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In a quest to become the “best diplomatic service in the world,”

the U.K. establishes an institution dedicated to equipping its

representatives with the necessary skills, knowledge and tradecraft.


Jon Davies joined the United Kingdom’s Diplomatic Ser-

vice in 1990. He has spent much of his career working in

or on the Middle East, but has also served inMadrid and

worked on consular issues in London. His latest overseas

posting was as deputy head of mission in Cairo (2007-

2010). He then returned to London, first as Iran coordinator, then as

director of the Middle East and North Africa office. Last year he took up

his current position as director of the Diplomatic Academy.


t's an honor to be asked to contribute to

The Foreign

Service Journal.

Throughout my 25 years in the Brit-

ish Diplomatic Service, I have been lucky enough to

serve with, and befriend, many brilliant, delightful

colleagues from the U.S. State Department. I have

learned much from them, and continue to do so in my

current role as director of the Foreign and Common- wealth Office’s new Diplomatic Academy.

It surprises many around the world—and indeed

in our own country—to hear that until now, Britain has never

had an institution dedicated to equipping its representatives

with the skills, knowledge and tradecraft for diplomacy. Despite

our long diplomatic history, or perhaps in part because of it, we

have got this far without an equivalent of your Foreign Service


Of course, that doesn’t mean we did no learning or training.

For many years we had a Training Department, running a range

of courses from induction onwards. We have a long tradition

of language instruction. More recently, we have transformed

the professionalism of our consular work. But there was still an

expectation that those we recruited would become professional

almost entirely “on the job.”

Why Now?

So why set up such a diplomatic training institution now? In

essence, we have recognized that the expectation that we could

rely on "on the job" training was increasingly unrealistic, and

that we needed to ensure we could provide consistently strong

learning across the whole range of what constitutes diplomacy.

As William Hague, who was British Foreign Secretary at the

time the creation of the Diplomatic Academy was announced,

put it in a statement to the House of Commons last July:

“The Academy, which will be a central part of the Foreign




A First for Britain’s

Foreign Office