The Politics of Foreign Policy (L2090)

15 credits, Level 5

Spring teaching

Who acts in international relations, and why? All too often, in international relations theory the answer seems to be states, or other collective actors, with their interactions determined by the logic of broad systemic forces. However, this leaves out that actors may have choices and how they arrive at such choices. Foreign policy making is a political process with domestic implications, and concepts such as 'the national interest' are by no means as clear and uncontested as foreign policy elites would like to make out. The module draws on classical and critical literature in foreign policy analysis to explore the broad tension between agency and structure (domestic and international) in international politics. It asks how decision-making in international politics may be less than rational, for a variety of reasons; how lobby groups and (perhaps) public opinion may influence foreign policy; and whether foreign policy still matters in an age of globalisation. The module will conclude with a look at the contemporary foreign policies of selected states.

This module will be assessed by a 3,000-word essay.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


20%: Coursework (Portfolio)
80%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: