University College Dublin | An Coláiste Ollscoile, Baile Átha Cliath

UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland | Director: Professor Liam Kennedy

Global Irish Civic Forum
June 2015

Prospective Students

    President Clinton addresses the Institute Sept 2010

MA in American Politics and Foreign Policy

Now accepting applications now open for 2017/'18


Available Full Time and Part Time 


The United States is the most influential nation in the world.  However, a number of challenges in recent years have called into question the sustainability of American leadership abroad and prosperity at home.  These include, but are not limited to, the notion of American decline in relation to rising powers such as China; a political system that appears to have entered an extended period of dysfunction; recurring problems in race relations; and rising economic inequality.  This MA degree programme, which is the first of its kind in Europe or North America, allows students to explore in depth the foreign policy and political challenges facing the US.  Drawing upon the disciplines of history and political science, it explores a wide variety of topics such as the origins of American exceptionalism, the importance placed upon individual liberty, the emergence of the US as a world power, the Cold War, transatlantic relations, presidential and congressional elections, race and gender, partisanship, and more.  Modules in this programme are taught by resident UCD faculty and by visiting lecturers, who will consider theoretical and practical perspectives.  The programme will interest those seeking a career in government, in the non-profit sector, in business, and those hoping to undertake advanced study in these areas.

Compulsory Modules

The American Political Tradition (10 credits)

This module traces the evolution of American political thought and practice over time.  Special emphasis will be placed upon the many areas of continuity and linkage, and the occasional moments of discontinuity between the various political traditions.  Students will also be encouraged to draw upon these ideas to better understand how Americans think about politics today.  Concepts to be explored include the Hamiltonion and Jeffersonian conceptions of Federalism, Populism, Progressivism, the New Deal, the evolution of the Democratic and Republican parties and the emergence of the modern conservative movement.


The Foundations of US Foreign Policy (10 credits)

This module explores the ways in which Americans have thought about foreign policy over the course of the country's history.  Special emphasis will be placed upon seminal ideas and how they have been manifested in important moments in the country's foreign relations.  Concepts to be explored include isolationism, the Monroe Doctrine, Manifest Destiny, imperialism, Wilsonianism, internationalism and Anti-Communism.


Research Skills and Methods (10 credits)

This module will introduce students to key components of research skills and methods.  These will include: interdisciplinary study methods, topics, frames and fields of study, locating and using primary and secondary sources, citation and bibliographical skills, oral and audio-visual presentation skills, and library use.


American Politics Today (5 credits)

This module examines contemporary American politics from a variety of perspectives in order to impart a sophisticated understanding of the ways in which the system operates at the national level. Drawing upon literature from history and political science, the writings of prominent political observers, and video and social media content, the module will explore three interrelated and overarching themes.  One is the fact that the US is in a period of transition.  The country is growing increasingly diverse, a fact that is celebrated by some, especially on the left, and a cause for concern among others, especially on the right.  In addition, income inequality is growing and has reached levels last seen during the Gilded Age. The possibility that American influence abroad has begun to recede fuels the uncertainty that has accompanied these changes.  A second theme of the module is the problem of gridlock.  Even though Americans frequently complain about the inability of their elected representatives in Washington D. C. to accomplish anything, especially in light of the challenges facing the country, there seems to be little prospect of more cooperation anytime soon.  The final themes of the module, then, will be an examination of the nature of the Democratic and Republican parties, including the principal policy goals and political culture of each. 


Challenges in Contemporary US Foreign Policy (10 credits)

This module examines America's role in international politics in the 21st century.  It begins by developing a framework within which to think about the subject by drawing upon the historical modules in the first semester and also by exploring International Relations theories such as Idealism, Realism and some of the various critical theories.  The remainder of the module examines some of the key geopolitical challenges facing the United States, such as terrorism, climate change, cyberwarfare and decline relative to other country, as well as important bilateral relationship such as those with the European Union and China. 


American Politics and Foreign Policy Seminar (5 credits)

This seminar will explore in depth the upcoming national election in the United States in November 2016, with particular focus on the Presidential race.  It will draw upon the latest political science research and the best punditry to examine topics such as the main political parties and their candidates, the invisible primary, the importance of party insider in choosing nominees for President, the role of the economy, television advertising, the role of social media, ideology, gender and race.  Students will be asked to write a research paper on a topic of their choice.


Dissertation (30 credits)

Dissertation length 12,000 - 15,000 words 


Optional Modules, there maybe changes to the list 

Media and US Foreign Policy (10 credits)

Public Diplomacy and Soft Power (10 credits)

The Making of United States Foreign Policy from FDR to GWB (10 credits)

The Origins of Modern Diplomacy and International Law (10 credits)

Africa: Crisis and Opportunity? (10 credits)

Politics and Change in the Middle East and North Africa (10 credits)

International Economic Crisis (10 credits)

New Media and New Conflict (10 credits)

Race, Space, and Place (10 Credits)




Student Assessment

The Masters degree programme will be assessed by means of course work for the modules (largely by essay but this may vary) and a minor thesis of 12,000 to 15,000 words.  Credit values vary for each module.
Students choose the dissertation topic in consultation with the programme director.  It may be supervised by the programme director or co supervised with another academic either within UCD or outside the university.   Supervisors monitor student’s individual progress and offer advice on the preparation and presentation of the dissertation.   The final mark for the Masters Degree will be divided between the course work and the dissertation.

Teaching and Tuition

Each module tutor will provide students with documentation setting out the structure and content of the module.
Modules will normally consist of weekly two-hour seminars.  These are group discussion classes where students are expected to bring up issues arising from their independent study.
Tutors will also be available to discuss individual students’ written assignment.
Fees                                                                                              EU Student                                     Non EU Student
MA American Politics and Foreign Policy Full Time                            €7,030                                          €17,900
MA American Politics and Foreign Policy  Part Time                          €4,220                                           €8,950

Application Procedure for MA American Politics and Foreign Policy

Students can now apply online ( and decisions are made on a rolling basis.  A conditional offer can be made if you are still waiting for your final exam results.
The following documents should be uploaded with your application (if you are not able to upload the documents you can post them directly to the application office and quote your application number - address below
  • Two academic references will be required.  The references can be uploaded by the applicant directly, or if the referee does not wish for you to view the reference they me email the reference directly to
  • A personal statement (750-1000 words) of interest and or experience relevant to the programme.
  • In all cases a 300-word dissertation proposal must be submitted. You should outline the subject or topic that you are currently interested in researching and writing on.
  • Non-University College Dublin applicants are required to submit the following additional documentation:
    • Original birth certificate/ copy of passport
    • A degree certificate or academic transcript (not a copy).  If the degree result is pending at the time of the application this documentation should be forwarded as soon as the result is known.
    • Applicants whose native language is not English must provide a certificate of proficiency in the English language (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS, Cambridge)
  • Standard of English required it is expected that students will normally have reached an overall 7 in the IELTS Academic Module or an A in the Cambridge ESOL - CAE prior to commencing graduate study.
These documents should be returned to the
On Line Application Office
Tierney Building
Dublin 4
If you have any questions on the process please contact or Tel +353 1 7161560