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Democracy in Theory and Practice (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

What is democracy and why does it matter? This course will introduce debates in democratic theory and different models from ancient Greece to the present. Students will critically examine current practices, learn about recent innovations and discuss the future of liberal democracy.

Please note, this course includes a daytime visit to the Scottish Parliament.

Course Details

Content of Course

This course will provide an overview of different theories of democracy, covering approaches such as civic republicanism, liberal constitutionalism and deliberative democracy. Students will learn to apply theoretical approaches to issues ranging from democracy in a globalised world to innovations such as the Scottish Citizens’ Assembly. In addition, students will have the opportunity to conduct a case study on a topic of their own choosing.

Teaching method(s)

The course will combine tutor-led presentations with tutorial discussions. Students will be expected to read relevant material before each class, engage critically with current political issues and reflect on their personal experiences as citizens. As part of their coursework, students will undertake a case study on a particular aspect of democratic practice. A formative project proposal and peer-feedback on presentations will strengthen the students' ability to conduct and present their assessed case study.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Distinguish different models of democracy and their normative assumptions;

  • Apply democratic theories to critically assess political institutions and practices;

  • Reflect on the nature of citizenship and identify ways to participate in public life;

  • Engage in dialogue about the meaning and value of democracy;

  • Present arguments clearly and coherently.


Core Readings


  • Held, D., 2006. Models of Democracy. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity.


  • Bray, D. and Slaughter, S., 2015. Global Democratic Theory: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Polity.

  • Crick, B., 2002. Democracy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Fishkin, J.S., 2018. Democracy When the People Are Thinking: Revitalizing Our Politics Through Public Deliberation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Weale, A., 2018. The Will of the People: A Modern Myth. 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.