MSt in Diplomatic Studies | University of Oxford
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MSt in Diplomatic Studies

About the course

The Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme, also known as the Foreign Service Programme, 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)

Students admitted to the PGDip will have the opportunity to apply to transfer mid-year to the MSt, subject to UK visa requirements, on demonstration of the necessary academic potential and English language ability.

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 will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019 and its alumni occupy a large number of senior posts in the diplomatic field. 

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.

Course structure and content

The Master of Studies (MSt) in Diplomatic Studies comprises four taught courses, assessed by four year-end examinations, 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, and 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 practical exercises, for example in negotiation, crisis management, public speaking and handling media interviews. 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 150 lectures/seminars and 20 tutorials. Preparation for these is self-directed work.

In addition to the four taught courses, you will be required to complete a substantial research project leading to a dissertation up to 15,000 words on a related topic of your choice. 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.

Besides the taught and research elements of the course, 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.

Study tours

As part of the course in diplomatic practice, the DSP 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.


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 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.

Graduate destinations

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.

Other courses in this area

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.

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 2019-20

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 subject.

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

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

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

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.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process. However, current students applying for transfer from the PGDip to the MSt mid-year may be interviewed.


Publications are not expected.

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.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher 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 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 PG Diploma if they wish. It is not necessary to submit two applications.

Students accepted for the PGDip will have the opportunity to apply to transfer mid-year to the MSt, subject to UK visa requirements, on demonstration of the necessary academic potential and English language ability.


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.

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.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£23,950

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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

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.

Living costs

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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.


Once accepted by the Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme, whether for the PGDip or the MSt, 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 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:

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. 

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 Course Administrator.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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