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Skills for changing the world – how International Relations develops talent for government and business

News article: how International Relations develops talent for government and business

Dr Edward Wastnidge, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Studies at The Open University (OU) explains how success in global roles requires a wide range of high-level skills.

We live in an increasingly interconnected world, where events in different parts of the globe have real, tangible impacts on decision-making of governments, businesses, and other actors working closer to home. More than ever, governments and businesses need to have an awareness of what is going in in the international domain in order to keep up with and be responsive to a rapidly changing world.

The impacts of issues such as conflict and cooperation at the international level require analytical thinking and critical skills to help make sense of changing dynamics and relations between multiple actors. International Relations (IR) is the subject that gives crucial insight into these complex processes.

The need for a strategic approach  

The UK government’s revised Areas of Research Interest (ARIs), emphasise the need for government departments to develop a strategic approach to departmental research and development programmes, and improve their engagement with research and policy evidence. The recent Integrated Review refresh has also highlighted the increasingly volatile and changing international environment, and the  multiplicity of challenges that the UK faces.

Key areas of concern for departments such as The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) include the need to improve knowledge around areas including economics and trade, global health, the environment, and geopolitics.

Home Office and Ministry of Defence ARIs including homeland security and the need to engage with information and big data have been identified as priority areas. This will require in-depth skills and knowledge of not only the complex international environment but the data and information sources needed to advance understanding and ultimately safeguard the UK’s future security.

The need for enhanced digital information literacy among the civil service more broadly has also been identified as an important skills gap that needs addressing.

The role of postgraduate study

The OU’s new MA in International Relations will equip students with the tools to understand and analyse a range of contemporary global issues, helping to meet the knowledge and skills needs of government and the broader public sector.  IR is a growing subject area that will be of interest to a wide range of prospective students looking to upskill and advance their careers, while studying part time with the world’s leading distance learning provider.

The OU’s Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) has a well-established undergraduate International Studies programme that has helped its graduates progress in a number of different public and private sector fields. We are really looking forward to expanding our provision in this dynamic and exciting field, drawing on our own strong research and teaching expertise to create this new postgraduate qualification.

How the MA programme can help

Through its focus on real world issues, the MA addresses key contemporary global challenges that will shape the UK’s engagement with the world, and its role within it, in the coming decades. Graduates of this MA programme will have the skills to interpret, analyse and communicate the complexities of our interconnected world, filling in critical knowledge gaps around rising powers, global economic and political change, and the ever-evolving threats to security that the UK faces.

Gaining skills for the global workplace

Students on this programme will have the opportunity to produce a range of different outputs including reports, policy briefings, blogs, independent research projects, and presentations. They will also take part in a unique international negotiation simulation.  Students completing the MA will be able to demonstrate a range of highly valued skills including critical and analytical thinking, enhanced digital information literacy, project management, communication skills, collaborative working, and negotiation.

The MA in IR will be useful for those looking to enhance their career prospects in a number of areas. These include careers in government and the civil service, iNGO and charity sectors, international organisations, international risk management, as well as other opportunities that will be able to harness the independent research skills and knowledge that this degree provides. It is also ideal preparation for anyone wanting to pursue further studies, including at doctoral level.

Find out more about sponsoring employees on OU degree programmes

Find out more about the MA in International Relations

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