About the course
The Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme (DSP), formerly known as the Foreign Service Programme (FSP), is a one-year programme of mixed academic and vocational study of diplomacy and related subjects.
Diplomatic Studies Programme
The Diplomatic Studies Programme comprises:
- PGDip in Diplomatic Studies, a nine-month full-time course (October to June)
- MSt in Diplomatic Studies, a twelve-month full-time course (October to September)
The Diplomatic Studies Programme aims to equip each of its members with the knowledge and skills required for diplomacy in today and tomorrow’s world, and the confidence on which to base a successful diplomatic career within a foreign ministry, international organisation or elsewhere. The programme celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 and its alumni occupy a large number of senior posts in the diplomatic field.
The DSP is a programme for professionals. It is specifically designed for early- to mid-career diplomats, and a large proportion of its members are established diplomats, who return to their diplomatic careers after the course. Some are nominated by their Foreign Ministries to attend. A few non-diplomats with relevant academic background and professional experience are included. Members come from an extremely broad range of countries, and one of the attributes of the course is the extensive opportunity it offers to share and learn from peers' experiences and perspectives.
Course structure and content
The Master of Studies (MSt) in Diplomatic Studies comprises four taught courses, plus the completion of a substantial research project.
Together with the PGDip students, you will undertake an intensive course on aspects of current diplomatic practice, focusing on both diplomatic skills (oral, written and strategic) and on aspects of contemporary diplomacy (political, economic, digital and many others). There are practical exercises, for example, in negotiation, drafting, crisis management, public speaking and handling media interviews. You will also take courses on international politics, public international law and international trade and finance. 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.
The course centres on lectures, seminars and tutorials in which you will meet your tutors in small groups and discuss your work. There are many guest speakers, both professional and academic, and there may be occasional lunches or dinners with guests. Contact hours would typically amount to 180 lectures/seminars and 24 tutorials. Preparation for these is self-directed work.
For non-native speakers, advanced English language classes are an integral part of the Diplomatic Studies 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.
You will be encouraged to take advantage of the broad range of opportunities available to you as a member of the University and one of its colleges, for example by attending lectures held elsewhere in the University and/or by improving your knowledge of other languages.
More information on a typical year's curriculum is available on the DSP website.
In addition to the four taught courses, you will be required to complete a substantial research project leading to a dissertation of up to 15,000 words on a topic of your choice related to the course. You will have research methods classes to help you with methodology, and will have a supervisor to oversee your private research. The dissertation offers you an opportunity to undertake supervised in-depth research, using Oxford’s generous research facilities, and to write a long paper on a topic you are passionate about.
As part of the course in diplomatic practice, the DSP normally 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.
It is not possible to confirm at this time if any study tours can go ahead.
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.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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.
In addition to the dissertation, the four taught courses are assessed by four year-end examinations.
Many DSP/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.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Courses suggested by the department
Diplomatic Studies PGDip
The Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies is a nine-month full-time course requiring completion of all elements of the Master of Studies apart from the research project. Except as regards the research project, PGDip and MSt students form one cohort and will be taught and examined together.
All graduate courses in the social sciences offered by this department
Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Applicants are normally expected to have professional experience in diplomacy or a related field, and priority will be given to candidates with such experience.
- Publications are not expected.
- 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.
- Unsuccessful applicants for the MSt will automatically be considered for the PGDip in Diplomatic Studies if they wish. It is not necessary to submit two applications.
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
English language requirement
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
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.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
The Department for Continuing Education 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.
The Rewley House dining room ordinarily has seating for up to 132 people. A full meal service is available daily. The department operates a Common Room with bar for students.
The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources. Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2021-22
Annual Course fees
|Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,|
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
|Overseas (including EU)||£25,900|
Course 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 course fees). 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.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Please note that this course requires that you attend in Oxford for teaching, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Further, as part of your course requirements, you will need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. 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.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students on the MSt in Diplomatic Studies:
How to apply
You are welcome to make contact with the DSP Office prior to submitting your application.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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:
A maximum of 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.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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 and succinct 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 and one professional
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.
In addition to the general scheme for the application fee to be waived for applicants resident in low-income countries, applicants from low-middle income countries may also have the fee waived for this course. For further information, please contact the DSP Office.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.
Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds who meet the eligibility criteria;
- residents in a country listed as low-income by the World Bank (refer to the eligibility criteria);
- current Oxford graduate taught students applying for readmission to an eligible course; and
- additional applications to selected research courses that are closely related to your first application.
Step 5: Start your application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.