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Diplomatic Law: Privileges and Immunities online course

Start date: 22 July 2024

Diplomatic privileges and immunities usually receive attention only when exceptions or abuses are reported in the news.

Starting with the evolution of diplomatic privileges and immunities and ending with the question of whether the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations should be revisited in the internet era, this course introduces participants to diplomatic law in general and diplomatic privileges and immunities in particular. Combining a theoretical introduction with practical exercises, participants will become familiar with current developments in the field of diplomatic privileges and immunities.

What will you learn?

  • Explain the difference between the concepts of immunities, privileges, and facilities, providing examples of each.
  • Describe the legal basis of diplomatic privileges and immunities, including as it relates to individuals, states and representatives, diplomatic missions, and consular missions.
  • Explain the theoretical justifications for privileges and immunities and how regulation has evolved.
  • Describe the privileges and immunities of states and their representatives (including heads of states and governments, other ministers and officials, diplomatic missions, and diplomatic agents).
  • Compare and contrast the privileges and immunities of diplomatic missions and agents with those of consular missions and agents.
  • Analyse cases of use and abuse of diplomatic privileges and immunities in the modern era.
  • Explain how the rule against interference in the internal affairs of a state relates to diplomatic functions.
  • Describe the various aspects of international investment law regarding direct foreign investment related to diplomatic and consular functions.
  • Explain diplomats' roles in helping investors from their sending state invest in the receiving state.

How will you learn?

In this course, you will interact intensively in discussions with classmates and lecturers from around the world. You will receive guidance and personalised feedback on your classwork from the course team.

How long will you learn?

The course lasts for 10 weeks:

  • 1 week of course introduction and orientation to online learning
  • 8 weeks of addressing the course topics one by one (see below for more details)
  • 1 week for the final assignment and completing pending tasks

Who should apply

This course will be of interest to:

  • Practising diplomats, civil servants, and others working in international relations
  • Postgraduate students of diplomacy or international relations wishing to gain deeper insight through interaction with practising diplomats
  • Postgraduate students or practitioners in other fields seeking an entry point into the world of diplomacy
  • Journalists, staff of international and non-governmental organisations, translators, business people, and others who wish to improve their understanding of diplomacy-related topics


The course consists of 8 modules:

  1. Principles and Concepts, Evolution and Instruments: We look at the difference between the concepts of immunities, privileges, and facilities, and the historical evolution of privileges and immunities. We describe the main legal instruments that regulate privileges and immunities: mainly international conventions and treaties, and finally focus on the different theoretical justifications for privileges and immunities.
  2. Privileges and Immunities of States: Starting by defining state immunity, we also examine the general source of legitimacy of privilege and immunity in customary law and conventions. We study how law and conventions form and condition absolute and qualified state immunity, closing with an examination of specific cases of immunity: heads of state and governments; immunities of ministers, state officials and parliamentarians; and ministers of foreign affairs.
  3. Immunities of Diplomatic Missions: In order to represent their sending states, diplomatic missions need appropriate status so that they are not subject to the jurisdiction and power of receiving states. We discuss the types and functions of diplomatic missions and take a close look at the immunities accorded to diplomatic missions.
  4. Privileges and Facilities Accorded to Diplomats and Missions: We further examine the facilities and privileges accorded to diplomatic missions and individual diplomatic agents, in particular inviolability of communication and freedom of movement. These privileges rest on the authority of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which we analyse carefully.
  5. Immunities of Diplomatic Agents: The purpose of granting immunities and privileges to diplomats is to enable them to carry out their functions effectively. Although personal immunities and privileges of a diplomatic agent apply directly, in fact, they are awarded to the sending state and the individual diplomat enjoys them only in his or her capacity as an agent of the state.
  6. Consular Privileges and Immunities: We consider the codification of consular law, then we examine the regulations that govern the establishment of consular relations and outline the regulations governing consular posts and consular functions, including privileges, immunities, and facilities they are granted. We will also look at the abuse of privileges and immunities as they usually receive attention only when exceptions or abuses are reported in the news - most notably traffic violations, the protection of public order, London’s congestion charge, and abuse of the diplomatic bag.
  7. International Investment Agreements I – Overview: What they are, and why diplomats and consular officers need to understand them. We will examine bilateral investment treaties, free trade agreements and other similar international agreements from the perspective of the protections afforded to international investors and why diplomats can play a crucial role in assisting their home-state investors in the host state.
  8. International Investment Agreements II – Enforcement of Rights and Awards: We examine the right of investors to enforce international investment agreements (IIAs) against the offending states through international arbitration, the enforcement of awards issued by the arbitration tribunals against recalcitrant states and the role of diplomats in assisting their home-state investors. We will also study the role of multilateral development banks in financing private sector investments in development projects and the assistance that diplomats can provide to facilitate such transactions.

Course lecturers

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Alan Franklin

Lecturer, Athabasca University and Royal University of Law and Economics


The Diplomatic Law online course is based on a collaborative learning approach, involving a high level of interaction over a period of 10 weeks. Reading materials and the necessary tools for online interaction are provided in a virtual classroom.

Each week, participants study and discuss course materials and complete additional online activities. At the end of the week, participants and lecturers meet to discuss the topic of the week. For successful completion, this course requires a minimum of 5 to 7 hours of study time per week.

Participants who successfully complete a certificate course receive a certificate issued by Diplo which can be printed or shared electronically via a permanent link. Participants who successfully complete an accredited course will receive 9 ECTS credits from the University of Malta.


All course applicants must have regular internet access; dial-up connections are sufficient, but broadband is preferable.

Applicants for certificate courses must have:

  • An undergraduate university degree OR 3 years of work experience and appropriate professional qualifications in diplomacy or international relations
  • Sufficient English language skills to undertake postgraduate-level studies

Applicants for accredited courses must meet the University of Malta prerequisites:

  • Bachelor's degree in a relevant subject with at least Second Class Honours
  • Proof of English language proficiency obtained within the last 2 years (minimum requirements: TOEFL paper-based – 650; TOEFL internet-based – 95; IELTS – 6.5.; Cambridge – Proficiency Certificate with Grade C or better). If when applying you are still waiting for your English language proficiency results, the University may issue a conditional letter of acceptance.

Fees and scholarships

Course fees depend on whether you wish to obtain university credit for the course or a Diplo certificate:

  • University of Malta accredited courses: €850
  • Diplo certificate courses: €690

Note: Diplo alumni can benefit from a 15% discount on the fee for this course.

A limited number of partial scholarships are available for diplomats and others working in international relations from developing countries. Discounts are available for more than one participant from the same institution. 

You can apply for this course as:

How to apply

Fill out the short form to start your application process for this course. You will receive an instruction email on how to continue.

Applying for financial assistance? Please indicate this on the application form, upload your CV, and a motivation statement that should include:

  • Details of your relevant professional and educational background
  • Reasons for your interest in the course
  • Why do you feel you should have the opportunity to participate in this course? How will your participation benefit you, your institution and/or your country?

Please note that financial assistance from Diplo is available only to applicants from developing countries! 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available in the course.


Apply for a University of Malta accredited course

Complete application packages must be received by specified application deadlines in order to be considered.

  1. Two copies of the University of Malta application form filled out in full
  2. Certified copies of original degree(s) and official transcripts
  3. English translations of degree(s) and transcripts if they are not in English, signed and stamped by a translator
  4. English language proficiency certificate obtained within the last two years (minimum requirements TOEFL paper-based – 650; TOEFL internet-based – 95. IELTS – 6.5.; Cambridge – Proficiency Certificate with Grade C or better). Please indicate on the application form if you are still waiting for your English language proficiency results
  5. Photocopy of personal details pages of your passport
  6. If you are requesting financial assistance, please include your CV and a motivation letter with your application. The motivation letter should include details of your relevant professional and educational background; reasons for your interest in the course; and why you feel you should have the opportunity to participate in this course (i.e. how will your participation benefit you, your institution and/or your country). Financial assistance from DiploFoundation is available only to applicants from developing countries.
  7. Application fee or proof of payment (€100, non-refundable – see methods of payment).

Please send the complete application package by email to or by post to:

Anutruf, Ground Floor
Hriereb Street
Msida, MSD 1675, Malta

Please note that by sending your application package, you are confirming that you have read Diplo's Privacy Policy. Please note that Diplo will process and share your personal data with third parties (including the University of Malta) for admissions and academic matters, administering finance, and administrative purposes in accordance with the Privacy Policy.


Cancellation policy

Diplo reserves the right to cancel this course if enrolment is insufficient. In case of cancellation, Diplo will notify applicants shortly after the application deadline. Applicants who have paid an application fee may apply this fee towards another course or receive a refund.