Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Introduction to Foreign Policy

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT International Relations

DESCRIPTION The objective of the study-unit is to introduce students to the study of foreign policy, and in so doing attain a greater understanding of the role of the state in contemporary international relations. Through the study-unit of their studies, students will attain an understanding of the theoretical aspects of Foreign Policy Analysis, which will be reinforced through the study of practical examples.

The study-unit will begin by introducing the concept of foreign policy and is role in contemporary international relations, together with the role of Foreign Policy Analysis and its importance in the study of contemporary international relations.

In order to do so an understanding of the varying theoretical approaches to foreign policy is essential. A review of Realist, Liberalist and Constructivist approaches to foreign policy analysis will therefore be undertaken.

The study-unit will then go on to analyse the factors involved in the making of foreign policy, such as the relevant actors, structures and institutions, the role played by the media and public opinion, and the impact of economic factors and security issues in the formulation and prioritisation of policy. The impact of internal as well as external factors and events in the foreign policy decision making process will also be reviewed. The implementation of foreign policies and the use of bilateral relations, multilateralism and economic instruments in the conduct of external relations will also be discussed.

The geopolitics of foreign policy will be given particular attention through a number of case studies. Countries that will be studied include Malta, the United States of America, Russia, the UK, Italy, and China, Japan.


At the end of the study-unit the learner will be exposed to the following specialised knowledge:
Knowledge of the history and role of Foreign Policy Analysis in the study of international relations;
Knowledge of the theories associated with the analysis of Foreign Policy, namely Realist, Liberalist and Constructivist;
Knowledge of the actors, structures and institutions involved in the both the making and implementation of foreign policy.


At the end of the course the learner will have mastered the following skills:

Ability to analyse and discuss the role of FPA in international relations;
Ability to analyse foreign policy issues according to Realist, Liberalist and Constructivist approaches;
Ability to identify the geopolitical, economic, and security factors that influence the development of foreign policies.


At the end of the course the learner will have acquired the responsibility and autonomy to:
Identify the use of foreign policy as a tool by the nation state;
Ability to identify and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the varying theoretical approaches to foreign policy analysis;
Discuss the role of factors involved in foreign policy decision making process and analyse the impact of policies implemented.

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the course the learner will be able to:
Analyse the role of the nation state in contemporary international relations in the light of foreign policy analysis;
Examine and discuss foreign policy issues making use of theoretical approaches;
Analyse foreign policy case studies and identify favourable policy options.

Reading List:

Valerie M. Hudson (2007) Foreign Policy Analysis: Classic and Contemporary Theory, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Steve Smith, Amelia Hadfield, Tim Dunne (ed.)(2008) Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases Oxford University Press.

Mark Webber & Michael Smith, (2002) Foreign Policy in a Transformed World Pearson Education Limited.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Seminar Paper SEM2 No 25%
Presentation SEM2 No 25%
Examination (1 Hour) SEM2 Yes 50%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.