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Course Finder

MA Conflict Resolution

Location: Colchester Campus
Qualification: Master of Arts
Mode of study: Full-time
Duration: 12 months
Tuition Fee: Home/EU, Overseas
Funding available: Find out using our scholarship finder Department: Government
Facebook: University of Essex
Further information: For more information, please e-mail us or see for yourself by booking a place at one of our open days.

About the course

We are world leaders in political science, asking difficult questions to find important answers. How do you put an end to armed conflict? What are the benefits and consequences of intervention? What role do national and international non-government organisations play in the prevention and resolution of conflict? Our course helps you to understand the evolving field of conflict resolution, exploring the causes and effects of destructive conflict across the world, and scrutinizing the theory and practice of how this can be managed peacefully.

Our MA provides a framework for understanding conflict resolution in inter- and intra-state issues, focussing on topics including mediation, negotiation, collaborative problem solving, and peacekeeping operations. Our dynamic, interdisciplinary approach combines traditional methods with contemporary theory and practices of non-violent movements. We encourage our students of Conflict Resolution to experience the practical as well as the theoretical application of these topics, and you’ll be given the opportunity to engage with both real cases of international conflict, and to make use of web-assisted learning, simulations, and challenging role-playing exercises.

This course sits within our wider research division International Politics and Conflict Resolution, a distinctive feature of which is an emphasis on the commonalities between all forms of politics. The flexible structure of your course enables you to study different modules on topics including international relations, security studies, global and comparative politics, international development, and human rights, providing a key appreciation of the interrelationship between international relations and domestic politics and institutions.

Through rigorously questioning these topics as part of a thriving and supportive academic community, you’ll develop the ability to think critically and make reasoned arguments supported by the best available empirical evidence, as well as research design, communication, and report writing skills. These are key employability skills, and an MA Conflict Resolution will prepare you for a career in areas such as non-governmental organisations, international and national government, or the private sector.

Why study MA Conflict Resolution at Essex?

Our Department of Government is one of the most prestigious in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We are rated top in the UK for research (REF 2014), and have consistently been the highest rated politics department in the country since national assessments began.

As a student on this MA, you’ll be part of an active and prolific research team working on conflict resolution. The University of Essex is home to the Michael Nicholson Centre for Conflict and Cooperation, a research centre within the Department which is distinctive in its scientific approach to the study of conflict, emphasising rigorous formal theory and the development of systematic data and statistical methods for evaluating theory. You’ll be actively integrated into the centre’s research projects, bringing the broadest possible range of facts and ideas to our research.

Our optional module The Analysis of Conflict and Peace allows you to utilise this approach in your own work, teaching you to use data sets, draw geographical maps, and carry out research using conflict data. You additionally might have the option of studying an extracurricular module on non-violent movements, offered in collaboration with Slobdan Djinovic and Srdja Popovic of the Centre for Nonviolent Action and Strategies in Belgrade. This exciting course, previously offered at many US universities including Colorado College, Harvard University and New York University, has never been offered to anywhere else in Europe.

Our expert staff

Some of the biggest names in the field work at Essex, giving you unparalleled access to some of the best minds in politics. You benefit from staff expertise in both conflict studies and international relations, with conflict and cooperation forming a core part of our Department of Government.

Our key teaching staff for this course are Professor Han Dorussen, Professor Ismene Gizelis, and Professor Kristian Gleditsch.

Professor Dorussen is Associate Editor for the Journal of Peace Research, and specialises in the relationship between trade and conflict, the use of economic policies in international politics, the governance of post-conflict societies, and policy convergence in the European Union. He has recently completed fieldwork examining the impact of the UN mission on the perception of security in Timor Leste.

Professor Gizelis specialises in conflict dynamics, peacekeeping, gender equality and post-conflict reconstruction, and communicable diseases. In addition, Professor Gizelis is acting as Core Investigator on a new research project, ‘Armed Conflict and Maternal Health in Sub-Saharan Africa’ (2014-16), with the innovative aim of going beyond consideration of the direct effect of interventions to also consider relevant political, socioeconomic and cultural factors.

Professor Gleditsch’s research focusses on conflict and cooperation, democratization, and spatial dimensions of social and political processes. He is the director of a large EU-funded research project on non-violent actions. He is also the director of the Michael Nicholson Centre of Conflict and Cooperation.

Our facilities

You’ll be able to take advantage of our extensive learning resources, including laboratories of networked computers featuring extensive software for political analysis, as well as our University library, which provides access to a variety of politics journals as well as multiple copies of textbooks, e-books and materials to support your learning.


A Masters course is an academically rigorous programme during which you explore your subject in depth, reaching a high level of specialist knowledge. You draw on knowledge and skills from your undergraduate study or your professional life to produce work of a high academic standard, informed by current thinking and debate.

This course lasts twelve months (full-time), starting in October, and consists of taught modules during your autumn and spring terms and a research-based dissertation to be submitted in September. Your research-based dissertation counts for 60 credits and you will take 120 credits of modules, a 30 credit compulsory module and a further 90 credits made up from a selection of 30 and 15 credit modules. (If you are from the EU, then our Masters courses are regarded as ‘second-cycle’ qualifications under the Bologna Declaration and consist of 90 ECTS credits).


Core modules

Ma Dissertation

Compulsory modules

Conflict Resolution

Compulsory with options modules

Advanced Research Methods
Political Explanation

Core modules must be taken and passed.
Core with options modules selected from limited lists must be taken and passed.
Compulsory modules must be taken.
Compulsory with options modules selected from limited lists must be taken.
Optional modules are selected from course specific lists.


Your postgraduate study at Essex gives you an opportunity to develop your own ideas and interests, and to engage with thinking at the leading edge of your subject as part of the research community in our Department of Government, and our wider academic and professional community.

As a student of politics your teaching mainly takes the form of lectures and classes. Some statistical modules will include computer-lab classes.

Assessment for modules taught by the Department of Government includes written coursework, assignments, end of term tests and an exam at the end of the year. Your grade for each module is calculated with a 50 per cent weighting for both coursework and exam. During the summer, you will work on a dissertation that’s included in your final grade.

Teaching methods and styles

Our courses are designed to provide you with an advanced understanding of contemporary theory, research and methods, plus knowledge of either the politics of a geographical area or an aspect of the discipline. Our courses include both compulsory and optional modules, so the course can be tailored to fit your interests and aspirations. The modules you take employ a variety of teaching methods with lectures that inform you and classes, which allow you to consolidate your learning through discussion and problem solving, accompanied by lab sessions that allow you to improve your technical skills.

Your dissertation

If you are taking a Graduate or Postgraduate Diploma, you do not need to do the dissertation.

If you are taking a Masters course, you are expected to start work on your dissertation early on in the academic year. You are given guidance on how to prepare a Masters dissertation by our Graduate Director in the spring term. There is a rigorous support system in place for the dissertation process, linking you with an appropriate supervisor at the earliest opportunity. We also have progress checks throughout the year to ensure you are on track. Our part-time students prepare their dissertation during their second year.

Methods of assessment

Within our Department of Government, most of our taught modules comprise of coursework and exams, although some are 100 per cent coursework. Your coursework comes in the form of essays, simulations, presentations and in-class tests, with a dissertation required for all taught courses.

Seminars and conferences

Our Department of Government runs workshops and seminars that are attended by staff and students, as well as national and international conferences and research workshops. These give you exposure to cutting-edge research on topical issues, provide a role model for your own presentations and give you the opportunity to meet up with speakers and discuss your own research and ideas with them.

Career destinations

Our graduates go on to enjoy influential careers in British, European and international politics. This includes working as an MP, being the Speaker of the House of Commons and employment as political lobbyists or staff assistants to MPs and MEPs. Our graduates also work in the Civil Service and in local government, hold posts with the World Bank, the United Nations, NATO, YouGov and YouGov America, work for the armed forces or in finance and business, or undertake further research and teaching.

Our graduates acquire a wide range of methodological, analytical and statistical skills that make them highly adaptable and attractive to employers. Our academic reputation is illustrated by the fact that many of our graduates now teach or research at universities, colleges of higher education and schools. For example, recent graduates are now research fellows and academic staff at Mannheim, Germany; ETH Zurich, Switzerland; Duke University, USA; NATO/SHAPE, Belgium; and University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Your employability

A postgraduate qualification is a major achievement and greatly valued by employers. Recent surveys show that higher degree graduates are more likely to obtain jobs at professional or managerial level and less likely to be unemployed. For some jobs a postgraduate qualification may be essential, for others it offers a competitive edge. Our graduates go into a variety of jobs, where the key employability skills and knowledge they have gained through postgraduate study are put to good use.

Our Languages for All programme lets you study a language, alongside your course, at no extra cost. You can take one of 50 taught language modules on a part-time day-time basis, or undertake flexible web-based learning, or opt for a language module taught in the evening. As employers can struggle to find graduates able to speak more than one language, Languages for All places Essex graduates in a very advantageous position.

If you achieve your Masters, you may wish to extend your knowledge with a research degree and many who graduate from Essex choose to stay here for research study. Some of our Masters may be taken as the first part of an Integrated PhD, leading to your PhD after a further three years of full-time study.

Support for postgraduates

Our University has a range of support services designed to help you to achieve your full potential and get the most out of your studies. These form a co-ordinated network of support, and are an important part of your overall student experience at Essex.

Our staff operate an 'open door' policy so are available to discuss any concerns with you throughout the year.

Research study opportunities

Within our Department of Government, we offer supervision for PhD and MPhil. We have steadily consolidated our reputation as the best politics department in the UK and in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We offer research supervision in the following fields: government; ideology and discourse analysis; international relations; political behaviour; and politics.


Our applicants should have a 1st, 2:1 or high 2:2 degree (or equivalent) in a relevant social science like politics, international relations, economics, political economy or sociology. Degrees from other subjects may be considered where there is evidence of some mathematical training, statistical background and relevant work experience, although you will be required to submit a personal statement with your application form.

If English is not your first language, then we require IELTS 6.5 or equivalent.

Open Evenings

Come to one of our Open Evenings in Colchester or London to discover what makes Essex an outstanding place to study. Our Open Evenings are your chance to find out what it’s like to be a member of our thriving postgraduate community. Meet our academics and talk informally to current students to find out more about postgraduate life and study at Essex.

Campus Tours

If you can’t make one of our Open Evenings then don’t worry, we offer regular Campus Tours at our Colchester and Southend campuses. Please let us know which campus you want to visit using the email addresses below and we’ll organise a tour with a current student for you.

Please try to give four working days' notice and if you or any of your guests have any specific individual needs. Please include details in your email and we can arrange to tailor your visit accordingly.

Colchester Campus

We offer campus tours from Monday to Friday at 12.30pm. Please email tours@essex.ac.uk letting us know when you would like to come.

Watch our Colchester Campus tour on Vimeo.

See our videos on our University of Essex Vimeo channel.