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International Studies and Diplomacy - MA/PGDip


SOAS University of London Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy

Full time & Part time September MA, PgDip 1 year full time, 2-3 years part time

About the course

The MA/PGDip International Studies and Diplomacy (ISD) programme is designed for those engaged in, or planning to embark upon, a professional career requiring international expertise in government, not-for-profit, corporate or academic environments.

ISD aims to prepare students for a variety of roles, such as working within a Foreign Service or other government department; international civil service (such as the United Nations or European Union); international NGOs (working in fields such as development, humanitarian assistance and conflict resolution); multinational corporations and international media. The programme also suits those engaged in or considering research roles within a policy think tank, risk analysis organisation or doctoral programme and seeking to deepen their academic

Read more about this course


Entry Requirements

A minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent). We welcome applications from academically strong individuals from a wide variety of fields and backgrounds. It is not always necessary to have a first degree in a discipline directly related to the programme.


Course Content


Where is SOAS University of London


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Student Profile(s)

Tosin Taiwo

586.jpg Tosin Taiwo graduated from CISD in September 2008 and is currently working at the ECOWAS Parliament in Nigeria as part of the NYSC programme. There he works under the Bureau Chief, who is in charge of the affairs of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Committee Chairs, drafting reports and presenting to Parliamentary Committees.

Before enrolling in the ISD programme he studied a BA in Politics and interned with John Cruddas MP.

"I was particularly interested in race, ethnicity, and multicultarism, but before coming to SOAS my research was limited to a Eurocentric discussion. However, the CISD course quite literally broadened my horizons, as I was able to learn the multifarious effects race has on international economics, international law, and international relations.

"As student representative I had the opportunity to meet and get to know the entire student body and was continually amazed by the students' life experiences and academic or professional backgrounds. The fact that CISD could simultaneously cater to the research interests of such a diverse student body and provide a cohesive course in the study of international affairs is testament to its outstanding academic rigour and professionalism."


Barbora Neubauerova

587.jpg Barbora Neubauerova finished the MA ISD in September 2008 after studying the course part-time for 2 years. She currently works in a two-member team at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Office in Prague, directly falling under the WHO Regional Office for Europe based in Copenhagen. Responsibilities as the assistant to the Head of the Office span from administering projects, budgeting, finance management to attending high-level meetings with the stakeholders and frequent reporting to WHO Europe and WHO Headquarters. Apart from the Ministry of Health, the Country Office works closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations in Geneva, various medical institutions, other UN agencies based in the country and many other stakeholders. She also serves as the UN Country Security Focal Point for the Czech Republic.

"The MA International Studies and Diplomacy course at SOAS has certainly helped me in understanding the context of international organisations and policies, which to me is very handy at my current job. Mostly, however, I appreciated the CISD Study tour to Geneva, which was not only highly informative and certainly influenced my current choice of career path, but also very enjoyable and a great networking event. I would definitely encourage anyone, who is considering taking up a career in international organisation such as the United Nations, to go ahead and apply to the ISD course, as it certainly made an important contribution to making my candidate profile very strong."


Joe Howard

588.jpg Joe Howard is consulting, on a short-term contract, to the United Nations in New York and West African states, examining UN Security Council peacekeeping mandates which address current conflicts. As a Canadian Reserve Army Officer often switching between civilian and military appointments in peacekeeping operations, he was referred to UNNY as a civilian consultant by his former military boss in Sudan, where he had served as a uniformed UN peacekeeper.

"Engaging the International Studies and Diplomacy programme's academic content subtly strengthens one's intellectual self-confidence, and ISD's distinctive MA focus in 'Diplomacy' further accentuates SOAS' singular reputation, thus strengthening and clearly branding one's pedigree and reputation in a global workplace where many worthy competitors will also have a postgraduate degree.

"The most cherished skill acquired during the year at ISD will remain that particular facility to research credibly and write enthusiastically a dissertation on one's own selection of intriguing topics, and enjoy the ensuing adventure of assuming the risks in advancing new ideas. The programme and my advisor have convinced me to pursue another degree in my field, military diplomacy, likely in four or five years' time."


Melline Jaini

589.JPG Melline Jaini works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade of Brunei Darussalam as a Research Officer at the Department of Policy Planning. Working in the Foreign Service has guaranteed her exposure to various departments and international settings. She has already travelled abroad for meetings and an overseas posting assignment can be expected within a 1-3 years time frame after joining the Ministry.

"Most say I'm lucky; SOAS has a great reputation where I'm from, but hard work was also involved, having to compete with hundreds of graduates with similar qualifications to get in. Clearly my time at SOAS did not go to waste and in fact gave me a good basis for a career in diplomacy. Of course, there's much to be learned as simulations can only replicate the hard work and frustration that goes into preparing briefs, writing up reports and participating in negotiation rounds, but I have no regrets. Thank-you CISD!"


Emmet Regan

590.jpg Emmet Regan's background is in politics and advocacy. He worked on the US presidential election campaign of Governor Howard Dean in 2003/4 before going on to work for the Democratic nominee Senator John Kerry, acting as the Director of Transportation at the 2004 Convention.

Emmet Regan has a strong NGO background. He worked for the Centre for International Rehabilitation, a Washington DC based disability rights NGO, focusing on press, event management and congressional liaison. He recently worked as an advisor to the Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP, the then UK Labour Party Chair and Minister without Portfolio in the British Cabinet. He now works in the Labour Party's policy unit focusing on policy development and coordination.

"I felt doing the Masters programme gave me a solid foundation in a cross section of international disciplines and allowed me to further develop my writing and research skills."


Saheed Adegbite

1602.jpg Saheed completed his MA in International Studies and Diplomacy (part-time, 2 years) in 2011 and currently works as a Senior Officer with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) based in Vienna, Austria. Part of his role includes coordinating all financial processes and training Programme Managers across the OSCE's field missions in Eastern and South Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South Caucasus. This involves streamlining project management principles used across the organization's three dimensions namely Political-Military, Human and Economic-Environmental. It also means working on a day to day basis with people from a diverse array of backgrounds.

According to Saheed: "One thing the MA at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy has contributed to the success of my current role at the OSCE was the broad nature of the course. It helped me gain a thorough understanding of the history and politcs of the region the OSCE operates in. As I regularly attend conferences and workshops on subjects as wide ranging as Budget negotiations to Mission status briefings, the course gave me the ability to view events from different perspectives i.e. economic, diplomatic, political and security to name a few, which has proved indispensible. My understanding of projects, which I regularly review, on areas dealing with border management, arms control, election monitoring, combating trafficking and terrorism, education, human rights, media and governance has been enhanced by many of the topics we covered."


Edith Lai

1603.jpg What are you currently doing?
I am currently doing the Legal Practice Course at Kaplan Law School, London. I am being sponsored through law school by my future employer, Speechly Bircham LLP, a City law firm. I will be joining them in September 2012 as a trainee solicitor.

What did you do before coming to CISD?
A Hong Kong native, I came to the UK during my mid-teens. Later I read BA (Hons) Philosophy at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, during which I developed an interest in political philosophy. As an undergraduate I was an active campaigner for Amnesty International.

What led you to choose CISD?
The combination of theoretical and practical learning of the MA International Studies and Diplomacy course was the major draw for me. This really differentiated CISD from other renowned International Relations departments in the UK (and even Europe I would say). I was also attracted to the wide and diverse range of electives that I could study.

How would you describe your time at CISD?
At first it was a steep learning curve as I had no previous knowledge of political theories. But the CISD course was tailored for people like me and I found the teaching to be of a very high quality. I found myself being challenged all the time, intellectually, politically and culturally, which I found very rewarding.

How do you think studying at CISD and SOAS has benefitted you?
It has given me greater knowledge about international politics which changed the way I look at current affairs, particularly about China and East Asia. The practical element of the CISD course really pushed me to be to speak in public with conviction and to negotiate confidently in difficult situations. The friends and contacts I made at CISD are invaluable both at a professional and personal level.

What is your favourite memory of your time at CISD?
Playing Gordon Brown in the 7-hour Crisis Game as part of the General Diplomatic Studies and Practice course. When I was assigned to the role I was shocked; I thought there's no way I could do this. At the end it went fine - I tried to table a new resolution, fired a rogue diplomat, got voted out in the General Election and lost my voice the next day.


Guillaume Nicaise

What are you currently doing?
I am a research assistant at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, focusing on food and water security and the civil dimension of security. I also created an NGO called "Le Laboratoire de la Gouvernance" which aim is to increase people's participation into the democratic life, for a better and more transparent public management.

What did you do before coming to CISD?
I graduated from the University of Bologna (Italy) in International Relations and Political Science

What led you to choose CISD?
I chose CISD because it was the only diploma that provided empirical opportunities and interesting theoretical thematic.

How would you describe your time at CISD?
My time at CISD was really enjoyable, thanks to the multicultural environment and the interesting lectures I received.

How do you think studying at CISD and SOAS has benefitted you?
I developed my critical mind and learned a lot about topical issues

What is your favourite memory of your time at CISD?
The last diplomacy game was very exciting and fun as I represented the UK prime minister and negotiated during an entire day on the situation in Afghanistan.


Sean Hilhorst

What are you currently doing?
CISD gave direction to my thinking, and helped some ideas congeal that have helped shape my choices since leaving. As a working diplomat, I draw on my CISD experience everyday. It gave me a context with which to get underneath international issues and negotiate solutions to them, as well as helping me see what practical skills I would need to be effective in this field.

What did you do before coming to CISD?
I came to CISD directly from Pembroke College, Cambridge, where I studied History.

What led you to choose CISD?
I chose CISD over other MA courses in the field because of the breadth and diversity of learning opportunities on offer at SOAS. The chance to take an elective module in Arabic language alongside the MA was too good to miss. I also liked the way the course married theory to practice, and emphasised real-world applications for complex ideas.

How would you describe your time at CISD?
Intense, interesting, and fun. I made great friends in the cohort of 2008 and the Geneva Study Tour broadened my horizons in terms of future employment options. It was a great chance to see diplomacy in action as well as in the textbook.

How do you think studying at CISD and SOAS has benefitted you?
In hectic day-to-day life it is difficult to spend time thinking and learning about how the world runs, and what could be done better. The MA at CISD gave me the space, resources and opportunity to engage in serious research, and gave depth to my ideas in what is a dauntingly complex field.

What is your favourite memory of your time at CISD?
The Geneva Study Tour, where daily contact with movers and shakers, a demanding learning schedule and a healthy dose of fun created a potent and motivating mix.


Nick Branson

1606.JPG Following his graduation from CISD, Nick Branson has delivered projects for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), helping to increase the capacity of political parties across Africa. He currently oversees the Liberal Democrats' WFD programme in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as supporting the Secretariat of the Africa Liberal Network, which includes 27 liberal parties from across the continent. He has gained experience of designing and managing technical assistance projects in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. His work has focused on improving the policy development, strategic communications and campaigning technique of political parties, as well as increasing women’s participation, promoting voter education, and training partisan election observers so as to ensure that democratic processes are respected.

As a result of his experience in democratisation and good governance in fragile states, Nick was recruited by the UK Government’s Stabilisation Unit as a Deployable Civilian Expert. He has thus received advanced training in conflict analysis, peacebuilding, statebuilding and stabilisation, and worked with colleagues from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence to develop stabilisation programmes designed to reduce violence, protect civilians and institutions, promote political dialogue, and prepare the population for longer-term non-violent politics and development. Nick is currently awaiting an opportunity to deploy to a post-conflict environment and utilise his expertise.


Alice Huang

I chose SOAS to pursue my postgraduate studies because of the school’s outstanding reputation globally, its Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy with its pertinent programme that combines theory and practical application, taught by a faculty with exceptional backgrounds.

I work full-time so the programme’s ability to accommodate the needs of students in employment is crucial to me. Having completed the second of three years of part-time study, I have learnt an enormous amount, not only from readings, lectures and tutorials, but also from study tours to the United Nations and Foreign Office, media training, prominent guest speakers, and real-time simulations of multilateral negotiations.

Moreover, because SOAS attracts such high calibre students with international backgrounds, I have not only enjoyed socialising with my classmates, but have learnt much from them as well.

Balancing work and studies means working hard and a real challenge at times. But in view of the experience so far, it’s a challenge well worth it.


Marie-Angele Thomas

I chose to come to SOAS because it has a great reputation, good credentials and the CISD courses are in the evening which has allowed me to study whilst being in full-time employment.

Through my course I have been exposed to various diplomatic practitioners and experts, practical exercise in diplomacy and the study trip to Geneva to get a feel for what diplomats and NGOs really do. We are close knit-student family in CISD and this has been my support network throughout the academic year.

I have really enjoyed the busy social calendar here. There are many so many events organised by societies where there was always the opportunity to learn about new countries and regions and sample a taste of their gastronomy.

I have to mention that Dr Catriona Drew, International Law Lecturer has been a real inspiration to me. I found International Law the most difficult of my modules to get a grasp of but she was wonderful in breaking down the various components to the simplest levels for students without a law background. She inspired me to work hard and it has yielded positive results!

SOAS is the best place to learn about other cultures, not just through its courses but through the various social activities and interactions.


Charles Malissard

MA International Studies and Diplomacy
Soft power is the weapon through which future wars will be fought. This MA taught me the essential skills of diplomacy practice, the founding theoretical ideologies through which international relations are interpreted, and the ramifications these theories have in material issues such as nuclear proliferation, energy policy, climate negotiations, and so on. Broadly speaking the CISD opened my eyes on the multitude of world visions, and helped me develop, articulate and believe in my own.

Global Energy and Climate Policy
Having come from a legal background with special focus on international law, I knew very little about the complexities of climate issues and energy challenges. The course enabled me to get a thorough understanding of the pivotal issues affecting policy makers and businesses in the realms of energy and climate. The organised mock exercises and the interactive seminars with knowledgeable individuals from the world of policy-making were a great benefit. I encourage all to take up this course.


Chloe McWeeny

MA International Studies and Diplomacy
This MA was perfect in that not only did it provide “what it says on the tin”, a theoretical and practical training in diplomatic activity, but also was a great opportunity to meet with an extraordinary diverse group of students and lecturers in a privileged environment. I gained academic and personal skills which I am now using on a day-to-day basis in my professional activities.

International Economics
I took the International Economics module as a bit of a challenge, having never studied economics before… and it was. I believe that when Stephanie Blankenburg, lecturer of the course, in my first meeting with her, asked what it was I did not understand, my response was ‘everything’! But International Economics soon became my favourite module precisely because it gave me an understanding of very current and important economic issues. As Stephanie promised, I can now read the Financial Times!


Kristale Ivezaj

Overall the CISD programme is exceptional; the classes are learning-intensive, fast-paced and sometimes slightly overwhelming. The professors aren't just preparing you to pass their papers but are greatly concerned with your future competitors as well as the real-world applications of their subjects. The academics at the Centre don't simply prepare you to pass the course, but are concerned with communicating the real-world applications of their subjects in order to equip you as well as possible for your future career.

Dr. Plesch and the centre’s team of lecturers are well connected and highly-recognised in their fields. You will have the chance to meet power players you most probably have only read about in current affairs literature such as Le Monde Diplomatique or Foreign Policy Magazine. Additionally, the administrative staff works tirelessly to ensure students receive the individual attention they require. Nowhere in the world will you have the chance to meet so many helpful and caring staff, people who are truly interested in seeing you succeed.


Yi Xie

MA International Studies and Diplomacy
Studying at CISD of SOAS was an unforgettable experience. "Thinking Globally, Acting Globally", the MA in International Studies and Diplomacy programme has enabled me to interact with various academics and practitioners in international politics and economics. It has broadened my vision and equipped me with many frontier professional skills. CISD is a unique place where the West meets the East. Wherever you are from, you could feel that you are welcomed, accepted, and appreciated.

Global Energy and Climate Policy
I didn’t take GECP as one of my three choices on program modules at the very beginning. But I changed my mind after the introduction class, and finally my decision was proved absolutely right. What I have learnt from the course is beyond my expectations. It has sparked my interest in energy and security, deepened my understanding about environmental governance, and trained my ability in climate change negotiation. I also appreciate Harald Heubaum and Ian Shields for their great lecturing and tutoring. Like all other CISD administrators and lecturers, they are always there ready to help!


Ana Carolina Sarmento

After coming to one of the Postgraduate Evenings at SOAS, I realized how valuable the MA in International Studies and Diplomacy is because it offers a critical perspective, as well as the opportunity to develop our practical skills through various negotiation, mediation and speechwriting workshops. Not many other programmes offer such an opportunity.

The CISD department is very special and it provides us the necessary tools and resources that we need during our studies. The teachers have always been incredibly helpful and are always willing to take their time to answer any academic and professional questions we may have. It is a great community to be part of.

One of the things that make SOAS truly unique is the cultural diversity. You can meet people from all across the globe and understand better the place where they are coming from. What I like the most is that wherever you go in the building, you always hear different languages, from Arabic to Japanese and Spanish.



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