New MA in Global Diplomacy launches

Dr J Simon Rofe talks to Peter Quinn about the art of negotiation, US foreign policy and prize-winning pedagogy
The MA provides a practical approach to international affairs and contemporary international politics
Whenever you interact – be that with another individual, or governments talking to governments – there is a conversation, there is an interest, and a means to achieve those interests on both sides. That's what diplomacy, at its heart, is

Offered by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) at SOAS, University of London, the new MA Global Diplomacy by distance learning offers a dynamic and student-focused approach to the study of Diplomacy in international affairs.

Reflecting the same high level of academic rigour as CISD’s campus-based MA International Studies and Diplomacy, the programme “brings together a thorough understanding of the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of contemporary diplomatic practice”, Programme Director Dr J Simon Rofe tells me, “as well as a practical approach to international affairs and contemporary international politics.”

“The programme is designed to really draw on students' professional experience,” Simon (pictured below left) notes. “It's not quite the case as yet where students have swapped jobs, but I can envisage the circumstances under which that will happen."

"People working in international finance, international law or other aspects of business, particularly, are faced with a need for an understanding of diplomacy and negotiation in all of its forms."

Dr J Simon Rofe"One of the most important things about the programme”, Simon continues, “is the breadth of the student experience, in that it appeals to people from all sorts of walks of life. Obviously those who work in foreign services around the world and various other government departments dealing with foreign affairs are face to face with international diplomacy on a daily basis. But actually people working in international finance, international law or other aspects of business, particularly, are faced with similar challenges and a need for an understanding of diplomacy and negotiation in all of its forms - not just what one might typically think of as high diplomacy of ambassadors and embassies and the like.”

Beginning with a consideration of strategy and tactics and concluding with an examination of the 'packaging' of diplomatic agreements, the module Global Diplomacy: The Art of Negotiation is core to the degree.

"Whenever you interact – be that with another individual, like our conversation now – or governments talking to governments, there is a conversation, there is an interest, and a means to achieve those interests on both sides. That's what diplomacy, at its heart, is. The Art of Negotiation module endeavours to explain that within an appropriate historical context which takes us back to ancient times and the first communication between different groups, through the Ancient Greeks to the development of what we know as the 'French system' in the Renaissance under Cardinal Richelieu – and his Italian counterpart Gucciardini – through to twentieth century developments, and indeed into the twenty-first century and the age of Twitter and Facebook Diplomacy.”

"We use history, and its important to understand historical elements to inform contemporary debates, but it's not a strict narrative."

The Ancient Greeks, the Renaissance, Cardinal Richelieu. It sounds like there's a strong historical narrative underpinning the programme?

"There is”, he notes, “but it's not a history course. We use history, and its important to understand historical elements to inform contemporary debates, but it's not a strict narrative - the theme is diplomacy and how that's been done through different eras. Identifying moments of change, as well as moments of continuity, is the value of using historical case studies.”

In addition to the core module, students select three elective modules from a pool of specialist options – entitled Strategic Studies, International Economics, International Security and America in the World – that reflect the research expertise of the Centre. As one might expect, the United States looms large within the programme as a whole, primarily because of its importance to the international environment but also because it aligns with Simon’s own area of research expertise – his most recent book The Embassy in Grosvenor Square - US Ambassadors to the United Kingdom 1938-2008, was published at the end of 2012.

"The United States is pretty fundamental to the international system which is why, in my opinion, it's there and should be studied and appreciated, if not always liked."

Commenting on the future direction of US foreign policy, he observes that “there's probably more continuity in US foreign policy than there is change. Whilst the articulation of US foreign policy may change from administration to administration, and was perhaps at its most strident under George W. Bush, the key fundamentals of US foreign policy stay the same: US economic well-being, as a key tenet of national security interests. The headline goals, if you like, tend to stay the same - the rhetoric changes, and in some instances, the means by which they're achieved. But the United States is pretty fundamental to the international system which is why, in my opinion, it's there and should be studied and appreciated, if not always liked."

The teaching methodology of the MA is based upon an approach to pedagogic design known as the IR model, as Simon explains. "The IR model reflects a prize-winning approach to distance learning based on the 3D’s of Design, Develop and Deliver. IR stands primarily for intellectual reflection, as well as International Relations, and that's really the key attribute of the programme. It's not about gift-wrapping sources for students, it's far more about being able to provide the tools and skill set for students to be able to reflect intellectually on their own – and in conjunction with their peers, which is something very important – and their Associate Tutors so that they can meet the programme’s learning objectives."

In keeping with the CISD's motto ('Thinking Globally Acting Globally'), students on full-time programmes have gone on to amazingly varied careers on the world stage (see the 'Destinations' section of the CISD website), ranging from policy advisers and journalists to campaign officers and researchers. Gaining subject-specific expertise, coupled with cutting edge research and practical skills, graduates of the MA Global Diplomacy should be equally attractive to employers.

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