IR202GC      Half Unit
Foreign Policy Analysis 1 (Spring Semester)

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Christopher Alden CBG.9.04


This course is available to General Course ‘Spring Semester’ 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. The key features of the country comparative studies will be an initial lecture that focuses on the sources of foreign policy and a follow up lecture on foreign policy making in that country. 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totaling a minimum of 20 hours across Lent Term and Summer Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students are required to write one essay of about 1,500 words 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.


Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information