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BA Politics

Why we're great

  • We confront opinions with evidence to understand how the forces that shape our world really work.
  • You have access to some of the best minds in politics and the biggest names in the field.
  • We have the only Regius Professor in Political Science in the UK, an honour conferred by the Queen.

Course options2017-18

BA Politics Full-time

UCAS code: L200
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: L201
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: L203
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666
Email admit@essex.ac.uk

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About the course

Why should we obey the law? Why don’t democratic countries go to war with each other? Why don’t young people vote? Why do oil-rich countries have worse human rights records? These are the kinds of questions addressed in our BA Politics course, which provides a thorough training in all major areas of political science, and is based in the top politics department in the country.

Always seeking political cause and effect, our course casts light on aspects of life you might never ordinarily connect to politics and government. You investigate the scope of political science as a field of inquiry, and the methods used by political scientists, in order to explore questions concerning both what does occur in politics, and what should occur in politics.

You study topics including:

  • Concepts in political science: state, laws, wars and political parties
  • International relations
  • Democratic systems
  • Political power
  • Obligations, freedom, rights and equality

Politics at Essex is all about moving from opinions to evidence. You will quickly learn to ask – and how to answer – the “how do you know?” question. We train our students to be fearless and independent, to question everything and to draw on the broadest possible range of facts and ideas.

Our Department of Government is one of the most prestigious in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We are rated top in the UK for research (REF 2014), and have consistently been the highest-rated politics department in the country since national assessments began.

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the classroom. You may also study a four-year variant of this course, the third year of which is spent studying abroad at a partner institution, or on a placement year. This additional year abroad is at no extra cost. The module structure for your first two years and your final year are the same as our three-year versions

We offer many opportunities for you to spend a term or a full year studying in another country and have exchange partners in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Japan.

Training social scientists of the future

We offer you the opportunity to follow a specialised pathway that embeds quantitative methods in your degree. Successful completion of specified modules entitles you to receive the qualifier ‘(Applied Quantitative Methods)’ at the end of your degree title, for example BA Politics (Applied Quantitative Methods) and this will appear on your transcript. You can also apply for student bursaries to go on work placements, helping you stand out when applying for jobs.

Placement year

Alternatively, on a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and our Employability and Careers Centre.

A Placement-Linked Project module is also available as an alternative to the dissertation module in your third year. You attend shorter placements (a minimum of 150 hours in total), and use your learning on placement to inform a research project; fantastic work experience for your CV.

Our expert staff

Some of the biggest names in the field work at Essex, giving you unparalleled access to some of the best minds in politics. Our staff are advising the CIA on counter-terrorism, training politicians and civil servants in democratising countries, and commentating on political events in national and international media.

Our academic staff work on topics ranging from international conflict and violence to British elections, and from the obligations of the younger generation to why authoritarian leaders welcome natural disasters.

You join an active and prolific research team, with the opportunity to work alongside a member of staff on their research instead of completing a dissertation; some of these projects have even resulted in joint staff/student publications.

Beyond their research, our staff are fantastic teachers, too. We're top 20 in the UK for student satisfaction, scoring an impressive 96% (NSS 2016), and achieved 24/24 in the last evaluation of our department's teaching quality.

Specialist facilities

  • Laboratories of networked computers featuring extensive software for political analysis
  • ESSEXLab provides opportunities for experimental lab research
  • Student societies for politics, debating, and Model UN
  • A dedicated study skills advisor in your first year for one-to-one advice
  • A personal tutor and peer mentor for every student
  • We organise the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis
  • A programme of seminars and events run by the department

Your future

All Essex, politics graduates have the distinction of a qualification from one of the world’s leading politics departments.

Our students are in demand from a host of employers, in politics, the civil service fast stream, management, journalism, police, armed forces, commerce, business, finance, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), teaching and graduate research.

Our notable alumni include the former President of Costa Rica and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Oscar Arias, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, and our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies including:

  • Qatar Financial Authority
  • NATO
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Houses of Parliament Research Unit
  • United Nations Development Program
  • Department of Health
  • IMG Media

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

What is “Politics”? How have people conceived of political analysis, the state, laws, wars and political parties, across cultures and over time? Gain an understanding of essential concepts in the study of politics and explore the economic, social and intellectual trends that have made democracy possible.

How far should modern governments be allowed to exercise their power over their citizens? Should citizens be free to use drugs? Should the police have greater surveillance powers? Should the government draft its citizens into its military and send them to stop genocide abroad? Investigate these difficult questions through readings both by contemporary political theorists and canonical work, by renowned authors such as Plato, Rousseau and Marx.

An often misused concept, “democracy” takes radically different forms in different democratic countries. You gain a real understanding of what is meant by “democracy” and investigate under what conditions and in what countries liberal democracy is most likely to occur.

Which principles should guide political societies? Explore the fundamental concepts of political obligations, freedom, rights and equality which underpin political science, through studying a range of positions including both contemporary and historical ideas.

Develop the employability, citizenship, and life skills to successfully compete in the graduate job market after graduation. You complete a portfolio of employability skills and develop a critical understanding of the world of work.

Are countries with high levels of trade less likely to go to war? Do election observers actually reduce election fraud? Learn how political scientists tackle these questions through understanding the basic strategies of comparative empirical analysis.

Voters, in theory, should shape economic policy. But in practice, this is often determined by the preferences of politicians and private market forces, both legal and illegal. You develop an understanding of the beliefs, incentives and behaviour of political actors which explain the link between political processes and economic policy.

How do we forge, manage, and maintain better relationships between nations? How do relationships between countries affect the decision-making of governments? You study specific historical events including the two world wars and the cold war, as well as contemporary issues including security issues, nuclear technology, and drone warfare.

How do you put an end to armed conflict? What are the benefits and consequences of intervention? Explore issues in international relations which help address complicated questions concerning cooperation and conflict between countries.

Year 2

How can we answer political questions using statistical data? Learn how to find relevant research designs and questions in order to use quantitative methods in political research, assisting you in your other modules and improving your job prospects.

How should we approach relationships between different countries? Explore different theoretical lenses through which the world can be viewed, including realist, liberalist, and post-positivist theories of the behaviour of international political actions.

Develop the employability, citizenship, and life skills to successfully compete in the graduate job market after graduation. You complete a portfolio of employability skills and develop a critical understanding of the world of work.

Why do people participate in politics? How do you change what a government is doing? You consider how types of participation have changed over time, what has been effective, and what has not been effective, with a focus on Britain in comparison to several other countries.

How should a society distribute resources and opportunities between individuals and groups? The principles of social justice we hold affect how we answer this question. You study different philosophical approaches to these principles and explore their implications for the current issue of climate justice.

Our world is increasingly globalised, and modernisation has led to a partitioning of the world into so-called developed, developing, and underdeveloped countries. You consider the development of the state and its influence over a society in the wake of globalisation in relation to the non-western world.

Explore the major political trends, actors and processes that have shaped Asian governments and politics throughout the course of the twentieth century, as well as the key issues of democratic governability confronting the region as it begins the 21st century.

Understand the central importance of meaning and metaphor in defining the political dimension of life. Draw out the implications of how language use affects political explanation and critique as you explore the intimate relationship between political rhetoric, discourse and power.

Is torture ever morally justified? Should pornography be banned? Should prostitution be legalised? Take part in the intellectual search for the moral principles that should govern how we answer these questions and others in governing public policy.

Final year

The relationship between the media and politics is a complex and important means by which the public are informed on and engaged by political activity. You consider the role of the media and democracy in the UK, and also explore how this functions elsewhere.

Explore the relationship of power, preferences, economic relations, domestic politics and international organisations in relation to conflict and peace. You investigate the underlying theoretical arguments about war and peace, consider the implications entailed by these different theories, and evaluate these using empirical data.

Master the explanatory and practical value of negotiation style, strategies and tactics in the context of theories of international relations.

Understand how different methods can be used to answer questions about political phenomena through examining the statistical ideas underpinning quantitative methods in political science research. You evaluate the assumptions of the classical regression model, and consider alternatives to this.

Explore how economic and political incentives interact to create and prevent opportunities that shape behaviour. You use rigorous logic and evidence to understand issues in classical political economy and to address contemporary policy questions in both domestic and international politics.

Placement

On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Teaching

  • Teaching is arranged to allow a lot of freedom in how you organise your learning experience
  • Lab sessions allow you to improve your technical research skills
  • Opportunities to gain work experience on placements and internships

Assessment

  • Assessed through a combination of written coursework, presentations, class participation, and end-of-year examinations
  • If you undertake a placement, you will prepare an assessed report on this experience

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email admit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Open days

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

Applying

Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email visit@essex.ac.uk so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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