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Department of Political Science

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All Undergraduate Modules

Political Science undergraduate modules for 2022/23. All title links will take you to the UCL module catalogue where you can find detailed descriptions and more information on the modules you are interested in studying.

BSc Philosophy, Politics and Economics/BSc Politics and International Relations students

The following modules can only be taken by students on the BSc Philosophy, Politics and Economics or BSc Politics and International Relations degree programmes. The programme/year group restrictions are specified next to the module name.

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POLS0006 Introduction to Politics (First Year BSc PPE students only)

The module covers concepts that are foundational for the scholarly study of political phenomena - typically including concepts such as "the state", "power", "democracy", and "collective action". The module draws out the distinction between theories of how the political world is versus how it ought to be. It also emphasises the complexities and intellectual pay-offs of connecting these theories to empirical evidence about the political world.

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POLS0009 Public Policy (Second Year BSc PPE students only)

This module aims to introduce students to the process of public decision-making in modern democracies, and explains how decision-makers formulate and implement public decisions that have consequences for the everyday lives of citizens. The module sets out theories of decision-making and reviews the role of different actors in the policy process as they seek to influence public policy. Topics include the role of public opinion, politicians, and bureaucrats. 

 

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POLS0031 Qualitative Research Methods (PIR Year 2 & PPE Year 2/3)

The main objective of the module is to introduce students to field research methods in political science. What does it mean to do qualitative and mixed methods research in political science? What are the best practices for designing and conducting research based on interviews and surveys? What do we learn from observation and ethnographic research? When is a structured interview preferable to a less structured one? How does one find participants? How does a researcher pick a research site and gain access? What are techniques for analysing data generated through fieldwork? What ethical and political dilemmas shape field research?

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POLS0053 How to Argue About Politics (First Year BSc PIR students only)

This module trains students in the skills that are crucial for the scholarly study of politics and international relations, and introduces students to current issues and key debates in the field. It equips students will the most basic tools of research, which involve formulating clear questions and developing and defending answers to those questions, and it trains students in how to write clearly, how to frame and defend an argument, and how to express complicated ideas in oral presentations. 

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POLS0054 Climate Change: Politics and Policy (First Year BSc PIR students only)

This is module provides an introduction to climate change politics, especially the politics of climate policy design, adoption, and implementation. We will focus on the role of key political actors at both the international and national levels – the UN, politicians, voters, interest groups, and social movements – in shaping policy outcomes.

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POLS0055 Globalisation and Populism (First Year BSc PIR students only)

This course explores the phenomenon of populism and its relationship to globalisation, particularly as it has played out in Europe and the Americas in the 21st century thus far. What is populism? Is populism mainly a response to globalisation? How does populism impact on democracy? To address these and related questions, we will talk about migration, economic insecurity, political dissatisfaction, liberal democracy and much more. 

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POLS0056 Refugees (First Year BSc PIR students only)

This module will take an in-depth look at the experience of becoming a refugee, and reflect on the meanings and impacts of such experiences, for refugees themselves, but also for the countries they fled, the countries they moved through, and the societies where they sought protection through political asylum, and where some were eventually allowed to create new homes.

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POLS0057 Protest and Revolution (First Year BSc PIR students only)

This module will investigate the politics of social movements and revolutions. To understand why people participate in protests and how they overcome coordination problems, we will consider examples of protests and revolutions from democracies and electoral autocracies around the world. The module will also study the relationship between the state and social movements, and the conditions under which protesters can gain the support of public opinion and influence government policy. 

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POLS0058 Identity Politics: Prejudice, Inclusion and Equal Rights (First Year BSc PIR students only)

This module explores a set of empirical and normative questions about key markers of social and political difference: race, ethnicity, and nationality. It begins by investigating what, exactly these identities are. It explores debates about the social construction of race and ethnicity and examines how gender intersects with these identities. It proceeds to explore what, exactly, racism and xenophobia are. Then, it turns to contemporary politics to assess the role of these divisions in prevailing political institutions and dynamics. 

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POLS0060 Science, Scientific Discovery and Statistics (First Year BSc PIR students only)

In the age of information overload, big data, social media and contestation over ‘fake news’ based on ‘evidence’ and ‘facts’, it is more important than ever to equip students of politics with the necessary skills to read, interpret and critically assess conclusions, political claims and government findings based on strong methodological foundations. “Science, Scientific Discovery and Statistics" aims to turn students into competent producers, and critical consumers, of ‘facts’ or scientifically based information. 

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POLS0061 Foundations of Political Thought (First Year BSc PIR students only)

Modern politics is marked by deep and entrenched inequalities of power. Should we be concerned if modern governments hold awesome power over their citizens? Or if modern corporations hold immense power over their employees? Should we be worried if men hold considerably more power than women? If Whites hold more power than Blacks? If countries in the Global North hold more power than those in the Global South?

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POLS0063 Ethics and Public Policy (Second Year BSc PIR students only)

All public policy is based at least partly on ethical ideas; through their policies, governments aim to advance a vision of how the world should be. Just as those who exercise public power should be able to justify their policy decisions to citizens, citizens should be able to evaluate the policies that govern their societies. In this spirit, this module will explore the ethical ideas that underpin policy choices.

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POLS0064 Politics and Policy in Practice (Second Year BSc PIR students only)

This module lifts the lid on the business of policy making, examining the various forms of evidence used in the process, and the dark arts of political communication. The module is framed around a speaker series, where practitioners from various fields of public policy share their insights and experiences.

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POLS0077 Political Violence (First Year BSc PIR students only)

This module examines the principal causes, manifestations, and debates of political violence in the contemporary world, and contextualises political violence in the broader study of global politics and international relations. It explores theoretical explanations, conceptual understandings, and empirical examples of political violence, as well as policy responses to political violence in different contexts. Topics will include terrorism and violent extremism, genocide and mass atrocities, gender-based violence, and torture.

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POLS0081 Public Sector Economics (Second Year BSC PIR students only)

This module equips students with core knowledge in economics relevant for study in political science and public policy. How should policymakers use the insights of economics to solve social problems? The aim of the module is to provide students with the ability to answer this question.

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POLS0082 Policy Making (First Year BSC PIR students only)

This module aims to introduce students to the process of public policy making in modern states, and explains how decision makers formulate and implement public decisions that have consequences for the everyday lives of citizens. The module sets out theories of decision making and reviews the role of different actors in the policy process as they seek to influence public policy. Topics include the role of public opinion, politicians, lobbyists and bureaucrats.

 

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POLS0083 Quantitative Data Analysis (PIR Year 2 & PPE Year 2/3)

Political scientists use quantitative data analysis to understand a wide range of topics, including the role of immigration in voters’ electoral behaviour, or the extent to which women are underrepresented in parliaments around the world. This module is designed to introduce you to and help you become familiar with quantitative data analysis methods. It provides you with insights into concepts such as causal inference and statistical uncertainty, and explores a range of basic quantitative research methods. The central aim is to show you how understanding quantitative data and methods can help us answer big questions about the political world.

 

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POLS0086 Dissertation (Final Year BSc PIR students only)

Your dissertation is a piece of original and supervised research on a topic of personal interest to you, and relating to some aspect of your field of study. The dissertation should include both critical engagement with the literature, and a significant element of original research and independent analysis. In carrying out this piece of work, you will identify a topic and a question; make use of arguments, concepts, evidence and methods of analysis taught in your programme’s component modules; and clearly and rigorously write up your argument and conclusions.

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POLS0102 Dissertation (Final Year BSc PPE students only)

Your dissertation is a piece of original and supervised research on a topic of personal interest to you, and relating to some aspect of your field of study. The dissertation should include both critical engagement with the literature, and a significant element of original research and independent analysis. In carrying out this piece of work, you will identify a topic and a question; make use of arguments, concepts, evidence and methods of analysis taught in your programme’s component modules; and clearly and rigorously write up your argument and conclusions.

BSc PPE/Q-Step Students Only

The following modules can only be taken by students on PPE or Q-step degree programmes. The year group restrictions are specified next to the module name.

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POLS0007 Principles of Social Science Research (First year BSc PPE students on Politics and Philosophy Concentration)

The course’s main objective is to introduce students to social science research. To do so we will focus on how we use facts and observations to make and evaluate statements about the world and the forces which appear to account for human interactions. What will become quickly evident is that academic discourse and scientific debate is more involved and cumbersome than everyday reasoning.

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POLS0008 Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods (First Year BSc PPE students)

This module introduces students to quantitative methods in the social sciences. It assumes no knowledge of quantitative methods or statistical software. The module caters for students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and adopts a practical hands-on approach to learning, with tutor supported computer tutorials. The module covers descriptive statistics (central tendency and variation), data visualisation, data access, probability, sampling, hypothesis testing, inferential statistics and ends with an introduction to simple linear regression. Students will be introduced to the R statistical software and work with real-world data.

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POLS0010 Data Analysis (Second Year Q-Step students)

This module aims to build skills in applied statistics using a variety of methods, including regression, spatial analysis and quantitative text analysis. It starts with an introduction to multiple regression, advanced survey methods and missing data before going to look at a host of spatial analysis methods. In term 2, students will begin with an introduction to the quantitative analysis of text, including methods of document classification and web scraping. They will then be introduced to a wider range of regression techniques, including models for binary dependent variables, panel data, multilevel models, and poststratification. 

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POLS0012 Causal Analysis in Data Science (Third Year Q-Step students & PIR Y3)

The module's main objective is to provide students with an introduction to the rapidly growing field of causal inference. Increasingly, social scientists are no longer willing to establish correlations and merely assert that these patterns are causal. Instead, there is a new focus on design-based inference, designing research studies in advance so that they yield causal effects.

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POLS0013 Measurement in Data Science (Third Year Q-Step students & PIR Y3)

This module focuses on advanced measurement techniques that are routinely used in industry, government, advocacy and academic research. The module builds on the material in the second year Data Analysis module and covers theories of quantitative measurement as well as practical measurement strategies involving data reduction techniques and latent variable modelling. 

Electives  

The following modules are open to Political Science Undergraduate students and, restrictions permitting, affiliate students and students from external departments. Please click on the links for pre-requisites and departmental restrictions.

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POLS0001 International Conflict and Cooperation

This module introduces students to the major theoretical approaches in International Relations (IR). It uses these different theoretical approaches to shed light on conflict and cooperation in world politics, drawing on both historical and current examples. The module aims to link theory and the 'real world' by providing students with different lenses for understanding and explaining questions related to political violence and armed conflicts, nuclear weapons, globalisation, and environmental challenges.

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POLS0002 Democracy and Authoritarianism

This module is an introduction to comparative politics: the study of domestic politics in different countries. Comparative politics emphasises the similarities and differences between states' political systems, both as important content about how politics is conducted around the world, and as a method for understanding general political processes. The module will cover formal political institutions and aspects of civil society, public attitudes and political culture, and how they interact to produce political and policy outcomes. 

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POLS0016 British Politics

This module will introduce you to the structure of the British political system and the functioning of British politics in practice. We will start by exploring the social foundations of politics in the UK, looking at the roles of various national identities and of class, gender, and ethnicity. We will also explore the main institutions and players in the UK system, setting these within a comparative context. And we will seek to understand how the various parts of the system interact with each other in determining the character of the democratic process and the nature of policy outcomes.

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POLS0019 International Security 

This module examines major debates in the field of international security. Many important issues in international politics relate to the use or threat of military force and political violence, and the insecurity this threat poses to states, communities, and individuals.

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POLS0020 Politics of the European Union

This module critically explores the European Union (EU) and its main political processes: integration, disintegration (Brexit), institutional set-up, and policymaking.
The course emphasises the importance of the idea of Europe (‘who is European?’, ‘where does Europe begin and end?’), power relations and dynamics between member states, as well as the complex political, economic, and social interdependencies that (re)shape the EU.

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POLS0021 International Development and Public Policy

This module will examine how ideas about development help us understand the various ways the world is divided into rich and poor. We will critically examine the idea that the world can be understood as composed of the rich, industrialised “developed” countries (or global “North”) and the poorer “majority world” (or global “South”), and – using a critical approach to the processes of development – we will emphasize the interaction of politics with society, culture and economics.

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POLS0022 Gender and Politics

The module provides an overview of key topics in politics and gender. The history of feminism and main feminist and gender theories are explored as well as the impact of gender on ‘political’ activities and how to develop gender sensitive public policies mainly in national contexts. It considers what constitutes ‘political’ activities, how women’s interests are represented, whether the gender of our political representatives matters, in what ways that political institutions are gendered. It also explores the role of feminist activism and civil society in promoting gender equality as well as the feminist concept of security, transnational migration, the impact of gender in armed conflicts, women, sexuality and human rights, and the role of gender in international development.

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POLS0023 Global Environmental Politics

This is an advanced module designed to introduce students to the major themes and issues in the study of global environmental politics (GEP). In doing so, the module requires a sound knowledge of political science approaches and vocabulary, especially of (global) public policy and International Relations.

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POLS0027 Human Rights and World Politics

Human rights and global politics are intimately related. This module introduces students to this relationship by exploring some of the most complex and controversial challenges that sit at the nexus of international human rights law and international politics.

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POLS0028 Welfare Politics

The goal of this module is to familiarise students with theoretical perspectives that explain the emergence and change of modern welfare states. To this end, the module typically outlines the development of European welfare states, and discusses the emergence of different types of welfare states. The module usually covers core theoretical approaches to understand welfare state politics, which may include economic models of inequality and redistribution, party politics and public opinion, the influence of political institutions, and the role of immigration, race, and gender.

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POLS0030 The Ethics of Crime and Punishment

This is an advanced political philosophy module that explores a range of normative questions about crime and punishment. Potential topics include normative theories of criminal punishment, techniques of criminal punishment, theories of criminalisation and their applications, and the normative principles underpinning proposals for reforming contemporary criminal justice systems.

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POLS0032 Authority, Democracy and Resistance

Many people believe that citizens, and especially citizens in democratic states, have a duty to accept the authority of the law and to support and comply with the institutions of their state. In this module you will examine this assumption in depth, and from various perspectives. You will engage with recent philosophical discussions on the nature of political authority, on the legitimacy of democracy and on the duty to resist state injustices.

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POLS0033 Philosophy, Values and the Social Sciences

This module examines the interplay between values and social sciences. We will address questions such as: Are the social sciences inevitably more value-laden than the social sciences? Should citizens decide what scientists research? Are there moral or political reasons for social scientists to sometimes refrain from researching particular topics, or from communicating their results? How should science guide policy? What can and should moral philosophy and political philosophy learn from the social sciences? What is the right relation between political philosophy and political science?

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POLS0034 British Parliamentary Studies

This module introduces students to the working of the British parliament (both House of Commons and House of Lords). Uniquely it is jointly delivered with the parliamentary authorities, and part taught in parliament itself. As well as academic study of various aspects of parliamentary processes, it involves contact with practitioners, and an introduction to parliamentary research through a joint research project.

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POLS0035 Strategies of Terrorism

The module is about the causes, dynamics, and consequences of terrorism and how we can empirically study them. As such, it places as much emphasis on the field’s main theoretical debates and empirical findings as on the concrete process of the empirical scientific study of terrorism. The module will not cover so-called “critical” approaches to terrorism nor the normative/ethical questions concerning (counter-)terrorism.

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POLS0039 Global Economic and Social Rights

This module introduces students to the idea of what are economic and social rights, and different explanations about where these rights come from. We will briefly examine the broadening of what constitutes economic and social rights and the imbedding of these rights in international law since World War II. We will ask why governments vary in their efforts to realise the economic and social rights of their citizens and will try to understand the political advantage governments seek through the realisation or otherwise of these rights. 

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POLS0041 Politics of Economic Policy in Post-Industrial Democracies

This module introduces students to the study of comparative political economy: the politics of economic policy-making in WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic) countries. The module surveys topics, theories, and methods on the interplay of politics and economics across the advanced democracies, with the goal to understand variation in economic policies and performance and to better understand the causes and the consequences of this variation.

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POLS0043 International Political Economy

This module provides an introduction to the study of International Political Economy (IPE). IPE is a field of research that combines the study of politics and economics, exploring both domestic and international factors that impact preferences, behaviours, and policies relating to economic globalisation. The module will cover major topics of inquiry within IPE such as the politics and policies relating to international trade, international investment, and international finance. You will be introduced to theoretical and empirical research analysing each topic covered.

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POLS0065 Wars and Violence

Recent years have seen a debate about the waning of war, though for millions of people around the world, wars and violence are part of their everyday lives—with implications far beyond the war-torn states’ borders. This module introduces students to major trends in warfare (types of wars, the actors engaged in wars, targets in wars, funding of warfare, technology of warfare), theories explaining these trends, the relationship between warfare and state-building, and ethical questions concerning how wars are fought.

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POLS0066 Political Behaviour: Voters, Public Opinion and Political Participation

This course surveys a number of key debates in the very broad literature on electoral and political behaviour in democratic states. We consider topics including how citizens think about parties, politically salient groups and political issues; how citizens make vote choices; the mechanisms behind differences in turnout and participation across different individuals and over time, levels and variation in political knowledge.

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POLS0072 Spread of Conflict in International Relations

Among the many consequences of the global pandemic, it has made us more aware of the importance of understanding contagion through networks, a phenomenon that occurs not only in the realm of virology, but also with political phenomena. This course aims to develop students’ understanding of major themes and debates in the contemporary study of the spread and diffusion of conflict in international relations. 

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POLS0075 Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutions

This course examines the nature and value of democracy, and the various roles played by citizens and constitutions in sustaining it. The first part of the course examines different justifications for democracy and different understandings of the nature of the democratic process. The second part of the course focuses on issues of democratic citizenship, such as who should be viewed as a citizen, and whether democratic citizens have duties to obey the law and to vote. The final part of the course studies some of the ways law and politics interact with a particular focus on the relationships between constitutions, judicial review, and democracy.

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POLS0079 Middle East Politics

This module examines the principal debates, features, and manifestations of Middle East politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The module also contextualises the Middle East as a region of the world that continually impacts on the wider international order. This module will situate the Middle East, not as a single unitary manifestation of politics, but as a wider diverse and dynamic region. 

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POLS0080 Migration, Politics and Policy

Who migrates, why do they move and what are the consequences? This module explores the political economy of migration (forced and otherwise) in the 21st century. Over ten weeks students will engage with literature from political science, economics, political psychological and migration studies on the ongoing debates about migration and migration policies.

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POLS0088 Postcolonial and Critical Approaches to World Politics

This is an undergraduate level course introducing students to critical and postcolonial approaches to International Relations (IR). While the main trends in the field - like Realism, Constructivism and Liberalism - are examined, it is these critical perspectives that are the main focus.

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POLS0089 Regulating Big Business

This module is designed to help students understand how business regulation operates in domestic and global contexts.  We examine the foundational reasons for why government intervenes in market economies, as well as how regulatory agencies are designed, created and maintained.  We look closely at the nature of regulatory standards and how they are shaped, and we examine how business organisations understand and comply with regulations. 

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POLS0090 Theories of Justice and Injustice

The module explores these questions through study of the large and highly advanced literature on justice and injustice developed by political theorists and philosophers over the past fifty years. Questions of justice and injustice, of oppression and emancipation, are at the forefront of political debate. What is justice? How is justice to be achieved? How ought we to respond when justice is denied? Should everyone have equal amounts of goods? Is it acceptable for some people have more than others provided that everyone has enough? What, precisely, is wrong about inegalitarian social relations, like domination, exploitation, and oppression?

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POLS0091 Humanitarian Protection

This module surveys the field of humanitarian protection. You will study the key pillars of international law providing protections for vulnerable populations, and the context out of which these provisions emerged. It discussed the actors associated with the protection regime as well as the responsibilities of international actors with the regard to conflict management, civilian protection, and humanitarian assistance.

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POLS0092 America in the World (Third Year students only)

This module examines the principal motivations, interests, dynamics, and debates that shape US foreign policy in the contemporary world. The module also contextualises US foreign policy in the broader study of global politics and international relations. It explores theoretical explanations and empirical examples of US foreign policy, as well as impacts of US foreign policy in different contexts. 

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POLS0093 LGBTIQ Politics (Third Year students only)

The module examines the role of sexual orientation and gender identity in politics drawing on multidisciplinary research on social movements, transnational rights advocacy, identity politics, public opinion and political behaviour, as well as regional studies. 

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POLS0094 Political Economy of East Asia (Third Year students only)

This module introduces East Asia (consisting of both Northeast and Southeast Asian states) through a political-economy lens. The region has experienced unprecedentedly rapid industrialization since the middle of the twentieth century, which has been accompanied by economic and governance crises. Relations between countries within the region are similarly dynamic, as they are both drawn together through regional institutions and economic integration, and repelled by conflicting interests and claims.

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POLS0096 Improving Public Policy Implementation

What Government does is incredibly consequential to the lives -and welfare – of citizens around the globe.
Much of the attention in efforts to improve Government is on making policy at elite levels. Good policies absolutely matter; but they’re not the only thing that does. This course is about what happens next. One could say it tackles what is often called the “implementation gap”; it does so with the perspective that that gap is most of the journey.

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POLS0097 History of Political Thought

Contemporary political debate remains indebted to concepts and arguments developed in the history of political thought. This module explores this history by examining a select number of signal figures and movements in the history of modern Western political thought. Students will engage in close, critical reading of canonical texts. They will learn how to accurately interpret and critically evaluate the arguments in those texts, and will thereby learn how to deal with the legacy those arguments have left for contemporary debates.

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POLS0098 Latin American Politics

This module provides a first approximation to the study of Latin American politics, encompassing a wide range of topics in international relations and comparative politics. Although intended as a survey of main political science debates, the module also aims to impart basic knowledge about the culture, geography, and history of the region.

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POLS0099 Politics of Nature

In this module you will be encouraged to draw on and analyse your own relationships with the natural world. Nature is not understood to be ‘out there’ in the wilderness, but part of our everyday lives in ways that we will notice, analyse and discuss. You will also be encouraged to feel and experience, as well as think about, your involvement in the natural world.

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POLS0100 Global Justice

This module explores normative debates in foreign policy and international relations. Through a combination of theoretical and empirical readings, we ask the question of what justice might demand between states and across societies, and how such demands ought to shape foreign policy and global governance.

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POLS0101 Environmental and Climate Justice

Where should toxic waste facilities be sited? Should we grow and eat genetically modified crops? Who is responsible for causing climate change? Should we leave fossil fuels in the ground? How do environmental decisions and outcomes intersect with racial, gender and class inequalities, indigenous dispossession, and other systems of oppression? This module will equip students with a range of theoretical tools and frameworks to address questions such as these. 

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NOT RUNNING IN 2022-23 POLS0026 International Organisations

How does international cooperation and conflict come about? How and why do states form institutions that constrain or foster inter-state behaviour? The module focuses on the major theories and concepts of interstate cooperation and institutions. It introduces students to the major institutions in the areas of the environment, human rights, and global markets and concludes with a discussion of the role international organisations can play in promoting peace and deterring armed conflict.

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NOT RUNNING IN 2022-23 POLS0036 Policy Analysis and Evaluation

This interdisciplinary module introduces students to quantitative evaluation methods and their use in policy analysis in the social sciences. The module will emphasise the application of experimental and quasi-experimental evaluation methods in the ‘real world’, and it potential impact upon government policy. Students will learn about key elements of evaluation methods, and be able to critically evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. The module has a high practical element, with students regularly analysing data using R.

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NOT RUNNING IN 2022-23 POLS0037 Democratic Challenges and Innovations

This module helps students engage with current debates around the perceived failures of contemporary democratic systems and the reforms that are sometimes proposed to address those failures. It focuses on problems and reform proposals in ‘established’ democracies rather than in new or fragile democracies – though many of the discussions may well be relevant to the latter as well - and focuses on some of the major (alleged) challenges facing contemporary democracies and a range of the (proposed) solutions to these challenges.

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NOT RUNNING IN 2022-23 POLS0038 Discourses and Practices of International Development

This module will examine how discourses about development divide the world into rich and poor. We will critically examine the idea that the world can be understood as composed of the rich, industrialised “developed” countries (or global “North”) and the poorer “majority world” (or global “South”), and investigate the history, gendering and racialisation of this idea. The focus throughout will be on how development is represented, by whom and with what consequences. We will pay particular attention to the politics of these representations.

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NOT RUNNING IN 2022-23 POLS0074 Religion and Politics

This course is designed to introduce the students to the study of the relationship between religion and politics. The course will be structured around key research areas in the field such as the conditions uner which societies or the institutions that govern them become secularised, the emergence and persistence of the religious-secular divide as a salient political cleavage, the formation and electoral performance of religious parties and the relationship between religion and regime type amongst others.

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NOT RUNNING IN 2022-23 POLS0076 American Government

This module introduces students to American government, with a focus on U.S. political culture, institutions, and policymaking. Particular emphasis will be given to the historical and intellectual development of the American political system and its evolution to the present day.