MA course descriptions

On this page you will find 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).

Quick links:  Trimester 1 | Trimester 2 MA Diplomacy and Global Governance | Trimester 2 MA Global Security and Strategy | Trimester 3



Trimester 1 (September - December): Foundational courses


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

Course instructor: Dr Tongfi Kim (Brussels School of Governance)

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 (in particular the ‘grand debate’ between liberalism and realism as well as constructivism and critical theories) 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 state and non-state approaches to 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: Dr Richard Higgott (Brussels School of Governance)

This foundational course introduces students to the major theories, concepts and discipline-specific assumptions of the subfields of diplomatic studies and the theory and practice of global governance. Students will be encouraged to delve into the historical and theoretical conceptual debates of diplomatic studies, the changing nature of diplomacy in the wider context of state-centric and non-state-centric approaches to global governance. 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 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 instructors: Dr Jurgen Dieringer (Brussels School of Governance)

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: Dr Stephan Klose (Brussels School of Governance) and Dr Antonios Nestoras (Brussels School of Governance)

This course 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 Global Security and Strategic Studies (6 ECTS)

Course instructor: Major Koen Troch (Royal Military Academy)

This core foundational course 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 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 and theoretical approaches within security and strategic studies.


POL495M MA Thesis Preparatory Seminar (6 ECTS)

Course instructors: Dr Stephan Klose (Brussels School of Governance), Dr Guy Burton and Dr Carolin Liss (Brussels School of Governance)

In coordination with the Research Methods course, the MA Thesis and Capstone Preparatory Seminar will provide students with further training on academic writing skills and academic conventions, structure, topic choice and application of research methods related to the MA Thesis. In addition, it will provide students with basic understandings and nuts and bolts of the Capstone course; students meet with their MA supervisors to discuss initial ideas for the thesis and practice the core elements of thesis writing, including the drafting of the research question, literature review and theoretical framework. In the second half of the course, students will also tentatively incorporate their research design (developed in parallel in the research methods course) in the initial outline of the thesis and beginnings of the theoretical framework for the thesis. Students learn to contrast theoretical work with the policy-oriented conventions of the Capstone course. In addition, students follow selected evening lectures on global perspectives on selected issues of diplomacy and global governance. 


SSC471M Research Methods (6 ECTS)

Course instructor: Dr Jonas Lefevere (Brussels School of Governance)

This course focuses on the most important foundations in common research methods, skills and tools for all MA Students. The course introduces students to the main quantitative and qualitative methods required for International Relations as well as security and strategic studies and trains students in basic 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, as well as with the tools by which to grasp and analyze major aspects of Security and Strategic policies.


Trimester 2 (January – May): Specialisation Tracks (30 ECTS)


POL412M Current and Future Challenges in Diplomacy (6 ECTS)

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).


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

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.


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

This course 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.



The MA Thesis I and MA Thesis II courses – offered respectively during the second and third semester – complement the course MA Thesis and Capstone Preparatory Seminar (POL 495). They will provide students with further training on academic writing skills and assist them in the redaction of their MA theses. 



Trimester 2 (January – May): Specialisation Tracks (30 ECTS)


HIS402M History of Great Power Competition in the 21st Century (6 ECTS)

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)

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)

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.



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).



POL416M Public Diplomacy (6 ECTS)

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).


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

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)

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.


POL4211M Disinformation, cyber warfare and Post-Truth (6 ECTS)

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 Japan and Security in the Indo-Pacific (6 ECTS)             

The Indo-Pacific has become the centerstage of the shifting global balance of power. From the rise of China and the US – China rivalry, to tensions on the Korean Peninsula and maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas, regional security developments have far-reaching consequences for the functioning of international affairs and economy. Proposed by the BSoG Japan Program, the course explores the regional security environment through the lenses of Japan’s foreign policy. What are the main security trends that have shaking and shaping regional affairs?  What has been Tokyo’s stakes, policies and role on the evolving regional strategic chessboard? And what are the implications of this new security dynamic for Europe? 

The course follows a practical, executive-style format, combining traditional academic lectures with interactive seminars and interventions of renowned external experts and policy-makers from Europe and Asia. It aims to provide students with a thorough understanding of the current security challenges in the Indo-Pacific, an opportunity to engage with directly involved actors, and a capacity to independently analyse some of today’s most influential geopolitical trends.


POL424M Terrorism, Counterterrorism and (De-)Radicalisation (6 ECTS)

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.


POL448M European and Global Governance of Migration (6 ECTS)

Migration and refugee policies are one of the most contentious and complex areas that are at the top of the EU agenda. Migration policy is highly intertwined with political economy, security, human rights and international relations. Since the 1990s, it is one of the fastest growing EU policy areas. This course provides an overview of the EU policy‐making structures as they apply to migration policy as well as broader themes of EU justice and home affairs. It includes an analysis of the changes of EU governance in the area of justice and home affairs: its origins and evolution as well as the current debates, including security and human rights aspects. In addition to the strong EU focus, the course also maps out the development of the global governance of migration. It explores the role of different stakeholders who are active in migration debates, including different states, international non‐governmental organisations, and lobby groups (many of which are active in Brussels). Overall, the course draws on different debates on migration and relates them to broader developments in global politics, including the economic crisis, issues of national identity, immigrant settlement and integration.


Trimester  3 (May - July): MA Thesis II, Capstone Course + One Elective (30 ECTS)

POL498M MA Thesis II (15 ECTS)

The MA Thesis I and MA Thesis II courses – offered respectively during the second and third semester – complement the course MA Thesis and Capstone Preparatory Seminar (POL 495). They will provide students with further training on academic writing skills and assist them in the redaction of their MA theses. 


POL491M Intensive Capstone (9 ECTS)

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 timelines and deadlines and the early resolution of potential conflicts between team members is essential.


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

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 nexusThe course comprises two main parts. For one, the course addresses the drivers shaping the evolution of international affairs over the medium to long-term and their potential implications for international stability and governance. For another, it focuses on one critical aspect of the current international security and governance agenda, namely the experience of state-building, based on practical case-studies.

The review of the forces shaping international affairs includes an introduction to the practice of foresight and, in particular, scenario planning, the outline of the main trends at play as well as of the major uncertainties surrounding them, the presentation of some of the scenarios recently produced by leading research centres and other bodies, as well as the debates surrounding the potential consequences of ‘alternative futures’ for the international system and for Europe’s role on the global stage.


INT481M Internship (6 ECTS)

The 6 ECTS MA internship consists of a 150-hour position at a partner institution of the College within the framework of the Vesalius College Internship Programme (organised and coordinated by the College’s careers and internship office). It provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain valuable professional experience in a truly international environment that can help students orient their career choices after graduation and build relationships with professionals and organisations.

The internship is unpaid and can be taken as an elective course. The standard 150 hours internship is evaluated with a letter grade and is worth one academic course or 6 ECTS. While each internship experience is distinctive based on the nature and scope of the organisation itself, the academic internship advisor takes care of the overall quality, the level of the internship, ensuring that the level corresponds with that of an academic postgraduate level course.


POL4214M The Rise of TechnoPolitics: Cybersecurity, Cyber Diplomacy and Technologies Shaping Digital Society (6 ECTS)