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Foreign Policy Analysis (Module)

Module description

This module introduces students to the main theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of foreign policy widely conceived. Foreign policy analysis (FPA) is a field of inquiry that aims to understand and explain how foreign policy is made and who shapes it, but is also interested in outcomes, their impact and the assessment of performance. Theories of international relations are relevant to FPA to understand pressures and opportunities arising from the international system, but states are not seen as unitary bodies that respond in the same way, but they differ amongst each other and comprise contradictory forces and competing actors.

FPA investigates the interplay between systemic, national and sub-national factors, actors and processes, including bureaucracies, public opinion and individual decision-makers. FPA pays significant attention to decision-making processes and their outcomes, including group dynamics, leadership styles and cognitive theories.

The first part of the module is conceptual, theoretical and methodological, while the second part will be compare and contrast the foreign policies of selected countries to understand national idiosyncrasies as well as common features and factors that shape foreign policy-making.

Module aims

  • Introduce the main theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of Foreign Policy Analysis.
  • Obtain the ability to discuss and to critically assess similarities and differences between theories in the field of Foreign Policy Analysis.
  • Provide a thorough grounding in the research skills required to understand and analyse foreign policy.
  • Foster an ability to access, study and evaluate governmental and non-governmental primary resources on foreign affairs.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the foreign policies of selected countries on a global level.
  • Examine the decision making processes, main actors and goals of national foreign policies.
  • Compare and contrast the foreign policies of countries located in different regions, with different levels of development, and different power positions in global politics.
  • Prepare students for more specialised stud of regions, countries and issues in the final year.

Learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the evolution and current state in the study and research of foreign policy.
  • Have competence to select an appropriate mix of theoretical frameworks to critically assess the main empirical debates in the field of Foreign Policy Analysis.
  • Make use of a wide range of methodological approaches to the study of the development and implementation of foreign policy.
  • Have the ability to identify and analyse the main influences and constraints on foreign policy making on the individual, domestic and international levels of analysis.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the reasoning, principles, aims, goals and instruments of the foreign policies of a variety of countries.
  • Work cooperatively with others to analyse, understand and explain key aspects of national foreign policies.
  • Have the ability to engage in the comparative study of foreign policies.
  • Critically evaluate official foreign policy documents and their applicability in the real world

Core texts 

  • Beasley, Ryan K., et al., Foreign Policy in Comparative Perspective: Domestic and International Influences on State Behavior, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2012).
  • Smith, Steve, Amelia Hadfield and Tim Dunne (eds.), Foreign Policy. Theories, Actors, Cases (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

*Please note that module information is indicative and may change from year to year.

Staff information

Dr Holger Stritzel

Teaching pattern

Two hours per week

Indicative teaching schedule

Semester 1
Week 1: Introduction to Foreign Policy Analysis    
Week 2: Theories, concepts and methods
Week 3: The individual level: rationality and cognition
Week 4: The domestic level: state and society    
Week 5: Groups, bureaucratic politics and organisational process
Week 6: Culture and identity    
Week 7: New/critical approaches to foreign policy: discourse, social construction and securitization    
Week 8: External and systemic aspects    
Week 9: Foreign policy instruments and foreign policy implementation
Week 10: Ethics and foreign policy    

Semester 2
Week 11: Foreign policy in comparison    
Week 12: The US great power as a ‘superpower’    
Week 13: The rise of China as a great power    
Week 14: Russia as a regional hegemon and great power    
Week 15: Rising middle and regional powers in the international system    
Week 16: Established middle powers    
Week 17: Middle powers as civilian powers    
Week 18: Small powers    
Week 19: Foreign policy making in the EU    
Week 20: Taking stock: foreign policy in the contemporary world 

Module assessment - more information

One 3000 word essay (50%) and one 3-hour exam (50%)

Key information

Module code 5AAOB206

Credit level 5

Assessment coursework written examination/s

Credit value 30

Semester Full-year

Study abroad module Yes