Jonathan Marshall

Jonathan Marshall

Hi, I'm Jonathan, I work in the Government Skills and Curriculum Unit (GSCU). I've been an L&D professional for 15+ years now. I was Head of Learning for the Diplomatic Academy (FCO) 2014-19.

Location Brighton and London, UK


  • I studied English. Glad to say that FCO doesn’t restrict to IR and law graduates, as is the case with some other Diplomatic Services.. @AliceRowe

  • @VivienKeenleyside hi Vivien - the Graduate Internship Scheme (cancelled in 2020) is separate to the Civil Service and Diplomatic Service Fast Streams and the Summer Diversity Internship Programme, which are unaffected I believe - more info here

  • You’re right- it’s per day. There is obviously a scale of languages so eg Spanish will be at the lower end but for Mandarin, Japanese and Korean, it’s pretty much two years of full-time study. The size of the investment reflects the value the FCO puts on being able to communicate fluently in the local language.

  • Many thanks Peter, those are great insights.

  • that's a shame - we know there are some organisations (including in UK government) that block access to YouTube from work computers, for technical/security reasons, and a few countries do as well. Hope you're able to access from another device at some point, or that transcripts can act as partial substitute.

  • Hi, yes "senior leaders" means all grades from Head of Department upwards, which includes the vast majority of Heads of Mission.

  • @AndrewManning Hi Andrew, that's a good question. As Serwah says, there are no quotas or other forms of positive discrimination. The crucial thing here is to look at the BAME figures by grade. The figures are given on p6 of the FCO's Equality and Diversity Report 2018-19...

  • Thanks for joining the course, and keep us in mind for the future! My two languages as well - suspect your Greek is a bit better though! καλή επιτυχία για τις εξετάσεις φέτος και για τις σπουδές σας

  • Hi, yes they are different sizes, but I’m guessing that the average Directorate has 50-100 staff in London. Overseas it could be 1000s, depending on the number and size of Posts.

  • Hi, I don't know the exact percentage, but a lot of Wilton Park's conferences are sponsored by parts of the FCO - sometimes in cooperation with other bodies including Non Governmental Organisations. But Wilton Park also runs conferences for other government departments and outside bodies. It has expert staff on a number of issues, ie policy expertise as well...

  • Hi, I'm Jonathan and I've been part of the team working on this course for the Diplomatic Academy, where I was Head of Learning until last December. I'm fascinated by how online courses can help dispersed communities and public learning - and have been involved in maybe ten internal projects over the last year. My new role is working on learning & development...

  • Welcome Adam! Great to have you here- do share everything you know about the Australian and UK systems. Looking forward to your feedback. And feel free to advertise what DFAT are planning in this space..

  • Welcome Lucy- I hope you find something interesting in the course- and good luck with next steps.

  • Thanks Louise, those are really interesting examples. And good luck!

  • yes the transcipt is at the bottom of the page (in a different place to where the video transcripts are normally found, which is a small design flaw I think)

  • Hi Tony. For the UK, the answer is no - Local Staff will normally be citizens of the country in which they live (or dual nationals/third country nationals etc). Some Local Staff are UK nationals who are living abroad but they are employed under local employment law. Other countries take different approaches of course.

  • Thanks for pointing that out, it should be “official entity” rather than “official state entity” when referring to the UN (although the UN and other multilateral organisations do enjoy some quasi-state diplomatic privileges)

  • Many thanks for those suggestions for further reading on social media- really useful.

  • Just to reassure you that you don’t need to pay to take the course. Eight weeks’ access to all material (70+ articles, videos etc) is entirely free of charge. The FutureLearn upgrade fee is for those who want to take the end-of-week tests, get the certificate and have unlimited access to the course.

  • @LuisSuarez We are presenting two views, I suppose, and asking participants which they think is more accurate: digital diplomacy as a revolution (overturning the previous order of slower, more private diplomacy for something new) or as an evolution (a natural but perhaps undramatic development). I don’t think we have an answer and both could be true, depending...

  • @PaulineL-j You and others might find it helpful to look at this resource from the Scottish Parliament (of course we need to remember that the three Devolved Administrations are all different, ie we have asymmetrical devolution)

  • Hi Valeria, I think Simon means that an abstract-sounding concept runs the risk of being ignored by practitioners, who can't instantly grasp the essence or see the relevance. But, as Iva Mazza points out in the next-door comment, it's likely that integrative diplomacy and other models do have some light to shed on actual diplomatic practice.

  • Welcome Les!!

  • Hi Luis. We did consider covering negotiation - it would make sense as part of Simon’s three core concepts - but, more than the other two concepts, negotiation is a skill which needs to be learned through guided practice, feedback and experience - ie it seems less appropriate to an online course. Plus, we couldn’t fit everything in!

  • thank you - will correct that now!

  • Welcome Ioana- I hope you enjoy the course. I was very glad to meet one of your senior women colleagues recently, Ambassador Simona Spinaru, Director of the Romanian Diplomatic Institute- I’m sure she is shaping modern diplomacy!

  • Welcome Esmary! - and do share your perspective as well. I think for most people, the value of this course is in the wide range of participants, even more than the content..

  • @LenaJ yes a DA couldn’t sign a state-to-state trade deal in the form of a treaty - but they can still be very heavily involved in trade promotion, support for local businesses, and encouraging inward investment

  • Thanks Lena, good question, and a full answer would be very long! But basically the international role of the Devolved Administrations are set out in the relevant UK legislation. Broadly speaking the UK is responsible for foreign and defence policy. This leaves plenty of room for cultural, trade/investment, educational, development and other links to be...

  • Hi Susan, yes there's an organised effort by our HR Directorate to promote FCO careers to under-represented groups - eg roadshows to universities from which we get fewer applicants, and participation in government-wide internship schemes. But the actual recruitment process itself is strictly on merit.

  • Hi Tanja, good question. There is only ever one UK Head of Mission (Ambassador/High Commissioner). But the local authorities might also find themselves dealing with diplomats within that mission whose sole or partial role is to represent the Devolved Administrations; or with separate offices, as described in the podcast; or with officials from Edinburgh,...

  • I'm not an expert in consular law, but I think the answer is that Australians wouldn't be breaking the law by getting married to a same-sex partner abroad - or on the premises of a foreign power in Australia which had permission to conduct those marriages on an extra-territorial basis. There will be experts in this course who can give a better answer than...

  • Thank you for these really good points. We talk about social media and digital diplomacy in Week 2; would love to cover AI and city diplomacy, amongst other things, in future courses..

  • Good points! That reminds me of something in Duff Cooper’s autobiography. Cooper was a Conservative Cabinet Minister in the 1930s who then became Ambassador to France in 1944. When Labour took power in 1945, incoming Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin kept Cooper in the job for a couple of years- because he had such excellent contacts with the French government,...

  • I’ve read Global Diplomacy and I can definitely recommend it, especially the overview chapters. For those with access: the FCO library has the e-book.

  • Excellent questions. What do you think - especially on the last one?

  • Lots of excellent and thoughtful comments on this poll, which explore the differences between formal and informal diplomacy, and the implications of being (or being seen as) a representative of a particular group. The nature of “representation” - including who is allowed to represent - is a major theme of this first week. The particular complexity of the issue...

  • Thanks for joining Julie- look forward to your comments and reflections on how this works! Ongoing experiment for us.

  • Good morning! My view at the moment is the rolling English countryside of Sussex as I get the train into work (view about to be interrupted by the less attractive Gatwick Airport..) It’s wonderful to see such a diverse group of learners already and this will only increase as the course progresses. Please do share your thoughts, questions and experiences with...

  • Many thanks Aileen. And re your last question - yes, consular services remain a huge part of the role of a diplomatic network, although obviously varying according to location. We didn't focus on the consular network very much in this specific course. If you have access, the third episode of the recent BBC series "Inside the Foreign Office" gave a very good...

  • A blog on this final week of the course (and blogs on Weeks 1-5 can be found on the same site) - Thank you for your participation - as many people point out, it's often the comments that make the course..

  • I'd never heard of sekiji - great example - this seems to give a summary

  • thank you for that link, it's very relevant

  • The concept of embodiment (v interesting BBC video) seems to have real potential. Poor graphics and generally clunky user experience will limit VR for other purposes - eg watching a real human face in a video is so much better than watching an avatar. But we should keep experimenting with the new tools..

  • As ever participants' comments below give an excellent summary of the issues covered this week, but here is another attempt to pull together some of the strands of discussion in Week Five:

    Articles on Weeks 1-4 available via the same link.

  • It’s an internal course for FCO - although sometimes there have been senior people from other Departments (eg new Heads of Office for Dept for International Development)

  • I think it's a mixture - some are owned outright, some are leased from the local authorities (or granted for diplomatic use), some are straight commercial rents.

  • That's a really interesting question about co-location. There are many examples of different Embassies in the same office building. The UK has a scheme with Canada and with other European countries as well - eg our Embassy share with Germany in Iceland,_Reykjav%C3%ADk A particularly well-advanced...

  • Some early waves of "innovative" digital learning were actually an attempt to do the same thing as before, but in digital format - eg the e-learning which simply replicated handouts or trainer notes, or the early MOOCs which featured a large number of steps with academics talking to camera (ie mini-lectures). Khan Academy felt different, and MOOCs which...

  • Hi, I'm Jonathan and I'm Head of Learning at the UK Diplomatic Academy (which is part of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office). I've been in L&D for 15 years although I started out as a diplomat. We're starting to experiment seriously with online learning - we have a global workforce of 15,000+ people in 250+ locations so you can see why - and we've just run...

  • Good points! I think part of the answer comes in opening up "content" to critique from a very diverse group of learners - which is why I always enjoy the comments section so much - usually a long way from uniformity here..

  • Hi Matt and welcome - hope you enjoy the course. Do you mind a technical question - do you find it easy to access FutureLearn from China via your preferred device(s)? Just asking because I know other platforms can have firewall issues. Thanks.

  • Thank you Phoebe, great collection of up-to-date resources here on the debate around new/thematic diplomacies and other issues. Much appreciated, will add to blog as well.

  • A summary of some of the comments and suggestions made by participants during Week Four has now been posted on the course blog:

    Huge thanks to all contributors. The blog also includes summaries for previous weeks, which some people have found helpful.

  • @JamesOlesker-Norminton Fantastic comment, thank you. We will be very conscious of this in future iterations of the course.

  • @SoniaNicholson Thank you Sonia - funnily enough our original intention for this podcast was for it to be a discussion between Simon Rofe and Shaun Riordan! Unfortunately that fell through, but hoping we can reinstate the idea.. thanks for the link which I'll include in the blog for this week.

  • thank you, quite right - the funeral of King Edward VII took place on 20 May 1910 - you can see in this Wikipedia article why it was described as the largest ever gathering of European royalty

  • Hi Gillian, yes I’ve just seen the i newspaper piece. I’m not sure we can compete with the brilliance of John le Carre though! Interested to know whether you find anything interesting.. sports diplomacy is a fascinating topic in itself and Simon Rofe is an expert (I think some of our participants are as well)

  • Over 2,000 people have now introduced themselves on this page. Welcome! Please feel free to do the course at your own pace. There's no such thing as being "late" and you will find activity happening across all the weeks. As you complete each week, you might like to look at the blogs here - - which attempt to give a flavour...

  • ..(by which I mean UK-based opportunities) - any local jobs in Embassies will be advertised locally of course

  • Hi, it would be worth following FCO Research Analysts on Twitter - @FCOResearch - they flag up new opportunities there @TomHarper

  • So many to choose from.. but I'd like to highlight Professor Mary Beard, partly because she's a brilliant historian and writer (I'm part way through the absorbing SQPR), but mostly - in this context - for her work Women & Power which is finding echoes in modern diplomacy eg If you read the article, her...

  • @JuliaWest yes I know. Just looked it up - there's a reason re mobile phones and accessibility However, CTRL-click should open new tab.

  • Here's a blog by the job-share Ambassadors which Mark mentions - Has also happened at Deputy Head of Mission level overseas.

  • Huge thanks to @IsabelWarner who has pulled together a flavour of this week's comments in a blog:

    Blogs on Weeks 1 and 2 are also available on the same website.

  • Hi Kirsty and welcome to the course. Would be great to get your feedback on whether this course does give you any of the insights you're looking for.

  • Welcome Sheila! - lovely to see a former colleague.. :)

  • You might like to look at this blog about the themes which emerged from Week Two, including a selection of links recommended by participants:

  • Hi Peter, not really an answer to your question but you and others might be interested in how the demographics of people doing all FutureLearn courses tend to break down by age group:
    18-25 = 17%
    26-35 = 22%
    36-45 = 16%
    46-55 = 13%
    56-65 = 13%
    over 65 = 11%
    This course has a very similar profile. So almost 4 in 10 users are aged 46 and upwards.

  • Tom, fair point to raise. We had some internal debate about the title. The course is definitely about "diplomacy" in the sense of the diplomatic profession and the modern conduct of diplomacy. But it's definitely not about foreign policy or international relations. We toyed with things like "Diplomatic Practice in.." or "The Profession of Diplomacy in.."...

  • Thank you! - have added note to article.

  • a great set of real-life examples from an Embassy - thank you

  • Yes exactly. In fact Baroness Valerie Amos was the first black woman UK Head of Mission (to Australia in 2009, as a political appointment) -,_Baroness_Amos - but your point stands. Valerie Amos was also first black woman to serve in UK Cabinet.

  • Really interesting

  • Very good, fundamental question. I’m going to tweet it and post any responses (I will make it anonymous of course, but feel free to join the conversation via @UKDipAcademy if you are a Twitter user). I think some links have already been posted by other learners - I’ll try to gather them together. Thanks again.

  • Shaun, thank you for joining us. We hoped to feature you in conversation with Simon Rofe in werk 4 - unfortunately the timing didn’t work, but I hope we can arrange something for the future. Look forward to your views!

  • Hi Henna - I think we should have a chat! (Funny how a MOOC can connect you with people just down the corridor..)

  • Welcome Anna-Marina, hope you find something interesting in the course! - do share your thoughts via the comments.

  • Thank you. Apologies. Fixed in article above, transcript/captions will take a bit longer..

  • Thank you- excellent idea, will do.

  • Many thanks to everybody for their reflections on Week One. Here's a blog which makes an attempt to bring together a few themes coming out of the comments, with a reminder of some techniques for getting value from other participants without being overwhelmed.. do let us know if this is...

  • Hi Brenda. Yes, there is a specialist central group called Research Analysts who are people with an academic background in geographical and thematic areas. Mostly based in London. The bigger Embassies and High Commissions sometimes employ local staff whose role includes research and analysis.

  • Good questions. The two Vienna Conventions are the nearest we get to a “diplomatic constitution”. For a Head of Mission (Ambassador/High Commissioner), the sending state needs to ask for “agrement” from the receiving state - ie specific permission to send that individual. Pretty rare for it to be refused but it does happen. Other diplomats are not approved...

  • That's a really good set of questions. I wonder if colleagues from FCO (or other countries) have personal insights?

    You might be interested in this recent blog by Ben Merrick, Director in the FCO and disability role model/Civil Service champion for the visually impaired:...

  • I completely identify with your last sentence :)

  • This topic - and others across the course - can touch on strong personal views. Please be respectful to your fellow learners when commenting. The aim is to provide a platform to discuss a topic which affects diplomats and the nature of diplomatic representation (the subject of this week). Personal views are welcome but any comments which may breach the...

  • Many thanks Leigh - superb advice here. (For those who don’t know, Leigh Turner is UK Ambassador to Austria and one of the FCO’s top social media practitioners.)

  • Interesting discussion. From UK perspective, I agree of course with what others have said re the Civil Service Code, which has a legal footing: you obey the democratically elected government of the day, within the law. The wider philosophical point is also interesting in the context of multinational missions and the chain of command. Romeo Dallaire's book...

  • The extent to which "soft power" can be seen as distinct from, or even antithetical to "hard power" (eg military or economic coercion) is an ongoing debate it seems. This article has some interesting thoughts, starting with Joseph Nye's concept and coming right up to the present:

  • a really interesting example of where diplomacy, consular services and legal issues meet - thank you

  • One example is that, in a given country, the President's Office might take one approach to the protocol of dealing with the Scottish Government (eg happy to deal directly with Edinburgh) whereas the Ministry of Foreign Affairs might take another (working only through the British Embassy). Could be result of personal contacts, political differences, or just...

  • Totally agree about the value of comments. When we piloted this course, we estimated that total word count of comments was 7 times higher than total word count of material - in this course it could be 70 times or higher! Huge amount of value from global views and experience

  • Thank you Naledi- this introduces another angle on “representation”. Does it mean that diplomats from minority/under-represented groups have a second layer of representation? Both an opportunity and a burden?

  • @SaraCannon thanks Sara - we also find the transcripts essential because video/audio can sometimes be slow to play on internal systems, and it’s a back-up in terms of accessibility. Full marks to FutureLearn on this.

  • There may be more information than you need in this very full Wikipedia article - but in case helpful (Consular is towards the end)

    Defence Attaches tend to be of senior rank but will always report to the Ambassador (but also to their own Ministry)

  • Welcome! You will have some great insights into the strengths, weaknesses and special characteristics of UK diplomacy- please do share them- as well as your wider experience and the Ukrainian viewpoint.

  • No two systems are exactly the same but there are parallels in states such as Germany, Belgium, Canada, Malaysia.. what other examples do people have?

  • The overview is in this Wikipedia article, beyond that you could look at the separate links given at the end of the article