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Politics and International Relations BA (Hons) module details

Year one | Year two | Year three

Year one

Block one: Politics, People & Place

This module introduces you to the international political economy of everyday life and considers the impact of national and international policy decisions on local communities and community empowerment and engagement. You will explore Leicester and identify how different intersections of identity (e.g. class, ethnicity, religion, gender, education, location) interact to determine experiences and the ability and/or willingness to engage, influence, and belong.

You develop a range of skills, including teamwork and cooperation, digital capability, and information literacy; how to identify, scope, plan, gather, evaluate, manage and present information – including academic referencing. In addition, you will build knowledge and application of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the concept of social value.  

Block two: Ideas and Change in Politics and International Relations

This module introduces key ideologies, explaining their origins, concerns and influence on processes of political change at different levels (from the local to the global). It provides the basis for level four modules on global challenges and democracy and more advanced studies in political ideas and social change.

Block three: Global Challenges: Politics and Social Policy

Contemporary politics and international relations are marked by an acceleration in social and political challenges associated with the pace and nature of capitalist development. This module builds on previously introduced ideological perspectives to understand the material drivers of contemporary challenges, from sustainability, poverty and inequality and inclusion. You will challenge these from a critical political economy perspective. You will learn about various contemporary challenges, constraints and opportunities for their resolution.

Block four: Democracy in Times of Crisis

Democracy has developed in symbiosis with political and economic crises, often in resolution to them. Contemporarily there are vivid debates about the health and future of democracy, which is perceived to be under threat from secular developments in global politics and economics, leading to authoritarianism and declining trust in democratic processes. This module examines the relationship between crisis and the evolution of democratic systems, using historical examples to understand the drivers of the democratic expansion. It then considers the contemporary state of democracy, analyse the challenges it faces, and the potential for further democratisation in the 21st century. 

You will study the potential for the diversification and expansion of democratic processes and engage with various contemporary issues, including competing for democratic theories, economic crises, migration and cultural conflict, authoritarian populism and democratic backsliding, and the impact of new technologies on democracy.

Year two

Block one: Making Public Policy

This module provides you with an understanding of the application of politics in different scenarios. You will be allowed to participate in projects collaborating with DMU Local or external bodies. The aim is to enhance your engagement in politics, public policy, and other spheres, building upon volunteering undertaken during your first year. 

The module aims to enhance your employability skills by providing opportunities to develop your team-working and project management skills. The project is an innovative task in which students are encouraged to link theory and practice in a way that has a demonstrable positive impact on the broader community. Students are offered a range of scenarios where they take responsibility for designing responses. These can be linked with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

You will consider the characteristics of politics through how decisions are made and how management and decision making operate in a politics related setting. In so doing, you will understand the nature of policymaking, consider the characteristics of the policymaking environment, and examine the nature of the scenario's activity through self-appraisal and reflective analysis.

The teaching team and colleagues from DMU Local and/or other external agencies work with you on the module to develop appropriate responses within their given scenario. 

Block two: Political Research in Action

This module critically introduces the approaches and methods that shape the creation of empirical knowledge in politics and international relations. The module advances the significance of the relationship between empirical knowledge and the methods used for investigation. The module provides an up-to-date understanding of research methods and how these methods are applied in contemporary politics and international relations research. The module considers the characteristics of quantitative and qualitative approaches and the comparative strengths and limitations of these approaches. It teaches you practical skills in research methods that can be applied in your future academic and professional work, thereby enhancing your employability.

Block three: Politics pathway

Political Theory: Why Big Ideas Matter

The world is made up of ideas. Brexit hinged on a sovereignty narrativeyet people disagreed on what sovereignty meant. Equality is the watchword of many political movements, but what are the different types of equality and which ones do we prioritise? What is intersectional politics? Is the personal political, or should we keep politics out of some things? 

Who owns your data? When do natural disasters become human-made?

These, and many other questions, are asked in this module. The reason for this is simple: political theory starts with the question, 'how should we organise our political communities', or more simply: 'how should we live together?' This immediately leads to more questions. Who is we in this, and who isn't? What is a 'political community?' For that matter, what is the 'political'? Big Ideas Matter because they have shaped the present and will shape the future.

This module teaches you to think analyticallycritically, and creatively about the principles and ideas behind our lawspoliticsstructuressystems and institutions. Students learn the connection between theory and 'the real world' and how it applies to different spaces and people.

OR

Block three: International Relations pathway

Contemporary International Relations Theory

The module introduces students to a wide range of approaches to theorising the international. 

The module explores the necessity of theory for understanding and explaining key contemporary issues and events in international politics. It then explores debates over what constitutes 'the international' and how it should be studied. The bulk of the module content focuses on a wide array of popular contemporary theoretical approaches, from postcolonial and feminist global social theory to Marxist and poststructuralist theories.

You will reflect on the roots of international theories in 'domestic' and normative political thought, epistemological commitments, and the connections and distinctions between traditions of international theory emanating from different geographical, social and historical contexts.

This discussion is complemented by an introduction to the specific sub-field of international theory known as International Relations (IR) Theory, its history and its 'traditional' realist, liberal and constructivist approaches, and its efforts to incorporate critical theories into its disciplinary framework. 

The latter part of the module explores 'state of the art' debates and cutting-edge approaches in international theory concerning specific issues, including terrorism/counter-terrorism and ecology.

Block four: Politics pathway

Not in Westminster: National and Local Politics

Far too often, we think about politics as a set of remote processes that happens in the corridors of Westminster, far away from our day to day life. This module seeks to challenge this, focusing on the 'everyday' dimension of politics and assessing how/why local democracy matters.

The module starts with an overview of the key principles of the 'British political tradition' and then challenge them by exploring what's happening beyond 'the Westminster bubble' and central/formal institutions/loci of power (e.g. covering fundamental topics and issues such as multi-level governance, devolution, local government, democratic innovations, community power, etc.). Finally, the module focuses on the tension between structures and agency, looking at why local democracy matters and what we can do to affect and improve politics through individual, group, and community action.

You will have an opportunity to experience local democracy first-hand through various activities, field trips and engagement with local democracy institutions, groups, activists and practitioners.

OR

Block four: International Relations pathway

Global Political Economy: Gender, Race and Class

Global political economy is a field of study which asks who gets what, why, and how can this be changed? It is interested in how power is used in the state, market, family and society to influence outcomes across national borders. In this module, you will examine the key features of the contemporary global economy, including finance, trade, production, social reproduction and development, asking what historical specific form they take, how have these come about, and how might they be reconstructed?

Using key concepts and theories from critical approaches to the global political economy, you will unpack how the global economy is gendered, raced, and classed to pay attention to inequality and social injustice issues. 

To shed new light on these big issues and consider how we might experience them in our everyday lives, this module takes a 'bottom-up' approach, examining the process and structures of global politics and the global economy through the lens of the objects and practices of everyday life.

Year three

Block one: Politics pathway

The Politics of the Americas

This module takes a thematic approach to the study of the Americas, offering a comparative examination of key areas in the north and south of the continent. A political, historical, social, cultural and international focus enables you to engage and consider government and the governed from various perspectives.

From bureaucratic corridors of power to activism and street protests, all levels of political participation are discussed via a theoretical and practical lens.

You are encouraged to consider different and sometimes conflicting participants in the political process. This may cover multiple levels, from national leadership in times of foreign policy crisis to sub regional political coalitions in their fight against US imperialism to grassroots and international activism bringing 'bottom-up' change.

The module allows you to participate in and hear from external research experts, politicians and/or practitioners, for example, via University research seminar series and events.

OR

Block one: International Relations pathway

Global Inequalities

This module focuses on the global dynamics of inequality in different countries worldwide and the structuring conditions of international politics and the global economy. It focuses on inequality in specific world regions, for example, in the global south, and on thematic areas and comparisons including, but not limited to, racial capitalism, global labour and social movements, social reproduction and the global politics of care, and global politics of development.

This module's emphasis is on how the global constitutes the entry point for our understanding of contemporary inequalities and on identifying transformative pathways beyond them. It allows you to engage with different theoretical perspectives on inequality – including Gramsci, Nussbaum, feminist theory, settler-colonialism and more – to understand different worldviews on the causes, consequences, and solutions to global inequalities.

The module allows you to participate in and hear from external research experts, politicians and/or practitioners, for example, via University research seminar series and events.

Block two: Politics pathway

Contentious Politics in the City

This module focuses on the challenges of governing urban spaces and the tensions existing to democratise them. It critically explores how cities respond to different political economy aspects: from the development of urban capitalism to the different relationships between the urban state and society actors throughout several policy areas and cities comprising both the global north and south.

By 2050, it is estimated that 75% of the world population will be living in urban areas. This phenomenon undoubtedly brings centre stage the politics and the processes for democratising urban spaces. On the one hand, stakeholders involved in urban governance need to build a series of alliances to make their cities relevant within the machinery of global economic development, and, on the other hand, they have to provide dignified living standards for all. Unfortunately, this type of trade-off has turned cities into arenas of struggle and controversy among governmental and non-governmental actors that revolve around issues regarding employment and work, housing and infrastructure, finance and investment; health and environment; and crime and violence.

The module is primarily centred on key research themes with the Department of Politics, People and Place to equip students with critical knowledge of the intersections of urban studies and governance, austerity, racialised inequalities, and knowledge of these across different levels of global urban contexts.

The module allows students to participate in and hear from external research experts, politicians and/or practitioners, for example, via University research seminar series and events.

OR

Block two: International Relations pathway

Security, Peace and Conflict

Security is considered a human need operating at varying levels of analysis - global, international, regional, national, societal and individual - with each having a set of specific concerns. 

The module explores the transformation of war in the contemporary era due to the disintegration of the state's monopoly on organised political violence. You will examine a diverse assortment of conflict constellations, including civil wars, counterinsurgencies and counterterrorist campaigns, along with information, cyber and hybrid warfare. What is the relationship between changes in military technology and the way particular wars are fought and justified, or conflicts managed and pacified? How do we measure violence and conflict? Who is responsible for protecting, and for whom are peace and security? 

'Humanising security' is also considered in the module.

The module allows students to participate in and hear from external research experts, politicians and/or practitioners, for example, via University research seminar series and events.

Block three: Politics pathway

Sustainable Futures

This module explores the most urgent challenge facing humanity: transforming our economic, political and social systems to ensure long-term sustainability. It focuses on how we understand the politics of such transformations, how environmental problems are managed (or not) through the political system and how alternative perspectives are articulated, advocated and accommodated.

The module explores the challenges of the transition and transformation towards sustainable living. It then engages students in the critical evaluation of alternative approaches to sustainability, exposing competing models of the politics of transition, alternative visions of the public good, and different perspectives on our relations with nature and other species. 

It then examines how we build progressive coalitions for change, investigating current debates on contemporary environmental issues such as transport and mobility, food production, health and air pollution, energy futures, biodiversity and the commons, and alternative forms of consumption. Finally, you are encouraged to critically reflect on how current policies and alternatives move the sustainability agenda forward.

The module allows students to participate in and hear from external research experts, politicians and/or practitioners, for example, via University research seminar series and events.

OR

Block three: International Relations pathway

Tackling Global Crises

This module allows you to apply learning from across the International Relations pathway, developing collective policy proposals through negotiation and collaboration to resolve a range of contemporary international crises. Focusing on issues that may include global development, international trade, corruption, global conflict and (in)security, migration, and the environment, you are provided with a series of simulation exercises in which they play the role of different stakeholders within a relevant international institution. 

Learning activities focus on introducing you to key practices and structures of these institutions while they undertake independent, collaborative research on their assigned stakeholder role and interests to develop policy positions for negotiation in the roleplay scenario.

The module allows students to participate in and hear from external research experts, politicians and/or practitioners, for example, via University research seminar series and events.

Block four: Politics and International Relations Project

This module offers a capstone experience, culminating in an individual final year project. It comprises an extended piece of work conventionally seen as a dissertation. 

Other forms of extended coursework could be applied, for example, a politics or international relations real-life project.

You are encouraged to work with a supervisor to develop, negotiate and agree on an area of focus and project feasibility. This relationship and scoping work develop during Block 3 and culminates in the final project delivery in Block 4.

If you wish to pursue a traditional dissertation, you must undertake a research project, which may form the basis of an extended essay or include primary research, subject to ethical approval.

Other options for real-life learning projects are possible in the module. However, these also need to be informed by academic literature and evidence.

This final module is the culmination of the degree and offers opportunities to support students in their next steps beyond the qualification, for example, further study and/or working in politics and international relations careers.

Note: Once you have selected a specialism pathway, you cannot switch to an alternative pathway for the remainder of the course. All modules are indicative and based on the current academic session. Course information is correct at the time of publication and is subject to review. Exact modules may, therefore, vary for your intake in order to keep content current. If there are changes to your course we will, where reasonable, take steps to inform you as appropriate.