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MA in American Politics and Foreign Policy

Full Time (Z234) and Part Time (Z235) APPLY

“Having spent years working in news I’d always wanted to get behind the headlines. This masters offers a fascinating insight into the policies, ideologies and people that have shaped the US and thus our world order”. – Niamh Sammon

The MA in American Politics and Foreign Policy encourages students to comprehend the how and why of the subject. Throughout the modules you will encounter diverse perspectives but the main emphasis will be upon scholarly and/or policy-oriented readings and discussions

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 United States.  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 election, race and gender, partisanship and more.  Modules in this programme are taught by resident UCD facuilty and by visiting lecturers, who will consider theoretical and practical perspectives. The programme will interest those seeking a career in government, media, in the non-profit sector, in business and those hoping to undertake advanced study in these areas.


Applicants for the MA should hold one of the following qualifications:

  • A first class or second class, grade 1 degree
  • A US or Canadian degree with a GPA of 3.5
  • If an applicant doesn’t meet the normal entry requirement of a Level 8 degree, in exceptional circumstances they would normally present another qualification or award along with extensive work experience in order to be considered.


The is a provisional list of core modules and are subject to final confirmation. Each module tutor will provide students with documentation setting out the structure and content of the module. 10 credit modules 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.

The American Political Tradition AMST40290 (10 credits)

This module traces the evolution of American political taught 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 Foundation of US Foreign Policy AMST40300 (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.

Challenges in Contemporary US Foreign Policy AMST40310 (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, cyber warfare and decline relative to other countries, as well as important bilateral relationship such as those in the European Union and China.

American Politics Today AMST40460 (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, the 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, growing increasingly diverse. In addition is the increase in income inequality. The possibility that American influence abroad has begun to recede fuels the uncertainty that has accompanied these changes. The second theme of the module is the problem with gridlock, the inability of elected representatives to accomplish anything, especially in light of challenges facing the country, there seems to be little prospect of more cooperation anytime soon. The final theme of the module will be an examination of the nature of the Democratic and Republican parties, including the principal policy goals and political culture of each.

American Politics and Foreign Policy Seminar AMST40470 (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 part 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.

Research Skills and Methods AMST40480 (10 credits)

This course is designed to provide Masters and new PhD students with skills essential to the preparation and production of a postgraduate thesis. It will present the necessary tools for postgraduate research and develop associated skills such as the presentation of written and oral work to peers and scholars. It will also introduce students to methodology and the nature of interdisciplinary study.

Dissertation AMST40150 (30 credits)

This thesis is based upon independent student research on a topic agreed with the Institute supervisor. Supervisors monitor student’s individual progress and offer advice on the preparation and presentation of the dissertation. It should be between 12,000 and 15,000 words. On completion of the thesis students should be able to: identify source material for research; carry out independent research and analysis; present research in a persuasive format; show knowledge of debates germane to the field of study;; develop skills of critical analysis and argument.

Example of optional modules, this will change from year to year.

  • Media and US Foreign Policy
  • Politics and Change in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Public Diplomacy and Soft Power
  • The Making of United States and Foreign Policy from FDR to GWB
  • International Economic Crisis
  • New Media and New Conflicts
  • Race, Space and Place

Assessment may vary depending on the module but it is largely done by end of term essay in addition to class presentation and/or minor essay during the semester


The fees quoted exclude the student centre levy

                                                                                      EU Students  Non-EU Students

MA American Politics and Foreign Policy Full-Time          €7,030            €17,900

MA American Politics and Foreign Policy Part-Time         €4,220             €8,950

The Institute offers a limited number of Scholarships (reduction on fees) to non EU students.

UCD Fees 


Students apply online at www.ucd.ie/apply and decisions are made on a rolling basis. A conditional offer can be made if you are still waiting in your final exam results .

The following documents should be uploaded with your application. In addition to completing the application form you will need the following:

  • Two academic references.
  • A person statement (700 – 1000 words) of interest and or experience relevant to the programme
  • A 300 word dissertation proposal.  You should outline the subject or topic that you are currently interested in researching and writing on.  You can change your mind once you have started the programme.
  • Academic transcripts (UCD students do not need to upload these)
  • Copy of id (eg. passport or driving licence)
  • Applicants whose native language is not English must provide a IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge certificate of proficiency in English. It is expected that should will normally have reached an overall 7 (IELTS) with no section less than 6.5.

Once a student has accepted a place on the programme they will have to submit all the original documents (hard copies) to:

On-Line Application Office,Tierney Building, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4

If you have any questions on the process please contact – Catherine.Carey@ucd.ie or

Tel. +353 1 7161560