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Politics and International Relations (20 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course will explore political systems and structures around the world, the relations between states and the impact of globalisation on national politics. Students will be introduced to key concepts and theoretical approaches, and learn to apply these in a real-world context.

20 credit courses have two assessments, normally including a 2000 word essay and a second written assignment. Students also have the opportunity to complete two formative assessments. To pass, students must achieve a minimum course mark of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.


Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment


Content of Course

The course will introduce students to the academic study of politics and international relations. The first half of the course will consider political institutions and processes in Britain and other countries, adopting a comparative perspective. Topics may include elections and other forms of political participation, political parties, government and devolution. The second half of the course will introduce key concepts and theoretical approaches in the study of international relations. We will discuss the impact of globalisation and assess policy issues such as security, human rights, global trade and finance, and the environment.

1. Politics and political analysis.

An introduction to the contested definition of politics, approaches and subfields of the discipline and the comparative method.

2. Political institutions.

In this section, we will examine political institutions and processes including elections, parliaments, political parties, executives, civil society and the media.

3. Dynamics of political change.

We will look at changing political systems and consider issues such as European integration, devolved government and the democratisation of authoritarian regimes.

4. Theories of international relations.

This section introduces the main theories of international relations, including realism, liberalism, constructivism, Marxism and critical approaches, as well as contemporary debates on power structures and globalisation.

5. Issues in international relations.

In the final section, we will apply theories to analyse global issues such as security, humanitarian intervention, global governance and institutions, international trade and climate change.

Teaching method(s)

The main focus of this course is on introducing key concepts and approaches, which will allow students to expand and deepen their understanding of political institutions and processes. Each session will combine lecture, tutorial discussion and practical tasks. Students will be expected to read relevant material before each class, including background readings from the textbook and short academic articles or news reports. The tutor will then develop discussions based on the reading, and encourage the students to engage critically with the course material. Formative assessments will strengthen students' academic skills, preparing them for the assessed components of their coursework.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Recognise the diversity of political systems around the world;

  • Appraise the value of the comparative method for studying political processes and institutions;

  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of global influences on national politics and policies;

  • Identify key agents and structures that constitute international relations;

  • Apply theories of international relations to explain contemporary issues in global politics.


Core Readings


  • Garner, R., Ferdinand, P. and Lawson, S. 2020. Introduction to Politics. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


  • Baylis, J., Smith, S. and Owens, P. eds., 2010. The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Harrison, L., Little, A. and E. Lock eds., 2015. Politics: The Key Concepts. Abingdon: Routledge.

  • Heywood, A., 2014. Global Politics. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Leftwich, A. ed., 2004. What Is Politics? The Activity and Its Study. Cambridge: Polity.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.