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MA Conflict Resolution

Why we're great

  • We have been ranked first in the UK for political science research since national league tables began.
  • You have unrivalled one-to-one access to the best minds in politics and international relations.
  • We are the only political science department to receive the prestigious Regius Professorship.

Course options

Duration: 1 year
Start month(s): October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £7,950
Fee (International): £15,500

Duration: 2 years
Start month(s): October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £3,975
Fee (International): £7,750

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719

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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-governmental 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 scrutinising the theory and practice of how this can be managed peacefully. We provide you with a framework for understanding conflict resolution in inter- and intra-state issues, focusing on topics including:

  • Mediation, negotiation, and collaborative problem solving
  • Using conflict data sets and drawing geographical maps
  • International development and human rights
  • International relations and security studies
  • Global and comparative politics

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 anywhere else in Europe.

Our dynamic, interdisciplinary approach combines traditional methods with contemporary theory and practices of non-violent movements, and we encourage you to experience the practical as well as the theoretical application of these topics through examining real case studies of international conflict.

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.

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 focuses on conflict and cooperation, democratisation, 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.

Specialist facilities

  • The Michael Nicholson Centre for Conflict and Cooperation 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
  • Laboratories of networked computers featuring extensive software for political analysis
  • Make use of web-assisted learning, simulations, and challenging role-playing exercises
  • The ESSEXLab provides opportunities for experimental lab research
  • Student societies for politics, debating, and Model UN
  • We organise the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis
  • A programme of seminars and events run by the department

Your future

All Essex politics graduates have the distinction of a qualification from one of the world’s leading politics departments.

Our MA Conflict Resolution will prepare you for a career in areas such as non-governmental organisations, international and national government, or the private sector.

Recent graduates have gone on to work for the following high-profile organisations:

  • The Civil Service
  • Local government
  • The World Bank
  • The United Nations
  • NATO
  • YouGov and YouGov America

We also offer supervision for PhD and MPhil in the following fields: government; ideology and discourse analysis; international relations; political behaviour; and politics.

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.

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are, in many instances, just a selection of those available. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current postgraduate students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

In this module you focus on conflict resolution in inter- and intra-state issues. You gain experience in the practical as well as in the theoretical aspects of negotiation and mediation, exploring the applicability of various tools and techniques in problem-solving real cases of international conflict, and making use of negotiation and mediation techniques in role playing exercises and other types of simulations.

This module offers you an introduction to the theory and practice of quantitative data analysis techniques. You will also be introduced to the computer package Stata, which is widely used by academics and practitioners for the analysis of quantitative data. As the work becomes more challenging, the relevance of the techniques to modern social science research becomes more apparent.

Master the quantitative methods which are essential to test hypotheses. You study hypotheses testing, hypotheses testing using Least Squares, and some classic violations of the Gauss-Markov conditions, before continuing to learn some more advanced models ubiquitous in political science.

The field of security studies has become increasingly important over the last decade. While old conflicts are reigniting and new ones are emerging, scholars and decision-makers debate about changes to the concepts of security, the redundancy of military force, and the centrality of the state in order to face these ever-important issues.

Question party motivations, electoral strategies, ideologies and leaderships in Britain and Europe as you explore the changing nature and role of political parties in advanced liberal democracies.

Theories of justice are still being worked on and developed today. You question contemporary theories of justice through applying them to some of the most controversial issues dominating contemporary politics.

Study one of the most important contemporary aspects of political action: the natural environment. You consider the state of the environment and possible paths along which it might change, before exploring environmental policies from the level of individual values, to the environmental movement, to political parties, and finally to the level of the EU.

This module provides you with a graduate-level introduction to both foundational and contemporary international relations research. The emphasis will be on evaluating arguments, understanding the development of the field, and identifying unresolved questions.

The rational choice approach uses methods derived from microeconomics to study a wide range of political phenomena, and is now of considerable significance. This constructs explanations on the assumption that individuals are rational and often self-interested. You learn to apply these methods to a range of phenomena in the fields of politics and political economy.

This module introduces you to two main traditions within contemporary political theory: analytical political theory, and ideology and discourse analysis. You explore a range of ideas and concepts within these traditions in relation to central discussions in contemporary political theory.

Evaluate a variety of perspectives on post-structuralist and post-analytical research, gaining an appreciation of the assumptions underpinning different approaches to questions of description, explanation and critique. You explore a range of prominent perspectives including empiricism, rationalism, conventionalism, positivist, hermeneutics, and critical realism.

In this module you gain an overview of the logic of social science research designs that includes the goals, theories and strategies of social science research, and develop a research agenda for potential use as publication in a peer reviewed journal, MA or PhD dissertation.

On this module you explore a variety of questions concerning public opinion: How do citizens acquire information and convert it into opinions? Can politicians and the media influence public opinion and if so, how? How do we select representative samples in order to understand what the public really thinks? How do we measure opinion accurately? What type of measurement scales are available to help us do this?

This module is about how representative democracy works in Europe. You explore several topics within the European context, including: public opinion, political participation, political parties, electoral systems, party competition, and how to evaluate democracies. You also develop specific knowledge about several European countries by learning how the political institutions function within them.

Studying philosophy of science is not necessarily about becoming a philosopher; it can also help us to do political science better. You cover the main theoretical approaches to the study of politics, including both models of political actions that inform and are derived from the empirical study of politics, and normative theories of politics. This enables you to ask questions from the philosophy of sciences concerning how we can study social and political phenomena.

You are introduced to key strands of poststructuralist discourse theory, including post-marxism, deconstruction, structural linguistics, and psychoanalytic theory. You also engage with a set of contemporary debates in political and social theory, using the economy (eg., the global financial crisis and public service reforms) as a central theme and reference point.

What are the important policy problems facing the European Union today? Issues like trade, unemployment, monetary policy? And how can you apply economic theory to these concerns? Gain an insight into the complex and fascinating process of economic integration within the European Union.

What caused the collapse of socialist economies in the late twentieth-century? What are the economic problems that transitional economies faced? And what can we learn from the policies and degrees of success that followed? Build your understanding of the collapse of centrally planned economies and their transition to market economies.

How do firms make decisions? And how do these decisions impact on the prices you pay? What role does game theory play? Understand strategic interaction among firms, using theoretical tools to examine real-world examples. Analyse the main economic forces behind firm behaviour, adapting economic models to study particular challenges.

Can economic analysis be applied to environmental issues? And to environmental policies? Understand the strengths and weaknesses of economic analysis when applied to the environment. Learn to design policies that result in positive environmental outcomes in the modern world.

What are the major developments since Freud? How did the British object-relations school pioneer research and treatment of primitive states of mind? Explore key developments of psychoanalytic thought following Freud, with emphasis on the British object-relations tradition. Understand the problems when comparing different analytic and psychoanalytic schools.

What is the unconscious? And how does it influence the behaviour of groups? Explore how a psychoanalytic approach can illuminate the dynamics of groups and organisations. Understand the classic theories of Freud and Bion, then develop perspectives on how psychoanalytic ideas explain individual and group behaviour.

How do you critically assess psychoanalytic theories? Or extend psychoanalytic knowledge outside the psychoanalytic setting? Expand your knowledge of key psychoanalytic concepts by exploring their use in various situations, clinical and non-clinical. Test the limits of these theories on a contemporary topic, building skills that you use in your dissertation.

How do you critically analyse quantitative data? What are the appropriate statistical techniques for your research questions? And how do you interpret your results? Learn to conduct investigations relevant to your own research, as well as be a critical user of other research.

Do hackers have ethics? Who owns digital media? Is surveillance justified? Explore the history of the digital media economy, looking at hacking, digital media piracy and peer-to-peer networks. Build your understanding of the social, economic and cultural role that digital media now plays in developed Western societies.

Who are the key thinkers regarding the media? How did the modern media developed? And what role does it play in regulating society? In discussion-oriented classes, examine the relationship between society and media technology, analyse the economic and social organisation, and study ethics and regulation of our modern media.

How can feminist and queer theory be used to analyse sociological issues? What impact does gender and sexuality have on topics like kinship, globalisation, digital intimacies, and the body? Explore contemporary sociological developments in the study of gender, sexuality and intimacy.

How has advertising tried to understand the consumer? What challenges are posed by international advertising? Or by the arrival of new media and alternative delivery systems? Explore the history of advertising in Britain and North America, then learn how to analyse and theorise about advertising and the wider creative industries.

What are the different approaches to qualitative data analysis? And when should qualitative interviews be used? Learn about the qualitative research process, including design, selection of interview subjects and analysis, so that you are equipped to tackle your own qualitative research in the future.

How do you critically assess documents? What should you look for when analysing qualitative research? Learn the skills to critique documents based on their authenticity, representativity, validity, and meaning. Apply this knowledge to real-life case studies and class discussion.

How does ethnographic research enable you to analyse relationships? Let you document symbols that inspire belief? Or inform you about social marketing and behaviour change? Study ethnographic research techniques from the perspective of both a social scientist and a policy maker, developing your critical abilities and understanding.

How have human rights practices been socially created? What social change is likely in the future and how will that change take place? Do human rights vary across cultures? Do human rights offer a basis for rights which can transcend the nation state? How do they accommodate migration and global inequality? Study human rights from a sociological perspective, developing a historical, critical and cultural understanding of the major theories and concepts in light of these questions.

How are work and home life organised differently across the globe? Does gender add to this? Can we challenge our traditional understandings of work and home? As work helps to define your identity, explore the nature of both formal and informal work, using case studies from around the world.

How do we challenge our conventional understanding of crime? And what can we do about this? Examine the history of criminology and learn about the contemporary debates. Study topics like criminalisation, social deviance, and surveillance and punishment. Look ahead with analysis of new work by leading authors in the field.

What do we mean when we talk about organised crime? And how is this used as a tool for governance? Explore landmark studies and emerging horizons in the field of organised crime studies. Gain an understanding of the social, political, media, cultural and ideological topics related to organised crime.

Is one man’s terrorist another’s freedom fighter? Go beyond that debate to really challenge your understanding of terrorism. Learn how to define and analyse terrorism. Examine themes on dimensions of terrorism, including political, animal rights and religious extremism. Explore counter terrorism, covering topics like surveillance, policing and the law.

How do we understand crime in our increasingly globalised world? And what about forms of control and criminal justice policy? Critically examine criminological thought on globalisation, migration, policy convergence, punishment, and crimes against the state.

What is the significance of 'the de-centring of the subject'? What problems does the materiality of the body pose for sociology? Do claims for objectivity now make any sense at all? Gain an understanding of the significant debates in contemporary social theory, while learning to think analytically about theoretical questions.

How do you design social research for projects? Examine the research process, from forming initial research questions through to writing up your findings. Develop your own research ideas via the approaches discussed, building a critical perspective on empirical research that will help you with future research goals.

How do you interpret studies using panel data? What are the various approaches to panel data analysis? And can you analyse the same data using different methods? Gain the knowledge and confidence to manipulate panel data sets, while developing practical skills in selecting and conducting panel data analysis.

What are the principles of modern survey design? And what is best practice? Explore the fundamentals of survey design and the concept of survey error. Analyse different types of design and modes of data collection, drawing on real-life examples. Build the transferable study skills required to conduct professional surveys.

How do you deal with sampling error? What problems arise from non-response errors? And can you reduce such errors? Examine methods for mitigating non-responses errors and understand the key issues in managing data and survey processes, while gaining practical experience of designing samples.

How do coverage and nonresponse errors arise in surveys? And what impact do they have on your estimates? Improve your understanding of coverage and nonresponse in surveys. Study practical methods to deal with the problems that come from this. Apply estimation procedures that correctly incorporate adjustments for such errors.

Wish to design questionnaires? Build your theoretical knowledge and the practical tools to develop and write survey questions, and to construct questionnaires. Apply your understanding to the development of your questionnaire and implementation materials. Receive feedback on your questionnaire design.

Want to undertake a work placement? Work on a project with an employer that involves in-depth investigation at an advanced level, allowing you to apply and develop your research skills. Produce a substantive written report that communicates your findings within sociological themes and concepts.


  • Courses are designed to provide you with an advanced understanding of either the politics of a geographical area or an aspect of the discipline
  • Courses include both compulsory and optional modules, so the course can be tailored to fit your interests and aspirations
  • Learn through discussion and problem-solving
  • Lab sessions allow you to improve your technical research skills
  • We encourage students to attend national conferences to meet researchers and discuss their work


  • Your coursework comes in the form of essays, simulations, presentations and in-class tests


  • You are given guidance on how to prepare a Masters dissertation by our Graduate Director in the spring term
  • We link you with an appropriate supervisor at the earliest opportunity

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UK entry requirements

A degree with an overall high 2:2.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5

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Visit us

Open days

We host an Open Evening for those interested in postgraduate study with us. Here you’ll be able to discuss our courses with academics, tour the Campus and accommodation and get the answers to all your questions about studying at Essex. Find out more and book your place online.

We also hold several Open Days throughout the year so that you can visit our Colchester Campus and find out more. These Open Days are geared towards undergraduate applicants but whilst you won’t get specific information on your course, you’ll still be able to tour our Campus, meet our students and get a feel for life at Essex. You can get more information and book a place online.

If our dates don’t work for you then don’t worry, you can always book a campus and accommodation tour on a weekday to suit you. Just email to get booked in.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. We have a comprehensive list online so take a look and see if we’ll be near you in the future.


You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

The full procedures, rules and regulations of the University are set out in the Charter, Statues and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.