Head of the Master´s program Johannes Maerk

Head of IRUP Maerk: "Course takes account of advancing digitization"


On November 2, 2023, there will be a lot of happy faces in the Vienna City Hall. The first graduates of the part-time course "International Relations and Urban Affairs" at the University of Applied Sciences, FH Campus Wien will receive their Master's degrees. To mark the occasion, we asked the head of the Master´s program Johannes Maerk for an interview. Maerk sees a major upheaval in the field of international relations in the advancing digitization, a challenge for which a focus on e-government, smart city and e-diplomacy optimally prepares.

The Master's program you are in charge of is called IRUP for short. Which adjectives spontaneously come to mind to describe the course?

IRUP stands for International Relations and Urban Policy – it is about combining city diplomacy and international relations as well as city politics. Adjectives that come to mind are: international, transnational, connected as well as urban policy.

Developing international leadership and management skills

What is the course essentially about? What is its mission, what is its message, what are the long-term goals?

This English-language, interdisciplinary Master's program is about combining diplomacy, administration, political management and applied political science. High potentials in international and municipal organisations are expected to develop their leadership and management skills and specialise in International Affairs and Urban Policy. In the long term, we would also like to attract more students from the Global South to our program.

What is the course like in practise? Could you give us insight into the procedure?

The course starts with a week in Vienna in October, after which the courses take place exclusively on weekends (starting on Friday afternoon, all day on Saturdays as well as Sunday mornings) – thus making it possible to participate in this course on a part-time basis. There are four to five weekend blocks per semester, half of which take place online (over 60 percent of our students come from Vienna's Central and Eastern European partner cities). In the last (and fourth) semester, there is an excursion to Brussels to visit the European institutions.

Vienna as a role model for services of general interest and digital transformation

Which political-administrative qualities of Vienna are particularly relevant for the participants?

The participants are particularly interested in the municipal service companies of the City of Vienna (transport, housing, health, energy et cetera), which are also visited during the course. Vienna is known and appreciated beyond its borders as a role model in services of general interest.

Can you tell us some of the current challenges and trends in the fields of International Relations and Urban Policy and how the IRUP course prepares its´ students for them?

We are experiencing a major upheaval, both in reality and in theory, with the advancing digitisation in our society – this circumstance is also taken into account in the curriculum by incorporating courses such as e-government, smart city and e-diplomacy.

What did you personally take away from the experiences of the course? Is there anything that particularly impressed you about the course participants?

I have gained a new viewpoint on the Central and Eastern European perspective, especially in the field of municipal governments. I admire how our course participants are able to combine their full-time jobs with the rather intensive studies. More than 90 percent complete their studies in the allotted time. Moreover, the Master's thesis has to be written in English, a language that is a foreign language for everyone.

Thank you for the interview!

About Johannes Maerk

Johannes Maerk holds a PhD in political philosophy (University of Innsbruck) and completed post-doctoral studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He is the head of the English-language Master's program International Relations and Urban Policy at the University of Applied Sciences, FH Campus Wien. His research focuses on international relations, the epistemology of humanities, comparative political thought, neoliberalism and the Red Vienna. He has published five books on topics related to his research as well as numerous articles in academic journals.

Further information

Master´s Program "International Relations and Urban Policy" – FH Campus Wien
Wiener Fachhochschule lehrt Stadtmanagement – Oktober 2022 (lit. Vienna University of Applied Sciences teaches city management – October 2022)
Vienna in a global context – City of Vienna