Core Subject: Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy

Course content

The aim of the course is to offer a comprehensive introduction to the theory and practice of foreign policy.

The course enhances the students’ ability to think critically and to combine complex theories with insights from the contemporary political world. Emphasis will be on the ability to present a coherent argument, to discuss and evaluate competing claims, and to write in concise and clear manner. The course will be relevant for students interested in working with complex issues in politics and elsewhere.


The first part of the course focuses on theory. We discuss the main theoretical traditions including various approaches within each tradition and their applicability for understanding different aspects of foreign policy. Discussion include International Relations theories such as Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism and Post-Structuralism as well as specific theories and models for foreign policy analysis.


The second part of the course focuses on practice. To balance the security policy focus of much foreign policy analysis, we zoom in on foreign economic policy, both the hard foreign economic policy (sanctions, unilateralism and trade war) and the soft foreign economic policy (incentives, multilateralism and persuasion). We discuss diplomacy, both the classical diplomacy and new diplomatic challenges, before we turn to the foreign policies of such countries as the United States, China, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Nordic countries.


Students will choose their own paper topics within the overall thematic of the course and discuss these with other students and a supervisor in two paper workshops.




!! This course will be held on campus !!


Core subject in the core-subject line in Foreign Policy. Only accessible to students who are admitted to Foreign Policy.


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semester only, as the course is not offered in the spring

Learning outcome


Demonstrate knowledge of the theories and concepts of foreign policy analysis

Understand core institutions and diplomatic processes involved in contemporary foreign policy making and practices, in relation to specific cases, including small state diplomacy, militarization of foreign policy, globalization and foreign economic policy, bureaucratization of foreign policy and value-based foreign policy.



Demonstrate informed, convincing and precise knowledge of foreign policy, including relevant literature review, theoretical debates and empirical analysis. 

Make informed, analytical evaluations of different approaches to the study of foreign policy and their applicability to historical and contemporary examples of foreign policy.



Critically reflect upon key contemporary issues and developments in contemporary foreign policy trade in the light of relevant historical, theoretical and methodological considerations.

Translate knowledge about theories and concepts of foreign policy into concrete empirical analysis and identify opportunities and challenges for foreign policy change.

A mix of in-class lectures, student group work, invited guest-lectures, student workshops and class discussions. Active student participation is expected.

Primarily journal articles and book chapters on the theory and practice of foreign policy. The reading list will be an adjusted version of the 2018 reading list taking into account the experience of the lecturers as well as student feedback on the texts.



Hellmann, G./Jørgensen, K.E. (eds.), Theorizing Foreign Policy in a Globalized World. Basingstoke, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan


Smith, Steve/Hadfield, Amelia/Dunne, Timothy (eds.) 2008: Foreign Policy. Theories, Actors, Cases. Oxford: University Press

Admission to the Master’s programme in Political Science.

Basic knowledge of International Relations theory is expected.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Written examination
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • English
  • 56