Foreign Policy: Systems, States, and Leaders - POLI5630

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 6 15 (7.5) Rubrick Biegon checkmark-circle


How do nation states decide on their foreign policy? Is there a difference in the content of foreign policy between large and small states or liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes? This module examines the foreign policies of nation states and how to study them in a rapidly changing international environment. The module examines the foreign policies of different types of states from 'great powers' to smaller states, explores major events and crises in international politics and the dynamics of foreign policymaking, Specific case studies will vary from year to year, but are likely to cover issues of diplomacy, war and security, economic competition, and institutional cooperation.

It provides insight into the complex relationship between the analysis and practice of foreign policy. It does so by exploring shifting approaches to making and examining foreign policy. Case studies of foreign policy practices are examined through exploring different international actors (including states but also examining the role of specific leaders), the foreign policy environment they inhabit (internal and external, structural and institutional), and the motivations that inform state and policy makers actions and their interactions with others. The module compares and contrasts different theories, critically assessing their analytical advantages and weaknesses in applying them to 'real world' examples.


Contact hours

Private Study: 128
Contact Hours: 22
Total: 150


Optional to the following courses:
• BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations
• BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations (Bidiplôme)
• BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations with a Placement Year
• BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations with a Foundation Year
• BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations with a Year in Continental Europe or North America
• BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations with a Language
• BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations with a Year in Asia-Pacific
• BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations with Quantitative Research
• BA (Hons) Economics and Politics
• BA (Hons) History and Politics
• BA (Hons) Philosophy and Politics
• BA (Hons) Sociology and Politics
• LLB (Hons) Law and Politics

Also available as an elective module and to short-term credit students

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Essay, 3000 words 50%
Exam 50%

Reassessment Instrument: Like for like

*Exam will be online*

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices.

The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Show knowledge and critical understanding of the principal aspects of foreign policy practice and of Foreign Policy Analysis as a subject area integrated into International Relations.
2 Show familiarity with the constituents of the foreign policy process: the actors (including leaders and states), systems (internal and external), and complex series of motivational factors that lead to foreign policy decisions and implementation
3 Illustrate a deep understanding of the relationship between foreign policy and diplomacy and of the continuing changes in the contemporary world
4 Show familiarity with the theories of IR that have augmented foreign policy theory and the variations of foreign policy analysis itself
5 Explain the role of decision-making, comparing psychological and rational-actor perspectives, as well as the endogenous and exogenous factors that inform the construction and direction of foreign policy.
6 Explain current foreign policy issues of diverse actors including great powers, middle powers, and small states.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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