Department of Political Science


POLS0020 Politics of the European Union

Course Code: POLS0020

Course Organiser: Dr Nick Wright (Term 1) (Department of Political Science)

TBC (Term 2)

Length: One term (students choose to attend either the Autumn or Spring Term)

Teaching: 20 contact hours

Assessment: 1,000 word review paper (30%) and 3,000 word essay (70%)

Credits: 15 credits, 4 (US) 7.5 (ECTS) 

Module Level: L6 (Advanced)

European Integration; Europeanisation; Enlargement; Supranationalism; EMU; Brexit

About this course

This course 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.

The first part of the course outlines the historical context which led to European integration and examines how the European Union has evolved, and introduces theories used to account for patterns and process in European integration. The second part of the course examines the institutions, the policy-making process, decision-making mechanisms and discusses the crisis of legitimacy. 

The final section of the course outlines and critically assesses key policy areas in the European Union. These include, the Single Market, Economic and Monetary Union, the Common Agricultural Policy, Cohesion Policy, the internal and external dimensions of security and the EU as an international actor. The activities in the course will promote not only individual study and research but will place a great deal of emphasis on teamwork, group discussion and debate. 

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, such as democracy, the nature of the modern state, global governance, and the global economy in crisis and international relations in the post-Cold War era in a more critical way.

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • understand the institutional structure of the European Union;
  • understand institutional, input and output politics in the European Union;
  • contribute to the normative debate about supranational governance;
  • utilise and critique the various theories of European integration, institutional behaviour and modes of governance used in EU studies and political science more broadly;
  • critically assess empirical evidence and concisely present theories and arguments;
  • develop the analytical and research skills necessary to interpret and evaluate the issues facing policy-makers and interest groups in contemporary Europe.

Please note that POLS0020 - The Politics of the European Union - is an advanced Political Science module. Its delivery is based on the assumption that you are familiar with concepts and theories central to the field. If this is not the case, you may find additional background reading necessary to appropriately engage with the course material. The following texts are recommended:

* Cini, M. and N. Pérez-Solórzano Borragan (eds.) (2013), European Union Politics, 4th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press - this is the core text for the module and

each week’s introductory reading includes relevant chapters from this book. It provides a very good introduction to the key theories and institutions as well as policies.

* Dinan, D. (2010), Ever Closer Union. An Introduction to European Integration, London: Palgrave Macmillan - particularly chapters 1–2 for an introduction to the history and background of European integration.

* Tranholm-Mikkelsen, J. (1991), ‘Neofunctionalism: Obstinate or Obsolete?’, Journal of International Studies 20(1): 1–22 - a useful introduction to Neofunctionalism, one of the key theories we examine in the module.

* Pollack, M. (1997), ‘Delegation, Agency and Agenda-Setting in the European Community’, International Organization, 51(1): 99–134 - discussing the relationship between member states and supranational institutions.

You may also want to look at the POLS0020 (POLS7006A/B) reading list from last year (accessible via the UCL Library) to get an idea of the readings and topics covered in the module itself.

This module may not be taken by students who have previously taken POLS6006A/B