British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

A Director’s Fellowship with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the British equivalent of the State Department, offers wide ranging work experience suited to anyone looking for a future career in economics, economic policy, government, or international affairs.

The internship will be in the FCO’s Economics Unit, led by Chief Economist, Kumar Iyer. The Unit acts as an internal consultancy, providing economic advice and analysis to Ministers and senior officials across British foreign policy interests. The potential range of topics is wide, but always policy relevant: ranging from US/China tensions to impact of sanctions and the stability of regimes in the Middle East. The type of work is also varied, including presentations on the depth and intensity of economic linkages with regions or countries to writing blogs on topics of interest, such as the role of social capital in facilitating economic activity.

The internship offers the chance to gain practical experience in a supportive and inclusive workplace in one of the best cities in the world.

The Economics Unit has the following main functions:

To strengthen the economic underpinnings of our international policy.  We do this by:

  • Ensuring ministers get the advice they need on economic developments and what this means for policy;
  • Supporting geographical directorates and posts as they develop country policy, particularly by identifying new opportunities and challenging thinking;
  • Working closely with the Policy Unit to shape the NSC and NSC(O) agendas, making strong, credible connections between economic and political issues;
  • Using analysis to help set the Whitehall agenda on international economic issues, bringing together economic and political considerations and drawing on the insight of the network;
  • Developing a network of contacts with external economic experts and systematically tapping this for policy-relevant insights; and
  • Working to promote and raise awareness of economics and economics skills across the FCO.

To provide direction and leadership for the economics network overseas. The combination of a critical mass of economists at the centre working closely with economists at posts helps to diffuse economic thinking across the whole of the organisation.  The overseas network combines economics expertise with country expertise. At the centre, we add value by aggregating the insights of the network on key issues.  We work together as one team to have the maximum impact on policy.

The Director’s Fellow will have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the FCO's international policy. The Fellow will also be exposed to how the FCO interacts with Government, and UK priorities.

The Director’s Fellow will have the opportunity to work on projects focusing on:

  • Policy analysis and evaluation,
  • Research,
  • Public affairs and communications,
  • Intergovernmental relations.

Past projects include analyzing the economic relationship between major powers, the impact of artificial intelligence on the global economy and producing economic briefing for HM Ambassadors and Ministers


2019 Intern Reflection:

The FCO internship has been a wonderful experience. Working in the British government as an American, I was worried at first about how I would adjust or fit into the office culture. All of my concerns were assuaged on the very first day when the whole office gave me a huge welcome and helped me to fit it; I felt like any other member of the office after the first day! The building itself was built in the 18th century and I feel like I am talking a step back in time as I go through its halls. Moreover, the office is directly beside 10 Downing Street - the Prime Minister's residence - so I've had the opportunity to witness historic moments in British history simply from my office desk.

The Economics Unit emphasizes treating its interns like full employees, so I have been given significant responsibility and all of the projects I've been assigned are meaningful and impactful. I was placed in the Asia, Trade & Training team, so I have had the opportunity to delve deeply into the intricacies of the U.K.'s regional economic relationships and even present my own recommendations for the more senior officials in the office.

Humza Jilani '20

2018 Intern Reflection:

I really enjoyed the office environment and all the interesting talks we got to go to and meetings we had, from talks by the Governor of the Pitcairn Islands to an intimate conversation with the Permanent Under Secretary. I also loved getting to understand what life in the civil service is like, especially because it's outside of the US. It's been such a unique opportunity to experience government in a very international way.

Saffron Huang '20

Interning at the FCO has been an incredible experience. I was the one American in the office, and the Economics Unit was incredibly welcoming and worked to get me doing actual work extremely quickly, and the surprisingly high number of other interns from the UK makes for a fun cohort of people to experience the summer with. I had initially assumed the work would be mostly relating to foreign policy, but instead it ended up being a unique and fun combination of both economics consulting and foreign policy discussion. They really worked with me to make sure that what I was working on was both beneficial to the office and the unit, while also being what I was generally interested in, which made it all the easier to get to work every morning! It is worth noting the importance of working where you do physically; the FCO is right at the heart of British government, and the Unit’s windows even look out on to 10 Downing Street. Even beyond the Economics Unit, there are dozens of opportunities to learn more about British Government and the actual practice of foreign policy just by walking the street and halls outside the office!

Sam Throm '20

2017 Intern Reflection

Working in the Economics Unit at the FCO has been an incredible experience. I have been working on the Americas team, and my job generally involves conducting research, data analysis, writing papers, and creating presentations. One of the greatest things about the Economics Unit is that you get the opportunity to do real work from the moment you arrive. I was given the opportunity to participate in an economics briefing for a new ambassador, and I have also had the opportunity to conduct research and write papers that will be distributed to ministers in the Foreign Office. 

The culture in the FCO is also very welcoming. Most of the staff are fairly young, and there are several other interns and placement students. Everyone is always willing to help and teach you new things. People are willing to chat about both work and life, and everyone is very interested and knowledgeable about the work that they’re doing. They’re also very invested in your professional development. There are interesting talks and presentations that interns are encouraged to attend, and staff members have organized additional tours and meetings to learn more about different aspects of government work.

I would strongly recommend this internship to everyone. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I have gained research and data analysis skills that will be useful to me in the future. The chance to live and work in London is also amazing, and I would encourage anyone interested in economics or policy to apply for the position.

Nivedita Khandkar '19

I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to work in the Economics Unit of the FCO this past summer. I was lucky enough to start my internship during the week of the dramatic 2017 General Election, which gave me unparalleled insights into the implications of a hung parliament for the Civil Service. Nothing beats seeing the Prime Minister make speeches outside 10 Downing Street right from the office window!

Right from the start, interns are given as much responsibility as they can handle. The work is remarkably varied and collaborative, ranging from drafting highly relevant ministerial briefings to building forecasting models and writing fun economics blogs. Highlights included attending a meeting led by the Foreign Secretary (the equivalent of the US Secretary of State) and visiting Parliament on a tour for civil servants.

It's easy to forget after a couple of weeks that you’re not a full time employee, thanks to the young and friendly office vibe. The culture was relaxed, but everyone in the Economics Unit was busy working on projects that they were really passionate about. It was also common to have spontaneous discussions about key economic issues of the day and their implications for British foreign policy. What’s more, London is one of the best places you could spend your summer, with so many historic sights to see right on your doorstep.

Overall, I would highly recommend this internship for anyone with an interest in economics or public service - you won’t regret it!

Alexander Harris '20

Working at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was an incredibly exciting and enriching experience. 

Working at the FCO allowed me to begin meaningful work from day one, whether that involved preparing briefs for senior diplomats and civil servants, writing policy papers, or analyzing the latest IMF and World Bank data. I acquired skills ranging from Excel to essay-writing to networking and was able to tackle questions involving a variety of regions. And most importantly, I knew that my colleagues—from line managers to the Foreign Secretary himself—were using my work to aid them in executing Britain's foreign policy in the wake of the Brexit decision. 

Furthermore, the FCO provides a wonderful work environment. I was able to take advantage of numerous learning and development opportunities to expand my horizons beyond the economics unit. Everyone in the Economics Unit is quite young, and the civil service's huge intern network also makes it easy people outside the office. Plus, the FCO's location in the core of one of the most diverse and vibrant cities in the world (and at the doorstep of Europe) leaves you with no shortage of things to do after work and on the weekends.

I would highly recommend this posting to anyone who is interested in economics and international affairs. Just for context, this picture is with Sir Nicholas Bayne, who is a retired diplomat/civil servant- he was ambassador to Congo (Kinshasa), High Commissioner to Canada, Britain's representative to the OECD, and Economic Director General at the FCO in London. I'm using this picture instead of one within the FCO, where photography is technically prohibited. 

Ali Hakim '18

London, England