Global Climate Change POLI71141 15 Optional
Borders, Identities, Citizenship POLI72021 15 Optional
Displaying 10 of 17 course units


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Disability support

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