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Diplomacy: Introduction to Theory and Practice


Admission requirements

Only students of the Advanced MSc International Relations and Diplomacy can take this course.


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 both 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

Attendance Policy
Attendance is mandatory, subject to course structure (see syllabus for details).

Assessment method

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

*** Co-authored work, consisting of a short assessed essay **(35%) This work will benefit from structured coaching during the process of research and writing.

  • Two-hour written assessment after the end of the course, in which you will answer two essay questions (65%)

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.

  • Passed partial grades obtained in the academic year 2022-2023 remain valid during the academic year 2023-2024.

  • Passed partial grades obtained in the academic year 2023-2024 remain valid during the academic year 2024-2025.

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

  • The assessment method has changed from last academic year. Students that have valid partial grades from last academic year, may complete the course according to last years assessment methods.

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.


Register yourself via uSis for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams). Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.

Registration for this course is possible from Wednesday 12 July 13.00h

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in uSis you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


Prof. Dr. Jan Melissen