Programme Description

Global Affairs is an interdisciplinary field of study that investigates the relationships among states, economies and societies. The goal of the Global Affairs (GA) major is to prepare interdisciplinary critical thinkers on the processes of globalisation and international interconnectedness. Students will demonstrate keen understanding of theories, models and structures seeking to explain transboundary challenges associated with migration, environment, security, political economy and development from a mix of academic perspectives. The Global Affairs major provides an academic programme that culminates in a capstone project, through which students will develop skills in critical thinking; systematic analysis; problem solving; written and oral communication; and information literacy. The major aims to produce graduates who are highly competitive with respect to relevant job markets and graduate school admissions.


The Global Affairs major is comprised of nine courses and a capstone that will count as two additional courses. Students may count up to two cross-registered courses toward their GA Major. Students can count one language course toward their major if it applies to their capstone research project. Students must take at least two 4000-level courses.

Students Must Complete Four Required Courses for the Global Affairs Major (Class of 2018 onwards):

  1. Introduction to Global Affairs
  2. Methods in the Social Sciences
  3. Student chooses at least TWO out of the SIX core courses:
    • Globalisation on the Ground
    • International Political Economy
    • International Relations
    • International Security
    • Global Governance
    • International Development

Class of 2018 Structure and requirements for completion of the GA Major

  • 2 required courses: Introduction to Global Affairs; Methods in the Social Sciences
  • 2 courses from core set of 6
  • 2 electives – can be cross-registered outside of Yale-NUS (study abroad)
  • 2 x 4000-level course
  • 1 capstone project [equivalent to 10 Modular Credits (MC)]

Class of 2019 Onward: Structures and Requirements for GA Major

  • 2 required courses: Introduction to Global Affairs; Methods in the Social Sciences
  • 2 courses from a core set of 6
  • 3 electives – at the 2000 or 3000-level. Up to 2 of these 3 can be cross-registered outside of Yale-NUS (study abroad, NUS or LKY SPP)
  • 2 x 4000-level course
  • 1 capstone project [equivalent to 10 Modular Credits (MC)]


To earn a minor in a Yale-NUS major, a student must complete:

  • 25 MC or 5 courses

Students choosing to minor in Global Affairs must take the following courses:

  • Introduction to Global Affairs.
  • 2 out of the 6 core courses in the major.
  • 2 additional courses – these can be cross-registered courses.
  • All minor courses must have a letter grade. The Head of Study must approve exceptions in writing.

Global Affairs minors cannot gain credit for language study.


Required Course Descriptions: Students must take Introduction to Global Affairs as a pre-requisite to the major but can take it simultaneously with any of the Global Affairs core courses. Non-GA majors would not be excluded from this course but preference will be given to declared majors.

Introduction to Global Affairs: YSS2224 Introduction to Global Affairs: This course introduces students to the key theories, issues and challenges in Global Affairs. Students considering majoring or minoring in Global Affairs, or those seeking greater knowledge about how the world works, should take this course. Students will learn about the networks and pathways of globalisation. They will learn about the international system, theories of inequality and development, and about key State and non-state actors in Global Affairs. An interdisciplinary approach to understanding transboundary problems such as climate change, human trafficking, and security, is applied. Students will also gain skills in how to critically assess global news sources on current issues and how to write about contemporary issues while integrating a historical context. Key skills in problem solving and oral communication will also be developed through an infographic research assignment. Assessment: Class Participation/Reading Summaries; Class Debate; Infographic Assignment; Map quiz; Final Exam.

Methods in the Social Sciences: This course equips students with basic skills in both quantitative and qualitative research approaches. Students will be introduced to mixed-methods research in the social sciences, focusing on five primary techniques: Survey methodology, quantitative data analysis, participant observation, in-depth interviewing, and textual analysis. This will be essential preparation before students embark on their capstone projects and will provide a strong foundation for more advanced methodology courses they may take in subsequent semesters.  This course is to be taken in Year 2 or 3. Students must have completed Quantitative Reasoning as a prerequisite.

Majors choose at least TWO of the following SIX core courses:

International Relations: This course provides an overview of the evolution and history of international politics. Students taking this course will survey some of the major issues that are the terrain of international politics, from war to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to international trade and finance, to the management of international and intergovernmental organisations. Students will also be introduced to various theories that seek to explain international politics, including realism/neo-realism, different systems theories (anarchy vs. balance of power), and rational choice theory.

International Security: This course focuses on the use of armed forces to resolve international security/conflict situations, and the threats and risks involved for the countries involved in such conflicts, the military personnel on the ground, and civilians caught in the crossfire. Students in this course will learn to analyse any given international security situation to determine whether or not involving armed forces is appropriate, especially in crisis management situations.

International Political Economy: This course introduces students to how states and non-state actors (such as multinational corporations and international institutions) influence the production, distribution, and consumption of scarce resources over national borders. Students will analyse the knotty problem of how domestic and international politics influence inter-state economic relations, and how economic relations between states influence international and domestic politics in return. Topics covered in this course include exchange rate regimes, trade policy, international monetary systems, foreign direct investment, sovereign debt, and foreign aid.

Global Governance: This course introduces students to the history and evolution of international institutions – from formal organisations such as the United Nations to international norms, treaties, and agreements – and the changing nature of diplomacy in the contemporary world. A particular emphasis will be given to understanding different diplomatic strategies, and the role of both states and non-state actors in diplomacy.  Prerequisite: International Relations

Globalization on the Ground: This core course takes an ethnographic approach to the study of globalisation, focusing on the impact it has had on the daily lives of individuals, families, and communities around the world, and how they have responded in turn. Over the course of the semester, students will focus on different manifestations of globalisation in consumption and production patterns, transnational labour markets, international migration, inequality, crime, religion, and social movements. At the same time, students will be expected to conduct their own semester-long ethnographic investigations into globalisation in Singapore. This course is distinct from the Introduction to Global Affairs course because of the methods used and level of analysis emphasised.

International Development: This core course addresses causes of (under)development in the developing world, looking at the determinants and mechanisms through which poor countries develop. Students will examining factors at the state and sub-national level the influence poverty alleviation. Students would examine long-term and short-term causes of poverty, issues that are common in developing countries such as authoritarian regimes, civil wars, and corruption. Students will critically analyze the ways in which various attempts at ameliorating poverty by various actors have been attempted and explore when and how they worked or failed. Case studies in the course will explore the development of political structures that enhance human dignity. Prerequisite: CSI, MST and International Political Economy

Sample Advanced Level Courses: Through their advanced electives, students can start to focus on a particular area of interest e.g. security studies, development policy, international migration, trade, and other issue areas.

Politics of Identify in Developing Countries: This course offers an introduction to the study of identity and politics in political science. Students will become familiar with the various theories and approaches to understanding the construction and mobilisation of identities: ethnic, national, linguistic, religious, and sexual. Drawing on the empirical literature on the politics of identity in Southeast and South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, students will learn to evaluate how identities are shaped, and how they in turn determine outcomes such as violence, voting behaviour, allocation of public services, inequality, and inter-group trust and cooperation.

Chinese Foreign Policy: Students will gain a deeper understanding of the major contours of the debate and discussion on China’s contemporary international relations. The course examines the political, diplomatic, military, and economic challenges facing China under conditions of uncertainty in the regional and international system and the processes through which China responds to and manages these external challenges. The course will analyse how existing theories of international relations and foreign policy analysis apply to China to gain a deeper appreciation of the factors that undergird conflict and cooperation in Chinese foreign policy.

Human Rights: What are human rights? Where did the idea of human rights originate? How does the notion of universal human rights interact with ideas of state sovereignty? Who should police human rights and how? These are some of the questions covered in this course, with a heavy emphasis on case studies sourced from around the world.

International Migration: In this course, students grapple with the questions of why and how people leave their home countries and move elsewhere, and the impacts these people-flows have on both origin and sending countries. The course allows students to investigate and unpack different migrant typologies, such labour migrants vs. refugees, high- vs. low-skilled migrants, and legal vs. undocumented migrants. It also exposes students to emergent patterns of international migration (such as circular, stepwise, and return migration) that are becoming increasingly prevalent in our globalized world.

Tobacco: A Policy Perspective: This course helps students to develop skills to explore, analyse and formulate policy responses to complex social challenges. Focussing on arguably the most important single public health concern of our age, it introduces students to its manifold aspects – historical, social, psychological, medical, economic, legal and philosophical. Students will develop skills to navigate controversial social, and especially public health, issues by locating and critiquing relevant evidence, and effectively communicating their analysis. The translation from evidence to policy is rarely straightforward: the course will provide students with insight into the forces that shape public opinion and public health policy formation. Students who will have a role in future policy-making will benefit from this course.


Description of Capstone (AY2016/2017) – Global Affairs

  1. Identification of project and supervisor: Students should consult with their advisor throughout their Junior year on possible Global Affairs capstone subjects. Students should notify the Head of Studies no later than July 1 whether they intend to pursue an experiential policy outcome document or the large-scale theory-based outcome document capstone option. Students pursuing the experiential option will need to have secured a pre-approved internship in advance of the start of Semester 1, Year Four. See also “Capstones in Global Affairs” available from the Global Affairs Website.
  1. Range of topics and formats: There are two kinds of Global Affairs capstone projects.  Large-scale writing and research projects of 10,000 words, which involves an exploration of some aspect of a transboundary challenge as addressed from an interdisciplinary perspective. Such projects should represent an original synthesis, and not merely summarize the works of other scholars.  Alternatively, students may produce an experientially based policy outcome document relevant to field research they have completed as part of an internship conducted in Semester 1 of Year Four. The outcome document is a written research paper of 7,000 words. Examples of topics for both options include the following: Election Violence; Natural Resource Endowments and conflict; US Foreign Policy in SE Asia; International Education Standards in Southeast Asia; Regionalism in Global Governance: ASEAN Explored; Greening the Global Shipping Industry; Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia; The Arab Spring, Umbrella Revolution and Conceptions of Democracy.
  1. Activities as part of project: In the first semester, all students attend a weekly seminar colloquium on proposal development and research.  This culminates in the submission of a full research proposal inclusive of a literature review and methodology submitted at the end of Semester 1 by each student regardless of which outcome document the student is pursuing. Students pursuing the experiential learning option will also complete a bi-weekly journal entry detailing their practical work and industry-specific reflection in Semester1. The second semester of the capstone will continue the research and writing process under the supervision of the relevant GA faculty. Students will complete their writing in Semester 2, culminating in both a written paper and a presentation of their research results. Presentations of the final products will take place after submission of the capstone in Week 12. See standards of formatting and citation criteria in “Capstones in Global Affairs” available from the Global Affairs website.
  1. Expectations for students/supervisor interactions and work on the project: All students are expected to attend the weekly seminar session in Semester 1. Students should meet with their GA capstone supervisor at least once a month in Semester 1 and twice per month in Semester 2, with the student providing a summary of recent activities and progress to the supervisor at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.
  1. Format(s) of final product: The experiential policy outcome document should be no more than 7,000 words or the large-scale theory-based outcome document should not exceed 10,000 words. Final products should include a Cover Page; Table of Contents; Abstract; Introduction; Methodology; Literature Review; Main Body – case study assessment or theory exploration; implications; Conclusion; Annex; Bibliography.
  1. Assessment(s): Participation in research seminar during Semester 1 (10%); Proposal inclusive of literature review and methodology submitted end of Semester 1 (20%); Presentation and defence of final project (20%); and Final Outcome Paper (50%).

A cross-registered course is a course taken outside of Yale-NUS, such as at NUS or during study abroad. Up to 2 cross-registered courses can count toward the major.

A relevant foreign language course can count for 1 course (5 MC) credit toward the major. A foreign language is relevant when it is necessary to undertake research toward the capstone. Written approval from the Global Affairs Head of Studies is required for this to apply.