1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Foreign Affairs Requirements

(Note: In spring 2014, the Politics Department reformed the major requirements.  Under these reforms, students declaring a Foreign Affairs major after August 31, 2014 are not subject to the area concentration requirement, but they are required to take three courses in either PLCP or PLIR in addition to their distributional requirement.  Under the new rules, those declaring Foreign Affairs major are required to take only one course at the 4000-level or above.  Otherwise all majors are subject to the same requirements as listed below.)

This program consists of 30 credits of course work in the Department of Politics plus 12 hours of related coursework, as specified below.

Prerequisites to Declare a Foreign Affairs Major

For College students declaring their major during or before their fourth term (Spring term, Second year):

  • Six credits in any Politics course with a grade of "C" or better (these count towards the major) AND a GPA of 2.5 across these two courses
  • Current enrollment in one additional Politics Department course.

For College students declaring their major during their third year or fifth term (Fall term, Third year), including transfer students:

  • Six credits in any Politics course with a grade of "C" or better (these count towards the major) AND a GPA of 2.5 across these two courses
  • Current enrollment in two additional Politics Department courses.

College students who have not completed any Politics courses with a grade of C or better before their third year or fifth term may request to defer the declaration of the Foreign Affairs major. To request a deferral in the third year, students must be currently enrolled in two Politics courses at UVA.

Minimum Performance Requirements

All courses counting towards the major must be passed with a grade of at least a “C”. 

The Government and Foreign Affairs majors both require students consistently to earn grades above "C" in order to remain in the major. Our rule, published in the Undergraduate Record, reads as follows: "Students who earn a grade of C– or lower in three courses in the department or who drop below a 2.500 GPA in the department are not allowed to continue as majors."

Distribution Requirement

Twelve credits; three each in each of the four subfields of political science:

  • American Politics (PLAP) - three credits
  • Comparative Politics (PLCP) - three credits
  • International Relations (PLIR) - three credits
  • Political Theory (PLPT) - three credits

We strongly encourage majors to take this distribution requirement by the end of their third year.

Area Courses

Six credits in a pair of PLCP and/or PLIR courses that specializes in the same area of the world. Area courses may deal with all or part of Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, or the Middle East.

A list of approved courses for each area is available here.

Specialization (Foreign Affairs PLCP/PLIR Requirement)

Six additional credits in PLIR and/or PLCP.

Foreign Affairs Electives

The remaining six credits required for the Foreign Affairs major may come from departmental offerings in any of the four fields (PLAP, PLCP, PLIR, PLPT) and from department-wide courses (PLAD), depending on student interest and objectives.

Course Level Requirements

Only 9 hours of course work for the major may be offered from among the department's introductory courses (1000 level). At least 15 credits of course work in the department must be earned at the 3000 level and above. At least 3 of these must be earned at the 4000 or 5000 level.

Foreign Affairs Related Courses

Twelve credits of courses in closely related disciplines other than Politics.  SIS will automatically pick up courses with the following mnemonics: AAS, AMST, ANTH, EAST, ECON, ETP, HI** (HIAF, HIEA, HIEU, HILA, HIME, HISA, HIST, HIUS), MDST, MEST, PHIL, PSYC, REL* (RELA, RELB, RELC, RELG, RELH, RELI, RELJ, RELS), SOC, SWAG.  In extraordinary circumstances, your major advisor will consider other courses for approval.

No more than six of these credits may be at the 1000 and 2000 levels.

Transfer of Credit

No advanced placement (AP) or dual enrollment credit will count toward the 30 hours of PL coursework required for the major or for Foreign Affairs Related Courses credit.

With the approval of the department, up to six hours of PL transfer credit may count toward the Foreign Affairs Electives requirement and up to six hours of transfer credit may count toward the Related Courses requirement. For further details, please see the major FAQ.

Distinguished Majors Program

Requires thesis in fourth year and additional upper level courses. See the Distinguished Majors Program page for details.

Honors Program

A few outstanding students each year are admitted to this unique program, which involves an intensive weekly seminar in each of the department's four fields. See the Honors Program page for details.


All students are subject to the major rules specified above.  In order to be fair to all students, exemptions will be granted only under the most exceptional of circumstances.  Students wishing to petition for an exemption should first secure the approval of their advisor.  They may then contact the Director of Undergraduate Programs.  Exceptions must be requested by petition using the Exceptions Form, available here.

For further information visit us in S185 Gibson Hall.