MA Course Descriptions

This page contains short descriptions of each of the courses in the MA in Diplomacy and Global Governance (abbreviated as MADAGG) and the MA in Global Security and Strategy (abbreviated as MAGSS). Each course is worth 6 ECTS. Please note that elective courses require a minimum number of 4 students in order to be organised.

 

Foundational courses (I trimester)

 

POL411M The Theory and Practice of International Relations (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Professor Tongfi Kim (Vesalius College)

This foundational course introduces students to the major theories and core concepts of the discipline of International Relations (IR) and their practical application to historical and contemporary policy issues. Students analyze the different theoretical schools as well as Western and non-Western traditions of IR thinking and make the first connections on how the intellectual foundations of IR theories are related to the theoretical and conceptual assumptions behind peace studies, security studies and strategic studies as well as studies of diplomacy and global governance. The course will examine the influence of state actors and non-state actors on global affairs and will challenge students to reflect on the possibilities and constraints related to reforming the current practice of International Relations.

 

(For the MADAGG) POL442M The Theory and Practice of Diplomacy and Global Governance (6 ECTS)

Course Instructors: Professor Richard Higgott (Vesalius College) and Dr Stephan Klose (IES)

This course introduces students to the major theories, concepts and discipline-specific assumptions of the theory and practice of diplomacy global governance. It does so from historical, theoretical and applied practical perspectives in the wider context of both state-centric and non-state-centric understandings of world order.  Students are encouraged to draw connections between major IR theories and theoretical approaches within the study of diplomacy and global governance.

 

(For the MADAGG) POL403M Foreign Policy Analysis within and beyond the state (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Dr Jurgen Dieringer (Vesalius College) and Dr Guy Burton (Vesalius College)

This foundational course aims to give the students insights in the discipline of Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA). It complements “The Theory and Practice of International Relations” course by offering an overview of major theories of FPA and problematizing inter-disciplinary debates on levels of analysis and structure and agency in international politics. The course introduces the theoretical frameworks of rational choice, bureaucratic/ organizational, institutional, societal, psychological and ideational approaches to FPA. The course explores the way in which foreign policy processes at the domestic level interact and impact over international politics. It looks at the way in which a plethora of public and private actors contribute in shaping foreign policy outcomes. It offers insights in the making of economic statecraft and humanitarian policy-making. It finally gives an overview of the way in which foreign policy is made in the European Union (EU).

(For the MAGSS) POL413M Geopolitics (6 ECTS)

Course Instructors: Professor Dr Luis Simon (IES and Instituto Elcano) and Stephan Klose (IES)

This module explores the major concepts, theories and in particular concrete policy issues of the subfield of geopolitics. Geopolitics provides a distinct perspective on the interplay between geography, power and foreign policies and has –in its beginnings in the 19th century- been associated with a ‘realist’ view of international relations. Yet, in recent years ‘critical geopolitics’ has added further nuances to the study of geopolitics. Students will explore the evolution and impact of geopolitical developments across major regions and will apply those insights to assessing underlying dynamics of cooperation and conflict.

(For the MAGSS) POL421M Theories and Applied Issues of Security and Strategic Studies (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Koen Troch (Royal Military Academy)

This core foundational courses introduces students to the major theories, concepts and discipline-specific assumptions of the subfields of security studies and strategic studies. Students will be encouraged to compare and contrast the differences and similarities between the two different sub-disciplines and build connections between the different practical approaches and conflict analyses related to military tools, civilian tools and overarching ‘comprehensive strategies’. In addition, students will be introduced to global perspectives on the core concepts of security’ and ‘strategy-making’.  Run in parallel to, and in dialogue with, the core foundational course The Theory and Practice of International Relations, students are encouraged to draw connections between major IR theories, theoretical approaches within security and strategic studies and the practical implications.

 

POL495M MA Thesis and Capstone Preparation (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Dr Jurgen Dieringer (Vesalius College)

The course introduces the technique of thesis writing and capstone preparation. In the MA-thesis-writing part, the course has two major objectives: First of all, to find relevant cases and research questions within the array of International Relations’ research (with special emphasis on issues of diplomacy, security, and global governance). The first objective will be reached by both lecturing and reviewing best practices from IR research, and a practice section, where students define areas of interest and develop and present research questions. The second objective is to turn research questions into an appropriate research structure, including introduction, literature review, conceptual framework and an analytical chapter. In the capstone part of the course, we will tackle policy analysis and policy advise. We focus on specific methodology and analyze some papers of think-tanks identified as best practice. The assignments require you to write drafts and present them in a peer-review session to your colleagues. In a group with pre-assigned “research-buddies”, you are going to challenge the work of your fellow classmates and you are going to be challenged by them. At the end of the course students should be able to kickstart the writing of their thesis.

SSC471M Research Methods (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Dr Jonas Lefevere (Vesalius College)

This course instructs students on the key research methods, skills and tools for all MA Students. The course introduces students to the main quantitative and qualitative methods used in academic research, in particular in political science. This includes qualitative and quantitative content analysis, interviewing, survey research, and experimental designs. Furthermore, the course instructs students on basic research skills such as academic writing, argumentation and structure, with particular attention to the methodological elements of academic writing. The overarching goal of the course is to train students in developing a research design required for writing the MA thesis in the following semester. The course thus provides the main building-blocks for mastering advanced research skills as well as major tools for extended research papers and thesis-writing. This course is offered in parallel to the MA Thesis Preparatory Seminar, where students practice more in-depth the core elements of the MA thesis, choose their core research question and MA thesis topic as well as the appropriate research method encountered in this course (see below). The course is thus designed to be an essential tool by which to acquaint MA students with the appropriate research techniques and methodologies in the canon of International Relations (IR) and Social Science Research Methods.

TRIMESTER 2: (JANUARY – MAY) – Specialisation Tracks (30 ECTS)
COMPULSORY COURSES IN IN DIPLOMACY AND GLOBAL GOVERNANCE (MADAGG)
POL412M Current and Future Challenges in Diplomacy (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Dr Antonio Missiroli – Former NATO Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges and Director of the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) 

This course addresses current and future challenges in diplomacy. Students will learn to analyse contemporary problems and issues appearing in diplomatic horizon by using theoretical presumptions and applying them to the cases selected. It combines theoretical models from International Relations and Comparative politics to identify the major processes and actors currently setting and shaping the diplomatic agenda. Given the immense speed of change and in international relations since the end of the Cold War, the methodology of diplomacy has changed from traditional club diplomacy to network-based diplomacy. Against this background we will see how actors widen and reshuffle the toolbox of diplomacy in order to meet these challenges. The course puts special emphasis on the current crisis of the West and the threats to multilateralism, on security challenges, new technologies and the strive for the last free spots on earth (and beyond).
Syllabus

POL446M Transnational Network Diplomacy and Global Public Policy (6 ECTS)

Course Instructors: Dr Michael Reiterer (Former Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Korea) and Dr Stephan Klose (IES)

This course examines the rise and influence of ‘transnational network diplomacy’ (TND) and global public policy-making. TND is an umbrella term for a variety of emerging diplomacy actors that go beyond the rigid hierarchies of state-to-state diplomacy, but rather encompass a variety of state and non-state actors (such as transnational civil society groups, international experts, philanthropic of educational foundations, think tanks) as well as influential individuals (including policy entrepreneurs or ‘celebrity diplomats’) that influence state-based diplomatic processes and outcomes. The course not only examines the functioning, strengths and weaknesses of transnational network diplomacy and its evolution, but also places it in the wider context of collaborative diplomatic approaches to global public policy-making.
Syllabus

POL422M Mediation, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution in Theory and Practice (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor Dr Zafer Kizikaya (VUB) and Dr Sean O’Dubhghaill (Universitty of Leuven/ Vesalius College)

This elective module provides students with a comprehensive overview of the main theories and approaches to mediation, negotiation and conflict resolution. The course draws on major case studies of successful resolution of different types of conflicts across the globe and challenges students to assess and practice themselves core approaches to mediation and negotiation of conflicts in different scenarios with particular emphasis on the role of culture. The course brings together different strands of the sub-disciplines of conflict resolution, negotiation and mediation in order to provide students with a solid grounding in diplomatic and non-violent approaches to peacemaking. The course also includes sessions provided by mediation experts and practitioners from, inter alia, the EU, UN and government departments.
Syllabus

POL497M MA Thesis I (6 ECTS) (FOR BOTH MADAGG AND MAGSS STUDENTS)

Course Instructor: Dr Caterina Carta (Vesalius College)

This course – offered during the second trimester – complements the course MA Thesis and Capstone Preparatory Seminar (POL 495). It will provide students with further training on academic writing skills and assist them in the redaction of their MA theses. In close cooperation with the thesis supervisors, the major task of the course is to draft the introduction of your thesis and develop the chapters “Literature Review” and “Conceptional Framework and Methodology”. For this purpose, students write three papers reflecting the three mentioned chapters. Students are asked to present and defend their projects in peer review sessions with your fellow classmates and to comment on the work of others (peer review).
Syllabus

TRIMESTER 2: (JANUARY – MAY) – Specialisation Tracks (30 ECTS)
COMPULSORY COURSES IN THE MA GLOBAL SECURITY AND STRATEGY (MAGSS)
HIS402M History of Great Power Competition (6 ECTS)

Dr Ethan Corbin and Dr Liviu Horovitz (Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) and Post-Doctoral Researcher at the IES)

This compulsory course introduces a study of the variables impacting the rise and fall of great powers in history and concludes with a focused analysis of the rising global strategic competition between the United States and China and, to a lesser degree, Russia. Students will follow a course of case studies to apply historical and IR methods and theories to understand the drivers of great power competition and the key determinants of the struggles’ ultimate outcomes. Key cases studies will include the following: Greece and Persia and/or Athens and Sparta; the United Kingdom and France; the United Kingdom and Germany; the United States and the Soviet Union; and the United States and China and Russia in the 21st century. The course examines factors of national/state power and their role in strategic competition between great powers. Within the study of power, the role of a state’s organizing structure – i.e. political system (democratic versus autocratic), state extractive capabilities (access to and use of available resources), etc. – plays a prominent role throughout the course as students will wrestle with understanding potential advantages and disadvantages of various political systems. The course also looks at the role of alliances as a means of external balancing in systemic competition. Finally, the role of international institutions is also examined when the course focuses on modern great power competition.

POL429M Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Major Koen Troch (RMA)

This compulsory course aims to deepen students’ understanding of the history and theory of grand strategy and strategy-making. Building on the Core Module on Theories and Applied Issues of Security and Strategic Studies, this compulsory module focuses on key authors of grand strategy since Sun Tsu and Thucydides and allows students to delve into the theory of strategy-making across time in Western and non-Western contexts. Students will also learn to apply strategic thinking to major contemporary dilemmas global affairs. Issues to be explored throughout and across the weekly topics include different levels of strategy (political, operational, tactical), the relationship between leadership and strategy, strategy and geopolitics, strategy-making and morality as well as comprehensive and focused approaches to strategy implementation.

POL4210M Non-traditional security threats in theory and practice (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Dr Giulia Tercovich (Vesalius College)

This compulsory course provides a comprehensive analysis of so-called ‘non-traditional security threats’ or ‘new security’ challenges, driven by technology, climate change and contemporary issues. The course provides a theoretical analysis of ‘classical’ and ‘new’ security challenges and provides a critical assessment of the extent to which this distinction may or not may play out in theory and practice. The course assesses major security threats, such as cybersecurity, the use of drones, energy security, the climate-security nexus as well as the use of non-conventional weapons by non-state actors and reviews responses and policies by states and international organizations. In line with the general objectives of the MAGSS of a global perspective, the course will assess the impact of these security threats from different regional perspectives.

POL497M MA Thesis I (6 ECTS) (FOR BOTH MADAGG AND MAGSS STUDENTS)

Course Instructor: Dr Caterina Carta (Vesalius College)

This course – offered during the second trimester – complements the course MA Thesis and Capstone Preparatory Seminar (POL 495). It will provide students with further training on academic writing skills and assist them in the redaction of their MA theses. In close cooperation with the thesis supervisors, the major task of the course is to draft the introduction of your thesis and develop the chapters “Literature Review” and “Conceptional Framework and Methodology”. For this purpose, students write three papers reflecting the three mentioned chapters. Students are asked to present and defend their projects in peer review sessions with your fellow classmates and to comment on the work of others (peer review).

ELECTIVES

POL416M Public Diplomacy                                                              (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor:  Professor Dr Caterina Carta (Vesalius College)

This course offers a broad overview of the field of political communication and public diplomacy. It will connect public diplomacy to the study of power, influence and strategy in international and global politics. During the course we will discuss and apply theories regarding 1) the making of international communication strategies (priming, framing, agenda setting; impression management); 2) the changing relationship between media and politics (journalistic role perceptions); and 3) the role and major dimensions of Public diplomacy (e.g. cultural diplomacy, advocacy; exchange diplomacy; international broadcasting).
Syllabus

POL445M Global and Economic Governance: Trade and Finance (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Professor Dr. Il Houng Lee (president of Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) and visiting professor at Jilin University in China)

This elective course examines global economic governance focusing on two of the most important issue areas: trade and finance. With regard to trade, the course examines the progressive fragmentation of trade relations, weakened global trade governance, and greater policy uncertainty in the 21st century leading to the likely end of large-scale multilateral trade negotiations. Students are exposed to the major concepts, theories of global trade negotiations as well as policy-oriented insights and dimensions of trade negotiations and their effect on global economic governance. With regards to finance, the course examines the multilateral approaches on international financial transactions. It assesses the causes of the 2008 financial crisis from a global economic governance perspective, examines the lessons learned and the proposals for reform of global financial regulations. It reviews past proposals and analyzes missed opportunities of proper reform of regional and global good governance in the finance sector. Taking the financial crisis and its aftermath as a case study, the course also examines the more general issues and policy challenge of global financial governance from state, regional organisation, international organisation, Gx and civil society perspective.

 

POL443M The Success, Failure and Future of Global Governance (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Dr Guy Burton (Vesalius College)

This elective course provides an in-depth assessment of the design, successes and failures of global governance. Tracing the evolution of global governance designs through diplomatic treaties, initiatives, alliances and international and regional organisations since the First World War, students will examine institutional, procedural systemic and leadership factors of differing designs of global governance tools and institutions and will analyze examples of flawed and more successful global governance architectures. In the second part of the course, students will develop the tools to evaluate different global governance policies since the end of the Cold War and will analyze conditions for successful and unsuccessful global governance initiatives. Finally, students are encouraged to apply the knowledge gained throughout this course to reflecting on reforming institutional set-ups and policies in global governance.
Syllabus

 

POL4214M Disinformation, cyber warfare and Post-Truth (3 ECTS)

Course Instructors: Dr Olesya Tkacheva (Vesalius College)

Information and Communication Technologies – such as internet, social media, mobile phones and artificial intelligence – have a pervasive effect on our daily life. They contribute at shaping the infrastructure of our communication systems. The wide accessibility of such technologies offered a powerful toolkit for perpetuating war and other crimes. Cybercrime, espionage, disinformation campaigns, destruction of critical infrastructure constitute are some of the challenges of the current global information and communication ecology. The course explores the way in which a variety of state and non-state actors craft hybrid warfare techniques and elaborate strategies to counter cyber and hybrid threats.  The course includes a variety of case studies – from Russia to China and other countries – and critically assess how fake news and hybrid warfare impact on these countries strategies vis-à-vis friends and foes alike.

 

POL4213M Geopolitics and Security in East Asia (3 ECTS)             

Course Instructor: Dr Carolin Liss (Vesalius College)

This course explores current geopolitical and security dynamics in East Asia. It examines the interplay dynamic interplay between economics and security, and cooperation and competition, and assesses its impact on the region’s evolving geopolitical balance. The course zooms in on the security policies of key regional players such as China, Japan or South Korea, as well as that of relevant external actors, such as the United States, Russia or India.

 

POL4214M Terrorism and Europe’s Internal/external security nexus (3 ECTS)

Course instructors: Dr Thomas Renard (Egmont Institute)

This elective seeks to enhance students’ understanding of ideological, strategic, and operational characteristics of global terrorism, radicalization as well as counter-terrorism strategies in the 21st Century. Students will define terms associated with the movement, and explore the development, motives, tactics as well as the variety of conditions of radicalization and terrorism, with a specific focus on terrorist groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South-East Asia. It provides both a critical assessment of the contributing factors behind the emergence of terrorism as well as of the methods and policies used by national and international actor to prevent and counter terrorism. The course further provides an overview of how the so-called “Internal-External Security Nexus” is currently shaping up considerations on how to build up credible anti-terrorism strategies, in Europe and beyond. Policy debates, statements and literature from a diversity of actors will be introduced to create a comprehensive understanding of all perspectives involved in counter-terrorism strategies.

TRIMESTER 3 (MAY – JULY): MA Thesis II, Capstone Course + One Electives (30 ECTS)

POL498M MA Thesis II (15 ECTS)

Course Instructors: Dr Caterina Carta and Dr Jurgen Dieringer (Vesalius College)

The MA Thesis II course is the final part of the thesis trajectory, and thus intended to help students finalize their MA theses. It seeks to facilitate completion of MA theses by providing intensive feedback on work in progress and help students with substantive and methodological issues that may arise during the empirical analysis. Peer feedback constitutes the key component of the course. To take advantage of peer-learning students are expected to share their drafts with the rest of the class and also to dedicate time to reading each other’s work. 

POL491M Capstone (9 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Jamie Shea (Former NATO Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges) and Dr Stephan Klose (IES)

The aim of the Intensive Capstone is to allow students at the end of their MA studies to synthesize and draw on all their acquired knowledge and skills in order to apply them to a complex, real-life policy problem. A core element of the learning process and format is the presence of an “external client” (normally a high-level official representing a major International Organisation) who sets the main policy-advice task for the students. This course requires a high level of independence, time- and information management as well as an impeccable level of professionalism and work ethics. A key emphasis will be placed on students’ immersion in and exchange with think tank debates in Brussels and with guest lectures provided by international scholars. Students will work in the framework of group work and individual in-depth research. The nature of the Capstone course as a Senior Seminar requires a high level of independent thought, academic maturity, intellectual curiosity and exchange of ideas. It also requires students to effectively work in think tank teams. A mature approach to teamwork, efficient division of labour, adherence to clear time lines and deadlines and the early resolution of potential conflicts between team members is essential.

POL428M Cases and Issues in Global Peace, Security & Diplomacy (6 ECTS)

Course Instructor: Dr Giovanni Grevi (European Policy Centre)

This course provides a broad platform to discuss current debates, trends and current issues in the international relations. It explores challenges to diplomacy and global governance and analyses so-called ‘emerging security threats’ or ‘new security’ challenges, driven by technology, climate change and contemporary issues. These include cybersecurity, the use of drones, energy security, the climate-security nexus as well as the use of non-conventional weapons by non-state actors and reviews responses and policies by states and international organisations.