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Department of Political Science

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All Undergraduate Modules

Political Science undergraduate modules for 2020/21. 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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NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21 POLS0005 Modern Classics in Political Analysis (First Year BSc mixed methods PPE students)

This module will make students engage with a number of modern classics in political analysis. After introducing questions surrounding concept formation, theorizing, and analytical strategies, the module will engage with a selection of core books in the political science discipline.

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POLS0006 Introduction to Politics (First Year BSc PPE students)

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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POLS0014 Dissertation (Final Year BSc PPE students only)

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

 

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POLS0015 PPE Capstone (Final Year BSc PPE students only)

This module constitutes a capstone experience for students pursuing the PPE degree. The goal is to integrate literatures, insights, and approaches from all three disciplines in a way that enables students to think critically about exigent social challenges. Throughout the module, students will gain an understanding of how studying the nexus of philosophy, politics, and economics is instructive for how individuals, organisations, societies, governments, and multilateral agencies interact.

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

This module introduces students to field research methods 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 informants? How does a researcher pick a research site and gain access? What are techniques for analysing data in the field? What ethical and political dilemmas shape field research?

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

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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POLS0055 Globalisation and Populism (First Year BSc PIR students)

This class explores the relationship between globalisation and populism, particularly as it has played out in the 21st century. We will explore what globalisation is, and what its consequences are. Potential topics for discussion include migration, trade, investment, and income inequality. We will also explore the reactions these economic trends have produced among the citizens of developed countries and we will consider the philosophical question: is globalisation something to be welcomed, or resisted?

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POLS0056 Refugees (First Year BSc PIR students)

This module will take an in-depth look at the current refugee crisis and examine the relationship between forced migration and politics in the modern international system. What are the causes and consequences of displacement? How does the forced movement of populations affect politics at the international, regional, and local levels – and vice versa?

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POLS0057 Protest and Revolution (First Year BSc PIR students)

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 will examine the legacies of revolutionary success and failure, and how social movements can have persistent impacts on a country’s politics.

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

This module explores empirical and normative questions about key markers of social and political difference: sex, race, ethnicity, and nationality. It explores the difference between sex and gender, and debates about the social construction of race and ethnicity. It also explores what, exactly, racism, sexism, and xenophobia are before turning to contemporary politics to assess the role of these divisions in prevailing political institutions and dynamics.

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POLS0060 Lies, Damned Lies and Bullshit (First Year BSc PIR and First Year BSc PPE mixed methods students (2020/21) 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. “Lies, Damned Lies, and Bullshit" aims to turn students into competent producers, and critical consumers, of ‘facts’ or scientifically based information.

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POLS0061 Justice: Moral Foundations of Politics (First Year BSc PIR students)

Modern governments possess an enormous amount of power over their citizens. When is that power used justly, and when is it used unjustly? Should hate speech be banned? Should torture be used as a tactic of counter-terrorism? This module will enable students to develop their own positions on these and other complex policy debates by investigating the deeper questions of political philosophy that underlie them.

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POLS0077 Political Violence (First Year BSc PIR students)

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.

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POLS0082 Policy Making (First Year BSC PIR students)

This module aims to introduce students to the process of public policy-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.

Module link to UCL Module Catalogue coming soon for 2020/21

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POLS0083 Quantitative Data Analysis (Second Year BSC PIR students)

The module gives students the tools they need to understand why quantitative research is so useful for understanding the political world. It provides them foundational knowledge of such concepts as causal inference, and explores the difference between good and bad quantitative research designs. The central aim is to show students how understanding data can help us answer big questions about the political world.

Module link to UCL Module Catalogue coming soon for 2020/21

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POLS0081 Solving Social Problems with Economics (Second Year BSC PIR students)

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. It is taught through a mixture of lectures and case studies in order to provide practical as well as theoretical understanding to students with little or no background in economics.

Module link to UCL Module Catalogue coming soon for 2020/21 

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

Across all public policies, ethical questions arise.  How can those who exercise public power justify their choices and actions to citizens?  This module will look at the various ways in which ethical thinking shapes policy choices and highlight the extent to which that same ethical thinking enables us to evaluate the choices that are made.

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

This module trains students in various skills that are relevant to professional work in the world of politics and policy, complementing the systematic training in research methods and methodology offered in Year 2 of the BSc in Politics & International Relations. Potential topics include policy advocacy, policy advice, political campaigning, negotiation, and speech-writing.

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 Q-Step students and 2nd Year BSc PPE (mixed methods)

This module introduces students to quantitative methods in the social sciences. 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. They will then be introduced to a wider range of regression techniques, including models for binary dependent variables, panel data, multilevel models, and multilevel modelling and poststratification.

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

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. This module discusses the nature of causation in the social sciences, and goes on to look at some of the most popular research designs in causal analysis.

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

This module focuses on advanced measurement techniques that are routinely used in industry and academic research. The module covers theories of quantitative measurement as well as practical measurement strategies involving data reduction techniques and latent variable modelling. Examples are taken from the wide variety of social science fields that use these methods. The module provides hands-on training in the application of these measurement strategies in real-world data analysis projects.

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 traditions in International Relations (IR). It uses these different theoretical approaches to shed light on historical and current events in world politics. The module aims to link theory and the 'real world' by providing students with different lenses for understanding and explaining questions related to war(s), nuclear weapons, terrorism, globalization 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 introduces students to the structure of the British political system and the functioning of British politics in practice. It starts by exploring the social foundations of politics in the UK, looking at the roles of various national identities and of class, gender, and ethnicity.  It also gives a broad overview of the main institutions and players in the UK system, setting these within a comparative context.

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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. This module will introduce students to key questions in the field of international security and the theoretical and empirical approaches scholars use to answer them, examining a number of contemporary international security issues. 

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POLS0020 Politics of the European Union

This module is designed to equip students with the in-depth empirical understanding, theoretical knowledge and analytical skills necessary to grasp, discuss and evaluate how the European Union and its main political processes operate. Students will gain specific knowledge about the history and structure of the European Union and develop a mode of thinking that will allow them to examine other contemporary political issues in a more critical way.

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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 emphasise 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.  

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POLS0023 Global Environmental Politics

This module introduces students to the major themes and issues in the study of global environmental politics. The module begins by outlining perspectives on why (global) environmental problems arise, and how and under what conditions they can be solved. It then explores processes of international environmental governance: problem identification/policy formulation, designing and negotiating multilateral environmental regimes and implementing and enforcing international environmental law and policy.

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POLS0027 Human Rights and World Politics

Human rights and global politics are intimately related. This module will introduce students to this relationship by exploring some of the most complex and controversial challenges facing human rights that sit at the nexus of International Human Rights Law and International Politics.

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POLS0030 The Ethics of Crime and Punishment

This module explores what is arguably the paradigmatic exercise of state power: the decision to criminalise some conduct, and accordingly to punish those who engage in it. Why should the state have this mighty power? What, exactly, is the purpose of criminal punishment? What forms of punishment should be used? What reforms to the criminal justice systems of existing states are morally required? What sorts of acts should be criminalised? 

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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. It asks both how the social sciences are or should be influenced by values and how moral or political philosophy should incorporate the findings of the social sciences. The course has two overall aims: first, to encourage critical reflection on the methodology of the social sciences and, second, to explore the relationship between normative philosophy and the social sciences.

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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, students will not only be acquainted with the main theoretical debates and empirical findings in the research on terrorism, but also with the concrete process of its empirical scientific enquiry. It will not cover so-called “critical” approaches to terrorism nor the normative/ethical questions concerning (counter-)terrorism.

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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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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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POLS0043/0045 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 international and domestic factors that impact preferences, behaviors, and policies. Topics include the politics and policies relating to international trade and investment and the ways in which these are influenced by both domestic and international institutions. Students will be able to explore both theoretical and empirical work across these and other domains. 

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NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21 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 2020/21 POLS0028 Welfare Politics

The goal of this module is to familiarise students with the basic structure of modern welfare states and major theoretical approaches that explain their politics. To this end, the class typically outlines the development of European welfare states, and discusses the emergence of different types of welfare states.

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NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21 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 2020/21 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 2020/21 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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NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21 POLS0066 Voters, Public Opinion and Political Participation

This course surveys key debates in the very broad literature on electoral and political behaviour in democratic states.   We consider topics including why and when citizens become engaged with and informed about politics; why, when and how citizens vote and otherwise participate in politics; how citizens think about parties, political issues and politically salient social groups; and how these various forms of political behaviour are shaped by political context and institutions. 

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NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21 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 2020/21 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. Students will explore different justifications for democracy, the problems of defining who are citizens, what their rights and duties are, how they should be represented, and which decision rule and voting procedure best reflects their collective views. We will also study the ways law and politics interact, and the role played by constitutions and judicial review in shaping the legislative process.

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NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21 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. 

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NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21 POLS0079 Middle East Politics

This module examines the principal debates, features, and manifestations of Middle East politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will contextualise the Middle East as a region of the world that continually impacts on the wider international order. At the same time, we will explore the Middle East, not as a single unitary manifestation of politics, but as a diverse and dynamic region. 

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NOT RUNNING IN 2020/21 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.