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Diplomatic Theory and Practice online course

Why do we need diplomats?

Diplomats are members of a profession developed over many centuries. But why do we still need them in a world transformed by electronic communications? This course examines the nature of diplomacy; when it is appropriate; the advantages and disadvantages of different diplomatic methods; and the lexicon of diplomacy.

The materials for this course were developed by Prof. GR Berridge, based on his book Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, now in its 5th edition. Prof. Berridge is an Emeritus Professor of International Politics at the University of Leicester and a DiploFoundation Senior Fellow; read more, including his current blog postings, on his website.

Programme details

What will you learn?
  • Describe and explain with clarity the shape and functions of the contemporary world diplomatic system.
  • Identify and describe the different stages of negotiations, the objectives for each stage, and techniques for securing agreement, providing examples from diplomatic practice.
  • Compare and contrast the various missions, offices, conferences, techniques and procedures of bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.
  • Analyse what contributes to successful mediation.
  • Justify the role of summits and their place in the negotiating arena.
  • Defend the value of diplomacy with authority and enthusiasm.
How will you learn? In this course you will interact intensively in discussions with classmates and lecturers from around the world. You will receive guidance and personalised feedback on your classwork from the course team. How long will you learn? The course lasts for 10 weeks:
  • 1 week of course introduction and orientation to online learning
  • 8 weeks of addressing the course topics one by one (see below for more details)
  • 1 week for the final assignment and completing pending tasks
Alumni Diplo alumni

Master/Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy

University of Malta logoThe Master/Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy guides working diplomats and international relations professionals through the theoretical and practical building blocks of diplomacy, with a focus on contemporary issues and challenges.

Participants can focus on contemporary diplomacy, or select internet governance as an area of specialisation within the programme. Those who select internet governance will attend several required courses in this area and write their dissertations on internet governance-related topics.

Offered by DiploFoundation and the University of Malta’s Department of International Relations, the programme is:

  • Relevant: Courses cover traditional and contemporary topics in diplomacy; faculty members include practising and retired diplomats, and experts with both theoretical expertise and practical experience.
  • Flexible: You design your study programme, selecting from our wide range of courses and deciding on the Postgraduate Diploma or Master’s degree.
  • Practical and affordable: Programme fees are competitive compared to similar programmes; with online delivery, you can continue to work and earn an income. All you need is a computer connected to the internet.
  • Personalised: Small group sizes emphasise learning together, drawing on the experience and knowledge of participants as well as lecturers, enabling you to extend your professional network.
  • Effective: The programme is highly rated by former participants, who have seen immediate and lasting benefits ranging from personal development to career advances.
  • Accredited: The degree is awarded by the University of Malta; the programme has European postgraduate accreditation making it recognised worldwide.

Programme details

The Master/Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy involves 16 to 20 months of online study, including writing a dissertation. Areas of study range from the basics of diplomacy (Diplomatic Theory and Practice, Bilateral Diplomacy, Multilateral Diplomacy, and more) to contemporary topics (Artificial Intelligence: Technology, Governance and Policy Frameworks, Internet Technology and Policy, E-Diplomacy, and more). Insider tip: You can complete up to two online courses before enrolling in the programme, for additional flexibility and financial savings. Please see University of Malta Accredited Courses to learn more about this option. The programme is organised in three phases. It starts with an introductory workshop which takes place over a three week period in January/February. Following the workshop, you will attend five online courses, each lasting ten weeks. The final phase includes writing your Master’s dissertation. The programme is awarded with 90 ECTS credits: 15 for the introductory workshop, 45 for 5 online courses (9 ECTS each) and 30 for the dissertation.

Introductory workshop

The introductory workshop focuses on building skills used in diplomatic practice, through an interactive and exercise-based set of seminars. The workshop sets the stage for the entire programme and provides the opportunity to get to know other course participants and faculty members. Participants tell us that they keep in touch with classmates and faculty members long after the programme ends and the resulting professional network is highly valuable in their work. The workshop takes place over a three-week period; you should expect to spend five to six hours of study time per day during this period, including reading and discussing course materials, attending live meetings via a video-conferencing platform, joining group exercises, and completing assignments. Insider tip: To get an idea of how the online workshop functions in practice, please check the 2021 online workshop schedule. N.B. The exact schedule for 2022 will be finalised and shared with applicants in January 2022.

Online courses

During this phase, you complete five online courses of your choice, each lasting ten weeks. Participation in the courses involves seven to ten hours of study time per week. Online class groups are small to allow for intensive discussion with course lecturers and classmates, and rich collaborative learning. Courses cover a wide range of both traditional and contemporary topics in diplomacy, many of them not taught elsewhere. See our full list of courses with the MA/PGD programme. After successful completion of the introductory workshop and five online courses, you may choose whether to receive the Postgraduate Diploma or to proceed with writing your Master's dissertation. In order to proceed to the Master’s degree, you must achieve an average mark of at least 65% for the five online courses.


If you aim for the Master's degree, you will prepare a 25,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice under the personal online guidance of a research supervisor selected from Diplo's faculty members. You may decide whether to write your dissertation over a four- or eight-month period. Candidates for the internet governance specialisation will write their dissertations on internet governance-related topics.

Telephone diplomacy: Dialling the ‘red line’ [A historical journey #8]


Missed the event? Read/Watch/Listen/Discover

Thursday, 30th September | 12:00 UTC (08:00 EDT | 14:00 CEST | 20:00 CST)

In our September episode of History of Diplomacy and Technology, we will talk about diplomacy and the invention of the telephone and wireless communication.

Telephone scene from 'Dr Strangelove' movie

The telephone facilitated a close contact among heads of state, including various ‘red lines’ for urgent communication, while wireless communication,  mainly the radio, was used by countries which didn’t develop telegraph infrastructures on time (mainly Germany) to close the gap with those who did. (e.g. the United Kingdom).

Diplomatic issues raised in international policy surrounding telephone and wireless communication, such as security, privacy, and neutrality, are still discussed today in the context of digital policy.

Join us for a new Masterclass with Jovan Kurbalija: ‘Telephone diplomacy: Dialling the ‘red line’, on Thursday, September 30th at 14:00 CEST.

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[WebDebate #28 summary] Humanising immigration


Andrijana Gavrilović

Our March WebDebate explored conflicting narratives on immigration and delved into the challenges and opportunities of intercultural relations in the context of diplomatic practice. We were joined by Ms Ifigenia Georgiadou (Hellenic Culture Centre, Greece), Dr Atef Ahmed (Freelancer Educational Consultant, Egypt), and Dr Biljana Scott (Senior Fellow, DiploFoundation). The WebDebate was moderated by Dr Katharina Höne (DiploFoundation).

Georgiadou began by stating that immigrants and refugees leave their countries because of economic, environmental, or political crises. Europe, one of the chosen destinations, is a multinational society with a variety of ethnic groups, cultural groups, and a wide range of cultural expressions. European countries are attractive countries because of their economic wealth and because migrants from former colonies seek refuge in their towns and cities because they speak  the language spoken there. However, not all European countries have the same policy towards immigration and especially towards refugees, as the so-called refugee crisis in 2015 clearly showed.

Immigration is a challenge for Western countries. Both migrants and locals feel that their identity is at risk. Host countries face unbalanced situations in the labour market, health system, education system, etc., but migrants are more at risk as they seek justice and livelihoods, and a chance to live peacefully. Georgiadou underlined that financial resources and the political will to apply migration policies are needed, as well as education to teach intercultural skills.

Intercultural skills that everyone should develop include respect for oneself and for others; a sense of social justice and social responsibility; openness and curiosity towards diversity; tolerance of ambiguity; knowledge of culture, politics, and history; knowledge of human rights; knowledge of stereotypes, prejudices, and discriminatory practices; knowledge of cultural differences in communication; empathy; solidarity; critical thinking to check our own stereotypes; active listening; and how to deal constructively with conflicts.She referred to different training opportunities for intercultural training.

The changed perception of immigration

Ahmed stressed that immigration is a very old and natural phenomenon. It is the perception of immigration that has changed. It is no longer regarded as a humanistic social phenomenon that contributes to the transfer of cultures and the contact of peoples, but as a phenomenon that contributes to the transfer of violence, terrorism, destruction, and some would even say to the clash of peoples. Ahmed noted that it is understandable why many European countries are trying to address this phenomenon by adopting a security approach, applying preventive laws to protect their national security. He contrasted this with the right of every human to be secure and live a better life. In his view, media and European political parties have a very important role to play in depicting unorganised immigration as a threat to European countries. While host countries deal with risks in regard to terrorism, employment, culture, language, and religion, the image of immigrants as threats to the national security of European countries must be reversed. Ahmed underlined that the most important thing is to understand another human being by gaining insight into the conditions that made them who they are.

Conflicting narratives and logical fallacies

Scott underlined that immigration should be rehumanised. We need to refocus on the fact that immigration is about the human being in distress. For Scott, immigration covers the whole arc from the crisis points which lead to immigration, the transits of migrants and their terrible journeys, the difficulties at borders where walls and fences have been put up or where they are forbidden to disembark, the trials and tribulations of detention centres, and the inhuman treatment in zero-tolerance policy. Immigration also captures problems beyond entering and integrating into the host country, such as dreamers being sent back to their countries of origin (e.g. Windrush generation), people being deprived of their citizenship (e.g. the Rohingya), and the problem of whether citizens should be allowed to return to their country of birth and citizenship (British women involved with ISIS).

We seem to have an ambivalent attitude or perhaps a polarised attitude towards the problem of immigration, Scott stated. On one hand there is a narrative of humanising, including, caring, assuming responsibility, expanding the moral circle, and talking about immigrants as one of us, people we owe something to. On the other hand, an alternative narrative, equally prevalent and on the ascendant in populist countries, dehumanises immigrants by depicting them as the other, excluding them, barring them, denying them even human status. The two conflicting narratives – the tender versus the tough, Aylan Kurdi versus the snake – have always characterised human beings and they characterise the current debate on immigration equally well.

Scott researches how language frames the discourse on immigration, in particular logical fallacies. Logical fallacies are arguments which are misleading because they’re not fully rational, but which are effective because they’re emotionally persuasive. They are appeals to emotions such as compassion or fear. They can include slippery slope arguments, metaphors speaking through allegories and symbols, and appeals to essentialism (the idea that every culture has an essential defining quality and that every human being has an essential identifiable identity). Logical fallacies speak to our emotions, our fears, our sense of self and who are we in contrast and in comparison to others. Logical fallacies are shorthand and easy; they mean that we don’t have to think for ourselves as they’re recognised by others as valid arguments. To escape the grip of these logical fallacies, we must change the way we frame the story.

Changing the negative attitude towards migration

Georgiadou stated that politicians and diplomats should have the courage to push for different policies than those already in place. She emphasized the role of intercultural education in changing the negative attitude towards migration, underlining that intercultural education is important for all members of today’s multicultural societies.

Ahmed underlined that host countries should co-operate with central statistical offices of immigrants’ home countries to obtain data and knowledge about immigrants. Diplomats should co-operate with religious entities, because human values – empathy, tolerance, equality, justice, prosperity, mercy, charity, etc. – come from religions. Art also has a role in forming citizens’ perceptions of immigrants. Political media and political parties use false stories about immigration to influence elections and for other political interests, which is why unbiased media is needed.

The difference between (economic) migrants and refugees

The online audience asked our speakers to clarify the conceptual relationship between migrants and refugees. Georgiadou voiced her opinion that there isn’t a huge difference between them. They all come from countries that face different socioeconomic, political, and environmental problems. Refugees arrive in a harder, more traumatic manner from their home country to the host country. They also have different aims, as they don’t want to stay in the country they first arrived in. In Scott’s opinion, immigration covers both voluntary and involuntary immigration. However, there is the risk that refugees become second-order immigrants as opposed to economic migrants. This is problematic. Refugees have skills, talents, and a lot to offer to the host state and we have to do everything we can not to differentiate between first-order and second-order style of immigrants.

Fostering integration

Other questions from the online audience focused on ways of fostering integration. Georgiadou voiced her opinion that integration should be fostered by politicians through specific policies. Scott’s opinion is that integration is fostered by learning the host language, not establishing ghettos, and understanding the role of religion. She also underlined that there is much to be learnt and improved on, on that front, which is why countries should engage in an exchange of experiences.

What can diplomats do to humanise immigration?

Lastly, our speakers addressed the role of diplomats in ‘humanising migration’.

Georgiadou stated that diplomats should strive to work in such a way that their profession eventually becomes obsolete. They should try to stop wars and stop seeing other countries as former European colonies.

As stopping immigration or illegal immigration is impossible, Ahmed recommended that diplomats develop new policies for immigration. However, these policies must establish a balance between welcoming immigrants and protecting national security. Secondly, diplomats should co-operate with immigrants’ countries of origin, and help those countries in development, in teaching global education, in making them stable.

Scott noted that there are areas of diplomacy where a lot is already being done to humanise immigration: cultural diplomacy, public diplomacy, humanitarian diplomacy, second-track diplomacy. She also pointed out that the laws on immigration are changing under the pressure to humanise immigration. Scott wondered whether humanising immigration is a concern for mainstream diplomacy. She concluded by posing the concept of migration diplomacy as a central way of framing the relationship between diplomacy and immigration. In addition, Scott addresses some of the questions raised during the debate in her follow-up blog post

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[WebDebate #12 summary] Standardisation: Practical solutions for strained negotiations, or an arena for realpolitik?


Virdzinija Saveska

Our May WebDebate looked at standards as tools for managing international relations and discussed the process of negotiating and implementing the standards. Standards define our everyday lives in ways most people do not even realise. It is important to understand what standardisation is, that a standard can shape our habits and make life much easier. At the same time, we also need to realise that agreeing on a standard is sometimes a process that needs to reconcile different interests. The speaker at the WebDebate was Ms Lorenza Jachia, Secretary to the UNECE Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies. The moderator was Dr Katharina E Höne, Project Manager and Researcher at DiploFoundation.

Jachia defined a standard as an ‘agreed way of doing something’, and that ‘something’ refers to products, services and processes. At the very beginning of her presentation, Jachia explained the part standards play in our day-to-day lives. The first thing people do when they wake up is brush their teeth. We are all able to complete this simple activity precisely because we can rely on standards that ensure, for example, that toothpaste is of good quality, safe, and effective. 

The following debate was centred around three points. The first point dealt with the importance of standardisation: how it facilitates our daily lives and – as in the ‘tooth brushing example’ – how it supports sustainable development. Examples illustrated how standards facilitate international trade and support environmental sustainability. Höne explained that standardisation also helps us track our progress in different areas because it establishes internationally recognised parameters and indicators.

The second point dealt with the nature of standards. The online participants engaged in a debate on whether standards are neutral, logical, and easy to agree on. All these qualities depend on the process of developing standards. Although state and non-state actors can participate in the process of standardisation, some have a bigger say and are able to have greater influence on decisions. On the one hand, the multistakeholder approach to setting standards is more inclusive and, most likely, leads to standards that are more universal and therefore have a greater chance of success. On the other hand, the actual impact of small and developing countries and non-state actors can have is often small. Further, even when there are many actors present, one single powerful actor can still dominate the negotiation process. Another possible disadvantage of the multistakeholder approach is that we might end up with a watered-down standard for the sake of balancing a multiplicity of positions.

The third point is closely connected to the second point, and it refers to the main question at hand – how do standards help with solutions? Jachia’s experience of working in a technical committee allowed her to conclude that it is, at times, difficult to reach consensus, because of the many competing interests involved in the decision-making process. At this point of the debate, the concept of realpolitik was explained in greater detail and the participants provided their own input on this subject matter. Although standards help move political debates forward by enabling opposing interests to reach a solution, we need to keep in mind that these solutions might still be biased. One concern that was raised was that big transnational corporations oftentimes manage to impose their own interests and disregard others.

However, it is important to note that the main goal of a standard is to benefit the actors it applies to. For example, some standards are designed to make consumer products safer and user-friendly, others to increase the efficiency of production, and others to manage environmental responsibilities. Because needs change and technological progress makes specifications obsolete, all international standards have a shelf life and are regularly reviewed. The objective of the revision is to make sure that the standards respond well to the current needs of the marketplace.

The WebDebate offered a very diverse and lively discussion. Participants with a wide range of professional backgrounds posed questions and made comments. The participants enriched the debate by providing various insights, such as the fact that the uptake of standards is usually more challenging than their establishment. Jachia was open to answering participants’ questions and able to give great examples that elucidated the main topic of the May WebDebate further. Having used the Sustainable Development Goals as an example, Jachia managed to explain the topic in terms of international relations and diplomacy. Without standards, dealing with modern international problems and challenges would be unimaginable. It is true that the purpose of standards is to improve negotiations and the decision-making process. However, it is also useful to investigate to what extent a standard is neutral and objective and to what extent it reflects particular interests.  

Virdzinija Saveska is a junior associate at DiploFoundation. Her main interests are international security and peace studies. She is a student of International Politics at the University of Belgrade – Faculty of Political Science.