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Diplomacy: Introduction to Theory and Practice


Admission requirements

MSc International Relations and Diplomacy students.


This introduction to diplomacy compensates for the neglect of the study of diplomacy in many IR curricula, whilst diplomacy is arguably the engine room of international relations. The course aims to contribute to your understanding of diplomacy, i.e. the institutions and processes by which states and others represent themselves and their interests to one another. More specifically, this course will look at selected trends in contemporary diplomacy, the diplomatic machinery’s adaptation to change, and new issues on the diplomatic agenda. You are encouraged to reflect on the practice and theoretical aspects of diplomacy and how academics and practitioners debate trends in diplomacy. The course will discuss innovation and adaptation to change in a fast-moving international environment. New functions and modes of diplomacy at the beginning of the digital age present a picture that requires us to take a new look at the conduct of international relations today.

Course objectives

By the end of the course you will have:

  • A complex understanding of the institutions and processes by which states and others represent themselves and their interests to one another.

  • Become familiar with the way in which diplomacy is debated among academic theorists and by experts in think tanks and practitioners.

  • Evaluated recent trends in diplomatic practice in relation to selected issues in world politics.

  • Improved writing skills aimed at writing opinion articles.

  • Honed group work skills.

  • Learned how to deal with the pressures of short-notice assignments.


On the right-hand side of the programme front page of the E-Prospectus you will find a link to the online timetables.

Mode of instruction

The course will be fundamentally seminar-based. The lecturer will give a presentation at the beginning of each class. In class discussions all students make a contribution, and they give act as presenter or discussant in a mini-conference format. They will also be required to do two contrasting writing assignments, of which one is single authored and the other co-authored.

The course will make use of Brightspace and an interactive classroom tool. Twitter will be used to share information and monitor debates on innovation in diplomatic practice.

Study load: 140 hours

Assessment method

The final mark for this course is based on two equal components testing knowledge, and oral and written academic skills:

  • Your individual participation in the weekly conference sessions, including your own lead role as part of a group in one of the sessions (40%) - failed grade must be compensated, resit is not possible

  • Your co-authored work in an academic or non-academic writing track, consisting of an assessed essay or an opinion article (60%) - a resit of the assignment is only possible if the student has failed the assignment and a calculated overall course grade lower than 5.50. The resit will take place 6th of June 2022.  

  • Assignments will benefit from structured coaching by the lecturer at various stages of the process of research and writing.

Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Brightspace.
On the front page of the programme you will find links to the website, uSis and Brightspace.

Failed partial grades or components should be compensated by passed partial grades or components. The calculated grade must be at least 5,5 to pass the course. It is not possible to re-sit a partial grade or component once you have passed the course.

Partial grades will remain valid for one academic year.

Reading list

Compulsory readings will be announced. One textbook and two handbooks are recommended for selective supplementary reading.

  • Pauline Kerr and Geoffrey Wiseman (eds), Diplomacy and Globalization: Theories and Practices, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017 (second ed.).

  • Costas M. Constantinou, Pauline Kerr and Paul Sharp (eds), The SAGE Handbook of Diplomacy, Los Angeles etc: SAGE, 2016.

  • Andrew F. Cooper, Jorge Heine, Ramesh Thakur (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.


Use Brightspace to register for every course. The programme will register the students in Usis based on the group division.


Prof. Dr. J. Melissen