International relations

International Relations

Are you interested in international security and the changing world order? Then International Relations at Tallinn University is for you!

Study level Master's Studies

Duration of study 2 years

Language English

Study form Cyclical studies

Cost per semester 1792

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. The programme unites traditions of Anglo-American and continental European IR scholarship and education in reflecting the changing international system and the security threats that are emerging.

Take the first step in fulfilling your dreams by studying at Tallinn University's School of Governance, Law and Society!

Ukrainian war refugees beginning their studies in Tallinn University in the Fall of 2022 will be granted a tuition fee waiver for the 2022/2023 academic year.



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.


Course outline

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".

Study programme

Academic Staff

Mika Aaltola

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

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

Tiina Pajuste, PhD, is an Associate Professor of International and European Law at Tallinn University.  Dr. Pajuste received her PhD from the University of Cambridge on “Accountability Mechanisms for International Organisations”.  Before her doctoral studies, she completed a Diploma in International Law at Cambridge, on the accountability of international territorial administrations. She also holds a LLM in Public International Law from the University of Helsinki (Finland) and a BA in Law from the University of Tartu (Estonia). Her research interests focus mainly on the activity and impact of international organisations, examining both practical and theoretical issues. 

Tiina Pajuste - What is the Role of Law in Peace Negotiations?


Madli Vain

Madli Vain (PhD, Government and Politics) Is a lecturer of International Relations at Tallinn University, who has extensive work experience in the public sector in the field of national defence. She defended her doctoral dissertation at Tallinn University on the European Union-India Strategic Partnership, which she studied at SOAS, the University of London and Panjab University in India. Her research interests to date have focused on EU-India relations and foreign policy.

Admission Requirements

General requirements:
  • Bachelor's degree in social sciences. Candidates without a degree in social sciences are kindly asked to contact the study programme administrator Matthew Crandall ( for qualification guidance.
  • Proof of English Proficiency
  • Please see the complete overview of admission and application requirements for Master's level applicants.
Entrance exams:
  • The entrance exam consists of a written assignment and an interview. The maximum number of points is 100 (50% written assignment, 50% interview).
  • Students receiving at least 35 points of the written part are allowed to the interview.
  • Minimum programme enrollment threshold: 70 points out of 100.

Motivation letter (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 also 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 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 positives and the challenges? Why did you choose this specific text?

Choose one of these four articles to read:

  1. Sacred Struggles: How Islam Shapes Politics in Mali
  2. EU Strategic Autonomy: a Reality Check for Europe's Global Agenda
  3. China’s Strategic Objectives in a Post COVID-19 World
  4. 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 be failed.


All applicants must show an identification document (passport or ID card) at 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.

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. 

Estonian citizens and holders of a long-term residence permit

If you are an Estonian citizen or a holder of a long-term residence permit, you can find information regarding the admission requirements and the application procedure in Estonian here and in English here.

Post-graduate destinations

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?

  • The school of Governance, Law, and Society has a large international student body and a large number of international faculty members. It provides the perfect institutional setting for the International Relations programme.  
  • By focusing on law, political science, international relations, and sociology it fosters a multidisciplinary environment. 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.  
  • Students have excellent opportunities to spend a semester or two abroad through the Erasmus programme. Our Erasmus network provides a large selection of schools as well as the easy transfer of credits. The incoming Erasmus students add to the diversity of the institute and programme. 
Extracurricular Activities

International Relations Society group on Facebook.  

The International Relations Master’s programme has an active student organization „International Relations Society“ that organizes activities, guest speakers, movie screenings, and field trips. Our partners have also sponsored study trips to the European Parliament and NATO headquarters in Brussels Belgium. Also, being 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. 


Below are a select number of recent publications from the IR faculty.

Mika Aaltola


Matthew Crandall


Tiina Pajuste


Below is a select list of master's theses from recent graduates of our IR programme:

There are also many other interesting master thesis as follows (thesis 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

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 program 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 programs and among your classmates, you will frequently find Erasmus students who have come to visit.

Contact us

  • Specific questions regarding the programme should be directed to the School of Governance, Law and Society: Marianne Mitt


  • For additional guidelines regarding admission procedure please contact the international admission specialist:

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