MSt in Diplomatic Studies

Course details

The Diplomatic Studies Programme (DSP) is a unique postgraduate programme that combines vocational and academic education, specific to the field of diplomacy. The full-time Programme bears the award Master of Studies in Diplomatic Studies, and is studied over twelve-months (October-September). It requires full-time residence in Oxford during the first nine months.  

The course enhances the knowledge and skills required for the conduct of diplomacy in a complex, interdependent world. Whether you are in the foreign service of a sovereign state, work for an international organisation or are otherwise involved in the processes and institutions of diplomacy, the course will be of benefit to you.

In 2019 the programme celebrated its 50th anniversary and our alumni, who include royalty and prime ministers as well as ambassadors, now occupy a large number of senior posts in the diplomatic field.

Please note: the Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme (DSP) was formerly known as the Foreign Service Programme (FSP).

Quick links

Who is the programme for?

The Diplomatic Studies Programme (DSP) is designed for early to mid-career diplomats and international relations practitioners. Traditionally, the majority of its participants were officially sponsored diplomats who returned to their foreign ministries’ service after completion of the Programme. In recent years, an increasing number of non-diplomats (or other civil servants that deal with international relations) have been admitted to the Programme. This is in line with the changing profile and agenda of international diplomacy, and in acknowledgment of applicants’ de facto diplomatic experience.  

Networking opportunity is one of the key advantages of the DSP, and the broad geographical representation within the programme – something that is prioritised by the selection committee – adds to the diversity and dynamics of each cohort. Participants learn as much from each other’s experience, and from interaction with the range of practitioners that participate in the DSP as guest presenters, as they do from the formal instruction.

Notwithstanding its vocational elements, the Programme is a fully-fledged Oxford University Master’s degree, and participants need a strong academic background to participate in the rigorous curriculum. In particular, the ability and discipline to do advanced research, are essential requirements.

The DSP offers a wonderful opportunity for mid-career international relations practitioners with scholarly interest to take a sabbatical year in Oxford. As full members of the University of Oxford, they benefit from immersion in this world-renowned hub of intellectual activity.

Programme details

The DSP embraces an interdisciplinary, holistic approach and all coursework links theory with practice and policy. To ensure maximum relevance to diplomatic practice, the formal curriculum is supplemented by practical workshops (inculcating skills such as communication, negotiation, crisis management, public speaking, and media interviews), simulations and field trips. Study tours have traditionally been regarded as a highpoint of the DSP, and several such visits are included in the course of the academic year; to embassies, government departments, international organisations and business and media institutions in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.

The core curriculum is made up of a dissertation and four taught courses: Diplomatic Practice, International Politics, International Trade & Finance, and Public International Law. (More information about each of these components, is presented below). The taught courses run concurrently throughout the academic year, and the pedagogical approach includes an Oxford University mainstay, namely the use of tutorials. These small group discussions of course content are facilitated by academic staff, who guide the students through a series of formative assessments. Course content is further delivered by means of regular lectures and seminars.

Several non-core (extra-curricular) courses are also offered, to support students’ academic achievement: academic literacy, English language skills, and a course in research methodology. The latter is aimed at assisting students with development of their research proposals and to prepare them for their subsequent research.

Core (credit-bearing) components:

  • Diplomatic Practice: The course reflects on the vocational, institutional, and contextual aspects of contemporary diplomacy. Course participants hone their analytical skills to assess geopolitical challenges in line with the interests of individual countries, organisations, and regions.
  • International Politics: Focusing on key concepts in International Relations leading to central issues in world politics, with particular emphasis on theories and issues of International Politics and the evolving nature of foreign policy.
  • International Trade & Finance: Covering the basics of international trade theory and macroeconomics, and focuses on such applied and political economy topics as trade liberalisation, globalisation, and international resource transfers.
  • Public International Law: The course expounds the principles of international law and the processes of legal reasoning and applies this to current world problems ranging from the nature of international law to the use of force and conflict settlement.
  • The Dissertation: The research component of the MSt involves a substantial, individualised research project. An academic supervisor is assigned to each candidate, who is then required to write a 15,000-word dissertation. The topic of their dissertation is the student’s own choice, provided that it fits into the subject field of diplomatic studies. Topics often reflect individuals’ prior (or projected future) specialisation and in some cases become the foundation for doctoral research.


To complete the MSt students must pass all the core (credit-bearing) components of the programme.

The four taught courses (Diplomatic Practice, International Politics, International Trade & Finance, and Public International Law) are assessed by means of written exams at the end of the nine-month academic year (i.e. at the end of Trinity term). These exams account for two-thirds of the overall mark.

The 15,000 word dissertation is due three months after the exam (during September), and accounts for one third of the weighted total of the MSt.

Oxford college affiliation

As a matriculated postgraduate degree student, you will become a member of one of the University’s famous interdisciplinary colleges, enabling you to encounter new perspectives in your field or learn more about many other different subjects from fellow college members.

The collegiate system makes studying at Oxford a truly special experience. Oxford colleges are small, intimate communities, where you could find yourself absorbed in fascinating conversations with students and academics from a variety of disciplines at college seminars, dinners, and informal occasions. 

To find out more about Oxford University colleges, please consult the University's Graduate Admissions website.

Academic staff

Course Director: Dr Yolanda Spies

Current staff profiles

Fees and funding

Fees and costs

For information about the course fee and the cost of living in Oxford, please visit the Oxford University Graduate Admissions webpages for the MSt in Diplomatic Studies.


Many DSP students hold scholarships. The deadline for applications to external scholarship schemes is usually in September and November, prior to the application deadline, so early action is recommended.

  •  Chevening Scholarship

Please see the Chevening website for information, eligibility, and how to apply for UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Chevening Scholarships. Alternatively, you may enquire at your local British diplomatic mission. Note the deadline for Chevening Scholarship applications usually falls earlier than the course application deadline.

  • Commonwealth Share Scholarship

Citizens of developing Commonwealth countries applying to the MSt in Diplomatic Studies are eligible for Commonwealth Shared Scholarships – an award covering course fees and providing a stipend. Applicants should apply directly to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission via their website. Note the deadline for this scholarship falls earlier than the course application deadline, and the online scholarship application form must be submitted via the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s website by 4pm (GMT) on Thursday 14th December, 2023 for entry onto the course in 2024. Selection is expected to take place between June and July 2024.

College Scholarships

These scholarships require a separate application and candidates must apply to the University's January deadline and complete a separate online scholarship form and submit it by 5pm (UK time) on 4th March 2024. 

  • Swire Scholarships.

Four fully funded scholarships are available for applicants who are permanent residents of Japan, Chinese mainland or Hong Kong SAR and have completed the majority of their formal education in their country/region of permanent residency. For all those who will commence study on a course offered by St Antony's College in 2024/25.

Swire Scholarships | St Antony's College (

Swire and Oxford & Cambridge Society of Kenya Scholarship for an applicant who is a Kenyan citizen to study for a one-year Master’s degree in the academic year 2024-25 at St Antony’s College. The scholarship will be for a value of up to £40k. 

Swire and Oxford & Cambridge Society of Kenya Scholarship | St Antony's College


Applications for awards from other international agencies should be addressed to those agencies.

The vast majority of Oxford University scholarships are awarded to applicants who submit their application by the January deadline. Those who apply before this date will be automatically considered for scholarships where they fulfil the eligibility criteria.

The University Fees and Funding page provides more information, including a search function for course-specific funding.

How and when to apply

Please visit the course page on the Oxford University Graduate Admissions website for entry requirements, selection criteria and how to apply.

Applicants whom are resident in low-income countries and low-middle income countries may have the application fee waived for this course. For further information, please contact the Course Administrator.

We strongly recommend that you apply by the January or March deadlines.  After the March deadline, the course will only stay open for that year's entry if places are still available. 

Remember that it can take a number of weeks to obtain all of the documents you need and prepare a competitive application. You should also allow your referees plenty of time to submit your references. We therefore recommend you apply as soon as possible.

Contact us

If you have any queries about the Diplomatic Studies Programme or the application process, please call us on +44 1865 270455 or email us at

Student spotlights

Our alumni now occupy a large number of senior posts in the diplomatic field. Read a selection of student stories below or view all DSP student spotlights.

Barbie Jane Rosales

Barbie Jane Rosales

After working for the Philippines government for six years Barbie felt the time was right to pursue graduate studies (2018-19).

Mohannad Shaddad

Mohannad Shaddad

Jordanian diplomat Mohannad improved his diplomatic skills through our Diplomatic Studies Programme (2016-17).

Nana Afia Twum-Barima

Nana Afia Twum-Barima

Nana joined the Diplomatic Studies Programme after working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ghana (2016-17).

Laura Silva

Laura Silva

Laura accepted a post in Beijing thanks to the confidence and knowledge she gained from her time on the Diplomatic Studies Programme (2013-14).

Jeremy Vallerand

Jeremy Vallerand

Since completing the Diplomatic Studies Programme, Jeremy launched an NGO that combats human trafficking around the world (2009-10).

Guillaume Soto-Mayor

Guillaume Soto-Mayor

Guillaume made friends for life during his time studying the Diplomatic Studies Programme and the experience developed his diplomatic, writing and negotiation skills (2016-17).