Foreign Policy Analysis 1

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Christopher Alden 


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 with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

This course has a limited number of places (it is capped).

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.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term, Lent and Summer Term.

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

Formative coursework

Students are required to write two 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, 2nd Edition, Routledge, 2017;

S Smith, A Hadfield and T Dunne (Eds), Foreign Policies: Theories, Actors and Cases, 3rd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2016.


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

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 23.8
2:1 60.3
2:2 13.7
Third 1
Fail 1.3

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 137

Average class size 2021/22: 12

Capped 2021/22: Yes (144)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

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