Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme

Course details

The Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme (DSP), formerly known as the Foreign Service Programme (FSP), is a full-time programme of mixed academic and vocational study of diplomacy and related subjects. 

The programme aims to equip its members with the knowledge and skills required for diplomacy in the 21st century, and the confidence on which to build a successful diplomatic career within a foreign ministry, international organisation or elsewhere. It is distinctive in the close relationship it enjoys with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and senior diplomatic practitioners. 

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.

The programme comprises:

Coronavirus update

The admissions cycle for this programme is progressing as planned, and the University is committed to ensuring that offer holders can take up their place as expected. Information will be made available as the situation develops. Find out more here

Who is the programme for?

The DSP is specifically designed for early- to mid-career diplomats. The majority of its members are established diplomats proposed for the course by their governments, who return to their diplomatic careers after the course is over. A few non-diplomats with relevant academic background and professional experience are included. 

Geographical representation on the course is extremely broad and you will have the opportunity to benefit significantly from exchange of experience between each other and with alumni. As well as key issues of the day, the DSP places emphasis on national and regional issues relevant to countries and regions from which the participants come.

According to the independent External Examiner (2015 Report):

“This is a very successful programme that provides much needed training opportunities for very able students wishing to enter or further their career in diplomatic services across the globe.”

“The programme sets out – and clearly achieves – an ambitious set of learning objectives that tests students’ professional, technical and knowledge skills across a broad range of relevant subjects. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme is itself innovative and best practice.” 


Applicants may apply to either the Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Studies. 

Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies

This is a nine-month (October-June), full-time course requiring residence in Oxford. It comprises four taught courses and is assessed by four year-end examinations.

Master of Studies in Diplomatic Studies

A twelve-month (October-September), full-time course requiring residence in Oxford. In addition to the four taught courses and year-end examinations of the Postgraduate Diploma, it entails completion of a substantial research project.

From 2020, there is no opportunity to transfer mid-year from the PG Diploma to the MSt.

Please see the outline programme for the academic year 2019/2020 for an example programme.

Programme structure and content

Students on both the PGDip and MSt will together undertake the following courses and training:

Diplomatic Practice

The Diplomatic Practice course usually comprises a mixture of seminars and vocational training exercises as well as study tours. A wide variety of academics, diplomatic practitioners and others deliver seminars and lectures. DSP members may take part in practical exercises in diplomacy, for example in multilateral negotiation, crisis management and lobbying, and benefit from opportunities to develop their diplomatic writing, oral presentation and analytical skills. 

In recent years, the course has included a day’s joint training with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Diplomatic Academy. In 2020-21, the FCO training day is subject to restrictions imposed in response to COVID-19.

International Politics, Public International Law, International Trade and Finance

These academic courses are taught to PG Diploma and MSt students through a mixture of seminars and lectures. Members will gain a broad academic and critical understanding of each subject, and will learn how to research and write academic essays.

Media techniques and academic writing

All DSP members are offered training in media techniques, an essential skill for diplomats. All DSP members are offered training in academic writing skills.


The working language of the course is English. One benefit of the DSP is the opportunity it offers to build up and polish to a very high and sustained standard of effectiveness and fluency their command of the English language, the major international and diplomatic language in today’s world.

DSP members are also welcome to study an additional language using the resources of the University's Language Centre.

University lectures

As full members of the University, students on the DSP are encouraged to attend lectures, seminars and other events held elsewhere in the University. 

Study tours

As part of both programmes, all members usually take part in study tours in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, visiting international organisations, government ministries, multinational companies and media institutions.

Master of Studies additional content

In addition to the taught courses as detailed above, those admitted to the Master of Studies will complete a research project leading to a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic relevant to one or more of the subjects covered in the taught courses. You will take classes in research methodology and will conduct supervised research.


The Postgraduate Diploma requires the completion of the curriculum and four year-end examinations.

The Master of Studies requires the submission of a dissertation (15,000 words) in addition to the completion of the curriculum and four year-end examinations.

Web diary

In 2016/2017 we kept a Web Diary, which is an ideal place to visit if you are interested in learning more about how the programme runs throughout the year.

Academic Staff

Dr Charles Boyle

Course Director

Dr Vahid Nick Pay

International Politics Lecturer

Dr Nikolaos Theodorakis

International Trade and Finance Lecturer

Mr John Beyer

Diplomatic Practice Tutor

Ms Tsvetelina van Benthem

Public International Law Tutor

Ms Alison Sharpe

Academic Literacy Tutor


College membership and accommodation

DSP members become full members of both the University and one of the Colleges of the University. The college will normally provide the member's accommodation.  Some colleges offer accommodation for couples and families; if participants require this, they are advised to research options in advance and specify one of these colleges as their preference at the time of application. Applicants are encouraged to  discuss their needs with the Programme Administrator  once offered a place on the course.  Accommodation is adequate but of a student level, with limited facilities.  If participants would prefer a higher standard of accommodation, they will need to find and rent it at their own expense.   

Frequently asked questions

View some of the most frequently asked questions. If you cannot find an answer to your question, please call us on +44 1865 270455 or email us at dsp@conted.ox.ac.uk.

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 Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies and Master of Studies in Diplomatic Studies.


Many DSP members hold scholarships. The deadline for applications to external scholarship schemes is usually in the autumn, so early action is recommended. Please see the Chevening website for information, eligibility and how to apply for UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Chevening Scholarships. Alternatively you might enquire at your local British diplomatic mission. The deadline for Chevening Scholarship applications for 2020/21 is 5 November 2019.

Citizens of developing Commonwealth countries applying to the MSt in Diplomatic Studies are eligible for Commonwealth Scholarships.  We are able to award a Commonwealth Scholarship to one of our students for the academic year 2020/21. Applicants should apply directly to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission via their website.

In order to be considered, applicants must:

1. Complete the online scholarship application form issued by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission by 16:00 (GMT) on 18 December 2019.
2. Submit their application for graduate study by the relevant January deadline.

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.


Please visit the course pages on the Oxford University Graduate Admissions website for entry requirements, selection criteria and how to apply for the Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Studies.

The deadlines for 2021 entry are 12 noon UK time (midday) on:

  • Friday 22 January 2021
  • Tuesday 2 March 2021

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.

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 dsp@conted.ox.ac.uk.