PGCert in Diplomatic Studies | University of Oxford
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PGCert in Diplomatic Studies

About the course

The University of Oxford offers a graduate course in diplomatic studies lasting one academic year, from early October to the end of June, at the Department for Continuing Education. The Foreign Service Programme (FSP) will enter its 49th year in October 2017 and its graduates now occupy a large number of senior posts in the international field.

The FSP is specifically designed for early to mid career diplomats. It aims to equip you with the knowledge and skills required for diplomacy in the 21st century, and the confidence on which to base a successful diplomatic career within a foreign ministry, international organisation or elsewhere. Those admitted to the FSP become members of a community of professional diplomats.

The majority of those who join the FSP are established diplomats proposed for the course by their governments, and return to their diplomatic careers after the course is over. A few non-diplomats with relevant background, personal qualities and working 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.

You will enjoy full membership of both the University and one of the colleges of the University.

You will initially be admitted on to the Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) in Diplomatic Studies, which comprises four taught courses and is assessed by four year-end examinations. During the first term you may apply to transfer to the PGDip in Diplomatic Studies, which will require you to also complete a substantial research project. If you successfully complete the PGDip then you may apply for the MSt in Diplomatic Studies, a research degree completed on a part-time, at-distance basis in the following academic year.

Content of the year and methods of study

The core curriculum comprises an intensive course on aspects of current diplomatic practice, and the study of international politics, public international law and international trade and finance. Emphasis is placed on national and regional issues relevant to countries and regions from which the participants come.

The course centres on lectures, seminars and tutorials in which you will meet your tutors in small groups and discuss your work. There are practical exercises, for example in negotiation, crisis management, public speaking and handling media interviews. There are guest speakers, both professional and academic, and occasional guest dinners throughout the year. Contact hours would typically amount to 64 lectures/seminars, 14 classes and 35 tutorials. Preparation for these is self-directed work.

You will be encouraged to take advantage of the broad range of opportunities available to you as a member of the University, for example by attending lectures held elsewhere in the University and/or by improving your knowledge of other languages.

Study tours

As part of the course in diplomatic practice, the FSP includes study visits to government departments, international organisations and business and media institutions in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe. A study tour to Northern Ireland may also take place..

More information on the ground covered by the curriculum included in a normal year's programme is given in the FSP course outline.


The working language of the course is English. You will be accepted only if you can demonstrate that you possess the necessary English language skills.

For non-native speakers, advanced English language classes are an integral part of the Foreign Service Programme. One advantage of the course is the opportunity it offers to build up and polish to a very high and sustained standard of effectiveness and fluency your command of the English language, the major international and diplomatic language in today's world.

Graduate destinations

Many FSP alumni have progressed to senior positions in their respective diplomatic services, elsewhere in government and international organisations, or more widely in the international field.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any relevant subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

The requirement for a first-class or strong upper second-class degree with honours can alternatively be demonstrated by relevant professional experience. If you have experience of diplomacy or a related field, you are encouraged to apply if your marks are equivalent to at least an upper second-class degree or GPA of 3.0.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  


Publications are not expected.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Experience in diplomacy or other related international areas is desirable and priority will be given to candidates with such experience.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Department for Continuing Education to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
  • A supervisor may be found outside the Department for Continuing Education.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.


The department is committed to supporting you to pursue your academic goals. 

The Rewley House Continuing Education Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, is situated in Rewley House. The department aims to support the wide variety of subjects covered by departmental courses at many academic levels. The department also has a collection of around 73,000 books together with periodicals. PCs in the library give access to the internet and the full range of electronic resources subscribed to by the University of Oxford. Wifi is also available. The Jessop Reading Room adjoining the library is available for study. You will have access to the Central Bodleian and other Bodleian Libraries.

The Graduate School provides a stimulating and enriching learning and research environment for the department's graduate students, fostering intellectual and social interaction between graduates of different disciplines and professions from the UK and around the globe. The Graduate School will help you make the most of the wealth of resources and opportunities available, paying particular regard to the support and guidance needed if you are following a part-time graduate programme. The department’s graduate community comprises over 600 members following taught programmes and more than 70 undertaking doctoral research.

The department provides various IT facilities, including the Student Computing Facility which provides individual PCs for your use. Many of the department's courses are delivered through blended learning or have a website to support face-to-face study. In most cases, online support is delivered through a virtual learning environment. 

Depending on the programme you are taking with the department, you may require accommodation at some point in your student career. Rewley House is ideally located in central Oxford; the city's historic sites, colleges, museums, shops and restaurants are only a few minutes’ walk away. The department has 35 en-suite study bedrooms, all with high quality amenities, including internet access.

The Rewley House dining room has seating for up to 132 people. A full meal service is available daily. The department operates a Common Room with bar for students. 


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

A range of scholarships are available to students on the programmes offered by the department, along with bursary funds to assist students on low incomes. Full information on these opportunities can be found on the departmental funding pages.


Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

(including Islands)

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.


Once accepted by Oxford University Foreign Service Programme for the PGCert course, you will become a full member of both the University and one of the colleges of the University. College membership is one of the most prized benefits of Oxford life. 

The following colleges accept students on the PGCert in Diplomatic Studies:

How to apply

You are welcome to make contact with the FSP Office prior to submitting your application.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.


A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose:
Up to 300 words

Your personal statement should be written in English and cover the main learning and professional achievements of your career so far, your main reasons for applying to take part in the course, and your longer-term plans for the future.  

This will be assessed for:

  • how well your experience equips you to undertake the course
  • evidence of your motivation to study diplomacy and related subjects, and to develop diplomatic skills
  • your commitment to diplomacy (in its broadest sense), beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • what you would contribute to the course
  • your ability to present a reasoned case in English.

Supplementary information form

Please download and complete the following form, then upload this to your application as written work:

This will be assessed for your professional experience and capacity to benefit from the course.

If you have been nominated to attend by a government, please also provide a letter of official nomination, setting out:

  • the name of the government
  • the reasons for the nomination
  • the proposed source of finance.

The nomination should be signed by an official of the government, and their name and official position provided. This document can be uploaded to your application as a transcript.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, at least one of which must be academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group and professional experience. You should submit at least one academic reference and one professional. 

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