Foreign Policy Analysis - POLI9240

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) is a field of study that analytically straddles international relations and comparative politics. It captures the porousness of the borders between the domestic and international, examining the rich interchanges which happen in between. The module understands foreign policy as a processual, relational and thoroughly political phenomenon. In the ocean of possible methods of study of how state and non-state actors (such as the EU) and various social structures shape (and are shaped by) events and expressions of power across the globe, this module adopts a fourfold approach. First, it analyses foreign policy practices of states from a variety of theoretical perspectives (realist, liberal, constructivist, and critical). It highlights their mutual tensions and complementarities in addressing two central questions of FPA: Why and how do states engage in and articulate cooperation and conflict abroad? Second, having learned about the different conceptual lenses, the module moves on to combine them with a layered understanding of foreign policy practices structured along multiple levels of analysis (international systemic, state, sub-state, and individual). Third, the module will focus on the different foreign policy actors (governments and their bureaucracies, domestic and transnational social groups, individuals, etc.) and conceptual models that explain their decisions and actions in international relations (including the role of power, psychology, and rationality in the dynamics of individual and group-level decision-making). Herein, your understanding of theories will certainly come in handy since they largely inform these more specific models. Finally, we will discuss a set of distinct 'mechanics' of foreign policy, such as power (including preventive and coercive diplomacy, and the questions of ethics) and strategy. The module will conclude with exploring change in foreign policy, revisiting the domestic-international nexus in foreign policy formulation and implementation.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 24
Private study hours: 176
Total study hours: 200

Method of assessment

Essay, 5000 words (80%)
Seminar presentation – draft foreign policy speech, 5-7 minutes (20%)

Reassessment methods: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Reading list (Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually)

1. Hudson, Valerie M. (2014) Foreign Policy Analysis: Classic and Contemporary Theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. *key text*

2. Smith, Steve A., Amelia Hadfield-Amkahn, Tim Dunne (eds.) (2012) Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases. Oxford: Oxford University Press. *key text*

3. Bjola, Corneliu and Markus Kornprobst (2013) Understanding International Diplomacy: Theory, Practice and Ethics. Abingdon, Oxon., New York: Routledge.

4. Campbell, David (1998) Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

5. Hill, Christopher (2013) The National Interest in Question: Foreign Policy in Multicultural Societies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1. demonstrate systematic understanding of the nature of modern diplomacy, and a critical awareness of the formulation of foreign policy in relation to theories of decision-making;

8.2. analyse the role of foreign policy and diplomacy in different conceptual approaches in the discipline of IR;

8.3. analyse foreign policy in terms of both structural aspects and specific motivations;

8.4. develop an advanced understanding of the main epistemological and methodological issues relevant to foreign policy analysis, including the major theoretical debates between different traditions and their theoretical approaches and ontological concerns, in order to propose new hypotheses where appropriate.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1. work with theoretical knowledge at the forefront of their discipline

9.2. be aware of the ethical dimensions of the scholarly work done in their discipline in general as well as of their own work in particular

9.3. have a comprehensive understanding of methods and methodologies in their discipline, and practically apply them

9.4. undertake analysis of complex, incomplete or contradictory areas of knowledge systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences;

9.5. have a level of conceptual understanding that will allow them to critically evaluate research, advanced scholarship and methodologies and argue alternative approaches

9.6. be reflective, creative, original and self-critical in their research work

9.7. engage in academic and professional communication orally and in writing

9.8. have independent learning ability required for continuing professional study


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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