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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 infrastructure of global governance. It will look at selected trends in contemporary diplomatic practice, the diplomatic machinery’s adaptation to change and diplomacy’s increasing societisation. You will reflect on the practice and theoretical aspects of diplomacy and how academics and practitioners are debating recent diplomatic trends in a fast-moving international environment. New functions and modes of diplomacy 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, realistically adapted to the size of the group. The course aims at two types of weekly meetings: academic conference panel discussions during well-prepared sessions in which students take the lead, plus extra practitioners’ sessions with external guests and a QandA. The lecturer will act as resource person, moderator and coach of your assessed work. Student collaboration in pairs and groups is of the essence in this course..

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%)

  • Your co-authored work in an academic or non-academic writing track, consisting of an assessed essay or an opinion article. (60%).

  • 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. Should a student fail the overall course, s/he can complete the course in the second year of the programme.

Reading list

Compulsory readings will be announced. Two textbooks 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.


Students must register on USIS based on the group division specified by the programme. Use Brightspace for course information.


Prof. Dr. J. Melissen