Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POC2084: Foreign Policy

This module descriptor refers to the 2019/0 academic year.

Please note that this module is only delivered on the Penryn Campus.


NQF Level 5
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Owen Thomas (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


Who makes foreign policy? How do state leaders think about international crises? And how freely can leaders affect international relations in response? How should actors deal with human rights abuses, nuclear proliferation, and violations of international law or rising powers? Can supranational institutions make a difference greater than the sum of individual governments? These are some of the big questions for Foreign Policy - one of the most inter-disciplinary fields of Politics and International Relations.


In this module we will examine the actors that ‘do’ foreign policy and study how their decisions and actions are shaped by range of constraints. In the first part of the module, we will examine the dominant theoretical approaches to International Relations and examine how they can contribute to an analysis of foreign policy. In the second part of the module we will explore a range of interdisciplinary perspectives; we will examine the range of actors that ‘do’ foreign policy: including, non-state actors, the media and public opinion; we will investigate the extent to which foreign policy actors are constrained toward particular decisions by international structures, and the extent to which actors are capable of rational, intentional policies and be held to account for their results. We will also consider the role that ideology, personality and psychology play in the formulation of foreign policy. In the final part of the module, we will examine a series of case studies: including New Labour’s ‘ethical foreign policy’, the foreign policy of the EU, US and UK foreign policy leading to the Iraq War, the International Criminal Court, international climate change agreements and nuclear non-proliferation. The taught element of the module concludes with a simulation exercise that will place you ‘in the shoes’ of a foreign policy actor, in which you must try to pursue your chosen course of action whilst navigating structural constraints and persuading other actors.


No prior knowledge skills or experience are required to take this module and it is suitable for specialist and non-specialist students. A basic familiarity with international current affairs and International Relations scholarship will be an advantage.

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