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Diplomatic Academy

Volume 584: debated on Thursday 10 July 2014

I would like to inform the House of progress in establishing and opening the new Diplomatic Academy at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

When I opened the new Foreign Office Language Centre in September last year, I announced that we would also establish the first diplomatic academy in the Department’s history. Intensive preparations have been in hand since then.

The academy, which will be a central part of the Foreign Office with dedicated rooms including a library area within the King Charles street headquarters, is vital to building up the long-term strength and effectiveness of the Foreign Office as an institution. It is at the heart of my vision of a Foreign Office that is an international centre of ideas and expertise; that leads foreign policy thinking across Government; that is recognised as the best diplomatic service in the world; and that is able to defend our country’s interests in an unpredictable and competitive international landscape for the long term.

The academy will open in early 2015. It will enable continuous investment in the skills and expertise of our UK-based and locally-engaged staff. It will foster a culture where learning, expertise and collective memory are shared across the Foreign Office and retained for the future.

It will have 11 faculties covering key areas of diplomacy. These include law, languages, economic diplomacy, consular work, multilateral policy, and in-depth historical and geographic knowledge of nations and region. It will have curricula for staff at various levels, provided through self-study, tuition, seminars, master-classes and group activities. Most materials will be available digitally and therefore remotely, enabling Foreign Office staff overseas to draw fully on the academy. Staff in other Government Departments who work on international issues will also be able to participate, improving capability across Whitehall.

The work of the academy has already begun, with the dissemination of learning material around the overseas network and the start of master-classes in London. Curricula across the 11 faculties are being designed with corresponding course materials. There has been huge interest in the academy across Government, business groups and other Governments, and the academy is already demonstrating its value as a means of extending the UK’s soft power and diplomatic partnerships overseas.

Over the last four years we have been engaged in the biggest drive to build up the skills, capability and long-term institutional strength of the Foreign Office that the Department has ever seen. Diplomacy requires a unique and complex set of skills, expertise and experience, and I am determined the staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should excel in those skills for decades to come.

The Diplomatic Academy, in tandem with the new Language Centre, the diplomatic excellence programme and the opening or upgrading of 18 new embassies and diplomatic posts around the world by 2015, will be a significant contribution to the long-term capability of the Foreign Office and the diplomatic weight and influence of our country overseas.