PIM66-Contemporary Diplomacy

Module Provider: Graduate Institute for Politics and International Studies
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Dr Sarah Von Billerbeck

Email: s.b.k.vonbillerbeck@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of concepts and practices of contemporary diplomacy. It introduces key concepts in international diplomacy, shows the evolution of diplomatic practice since the Second World War across a range of actors, including states, international organisations, and non-state actors, and the application of different types of diplomacy, including public diplomacy, digital diplomacy and coercive diplomacy. The unit aims to provide an understanding of ideas and concepts relating to diplomacy, the way diplomacy relates to the complex process of policymaking, both domestic and international, and how these measure up against actual diplomatic practice, explained by practitioners. Students will become familiar with key academic works on the subject, to give them the conceptual analytical tools to study international diplomacy. The course will normally have an input from current and former diplomats or other civil servants.


  • To introduce students to the evolution of diplomacy since the Second World War;

  • To introduce students to several strands of international relations on which diplomacy touches (e.g. negotiations, coercion, international organisations, etc.)

  • To introduce them to the main academic debates surrounding the subject;

  • To get a sense of the divergence between theory and practice through exchanges with practitioners, where possible;

  • To enable them to apply this knowledge gained to actual events, past or present, in IR to which diplomacy is or was relevant;

  • To enable them to transfer this knowledge and the analytical skills to future careers requiring such skills.

Assessable learning outcomes:
Assessable outcomes
• To acquire a basic knowledge of the role of diplomatic relations in international affairs since 1945
• To obtain a scholarly understanding of major practices of the conduct of international relations.
• To engage with scholarly literature on the subject.
• To understand the overlap of diplomacy with political, cultural, economic, ethical, and ideological dimension of international relations.
• Proficient research, analysis, and writing skills< br />

Additional outcomes:
• Good skills in oral presentations, including PowerPoint, of researched topics
• Acquisition of new competences or enhancement of existing competences in this area.
• Achievement of career-enhancing analytical skills

Outline content:

Introduction to the key theoretical works on diplomacy.

• A comparison of theory and practice.

• An application of theoretical concepts to the analysis of Diplomacy in international relations.

Note that these topics are indicative only and are subject to change.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The course is taught mainly by two-hour seminars. The seminars will comprise structured discussion of core themes following student presentations and/or debates. Students are expected to read widely and are expected to develop their knowledge of the subject through independent study combined with group work, which will inform the class discussions. Students will also submit one policy brief on a selected topic, in order to develop transferable skills.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 20
Guided independent study: 180
Total hours by term 0 200 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 50
Oral assessment and presentation 30
Practical skills assessment 20

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

1 Summative essay of 2,500 words (including footnotes and references but excluding bibliography)

1 Policy brief of 500 words

1 In-class presentation or group exercise including presentation slides and hand-out

In-class participation

Formative assessment methods:

1 Formative essay (1 x 750 words) for those following the Diplomacy Programme which does not count towards the overall mark.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:
50% overall module mark

Reassessment arrangements:

Reassessment by original assessment method. Resits examinations will take place in August/September of the same year or April/May of the following year. 

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding: Students may incur photocopying costs for seminar reading or essay research at 5p per sheet.
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 3 July 2020


Things to do now