Module Details

GV952-7-FY-CO: Comparative European Politics

Year: 2017/18
Department: Government
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: Dr Julia Partheymueller
Teaching Staff: Julia Partheymueller
Contact details: Module Supervisor: Julia Partheymueller Module Administrator: Alex West,

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

The aim of this module is to provide a better understanding of how democracy works in Europe. We will address several aspects of the democratic process within the European context: Studying the social basis of politics, we will examine public opinion as well as political participation and voting behaviour in elections and referendums. We will address the social roots of party systems, the dynamics of party competition as well as different institutional designs and their impact on political outcomes. In particular, we study the political institutions of horizontal and vertical power-sharing in the European multi-level system. The module also provides an accessible introduction to research design and methods that political scientists have used to address these topics.

Learning and Teaching Methods

Teaching on the module will be in the form of weekly seminars (two hours). We will cover the following topics:

Week Topic
Week 2 Why compare European Democracies?
Week 3 Methods and Concepts of Comparative Research
Week 4 Political Support in the European Multi-Level System
Week 5 Social Capital and Political Activism
Week 6 Direct Democracy and Referendums
Week 7 Elections and Turnout
Week 8 Social Cleavages and Party Systems
Week 9 Party Families and Party Organization
Week 10 Electoral Systems
Week 11 Dynamics of Party Competition
Christmas Vacation
Week 16 Patterns of Democracy
Week 17 Effects on Political Outcomes
Week 18 Government Formation
Week 19 Executive-Legislative Relations
Week 20 Interest Groups
Week 21 Unitary States, Federal States, and Devolution
Week 22 Bicameralism
Week 23 Constitutional Courts
Week 24 Central Banks and the Eurozone Crisis
Week 25 The European Union and the Democratic Deficit Debate

The seminar structure allows a flexible approach towards the topics provided by the module outline. The seminar will often start with a brief introductory lecture by the supervisor, leading to other seminar methods where the students are more actively involved (student presentations, group discussion, recap quiz).


50 per cent Coursework Mark, 50 per cent Exam Mark


Essay 1 50%, Essay 2 50% Assessment of the course will take the form: - During the autumn term: One essay - of approximately 3,500 words length - During the spring term: One essay - of approximately 3,500 words length - In the summer term: One three-hour exam (three questions will have to be answered) The essay questions will be provided six weeks before the due date.

Exam Duration and Period

3:00 during Summer Examination period.

Other information

By the end of the course students will have a sound knowledge of contemporary European politics. Specifically, students will become familiar with the political culture and political institutions as well as with electoral and party politics in Europe. Apart from that, the course allows students to enhance their methodological skills and knowledge. In particular, the module familiarizes students with the advantages and limitations of comparative research. Students are encouraged to critically assess the validity of conflicting theoretical claims and arguments on the basis of appropriate empirical evidence.
Key skills:

Study on this module entails:
* thinking, discussing, and writing clearly and logically
* linking together, and understanding the linkages between, empirical facts and abstract concepts
* retrieving, synthesising, and critically evaluating information from diverse sources, using the Library and the Internet.


  • Gallagher, M., Laver, M., & Mair, P. (2011). Representative Government in Modern Europe (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Bale, T. (2013). European Politics: A Comparative Introduction (3rd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Lijphart, A. (2012). Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Follow online: The Economist, "Europe" (

Further information

External Examiner Information

  • Name: Dr Nick Vivyan
    Institution: University of Durham
    Academic Role: Senior Lecturer