Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme

Course details

The Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme (DSP), formerly known as the Foreign Service Programme (FSP), is a full-time programme of mixed academic and vocational study of diplomacy and related subjects. 

The programme aims to equip its members with the knowledge and skills required for diplomacy in the 21st century, and the confidence on which to build a successful diplomatic career within a foreign ministry, international organisation or elsewhere. It is distinctive in the close relationship it enjoys with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and senior diplomatic practitioners. 

In 2019 the programme celebrated its 50th anniversary and our alumni, who include royalty and Prime Ministers as well as Ambassadors, now occupy a large number of senior posts in the diplomatic field.

The programme comprises:

Coronavirus update

The admissions cycle for this programme is progressing as planned, and the University is committed to ensuring that offer holders can take up their place as expected. Information will be made available as the situation develops. Find out more here

Quick links

Who is the programme for?

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. 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.

According to the independent External Examiner (2015 Report):

“This is a very successful programme that provides much needed training opportunities for very able students wishing to enter or further their career in diplomatic services across the globe.”

“The programme sets out – and clearly achieves – an ambitious set of learning objectives that tests students’ professional, technical and knowledge skills across a broad range of relevant subjects. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme is itself innovative and best practice.” 

Course options

Applicants may apply to either the Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Studies. 

Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies

This is a nine-month (October-June), full-time course requiring residence in Oxford. It comprises four taught courses and is assessed by four year-end examinations.

Master of Studies in Diplomatic Studies

A twelve-month (October-September), full-time course requiring residence in Oxford. In addition to the four taught courses and year-end examinations of the Postgraduate Diploma, it entails completion of a substantial research project.

Note students may not transfer from the PG Diploma to the MSt.

Programme details

Students on both the PGDip and MSt will together undertake the following courses and training:

Diplomatic Practice

The Diplomatic Practice course usually comprises a mixture of seminars and vocational training exercises as well as study tours. A wide variety of academics, diplomatic practitioners and others deliver seminars and lectures. DSP members may take part in practical exercises in diplomacy, for example in multilateral negotiation, crisis management and lobbying, and benefit from opportunities to develop their diplomatic writing, oral presentation and analytical skills. 

In recent years, the course has included a day’s joint training with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Diplomatic Academy. Training days may be subject to restrictions or changes imposed in response to COVID-19.

International Politics, Public International Law, International Trade and Finance

These academic courses are taught to PG Diploma and MSt students through a mixture of seminars and lectures. Members will gain a broad academic and critical understanding of each subject, and will learn how to research and write academic essays.

Media techniques and academic writing

All DSP members are offered training in presentation skills in a digital world, an essential for diplomats. All DSP members are offered training in academic writing skills.


The working language of the course is English. One benefit of the DSP is the opportunity it offers to build up and polish to a very high and sustained standard of effectiveness and fluency their command of the English language, the major international and diplomatic language in today’s world.

DSP members are also welcome to study an additional language using the resources of the University's Language Centre.

University lectures

As full members of the University, students on the DSP are encouraged to attend lectures, seminars and other events held elsewhere in the University. 

Study tours

As part of both programmes, all members usually take part in study tours in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, visiting international organisations, government ministries, multinational companies and media institutions.

Master of Studies additional content

In addition to the taught courses as detailed above, those admitted to the Master of Studies will complete a research project leading to a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic relevant to one or more of the subjects covered in the taught courses. You will take classes in research methodology and will conduct supervised research.


The Postgraduate Diploma requires the completion of the curriculum and four year-end examinations.

The Master of Studies requires the submission of a dissertation (15,000 words) in addition to the completion of the curriculum and four year-end examinations.

College membership and accommodation

DSP members become full members of both the University and one of the Colleges of the University. Further information about colleges and how the university is structured may be found on the relevant Graduate Admissions pages, including information about which colleges may offer accommodation and offer places to students on the DSP.

Web diary

In 2016/2017 we kept a Web Diary, which is an ideal place to visit if you are interested in learning more about how the programme may run through a typical year.

Academic staff

Course Director: Dr Yolanda Spies

Current staff profiles

Fees and funding

Fees and costs

For information about the course fee and the cost of living in Oxford, please visit the Oxford University Graduate Admissions webpages for the Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies and Master of Studies in Diplomatic Studies.


Many DSP members hold scholarships. The deadline for applications to external scholarship schemes is usually in the autumn prior to the application deadline, so early action is recommended.

Please see the Chevening website for information, eligibility and how to apply for UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Chevening Scholarships. Alternatively you might enquire at your local British diplomatic mission. Note the deadline for Chevening Scholarship applications for usually falls earlier than the course application deadline.

Citizens of developing Commonwealth countries applying to the MSt in Diplomatic Studies are eligible for Commonwealth Scholarship Commission Scholarships - an award covering course fees and providing a stipend. Applicants should apply directly to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission via their website. Note the deadline for this scholarship falls earlier than the course application deadline, on 20 December 2021 for entry onto the course in 2022.

Applications for awards from other international agencies should be addressed to those agencies.

The vast majority of Oxford University scholarships are awarded to applicants who submit their application by the January deadline. Those who apply before this date will be automatically considered for scholarships where they fulfil the eligibility criteria.

The University Fees and Funding page provides more information, including a search function for course-specific funding.

How to apply

Please visit the course pages on the Oxford University Graduate Admissions website for entry requirements, selection criteria and how to apply for the Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Studies.

Applicants whom are resident in low-income countries and low-middle income countries may have the application fee waived for this course. For further information, please contact the Course Administrator.

Contact us

If you have any queries about the Diplomatic Studies Programme or the application process, please call us on +44 1865 270455 or email us at dsp@conted.ox.ac.uk.