Foreign Policy: Systems, States, and Leaders - POLI5630

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Spring Term 6 15 (7.5) Rubrick Biegon checkmark-circle


This module examines the complex relationship between foreign policy analysis and foreign policy practice. It does so by exploring shifting approaches to making and examining foreign policy, including the contributions of IR theory to Foreign Policy Analysis. Historical antecedents of foreign policy as a practice are examined via exploring international actors, the system they inhabit (both internal and external), and the motivations that inform their individual actions and collective interactions. FPA is not as a single theory, capable of generating an overarching framework that can explain or help to understand actors' choices in all situations. The module will instead compare and contrast different FPA theories, often derived from IR theories, and critically assess their analytical advantages and weaknesses in applying them to "real world" examples. The module explores some major events or crises, such as the Iraq War and the South China Sea dispute, attempting to get an overview of the foreign policies of different states across international society, such as China, the United States, Japan, and Britain.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22

Private study hours: 128

Total study hours: 150

Method of assessment

Essay, 3000 words, 50%
Exam, 2 hours, 50%

**Please note that the exam in May/June 2023 will be Online (24 hour window)**

Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

* S. Smith, Amelia Hadfield, and Time Dunne (eds) Foreign Policy: Theories. Actors, Cases. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press, 2016.

* C. Alden and A. Aran, Foreign Policy Analysis: New Approaches, Routledge, 2011

* D. Beach. Analyzing Foreign Policy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012

* C. Hill, Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century . 2nd edition Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

* M. Webber and M. Smith, Foreign Policy in a Transformed World, Prentice Hall, Pearson Education, 2002.

* V. Hudson, Foreign Policy Analysis: Classic and Contemporary Theory, Rowman&Littlefield, 2nd ed. 2013

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 . have gained a sound knowledge and critical understanding of the principal aspects of foreign policy and foreign policy analysis as a subject area integrated into International Relations.

2 . be familiar with the constituents of the foreign policy system: actors, the system (internal and external) and the complex series of motivational factors that lead to foreign policy implementation.

have gained understanding of the relationship between foreign policy and diplomacy and of the continuing changes to diplomacy after 1945.

4 . be familiar 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 the psychological vs. 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 such as China, Japan, the US, Britain, and the EU.


  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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