Foreign Policy Analysis 1

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Christopher Alden CBG.9.04


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Relations and Chinese, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and International Relations. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course analyses various theoretical perspectives on foreign policy, and the means of conduct of the main actors in the international system towards each other. It focuses mainly, but not entirely, on states. Foreign Policy Analysis as a sub-discipline of IR; the problem of formulating goals and choosing policy instruments; the role of leadership and psychological elements in policy making; the rational actor model; bureaucratic politics; the impact of history and identity on foreign policy; domestic sources of foreign policy including public opinion, pressure groups and constitutions; the motivations underpinning foreign policy; the role and influence of transnational actors in relation to foreign policy making; foreign policy crises. The discussion classes combine a discussion of these themes with their application to the foreign policies of major powers in the international system.

In the LT the course turns to an analysis of the foreign policies of a selected group of major states, with due regard to their respective national interests, external commitments, traditional values and other relevant factors. There will be lectures on Britain, China, the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia. Additional guest lecturer country case studies will be included for the remainder of the course. The guest lectures offer additional empirical material to help with answering theoretical questions.


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students are required to write three essays of about 1,500 words each for their class teachers during the course and to make presentations in the discussion classes.

Indicative reading

C Alden and A Aran, Foreign Policy Analysis – New Approaches, Routledge, 2011; C Hill, The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy, Palgrave, 2003; S Smith, A Hadfield and T Dunne (Eds), Foreign Policies: Theories, Actors and Cases, Oxford University Press, 2007.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2018/19: 123

Average class size 2018/19: 13

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
First 15.4
2:1 57.9
2:2 23
Third 2.2
Fail 1.4