Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL2115: British Foreign Policy

This module descriptor refers to the 2023/4 academic year.

Module Aims

The purpose of the module is to help students understand British foreign policy making in practice and from the perspective of those participating in making and debating it. 

The design of the module is informed by the convenor’s experiences of working in and advising the UK government as well as appearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament. After surveying the geopolitical and historical contexts of British foreign policy, we will take a regional approach to consider Britain’s place in and relationship with different parts of the world.  We will look at questions of aid and third-party intervention as well as traditional foreign policy in the narrowly-defined national interest.  We will consider economic as well as political relations and take a decentred approach which considers paradiplomacy and the role of non-state actors including British businesses and civil society, as well as the overseas territories and the City of London. 

We will close by considering future scenarios for the UK after Empire and under Brexit. It is a requirement that the positions taken in parliament – Right and Left, Isolationist and Liberal Internationalist, Atlanticist and Europeanist – are played as roles by students acting as members of the committee.  We will study the current composition of the committee at the time of learning and students will take name badges to play the role of the chair or member during the simulation part of the seminar.  Evidence givers will reflect further diversity including named foreign citizens and professional, academic and activist voices that are not represented in parliament.  Simulations will therefore be as plural and diverse as is Britain. 

By the end of the module, students will have increased their knowledge of the sources and contexts of foreign policy making in Britain and their understanding of how policy is debated and shaped in practice.  

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

This module's assessment will evaluate your achievement of the ILOs listed here – you will see reference to these ILO numbers in the details of the assessment for this module.

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:
Module-Specific Skills1. Demonstrate knowledge of the historical and geopolitical context of British foreign policy, and the ability to situate this knowledge critically with respect to British foreign policy ideas and behaviours;
2. Demonstrate understanding of regions, issues and cases of British foreign policy in practice.
Discipline-Specific Skills3. Demonstrate understanding of how parliamentary committees work, and the ability to utilise this knowledge in the role of a parliamentary committee chair, member or expert witness;
4. Critically analyse primary and secondary source material;
5. Construct well-structured and rigorous arguments in speech and writing.
Personal and Key Skills6. Communicate effectively in speech and writing;
7. Work independently and in collaboration with peers to achieve common goals, including in the context of simulations of parliament and committee work.