::Taught Masters

New from September 2014: the Masters in Media, Power, and Public Affairs

In September 2014 we successfully launched an exciting and unique new Masters degree: the MSc Media, Power, and Public Affairs.

This new programme replaced our previous Masters, the MSc New Political Communication, which ran successfully from 2008 to 2013.

In designing our new programme we wanted to provide a unique focus on how media shape and are shaped by social and political power.

You can read more about this programme below, and you can apply for a place by following the links.

Please note that there is a limited number of places available on our MSc programme. Applications are considered in the order in which they are received. We strongly recommend that you enquire about potential study in the autumn and early winter before the academic year in which you wish to begin your course. To avoid disappointment, submit your application no later than June 1, 2016.

About the Masters in Media, Power, and Public Affairs

Founded in 2007 by Professor Andrew Chadwick, the New Political Communication Unit is a distinctive and internationally-leading centre for the study of media and politics.

We are living through an era of tumultuous change in how politics is conducted and communicated. The great digital disruption of the early twenty-first century continues to work its way through media systems around the world, forcing change, adaptation, and renewal across a whole range of areas: political parties and campaigns, interest groups, social movements, activist organisations, news and journalism, the communication industries, governments, and international relations.

In the New Political Communication Unit at Royal Holloway, University of London, we believe the key to making sense of these chaotic developments is the idea of power—how it is generated, how it is used, and how it shapes the diverse information and communication flows that affect all our lives.

This unique new Masters degree, which replaces the MSc in New Political Communication, is for critically-minded, free-thinking individuals who want to engage with the exciting intellectual ferment that is being generated by these unprecedented times. The curriculum integrates rigorous study of the very best academic research with an emphasis on making sense of political communication as it is practiced in the real world, in both "old" and "new" media settings.

While not a practice-based course, the MSc Media, Power, and Public Affairs is perfect for those who wish to build a career in the growing range of professions that require deep and critical insight into the relationship between media and politics and public communication more generally. These include advocacy, campaign management, political communication consultancy, journalism, government communication, policy analysis, public opinion and semantic polling, and public diplomacy, to name but a few. Plus, due to its strong emphasis on scholarly rigour, the MSc in Media, Power, and Public Affairs is also the perfect foundation for a PhD in political communication.

You will study a mixture of core and elective units, including a generous choice of free options, and write a supervised dissertation over the summer. Teaching is conducted primarily in small group seminars that meet weekly, supplemented by individual tuition for the dissertation.

This course is also offered at Postgraduate Diploma level for those who do not have the academic background necessary to begin an advanced Masters degree. The structure of the Diploma is identical except that you will not write a dissertation. If you are successful on the Diploma you may transfer to the MSc, subject to academic approval.

Course Content and Structure

Core course units:

Media, Power, and Public Affairs: You will examine the relationship between media, politics and power in contemporary political life. This unit focuses on a number of important foundational themes, including theories of media effects, the construction of political news, election campaigning, government communications and spin, media regulation, the emergence of digital media, the globalisation of media, agenda setting, and propaganda and the role of media in international affairs. The overarching rationale is that we live in an era in which the massive diversity of media, new technologies, and new methodologies demands new forms of analysis. The approach will be comparative and international. 

Internet and New Media Politics: Drawing predominantly, though not exclusively, upon specialist academic journal literatures, this course focuses on a number of important contemporary debates about the role and influence of new technologies on the values, processes and outcomes of: global governance institutions; public bureaucracies; journalism and news production; representative institutions including political parties and legislatures; pressure groups and social movements. It also examines persistent and controversial policy problems generated by digital media, such as privacy and surveillance, the nature of contemporary media systems, and the balance of power between older and newer media logics in social and political life. By the end of the course students will have an understanding of the key issues thrown up by the internet and new media, as well as a critical perspective on what these terms actually mean. The approach will be comparative, drawing on examples from around the world, including the developing world, but the principal focus will be on the politics of the United States and Britain. 

Social Media and Politics: This course addresses the various ways in which social media are changing the relationships between politicians, citizens, and the media. The course will start by laying out broad arguments and debates about the democratic implications of social media that are ongoing not just in academic circles but also in public commentary, political circles, and policy networks—do social media expand or narrow civic engagement? Do they lead to cross-cutting relationships or self-reinforcing echo chambers? Do they hinder or promote political participation? Are they useful in campaigns or just the latest fashion? Do they foster effective direct communication between politicians and citizens? Are they best understood as technologies of freedom or as surveillance tools? These debates will be addressed throughout the course by drawing on recent empirical research published in the most highly rated academic journals in the field. The course will thus enable students to understand how social media are used by citizens, politicians, and media professionals to access, distribute, and co-produce contents that are relevant to politics and public affairs and establish opportunities for political and civic engagement. 

Media, War and Conflict: The post-9/11 global security situation and the 2003 Iraq war have prompted a marked increase in interest in questions concerning media, war and conflict. This unit examines the relationships between media, governments, military, and audiences/publics, in light of old, new, and potential future security events. 

Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods: You will be provided with an introduction to core theories and qualitative approaches in the social sciences. You will examine a number of explanatory/theoretical frameworks, their basic assumptions, strengths and weaknesses, and concrete research applications. You will consider the various qualitative techniques available for conducting research, the range of decisions qualitative researchers face, and the trade-offs researchers must consider when designing qualitative research.

Dissertation (MSc only): The dissertation gives you the opportunity to study an aspect of Media, Power, and Public Affairs in depth. You will be assigned a dissertation supervisor and the length of the piece will be 12,000 words.

Elective course units:

Note: not all course units are available every year, but may include:

  • Politics of Democracy
  • Elections and Parties
  • United States Foreign Policy
  • Human Rights: From Theory to Practice
  • Theories and Concepts in International Public Policy
  • Contemporary Anglo-American Political Theory
  • Transnational Security Studies
  • Conflict and Conflict Resolution in the Middle East
  • The Law of Cyber Warfare
  • Comparative Political Executives
  • European Union Politics and Policy
  • International Public Policy in Practice
  • Sovereignty, Rights and Justice
  • Theories of Globalisation
  • Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods

About Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Holloway, University of London is one of the major Colleges of the University of London. The University of London is a federal university, founded in 1836. It comprises over 60 institutions of varying size and profile, from colleges with many thousands of students to small research institutes. It is the largest and most diverse university in Britain and one of the largest in Europe. University of London degrees have long had an international reputation for excellence.

In the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, it was confirmed that Royal Holloway sits within the top 25 per cent of universities in the UK for research that is rated 'world-leading or 'internationally excellent.'

Fully 72 percent of research in the Department of Politics and International Relations research was judged to be world-leading (4*) and internationally-excellent (3*), placing it 18th among Politics and International Relations departments in the UK for this measure. For research 'outputs', which means the 'originality, significance and rigour' of the research submitted, the department comes out 13th in the UK for 4* and 3* quality. In terms of 'research intensity,' which takes into account the proprtion of staff in each department actually entered into the REF, the Times Higher placed the department an impressive 10th in the UK.

Royal Holloway, University of London currently ranks 88th globally in the rigorous Times Higher's World University Rankings, and 18th globally and 3rd in the UK for research influence.


Internet-accessible communication journals are particularly well catered for in the College Library via EBSCO's Communication and Mass Media Complete journals database, covering 600 titles. Access this via MetaLib (on campus only or off-campus via VPN) at this link.

We can also offer research students the latest technology to assist with their data gathering, fieldwork and analysis. This includes Edirol MP3 recorders for interviews and focus groups, and a wireless conference phone for international interviews; the loan of laptops; a digital camera and hard disk based camcorder for audiovisual work and for recording events; a Canon projector for conference presentations; and memory cards. Together with quantitative and qualitative analysis software available from Royal Holloway Computing Services, these resources enable traditional both and cutting edge social scientific research, with media and communication research particularly well catered for.

The College is a subscriber to BoB, an off-air recording and media archive service. BoB is available to staff and students of member institutions of the British Universities Film & Video Council that hold an ERA+ license. This TV scheduling service allows you to record TV and radio programmes that are scheduled to be broadcast over the next seven days as well as retrieving programmes from the last seven days from a selected list of recorded channels.

Students on the programme have access to ColLab - the Collaborative Learning Lab. This state-of-the-art technology-enhanced learning facility is situated in the Moore Annex and is administered by the School of Management. The ColLab offers high resolution plasma displays, document and video cameras, DVD recorders, SmartBoard, tablet and other interactive surfaces, as well as super-quality video-conferencing with recording and archiving capabilities. Using this technology, students can share documents and archives, prepare team project reports and arrange ad hoc meetings in the virtual project space. For more information, see the ColLab site.

Sources of Funding

Our MSc programme is fully accredited by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of its doctoral training arrangement.

The Department of Politics and International Relations is a partner in the ESRC South East Doctoral Training Consortium. Composed of social scientists from the universities of Kent, Surrey, and Reading, the Consortium funds cutting-edge doctoral students in the social sciences across the South East region and makes high quality training resources, video-conferences, workshops and master classes available to all social science research students in the four institutions. The advanced training element of the consortium’s activities is also linked to the Universities of Essex and Sussex. Accreditation was a highly competitive process, with only 21 consortia securing the status nationally.

If you are considering an application for the MSc as the first year of a PhD and would like to be considered in the Consortium competition for an ESRC 1+3 quota studentship you should contact your potential supervisor no later than January 31, for admission the following September. Please consult the PhD page in addition to this page.

Please note also that there is a range of Masters Scholarships available for international students applying for this Masters programme. Please visit the College's Studentships pages for further information.

Further information

To read more about this programme and to apply, click here.

Further information is available from the administrator for this stream, Dr Cristian Vaccari, email: cristian.vaccari@rhul.ac.uk