The International Relations programme looks at contemporary security challenges from a global IR perspective. It critically analyzes the changes ongoing in world politics.
As a small successful state in a turbulent, Students will benefit by learning from Estonia's experiences. Our programme provides flexibility to ensure that students are able to make the most of their education. It is a great opportunity to learn from some of the top IR scholars in the field and to experience it in an international environment. Best of all you’ll be able to gain valuable knowledge and improve your analytical skills in International Relations at Tallinn University.
Take the first step in fulfilling your dreams by studying at Tallinn University's School of Governance, Law and Society!
Who are we looking for?
Students with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations or a related field are encouraged to apply. Related fields include political science, economics, history, law, anthropology, and human geography. We are looking for highly motivated and active students who can not only excel academically but also contribute to the study environment in a positive manner. Students who do not have a relevant academic background are still permitted to apply and will be expected to demonstrate their ability to be successful in our programme. That will usually include IR relevant practical or employment experiences to make up for an IR academic background.
Why study with us?
- Internationally renowned and experienced and faculty from Canada, Finland, USA, Germany, and Estonia.
- Innovative teaching methods.
- International student body and study environment with students from all over the world.
- Is the only IR curriculum in the region that gives an overview on contemporary security threats as well as the regionalization process.
- Focuses on foreign and security policy (incl. the small-state perspectives) and regional cooperation in world politics.
- Gives in-depth knowledge of state relations, international organizations and the role of non-state actors.
- Has a mandatory internship to provide students with practical experience and networking before graduation.
- Interdisciplinary approach, including an interdisciplinary project, which will broaden perspectives.
At Tallinn University you have a unique opportunity to study contemporary security threats and the changing world order. These topics are critical for aspiring policymakers and researchers and Tallinn University is one of the few universities in the Nordic-Baltic region to emphasize them. The academic staff is producing innovative research on the same topics including cyber deterrence and small state alliance tendencies and have been published in top ranking journals such as International Security and authored books published by Palgrave Macmillan, Routledge, and Ashgate.
The International Relations master's programme is in cycle study form. Classes will be held Monday-Friday evenings from 16:30 or 17:00 until 20:00. Many students take advantage of this structure to also take advantage of internship, volunteer, and employment opportunities that arise. There may be some seminars and elective courses during the day, though they will not be frequent.
The IR curricula allows for specialisation in one of two modules: "Changing World Order" or "International Security and Conflict Studies". In addition, there is an elective section that enables a wide choice of courses so students can tailor their studies to their research interests.
Courses in the programme will enable the students to become better researchers. Courses such as „Academic Writing and Research Design" and „Qualitative Research Methods" will provide the skills needed to complete a successful master's thesis and to have the needed skills after graduation. Other courses will provide the conceptual and theoretical foundation to thrive in the IR discipline. Some examples being „World Politics and Global Governance", „Formation of Global Norms and International Regimes", „Conflict Analysis: Approaches and Cases", and „Small States in the Changing World Order".
Mika Aaltola (Finland) is a professor of International Relations European studies at Tallinn University. In addition, professor Aaltola works as the Director of the Global Security Programme at the Finnish Institute of International affairs. Previously, he was an Academy of Finland Research fellow (2008-2010), Visiting professor at the University of Minnesota (2006-2008) and a University lecturer at the University of Tampere (2006-2008). His international monographs have examined the US foreign policy culture (Brill 2008), the relationship between power politics and humanitarianism (Palgrave 2009), global pandemic security and politics (Routledge 2012), and global connectedness, flows and geopolitics of interdependence (Ashgate 2014). He has been a visiting researcher at Johns Hopkins, Cambridge University.
Matthew Crandall (USA) is an associate professor of International Relations at Tallinn University and the International Relations master's programme administrator. He completed his PhD from Tallinn University and his Master's degree from the University of Tartu. His research interests include small state security and soft security threats. He has published in Contemporary Security Policy, Defence Studies, East European Politics, and Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe.
Read Matthew Crandall's thought about why "Estonia is a very connected place"
What Does the Changing World Order Mean for Small States?" by Matthew Crandall.
Check out Matthew Crandall's post in the TLU blog where he describes a panel discussion “US-EU relations in the Trump era”.
Tiina Pajuste, PhD, is Professor of International Law and Security Studies at Tallinn University. Prof. Pajuste received her PhD from the University of Cambridge on “Accountability Mechanisms for International Organisations”. She has previously worked at the University of Helsinki and University of Cambridge. Her research interests focus mainly on the activity and impact of international organisations, examining both practical and theoretical issues. Additional research tracks include inclusion in peace processes and beyond and human rights issues in the digital context.
Tiina Pajuste - What is the Role of Law in Peace Negotiations?
Dr Birgit Poopuu is an Associate Professor in International Relations and the Head of the IR and Future Studies study area at the School of Governance, Law and Society at Tallinn University. Birgit’s recent research has been curious about the Syrian revolution through the perspectives of Syrian activists. Her main area of expertise is in feminist peace and conflict studies, and her key research interests include knowing IR from revolutionary perspectives; nonviolence; the politics of knowledge production; women, peace and security agenda; critical IR theories and critical relationalism. Birgit is an editor at the journal Ariadne Lõng. Her forthcoming work Handbook of Knowledge and Expertise in International Politics (Oxford University Press) explores the politics of knowledge production in world politics (co-edited with Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Katarzyna Kaczmarska, Xymena Kurowska and Andrea Warnecke). Birgit can be found on Twitter @BirgitPoopuu
Have a look at Dr Poopuu’s recent contribution on the war in Ukraine (co-authored with Eret Talviste): “Wars do not stand in isolation from each other, they are linked by violent structures”
Read also Dr Poopuu’s take on what it means to see world politics violently, or in other words via the violens (co-authored with Elisabeth Schweiger and Elena Simon): “COVID-19: What It Means to Think Violently”
Dr Benjamin Klasche (Germany) is a Lecturer for Political Science and International Studies at the School of Governance, Law and Society at Tallinn University and a Kone Foundation Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Dr Klasche is an International Relations scholar at heart but often draws insights from Sociology and Governance sciences. He defended his PhD in 2021 at Tallinn University with a distinction (Dealing with Global Crises. A Processual-Relational Approach to Studying and Governing Wicked Problems), and holds an MA (cum laude) in International Relations from Tallinn University and a BA in History from the University of Bonn. His main research interests are in relational theory, de-colonization of the social sciences, and the governance of wicked problems (e.g., the Climate Crisis, Migration Crises, Pandemics). He has published in International Relations, International Review of Sociology and International Studies. His forthcoming monograph (co-authored with Peeter Selg and Georg Sootla) A Relational Approach to Governing Wicked Problems will be published by Palgrave MacMillan.
Have a look at Dr Klasche’s recent contribution on Germany’s reaction to the War in Ukraine: “What is Wrong with Germany?”
- Bachelor's degree in social sciences. Candidates without a degree in social sciences are kindly asked to contact the study programme administrator Matthew Crandall (firstname.lastname@example.org) for qualification guidance.
- Proof of English Proficiency
- Please see the complete overview of admission and application requirements for Master's level applicants.
- The entrance exam consists of a written assignment and an interview. The maximum number of points is 100 (50% written assignment, 50% interview).
- Applicants receiving at least 35 points for the written assignment are allowed to the interview.
- Minimum programme enrollment threshold: 70 points out of 100.
Letter of motivation together with article analysis (850-1000 words) that gives insight into the reasons for applying and answers to the questions concerning the motivation and desire to study at the programme. The motivation letter must include answers to the following questions:
- The choice of the study programme: Why Tallinn University? Why IR programme? What courses and modules interest you the most? What do you plan to write in your MA thesis?
- Previous studies and work experience: What were your BA studies about? Give an overview of your BA thesis or if you did not write a thesis then please discuss your overall academic writing experience. Describe your work experience if you have it.
- Having read the text (see below), what do you agree and disagree with and why? What are the two main points the author made?
- In what ways is this text relevant to studying international relations? If not, elaborate. How did you find reading this text? What were the positive aspects and challenges? Why did you choose this specific text?
Choose one of these four articles to read:
- Sacred Struggles: How Islam Shapes Politics in Mali
- Assessing the European Union's REPowerEU Plan
- Panda Power? Chinese Soft Power in the Era of COVID-19
- Globalizing Political Theory and the Role of the Particular
These articles do not represent the views of Tallinn University, they were simply chosen for discussion.
NB! Plagiarised motivation letters are not accepted in any form and will receive 0 points.
The applicant must show an identification document (passport or ID card) at the beginning of the interview. With international applicants, the interview will be carried out via Zoom and for the purposes of identity verification, the admission committee has the right to record the interview.
The interview is conducted based on the candidate’s application and letter of motivation. There are no additional materials that need to be studied to prepare for the interview. The interview questions vary depending on the candidate and the interviewer. The purpose of the interview is to find out the candidate's motivation and willingness to study, knowledge of the chosen programme and the field of study.
Assessment of the candidates
In the motivation letter, the assessment entails:
- the candidate`s capacity to explain the choice of the programme and university;
- motivation and interest in international relations and respective courses;
- previous work and study experience, as well as voluntary activities;
- in addition, the assessment considers language proficiency and writing skills.
In the analysis of the article, the assessment entails:
- the capacity to understand the focal arguments of the text;
- the capacity to discuss the topic and provide own viewpoints;
- the capacity to explain the choice of the article and understand its connections with the programme;
- in addition, the assessment considers language proficiency and writing skills.
At the interview, the assessment entails:
- the candidate`s interest in the programme and motivation to study in the field by applying common study methods in social sciences;
- capacity to understand the focal arguments of the article and provide their input and viewpoints into the discussion;
- capacity to contextualise previous work, study and voluntary activity experience in the frames of the chosen programme;
- in addition, the assessment also considers the general background and field-related knowledge, language proficiency and the ability to engage in analytical discussions.
Application procedure for the citizens of the member countries of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) can be found here.
Application procedure for the international applicants from Non-EU/EEA countries can be found here.
Estonian citizens and holders of a long-term residence permit
Application procedure for Estonian citizens or for holders of an Estonian long-term residence permit can be found in Estonian here and in English here.
Giorgi Sirbiladze (Georgia) graduated from Tallinn University in 2014 with a master's in International Relations. After graduation, Giorgi began working for the Georgian ministry of foreign affairs in the diplomatic service and currently is serving his country abroad.
„Studying International Relations at Tallinn University enhanced my theoretical knowledge and broadened my insights of the contemporary world. It increased the possibility to put my knowledge in practice and participate in a process that might make the world a better place to live. I believe, this is what I am currently doing."
Ani Kintsurashvili (Georgia) graduated from Tallinn University in 2018 with a master's in International Relations. Ani is currently a Lead Researcher at the Georgian think tank/CSO “Civic Initiative for Democratic and Euro-Atlantic Choice” (Civic IDEA).
"The International Relations program is highly recommended for everyone who craves cultural diversity and indispensable academic insights. Tallinn University has adopted an innovative approach towards the students and gathered lecturers with outstanding subject awareness. Studying International Relations at TLU helped me broaden my academic knowledge, embrace the freedom of choice and acquire international connections. Also, I had the honor to enrich my experience by participating in an exchange program, and I will be forever grateful for that opportunity to my lecturers and the IR faculty."
Priit Pallu (Estonia) graduated from Tallinn University in 2017 with a master's in International Relations. Priit is currently working in the Estonian Centre For Defence investment as the Head of the General Equipment Procurement Bureau.
"The IR program of Tallinn University gave me a new level in understanding how international actors work. Understanding their mindset has helped me in my daily work to pay attention to traditional and non-traditional security matters and prioritize tasks in a joint effort with Estonian Defence Forces in keeping my home country safe".
Ada Davis-Nouri (USA) graduated from Tallinn University in 2017 with a master's in International Relations. Ada is currently a doctoral candidate at The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
"The International Relation's department at Tallinn University is outstanding, I could not have picked a better Master's program. Diversity and inclusivity of non-Western IR perspectives is of great personal importance to me as an indigenous student, so inclusivity being of paramount importance to the IR instructors was of real significance to me during my studies. Thus, it is an excellent opportunity for local or international students alike to expand their world views and personal pool of knowledge outside what is offered at a typical university."
Kirsti Viljamaa (Estonia) graduated from Tallinn University in 2020 with a master's in International Relations. Kirsti started her work as a desk officer at the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2020.
„The International Relations master’s programme at Tallinn University provided me with both valuable knowledge and confidence for my career. Due to the international study environment, I also had the possibility to develop my cultural competencies in practice. The programme is multifaceted, up-to-date and taking into account the needs of students. I highly recommend studying International Relations at Tallinn University to anyone who has an interest in a comprehensive and quality programme that incorporates both classical elements, as well as the latest developments and challenges ahead.“
Shingo Masunaga (Japan) graduated from Tallinn University in 2015 with a master's in International Relations and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Turku in Finland, Centre for East Asian Studies (CEAS).
"At once far off, and near - I thought it is a long way to complete the programme, but when you finished it, the basics of IR were already installed on you. And, it consists of you - became part of you."
Why School of Governance, Law and Society?
- Size means variety – Tallinn University School of Governance, Law and Society (SOGOLAS) is the largest academic unit in Tallinn University with ca. 1800 students, 26 different study programmes and ca. 100 staff members. This means the students can choose from a large set of subjects from all of the major fields of social sciences.
- Multidisciplinary environment - focusing on law, political science, international relations, and sociology. The IR programme is also able to use the competencies of other disciplines in the programme to complement the existing competencies of the IR staff.
- Internationalised staff with high qualifications - the study areas of political science and governance and international relations and future studies include 7 professors and about 25 other permanent academic staff members, from Estonia and abroad. Everyone teaching in the programme has international teaching experience.
- Opportunities to continue studies with us – the institute also has a PhD programme accessible to English-speaking students.
- Technologically advanced – all course materials can be accessed online, so you do not have to spend extra on coursebooks and copies.
- Small study groups – most of our English courses are relatively small, normally hosting around 15-30 students, which allows a more interactive teaching style.
- Vibrant student life – SOGOLAS has an active student union Civitas, and a vibrant student life around International Relations Society organised by the students themselves. Additionally, you can join the international club of the university.
- Students have excellent opportunities to use Erasmus programme opportunities (long-term and short-term exchange studies, traineeship) and receive the Erasmus scholarship. For exchange studies, we have a large selection of partner universities and the credits can be easily transferred.
The International Relations Master’s programme has an active student organization „International Relations Society“ that organizes activities, guest speakers, movie screenings, and field trips. Located in the capital of Tallinn, students will have access to a number of high-profile events and conferences dealing with foreign affairs and contemporary regional issues.
International Relations Society group on Facebook.
Tallinn University has a modern urban campus located in the center of the city. The airport, train and bus stations are just a few minutes away by public transport. The beautiful view of the harbour is a constant reminder that students studying at Tallinn University are in the center of a major European hub. Our students have access to physical and online libraries, computer labs, cafeterias and cafes. Further, the university has all the facilities necessary for a productive learning environment and ample opportunities for leisure, sports, and social activities, all leading to an exciting and well-balanced student life. Take a walk around our campus via the virtual tour!
Our International Relations programme is taught entirely in the English language. Our student body is international, with students from many countries in Europe, as well as students from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Day-to-day student life is always international at Tallinn University, as our program is closely connected with other English language programmes and among your classmates, you will frequently find Erasmus students who have come to visit.
Below are a select number of recent publications from the IR faculty:
- Mika Aaltola (2020). Democratic Vulnerability and Autocratic Meddling - The "Thucydidean Brink" in Regressive Geopolitical CompetitionPalgrave/MacMillan
- Mika Aaltola, Mikael Wigell, and Sören Scholvin (Editors). (2018) Geo-economics and Power Politics in the 21st Century: The Revival of Economic Statecraft Routledge
- Mika Aaltola (2016). Possible Nordic-Baltic Security Developments and responses in Face of the Russia Challenge in Andzans, M. and Bruge, Ilvija (eds). The Baltic Sea region: hard and Soft Security Reconsidered. Latvian Institute of International Affairs
- Mika Aaltola, Juha Käpylä, and Valtteri Vuorisalo. (2014). The Challenge of Global Commons and Flows for US Power. Routledge.
- 2020: Crandall, Matthew, and Mari-Liis Sulg. (2020). Small states ‘thinking big’in a multiplex world: Estonia’s foreign policy.
- Matthew Crandall and Bradley Thayor. (2018). The Balance of Cyberpower. The National Review.
- Matthew Crandall and Ingrid Varov (2016). Developing status as a small state: Estonia’s foreign aid strategy. East European Politics 32 (4), 405−425.
- Matthew Crandall and Collin Allan (2015). Small States and Big Ideas: Estonia’s battle for Cyber-Security Norms. Contemporary Security Policy 36 (2), 346−368.
- Tiina Pajuste (2018) The Evolution of the Concept of Immunity of International Organizations. EAST-WEST STUDIES. Journal of Social Sciences of Tallinn University Law School, VIII, 6−20.
- Tiina Pajuste (2016) Women and Peace Agreements. EAST-WEST STUDIES. Journal of Social Sciences of Tallinn University Law School, 46 (7), 30−50.
- Tiina Pajuste (2021). Inclusion and Women in Peace Processes. In: Marc Weller, Mark Retter and Andrea Varga (Ed.). International Law and Peace Settlements (291−312). Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/9781108627856.
Poopuu, Birgit (forthcoming) Syrian women on the Syrian revolution: an exercise in decolonial love. International Feminist Journal of Politics.
Poopuu, Birgit, and Liiri Oja (2022) Inimõiguste uurimise metodoloogia. Rmt Inimõigused.
Poopuu, Birgit, and Karijn van den Berg (2021) Becoming Fluent in Fieldwork: (Un)learning What Is Good/Ethical/Responsible Fieldwork. Political Anthropological Research on International Social Sciences (PARISS) 2 (2): 236–260.
Poopuu, Birgit (2020) Dialogical Research Design: Practising Ethical, Useful and Safe(r) Research. Social Epistemology 34 (1): 31-42.
Selg, Peeter; Klasche Benjamin; Nõgisto, Joonatan (2022). Wicked Problems and Sociology: Building a Missing Bridge through Processual Relationalism. International Review of Sociology.
Klasche, Benjamin (2021). After COVID-19: What Can We Learn about Wicked Problem Governance? Social Sciences & Humanities Open, 4 (1).
Jäntti, Jyri, Klasche, Benjamin (2021). ‘Losing leverage’ in the neighbourhood. A cognitive frame analysis of the EU’s migration policy. International Studies, 58 (3), 302−323.
Klasche, Benjamin; Selg, Peeter (2020). A Pragmatist Defence of Rationalism: Towards a Cognitive Frame-Based Methodology of IR. International Relations, 34 (4), 544–564.
Below is a select list of master's theses from recent graduates of our IR programme:
- "Norm Emergence of Armed Drones: The Case of the United States". Teele Helemäe, 2020
- Effectiveness of cyber attacks in geopolitical interstate conflict: the cases of Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine - Ani Kintsurashvili, 2018
- Nation Branding as a Tool of Building Soft Power: The Case of Estonia - Mall Orlova, 2017
- Militarized Geopolitical Cyberspace - the Example of the United States - Kaisa Einsok, 2016
- Institutional Answer to the Realist Challenge: the Case of the EU Eastern Partnership in Moldova - Petr Erlygin, 2016
- Applying Lacanina Psychoanalytic Theory for the Study of International Relations, Anu Nurk, 2016
There are also many other interesting Master theses as follows (theses are searchable in Tallinn University Academic Library):
- The Emergence of Nationalistic Tendencies in the Context of Globalization Processes. The example of Germany, France and the United Kingdom- Benjamin Klasche, 2015
- Deciding to Lose: Rationalist Explanations for Hopeless Wars - Shunsuke Kikuchi, 2013
- Land Grabbing as a Tool for Food Security. Whose Security? - Margit Aav, 2012
- State Using private Military Companies: Reasons and Implications - Liis Poola, 2012
- The Implications of the Rise of China on the Norms of International Society. The Case of Human Rights and Democracy - Pille Kesler, 2012
- Specific questions regarding the programme should be directed to the School of Governance, Law and Society:
- For additional guidelines regarding the application procedure please contact the International Admission Office:
School of Governance, Law and Society
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Human Rights in the Digital Society
School of Governance, Law and Society
The MA programme in Human Rights in the Digital Society was created to address new developments and challenges in law and society that have arisen in connection with the ever-increasing digitalisation.