What stresses diplomatic staff out most? Is it the everyday problems of diplomatic life and fitting everything into a crowded schedule? Is it crisis management when political issues arise? Or is it the endless process of producing reports, preparing press releases and making speeches at dinners and conferences? No, that’s all par for the course. It’s knowing how to do it in English that causes a lot of stress, even for fluent speakers. And it’s not grammar or vocabulary that is the problem. It is what linguists call the socio-linguistic appropriacy of communication, and no matter how proficient you are in ‘diplomat speak’ in your own language it is always a challenge to do it successfully in the international medium of communication that is English.
Helping diplomats communicate successfully is just one of the innovations brought in by the London Academy of Diplomacy (LAD). Located in the heart of the City of London and with a cohort of some 150 international serving diplomats, members of NGOs and independent students training to work in the international field, LAD, as it is popularly known globally, is one of the UK’s foremost education and training institutions for diplomats. Its courses for diplomatic discourse, international communication and strategies for handling media and international liaison are lauded as effective training programmes to help diplomats master essential communication skills.
These are modules on the three MSc (Master of Science) pathways offered by LAD to help improve their qualifications, experience and knowledge of key areas that impact diplomatic lives.
The three MSc degrees are:
• MSc Diplomatic Studies, led by Professor Ronald Barston, co-director of LAD, experienced diplomat and lecturer, representative to the International Maritime Organisation and author of the acclaimed Modern Diplomacy, now in its third edition.
• MSc in Security and Diplomatic Studies, led by Roger McNally, former government civil servant and an international consultant on security matters worldwide.
• MSc Business, International Trade and Diplomatic Studies, led by Janice McCormick of Harvard Business School.
Each of these master’s degrees contains 200 credits, of which four are core modules accounting for 150 credits including a dissertation, and three are chosen from a range of elective modules to make up the 200 required.
Special to LAD is the tutorial system. Each student is allocated a personal tutor who helps them throughout their studies. Many form a strong bond as, given the rigours of diplomatic life, tutorials may take place in the embassy or high commission as well as in college. Indeed many students refer with pleasure to the ‘family atmosphere’ that prevails in the Academy.
LAD will also be offering certificate courses in areas such as ‘The Law of the Sea’ or ‘Cross-border security’, which is attractive to diplomats needing to achieve a credit-bearing qualification and specialist knowledge while having little time to study a full-time course for one or two-years (part-time). It also offers opportunities for research at doctorate level in a taught manner or by research at PhD level.
Last month LAD graduated 81 of its students, of which six were awarded distinctions and 36 merits. Many have already professionally progressed in their career with this award, being nominated ambassadors of their countries.
What is it that makes LAD so popular? A recent survey of students has revealed some interesting insights. Foremost was the mix of academic excellence and professionalism, manifested in the fact that all the academic faculty combine teaching with consultancy and advice to diplomatic and professional bodies such as the IMO, NATO, the UN and the EU, as well as training and consultancy in NGOs and the corporate sector. This combination of academic knowledge and the way it is applied in practice is immensely attractive to prospective students because it is directly linked to one key factor: employability and currency of the final degree.
Second was the combination of academic study with practice. This takes many forms.
Ambassador Dr Sameh Aboul Enein of Egypt took students through a simulation of a UN debate, which gave many for the first time the experience of decision-making in an international forum. The weekly diplomatic forum is justly famous for exposing leading experts to discussion and questions from the academic and student body.
Recent guests have included the former British Home Secretary, the Right Honourable Charles Clarke MP, High Commissioner for St Kitts and Nevis His Excellency Kevin Isaac, and Chairman of Richard Lewis Communications, Richard Lewis, a leading language and intercultural consultancy, serving the World Bank and other leading international organisations. The Academy has also enjoyed presentations from the High Commissioner for Singapore His Excellency Mr T. Jasudasen, President of the Moroccan Centre for Strategic Studies Dr. Mohammed Benhammou, Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North East Stephen Hughes, and international policy advisor and former Foreign Minister of Croatia Ambassador Miomir Zuzul.
LAD also exploits its close links with international and national institutions. Students recently had opportunities to interact with executives at the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Institute of Directors in the City of London, where Gianni Pittella, a regular contributor to LAD and a sponsor of students vis-à-vis the EU and First Vice-President of the European Parliament debated ‘The EU & The City – What Next?’ with the Right Honourable David Lidington MP, the Foreign Minister responsible for the EU.
LAD also arranges for its students to visit leading continental European inter-governmental organisations, such as the recent visit to NATO and to the European Commission in Brussels.
The third and fourth ‘pull factors’ are LAD’s position in the heart of London and the mixture of people it attracts. Where else can you meet diplomats from over 50 countries in the same classroom, studying the same subjects? It is a mini UN, devoted to studying and finding solutions to the world’s issues through diplomatic study.
And what about results? Research shows that LAD has an exceptional record of securing student promotion and employment. To give just a few recent examples, Jose Dorce of the US Embassy in London has been posted to Mexico and promoted. Beatrix Bojtor of Belgium is working for the European Parliament in Brussels and H E Morina Muuondjo of Namibia is now her country’s Ambassador to the Nordic countries, based in Stockholm. Many others have been promoted within their governments at home. The 2014 intake alone ranged from ambassadors to other diplomatic personnel, and in all diplomats from over 78 nationalities have been trained.
LAD can be justly proud of its achievements to date. But the best is yet to come. It is about to sign a strategic partnership agreement with the University of Stirling with an opportunity to develop new courses in co-operation with Scotland’s top internationalising university. LAD has an enviable and important future educating and training present and future diplomatic enablers and peacemakers in a troubled but exciting world.