International Relations is a distinct discipline which draws on diplomatic history, political theory, political economy, political science and international law to provide its own theoretical perspectives to explain conflict and co-operation in the modern world. This enables students to assess developments in the international system and specific geographical regions. They explore issues such as the origins of war and peace, the making of foreign policy, trade regimes, international terrorism, military alliances, and the interaction of political and economic development. Students also analyse the ways in which states relate to other international actors, and develop normative theories that relate the world as it is to the world as it might be.
The discipline of International Relations was first introduced to the University of Malaya in the 1970’s under the Department of History. Due to an increase in demand for this discipline, in 1992, the International Studies Programme (ISP) was established under the auspices of the Dean’s Office, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, with the first batch of undergraduates enrolling in 1992 and graduating in 1996.
Apart from the undergraduate programme, the Department also began offering the MA and PhD in programmes 1992. In 1999, the ISP was upgraded and expanded to become the Department of International and Strategic Studies (DISS). In that same year the Department moved to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ new Annex Building.
The Department had in the past offered Postgraduate Diploma in Strategic Studies in collaboration with the Royal Malaysian Police (Polis Diraja Malaysia – PDRM). Later in 1995, the Postgraduate Diploma in Strategic Studies Programme was restructured under a new Partnership Programme between The Malaysian Armed Forces Staff College (Maktab Turus Angkatan Tentera – MTAT) and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, with the Department spearheading it. This programme, which is offered to Malaysian and Foreign Armed Forces officers previously had 165 students registered under it, 42 of whom are foreign military officers.
The Department also offers a Programme leading towards the Masters Degree of Strategic and Defence Studies (MSDS) which commenced in November 1999. Since then, this Programme has continued to attract both local and foreign students who wish to pursue their knowledge in the field of strategic studies and defence analysis. Students under this Programme come from various academic and professional backgrounds including politics, law, economics, humanities, military and science.
The Department also offers the following Postgraduate degrees; Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees through full research. In the future the Department plans to offer Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Strategic Studies, and Master of Arts in International Relations. The Department launched the inaugural issue of its annual publication, the Malaysian Journal of International Relations (MJIR), in 2013.