The course equips you to understand and explain global governance and diplomacy, and prepares you for a career in these areas and beyond.

More specifically, the degree will teach you about the sources, mechanisms, processes, and practices of global governance at the international, transnational, state, and sub-state levels, focussing on issues such as globalisation, regional integration, international organisation, and multilateralism. It will also provide you with substantive knowledge and theoretical background concerning the institutions and processes of international diplomacy, including diplomatic practice, international negotiation, conflict mediation, and public diplomacy, as well as the conduct of diplomacy in international and regional bodies.

You can choose from a rich menu of options to deepen your knowledge about specific aspects of global governance and diplomacy.

You will write a dissertation on a topical issue of your choice, under the close supervision of a resident scholar, and receive training in research methods, enabling you to apply to proceed to doctoral studies if you so wish. Alternatively, the course will prepare you for a professional career in global governance and diplomacy, as well as civil society and business.

Applicants to this degree who are interested in progressing onto doctoral study are eligible to apply for an ESRC 1+3 Studentship which could provide them with four years of full funding. These studentships, previously only available for UK and EU students, are now also available to non-EU students. See the Fees and Funding page for more information.

The Course Director for 2023/24 is Dr Joerg Friedrichs.

Teaching awards

Professor Corneliu Bjola won an OxTALENT Award in 2014 for his use of social media to enhance teaching on the MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy.

The following staff, who teach on the MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy, have won Oxford University Teaching Awards:

  • Professor John Gledhill (2013)
  • Dr Ivan Manokha (2020)

You will take a foundation course; two optional courses from a list of choices; and a course on research methods. You will also prepare a dissertation.

The foundation course is a two-term course running over 16 weeks and covering fundamental issues of global governance and diplomacy.

The optional courses cover important aspects of global governance and/or diplomacy. Each option consists of eight two-hour seminars.

There is also a mandatory, two-term course on qualitative and quantitative research methods in the social sciences.

Lastly, you will research and write a 10,000- to 12,000- word dissertation under the supervision of a supervisor to be submitted towards the end of the final term.

Over the duration of the course you will benefit from a series of events that introduce important issues of global governance and diplomacy and/or provide research-led presentations on related topics, followed by discussion.

Most of our teaching takes place in small classes to encourage active participation and enable students to learn from each other. Teaching styles are diverse and include lectures, seminars, workshops, and student presentations.

  • Foundation Course

    • Global Governance and Diplomacy

      The foundational course in Global Governance and Diplomacy explores the sources, mechanisms, processes, and practices of global governance at the subnational, national, international, and transnational levels, focussing on issues such as globalisation, regional integration, international organisation, and multilateralism. It also provides students with a thorough knowledge of the institutions and processes of international diplomacy, including key themes of diplomatic thought, paradigms of international negotiation, ethical boundaries of diplomatic engagement, and transformative implications of digital technologies.

  • Research Methods in the Social Sciences

    Part I on qualitative methods (Michaelmas Term) develops common research methods in the social sciences including but not limited to the topics of concept formation, causal analysis, single and comparative case study methods, case selection, qualitative interviewing, historical and ethnographic methods, and genealogy. The course familiarizes students with a suite of research techniques, taking account of their methodological and epistemological background. The emphasis is on enabling students to become savvy consumers, and eventually producers, of scholarship using qualitative methods.

    Part II on quantitative methods (Hilary Term): Lectures are held jointly with the first-year MPhil students, while classes are organised in smaller groups, and are led by teaching assistants. The aim of this course is to familiarize students with the basic statistical methods used in quantitative social research with a focus on descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, model building, regression analysis, and identification of causal relationships. The emphasis is on the intuitive understanding of concepts and procedures. The course provides students with an elementary understanding of the logic of statistical analysis and with the skills to conduct a basic analysis using a statistical software. It also equips students to present basic quantitative data and helps them develop strategies for using data to support their research. The aim is to develop skills in research methods for those who have no prior experience, and to enhance the skills of those with some prior knowledge. It should also be helpful to students in critically appraising published research.

  • Option Courses

    Please note that the option courses available change from year to year. Below is a list of options that have run in previous years. There is no guarantee that the same options will be offered in future years.

    • Diplomacy and International Law

      Designed for students who have limited introduction to diplomatic and public international law, the course aims to give students a practical understanding of how international law informs, regulates and constrains the conduct of diplomacy. The seminar will focus on the following central questions: What principles and instruments underpinning the international legal order are most relevant for the practice of diplomacy? Under what conditions states may be held responsible for their actions under international law? What are the main tensions between theory and practice in the application of diplomatic law? By the end of the course, students are expected to be well conversant about how diplomats practice and ought to practice international law in global affairs.

    • Diplomacy and Virtual Reality

      The past decade has been witnessing the fast adoption by Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and International Organizations (IOs) of a broad spectrum of digital technologies ranging from social media, data analytics dashboards, video-conferencing platforms, to AI-powered chatbots and decision-making applications. Whilst still in its initial phases, social VR applications – a term which refers to navigable virtual environments where individuals meet and interact through their avatars – have been also experimentally used for organising virtual events, including for diplomatic and humanitarian purposes.

      The main objective of this course is to offer students the theoretical knowledge and practical competencies necessary for understanding the new role of virtual reality (VR) platforms in the conduct of diplomacy. To this end, the option examines the scope of application, functional effects, and adaptation challenges to follow from the integration of VR platforms to multiple diplomatic areas: humanitarian affairs, crisis management, public diplomacy, and international negotiations.  The overall aim of the course is to establish theoretical benchmarks for understanding and comparing diplomatic engagement impacted by the adoption of new digital technologies by MFAs and IOs.

    • Religion and World Politics

      The aim of this seminar is to introduce students to the crucial topic of religion in world politics. Accepted wisdom has it that religion is resurgent and matters, but it is less clear what exactly this entails and precisely how religion matters. The seminar helps students expand their knowledge and advance their understanding by covering important issues from public religion to secularization and de-secularization, and from the influence of religion on US foreign policy to Islamist visions of order. In doing so, the seminar discusses some of the most topical trends in contemporary world politics and possible approaches to dealing with them.

    • Peacebuilding and Statebuilding

      This course examines the many dilemmas that are associated with contemporary processes of peacemaking, peacebuilding, and post-conflict statebuilding. We open by considering the concepts of conflict, violence, and peace, and we evaluate the post-Cold War view that democracy and a liberal market constitute the best institutional environments in which to foster peace. In the second section of the class, we explore international responses to ongoing armed conflicts. Particular attention is given to ethical and practical dilemmas that are associated with the provision of humanitarian assistance in conflict zones. We also consider the changing role of peacekeeping forces and peace support operations in the post-Cold War era, before going on to examine the dynamics of peace negotiations and the reasons for which particular peace agreements hold, while others fail. In the next section of the course, we turn our attention to post-conflict reconstruction. Specifically, we examine processes of statebuilding and regime-building that have taken place over the past twenty years, under the auspices of the “liberal peace” project. Issues associated with securing a post-conflict space and demobilizing combatants are first considered. We then move on to discuss regime- and institution-building, by looking at dilemmas associated with attempts to install electoral democracy and a market economy in a post-conflict space. The course concludes with an examination of various processes of transitional justice that may be implemented in the wake of armed conflict.

    • Non-violent Resistance Movements

      This course covers the theory of nonviolent resistance, explanations of social mobilization, repertoires of nonviolent protest, technologies of protest, and transitions from nonviolent resistance into violence. The aims are to understand the normative foundations of nonviolent resistance and develop an empirical framework for explaining the causes, dynamics, and outcomes of such resistance.  The course is divided into four sections, each two weeks long. The opening section covers theories and approaches to the study of nonviolence. In the first class, we explore contrasting understandings of social and political power, and consider how those varying approaches give rise to contrasting understandings of resistance. In the second class, we then look at two broad ways of studying nonviolent resistance; prescriptively, and empirically.  The next section of the course focuses on processes of social mobilization that underwrite and sustain nonviolent resistance movements. One class explores the framing of collective motives to mobilize, and the other looks at the development of political opportunities that facilitate protests, as well as availability of the kinds material and human resources that actors need to realize a nonviolent protest, in practice. In the third section of the course, we explore the strategies and dynamics of nonviolent resistance; first at the domestic level, and then at the transnational level. And the course closes by considering the relationship between violent and nonviolent resistance; we first consider how and why violent insurgents may give up their arms and turn to nonviolence, and we then look at why nonviolent resistance sometimes fails, and collapses into violence. Throughout the course, we consider the above themes across a diverse set of historical and contemporary cases of nonviolent resistance, including the US civil rights movement, the anti-Apartheid struggle, the ‘Coloured Revolutions’ in post-communist countries, and the Arab Spring revolts.

    • Political Economy of Institutions and Development

      This course is designed to introduce the emerging field of political economy of institutions and development, and to deepen understanding of how domestic institutions shape economic development in a globalized world. It engages students with the intellectual frontiers of institutions and development, highlighting the theoretical, empirical and public policy aspects of this literature. Beginning with an overview of leading perspectives on new institutional economics, the course will develop and critically assess key topics in the field, to include: the economics of property rights, of rent seeking and corruption, of institutions. It will also examine the process of economic change (especially the role of institutions in shaping governance and development paths), and the colonial origins of institutions and their impact on development. This course will be taught in a comparative and international context, and will furnish relevant evidence and examples from developing societies.

    • Global Trade and Finance

      Globalisation has brought its opportunities for economic growth and development, but also its challenges. This course engages in this critical discourse by unpacking key concepts and debates in Global Trade and Finance, including ‘free trade’, ’financial/trade liberalisation’, ‘globalisation’, ‘neoliberalism’ and ‘financialisation.’. It critically examines its implications for international relations, diplomacy and economic development. The course begins by setting the conceptual tools to enable students to use theories and frameworks to engage in these debates, followed by a more in-depth look on the global trade architecture, including institutions and actors, and how they engage to influence the proliferation of capitalism. The course then looks at the integration of both developed and developing countries in this global capitalist framework, by engaging with research on multinational corporations and global value chains, and its relation to economic diplomacy and development. The course then explores financialization, its impacts on countries and people. Finally, against these overwhelming structures, we examine the resistance and counter-movements this has given rise to at local, national and international levels, and how these may yet have implications in the future.

    • Global Environmental Governance

      Environmental institutions, actors and concerns converge today towards an established area of global governance, that is complex for the wealth of its – too often polarised - debates and its demand for urgent responses. This course builds students’ understanding of environmental global governance’s discourses and practices by drawing on literature in Global Governance, International Relations and Politics and also Anthropology, Economics, Earth Science and Ecology. It first introduces key concepts and debates, and available theoretical frameworks in global environmental governance. Second, it explores the international architecture of environmental governance, including its dedicated international organisations and agreements. The course then moves on to debating climate change, and particularly how science and politics intersect and shape one another in this issue area. Next, it discusses existing approaches to sustainable resource development - including how they speak to the challenge of biodiversity conservation - and the ideas of earth overshoot and resilience. To that follows a session on energy transition, its geopolitical implications and the limits and opportunities of renewable resources. Then, students familiarise themselves with approaches to studying the spatial dimension of environmental change as it relates to urbanisation, or migration within and across national borders. Finally, the course examines environmental movements and activism at local, national and international levels and its effectiveness in bringing about change.

  • Non-Core Options

    Information on non-core options is made available at the start of each academic year.

The degree aims to prepare you for a career in diplomacy and/or transnational and regional institutions of governance such as international organisations, nongovernmental organisations, and private sector firms interacting with these institutions. It also provides the basis for further education, including doctoral studies.

Graduates of the MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy have joined the United Nations and other international organisations such as World Food Program, the diplomatic service in the UK and other countries, government departments across the globe, NGOs such as Oxfam and WWF, and the private sector in fields ranging from investment to energy.


Please refer to the course webpage on the University Graduate Admissions pages for full information on selection criteria, application deadlines and English language requirements.

Contact us

Enquiries about the MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy should be addressed to the Graduate Student Administrator, admissions@qeh.ox.ac.uk.