Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module SGIA47615: Model United Nations

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA47615: Model United Nations

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.
Tied to M9K607
Tied to M1K507
Tied to M9L007
Tied to (new)International Relations


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module aims to enable students studying international relations to experience how international negotiations work within an international organisation through participation in a simulation of United Nations committees. Students would be assigned roles, which may include countries, committee positions, or occasionally other organisations or political figures to represent. They would be required to develop positions and then to negotiate their interests against motions or other representations within the simulated Committee.
  • The module also aims to give students a strong understanding of how the Committee system within the United Nations works, of the rules or order therein, and of the differences between formal debate, moderated caucus and unmeditated caucus.


  • The module will comprise of two blocks of two full days, one at the end of Epiphany Term and one after the exam period of Easter Term. The first block aims to provide students with all the information required to participate appropriately in the Model United Nations itself, while the second block constitutes the actual simulation.
  • Block 1: Introduction to the structures and processes of the United Nations; How a Model United Nations works; assignment of roles, Introduction to Committees and subjects under debate; Preparing your position paper. Introduction to negotiation skills.
  • Block 2: Running of Model United Nations. (Likely four committees, one UN General Assembly); review. Where possible, students will be assigned roles which are specifically relevant to their chosen programme of study (eg: students studying an MA International Relations (Middle East) might be assigned to play a Middle East state,)

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • An understanding of the structures and processes of the United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council and other key committees of the United Nations.
  • Knowledge of international implications/repercussions of a number of key global or regional issues
  • An understanding of the structures and processes of the United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council and key committees of the United Nations.
  • Knowledge of international implications/repercussions of a number of key global or regional issues.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • In-depth knowledge of, and ability to articulate and represent positions of a key international actor in relation to such issues.
  • An understanding of how taught elements of international relations theory can be operationalised within international organisations and negotiations.
  • An understanding of, and ability to work to, the rules of order of international parliamentary organisations in general and Model United Nations in particular.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • The ability to work independently with only limited guidance
  • The ability for independent thinking informed by the academic debate at an advanced level.
  • Strong oral communications and negotiation skills.
  • The ability to retrieve information from a range of sources and develop argumentation in support of an independently-reasoned position in a complex multi-actor environment.
  • The ability to reflect critically on their own work and performance.
  • The ability to reflect this in written work of a high standard.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will be delivered in two blocks of two days each, delivered in successive terms.
  • The first block will consist of lectures, delivered by SGIA staff and guest lecturers followed by open discussions:-
  • Lecture 1: The Structures and process of the United Nations
  • Lecture 2: How a model United Nations Works : practical guide and rules of order.
  • Lecture 3: Introduction to subjects under debate (guest lecturer)
  • Lecture 4: Introduction to subjects under debate (guest lecturer)
  • Lecture 5: Preparing your position paper and discussion of assignments.
  • Lecture 6: Introduction to negotiation skills.
  • Students will be provided with a handbook, detailing how the Model United Nations will work, providing background information and reading lists for the subjects or scenarios which will be discussed in Committee, and providing guidance on structuring and writing the assessments.
  • The second block will entail the actual Model United Nations itself, and will include a number of committee, and Security Council sessions, including both formal debate and moderated caucuses, interspersed with unmoderated caucuses time for free negotiations. The second day will end with a collective review of the Model United Nations when students will be invited to discuss how the experience has reflected the academic content of their programmes, how they performed, and what they have learned.
  • Students will be assessed through two pieces of written work. A 1,500 word position paper will be submitted before the second block of activity. This will set out the key issues pertinent for the role to which they have been assigned, their perceived interests and objectives, and the strategy which they propose to adopt through the Model United Nations itself.
  • A 1,500 word critical role review will be submitted after the Model United Nations. This will assess their performance against the objectives they set out in their position paper, identifying when, how and why they adjusted their strategy for achievement of those objectives. It will further reflect upon what the experience of the model United Nations can add to, or how it contrasted with, the academic studies of their programme.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 1 Terms 2 & 3 4 days 12
Module in workshop format 1 Terms 2 & 3 4 days 20
Preparation and reading 128
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1500 words 50%
Critical Role Review 1500 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will take the form of continuing formative feedback at various stages during the day and a debriefing session at the end of each day, including at the end of the workshops. Students are expected and encouraged to take notes during the debriefings and use these notes to prepare for their subsequent summative assessment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University