Department of Political Science


Peer Assisted Learning Sessions (PAL)

Course Code


Course Tutor

Dr Adam Swift (Department of Political Science)


3,000 word essay (50%) + viva form (25%) + viva presentation (25%)

Credit Value


About this course

Peer-assisted learning is an innovative component of the MA in Legal and Political Theory, at the School of Public Policy. It offers students an interactive introduction to cutting-edge research in legal and political theory, and prepares students to produce independent research of their own.

Guest-speaker seminars are held at the School and the Faculty of Laws for the first two terms of the year, to which world-leading legal and political theorists and philosophers are invited to present a current piece of work. In the first term the “Political Theory Seminars” are convened by Prof Cecile Laborde and Dr Emily McTernan, and MA students are given priority to ask questions and engage in face-to-face debate with the speakers. Peer-assisted preparatory seminars take place in the morning before the speaker’s talk, to allow students to prepare the questions they will put to the speaker that evening. In the second term the “Colloquium in Legal and Social Philosophy” is convened by Professor John Tasioulas, and MA students are able to observe high-powered, 3-hour long discussions between a panel of experts. Also in Term 2, there are peer-assisted research design seminars, in which students are trained in the techniques of research design, developing the general skills they will call upon when planning their 10,000-word dissertation. The guest-speaker seminars in Terms 1 and 2, the peer-assisted preparatory seminars in Term 1, and the peer-assisted research design seminars in Term 2, are all compulsory for MA LPT students.

As a whole, PAL aims to immerse students in the latest cutting-edge academic research; to give them the opportunity to engage in face-to-face dialogue with leading researchers (rather than merely being presented with a text); to increase their confidence in engaging in high-level academic debate; and to train them to design and present their own independent research projects, preparing them for the 10,000-word dissertation. Moreover, this exposure to current academic work allows students to better assess the current state of debate on an issue, suggesting research areas that may be explored further in the dissertation.

At the end of the year, students write a critical essay on one of the topics discussed in the guest-speaker seminars; in addition, each student must produce a research design for their MA dissertation (the viva form), and present this plan to their peers and teachers through oral exam (the viva).

* Please note that this course is available to MA LPT students only.