LSE's foreign policy think tank

Currently ranked Europe's top university affiliated think tank

LSE IDEAS brings together young and old, theorists and practitioners, business and government, and people from every continent and background. IDEAS is where ideas grow.

Sir Robert Cooper, former UK & EU diplomat

LSE IDEAS is an IGA Centre that acts as the School’s foreign policy think tank.

Through sustained engagement with policymakers and opinion-formers, IDEAS provides a forum that informs policy debate and connects academic research with the practice of diplomacy and strategy.

IDEAS hosts interdisciplinary research projects, produces working papers and reports, holds public and off-the-record events, and delivers cutting-edge executive training programmes for government, business and third-sector organisations.

Our values

These are the principles that make us who we are and that everyone at LSE IDEAS aims to uphold in all our work. 

  • We exist to connect academic knowledge with the people who use it.
  • We foster a diversity of views and perspectives.
  • We judge the success of our work by its impact.
  • We create public engagement with empirically informed policy research.
  • We work with people from every academic and professional discipline.
  • We always try to work in new ways to create and share knowledge.
  • We work internationally, through partnerships with universities and organisations.
  • Our style is clear, concise, and compelling.
  • We value integrity and pride ourselves on teamwork.
  • Our credibility is built on our track record of achievement. 

LSE IDEAS history

IDEAS began as the Cold War Studies Centre (CWSC), formed in 2004 by Professors Michael Cox and Arne Westad.

The CWSC aimed to show that although the Cold War had ended, it continued to shape world politics in several important ways. It did this in two ways that remain vital to IDEAS, bringing together different academic disciplines and direct engagement with the public, particularly through events. The work of the Cold War Studies Centre continues directly with our Cold War Studies Project.

The success of the CWSC in developing a space for debate led to an expansion of the centre’s remit to include contemporary international affairs and further engagement with the public and policymakers.

Four years after the CWSC began, in February 2008, IDEAS was established as the LSE think-tank for Diplomacy and Strategy.

Professor Paul Kennedy became the inaugural Philippe Roman Chair and his lecture Measuring American Power in Today's Fractured World was the first IDEAS event, followed the next day by a panel discussion on The Role of Academics in the Foreign Policy Process to officially launch the centre. 

Initiatives on Transatlantic relations, Latin America, Southern Africa and the Balkans were established. Also begun were two international partnerships for ‘double degree’ joint MSc courses with Peking University in Beijing and Columbia University in New York.

In the following years, IDEAS research developed into a series of regional programmes including Africa, East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, and Southeast Asia. IDEAS regional programmes are now closed and the centre runs a range of topic based research projects.

In 2015, Arne Westad departed for Harvard and in March of the same year Professor Cox became the sole Director. In 2015 a number of other Centres were also established as part of the newly formed Institute of Global Affairs (IGA). IDEAS now works closely with all these Centres. 

In an article for the International Journal on the history of foreign policy think tanks, Dr Priscilla Roberts of the University of Hong Kong summarised the rise of IDEAS:

"a heady mix of first-class scholarship, exciting international visitors and lectures, joint programs to train promising young foreign policy specialists from around the world, high-profile and off-the-record events, and astute publicity, and was rewarded within six years with the accolade of the world’s second-ranked academic think tank”.


The work of IDEAS is overseen by both an Academic Management Committee and an Advisory Board.

Academic Management Committee

The Academic Management Committee is comprised of academic staff from LSE who monitor our operations and research.

Academic Management Committee Members

Chair: Professor Michael Cox is Founding Director of LSE IDEAS

Dr George Lawson is an Associate Professor at the Department of International Relations at the LSE

Professor Janet Hartley is Professor and Head of the Department of International History at the LSE.

Professor Piers Ludlow is a Reader at the Department of International History at the LSE.

Dr Emilia Knight is Centre Manager of LSE IDEAS

Professor Peter Trubowitz is Department Head of International Relations at LSE, Director of the LSE US Centre, and Associate Fellow at Chatham House, Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Advisory Board 

The Advisory Board provides an external perspective. Members are senior practitioners from the diplomatic world who provide independent oversight and guidance on IDEAS’ strategy. 

Advisory Board Members

Chair: Sir David Manning has wide-ranging experience of foreign affairs. He has served as British ambassador to Israel, NATO and the United States. From 2001-2003 he was Foreign Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister Blair. Sir David is currently a non-executive director of several company boards and the new chair of the Advisory Board of LSE IDEAS. 

Gordon Barrass is Visiting Professor at LSE IDEAS, where he specialises on strategy, assessments and perceptions. After more than 20 years in the British Diplomatic Service he served as Chief of the Assessments Staff in the Cabinet Office. He then spent nearly a decade helping PwC expand its business in China’s rapidly growing financial services sector.

Sir Colin Budd served in HM Diplomatic Service from 1967-2005. He was Assistant Private Secretary to the Minister Without Portfolio from 1968-69, and to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary from 1984-87; Chef de Cabinet to the Vice President of the European Commission from 1993-95; Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and Head of the Overseas and Defence Committee of the Cabinet Office from 1996-97; Deputy Under Secretary of State (Europe and Economic) of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1997-2001; and HM Ambassador to the Netherlands from 2001-5.

John Hughes was a British career diplomat for 35 years serving mainly in the Americas, together with secondments to the Cabinet Office, BAE Systems, and Shell. His final postings were as Ambassador to Venezuela and then to Argentina. In retirement he has been Chair of the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission, Chair of Canning House, a Robin Humphreys Research Fellow at the School of Advanced Study, London University, and a Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE.

Guy Monson is Chief Investment Officer and  a managing partner of Sarasin & Partners. He has played a major role in developing Bank Sarasin’s London based subsidiary, Sarasin Investment Management Ltd (SIML) since 1988. Monson founded and is a senior fund manager on the EquiSar Global Thematic funds and is also a senior fund manager on the GlobalSar family of balanced funds. He also manages a range of institutional global thematic equity and global balanced mandates in various regulatory jurisdictions.

Sir Richard Mottram is an expert on national security issues, including defence policy, strategy and planning. From 1992-2007 he was one of Britain’s top civil servants: he headed several departments, including the Ministry of Defence, and was responsible for security and intelligence matters in the Cabinet Office, and Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. He is also a Visiting Professor in the LSE’s department of Government.

Jonathan Powell was Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1997 to 2007. As a British diplomat Jonathan Powell was closely involved in negotiations with the Chinese over Hong Kong and German unification. As Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Blair he played a key role in reaching an agreement with the IRA on a political settlement in Northern Ireland. He is currently Managing Director at Morgan Stanley.

Danny Quah is the Li Ka Shing Professor of Economics at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Previously he was Director of the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre.

Gideon Rachman is the chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, where he authors a weekly column on foreign affairs and feature articles. Before joining the Financial Times in 2006, he was a senior editor and correspondent for The Economist and BBC World Service presenter. He has worked as a foreign correspondent in Washington, Brussels, and Bangkok, and is the author of Zero-Sum World.

Hugh Sandeman was an international banker for 30 years based in New York, Tokyo, London, and Frankfurt, and for the past decade has focused on India. He was previously Tokyo correspondent, international business editor and New York correspondent of The Economist.

Susan Scholefield held a distinguished career in the Civil Service. Roles in the Balkans Secretariat, ­­Northern Ireland Office and in the Cabinet Office as head of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat were followed by a series of top level positions in the MOD culminating in her most recent role as Director General, Human Resources and Corporate Services. In 1999 she was awarded a CMG in the New Year’s Honours for her work on Bosnia.

Cato Stonex graduated from the LSE, of which he is now a governor. In 1986, he joined the European government bond trading department at Morgan Grenfell. In 1989 he joined J. Rothschild Investment Management and began his association with Nils Taube and John Hodson. Together they formed THS Partners in 1997.

Leslie Vinjamuri is Director of the Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice and a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in International Relations at SOAS, University of London. Leslie is also Chair of the International Relations Speaker Series at SOAS. Her research areas include transatlantic relations, US foreign policy, the politics of international intervention, human rights and justice, and UN Security Council Diplomacy.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire an Emeritus Professor in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and has a long distinguished record in British politics. He was made a peer in 1995 and became the Liberal Democrat spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Defence.

Contact us

9th floor, Towers 1 & 3
Clement's Inn
London, WC2A 2AZ

Tel: (+44) 020 7849 4918
Email : ideas@lse.ac.uk



LSE IDEAS is located in Tower 1 on the LSE campus.

By Underground: The nearest tube stations to IDEAS are Temple (Circle and District lines) or Holborn (Central and Piccadilly lines).

From Temple: Walk north up Arundel Street and cross the road in front of St Clement Danes church. Enter through the gate at the bottom of Clement’s Inn, to the left of the Royal Courts of Justice, and proceed to Tower 1 reception.

From Holborn: Walk south on Kingsway to Aldwych and turn right. Enter through the gate at the bottom of Clement’s Inn on your left, to the left of the Royal Courts of Justice, and proceed to Tower 1 reception.

By Bus: The nearest bus stop to IDEAS is The Royal Courts of Justice serving routes 1, 58, 68, 91, 168, 171, 188, 243, 341, 521, & X68. Walk up Clement’s Inn to find Tower 1.



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LSE IDEAS, 9th floor, Towers 1 & 3, Clement's Inn, London, WC2A 2AZ