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School of Social Sciences

Student in the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons
BSocSc Politics and International Relations
Gain the skills to critical examine international and comparative politics.

BSocSc Politics and International Relations / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Contemporary Parliamentary Studies and the British Political Tradition

Unit code POLI32041
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Part I: Understanding Parliament in Contemporary Politics - The British Political Tradition:

  1. The British Political Tradition I - The Rise of the Parliamentary State
  2. The British Political Tradition II - Understanding Contemporary Parliamentary Institutions
  3. The British Political Tradition III - Democracy and Representation

Part II: Understanding Parliament in Contemporary Politics - Themes and Issues:

  1. 'Resources, Power and Politics': Parliament and the Lobbying Process
  2. 'Reaching-Out': Parliament, the [Social] Media and Public Engagement
  3. 'A Parliament of Rebels?': Voting, Whipping and the Changing Face of Rebellions
  4. 'A Vibrant Parliament?': Scrutiny and the Rise of Select Committees
  5. 'Scandal and Club-Government': The Conduct and Regulation of Parliament and Parliamentarians
  6. 'Climbing the Greasy Pole': The Changing Nature of Parliamentary Careers
  7. 'Towards A Post-Parliamentary State?':  The Contemporary British Political Tradition


The course unit aims to:

  • To develop a critical understanding of Parliament through the theoretical framework of the British Political Tradition and the Parliamentary State
  • Apply this conceptual framework to explore how the contemporary UK Parliament in practice works.
  • Situate this approach within a wider comparative and analytical literature on parliamentary institutions
  • To develop awareness of contemporary issues and themes of parliamentary politics including legitimacy, diversity and representation, executive power and media relations.
  • In so doing, encourage students to think analytically about the nature of the contemporary British political system.
  • To develop an understanding of major political events and how they have affected the evolution of the British state.
  • To develop skills of argument and analysis within a small, discussion group environment.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the structures, procedures and roles of key actors within the UK Parliament state
  • critically appraise empirical studies of legislative behaviour both quantitatively and qualitatively
  • critically appraise academic and journalistic accounts of legislative behaviour and the capacity of the legislature to hold the executive to account
  • apply conceptual tools such as executive mentality, party loyalty and institutional culture
  • demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communication and transferrable skills including making effective oral and written presentations, utilising specialist primary and secondary resources and having a critical awareness of these material, so deepening the capacity for independent learning.

Teaching and learning methods

Each of the 10 session will be based on a 1 hour lecture, accompanied by a two hour seminar or workshop. The lectures will comprise a mix of traditional lecture material, interactive question and answer sessions, small tasks in break-out groups, and use of visual media. Tutorials will be student-led, involving group work comprising role-play, debate and simulation scenarios based on case studies linked to each of the contemporary issues covered. All students will be expected to have completed the required reading and to have made extensive preparatory notes (answering set questions related to specific cases).

Additionally, there will be stand-alone Masterclasses offered by political practitioners, as well as a field-trip visit to Parliament.

The Parliamentary Outreach Team [who are co-teaching this course] will provide both practical and vocational teaching support about the work processes and business of Parliament and will assist by providing speakers, support for a Parliamentary visit and provide access to its own learning resources.

Assessment methods

Blog, 1000 words (30%)

Essay, 4,500 words (70%)

Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 15 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff

Recommended reading

Judge, D. (1993) The Parliamentary State London: Sage
Hall, M. (2011) PoliticalTraditions and UK Politics Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Judge, D. (2005) Political Institutions in the United Kingdom Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Rhodes et al (2009) Comparing Westminster Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
Mullin, C. (2009) A View from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin London: Profile Books

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Thomas Loughran Unit coordinator

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