Political Science and International Relations overview

Find out about studying Political Science and International Relations at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

Political activity is basically about the exercise of power. Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) asks fundamental questions about how power and resources are distributed around the world, and what impact political decisions have on societies. They are complementary and inter-related disciplines that take hold of the political dimension and pull it into focus. They provide language and concepts with which to explain, justify and criticise the modern world.

Political Science and International Relations staff are engaged in research across a wide range of topics. They are also often called upon by the government to offer policy advice, and the media for expert opinions on current affairs.

As our wide range of courses demonstrates, almost every aspect of our lives requires political activity of one sort or another. Our courses are not designed to promote any particular ideological point of view or policies of a particular political party or government. Rather, you will be exposed to the complexity and variety of political phenomena, both in the past and in the contemporary world. You will be given the necessary tools to understand and critically analyse what you see happening around you, and to evaluate the merits of particular leadership changes, governmental decisions, regimes, international treaties, foreign policy initiatives, armed interventions and peace settlements.

You can study Political Science and International Relations at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, with both coursework and research options available for postgraduate study.

Why study Political Science and International Relations?

Situated in New Zealand's capital city, we are especially well placed to give you the chance to study the nation's politics, the institutions of government and the manner in which foreign affairs is conducted. Here you can see the rough and tumble of politics-in-the-making. On the periphery of world affairs, Wellington, paradoxically, offers a unique vantage point from which to examine international relations.

Politics defines the world and drives our lives. More information and reasons to study Political Science and International Relations can be found in the latest edition of Career View or from Wellington Careers and Employment.


The Political Science and International Relations Programme runs regular research seminars during teaching periods. Find out about upcoming PSIR programme events here.


Tutoring or marking work is often available for Political Science and International Relations postgraduate students. An application form can be requested from hppi@vuw.ac.nz

Graduate attributes

Students who successfully complete a major in Political Science and/or International Relations will have the following attributes:

  • An understanding of the nature and significance of Politics in a variety of countries and/or an understanding of contemporary International Relations and world politics
  • Critical Thinking: Questioning attitudes towards world events and the academic literature analysis of them
  • Creative Thinking: Ability to assess critically conceptual, theoretical, and empirical information presented in the Political Science and/or International Relations literature
  • Communication: Strong research, analytical and communication skills, learned through discussion, lectures, student presentations, briefing papers, essays, and examinations
  • Leadership: The ability to work with others in small-group situations and take leadership.