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Political Parties and Elections (MA/MRes)

Course Description


Like them or loathe them, political parties and elections are important. Elections constitute an essential element of modern democracy and defining moments for the distribution of political power. For their part, political parties help link politics and society, compete in elections and structure political processes within and between key political institutions. As Schattschneider famously observed in 1942, ‘Modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of … parties’.

Yet political parties vary enormously in respect of their social rootedness, policies, size, organisation, internal distribution of power and candidate recruitment, but also, for example, in how they operate within and between legislatures and executives. Similarly there is a myriad of ways in which electoral systems can be structured, and considerable diversity in, for example, the frequency, nature, financing, style and competitiveness of elections. Moreover, both parties and elections have in recent years undergone significant change, not least as a result of technological innovation, and both remain major topics of at times heated public debate.

In short, political parties and elections significantly shape the nature, quality and legitimacy of contemporary politics. This Masters is concerned above all with investigating the rich diversity of political parties and elections in the contemporary world. Keele was the first UK university to offer a taught Maters in political parties and elections and this course benefits from Keele’s unusually high concentration of international research and teaching expertise in this area, much of it organised in the Keele European Parties Research Unit.

The course is taught over a 12 month period (September-September; January-January). It is available as a full-time and/or part-time mode of study. Students completing the course have gone on to a variety of careers in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

See the website https://www.keele.ac.uk/pgtcourses/politicalpartiesandelections/

Course Aims

The aim of the MA/MRes in Political Parties and Elections is to provide you with the factual knowledge and conceptual and analytical skills that will enable you to reflect critically on the manner in which political parties and elections operate in the modern world. In addition, it provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate originality and self-direction in generating and investigating research questions. More broadly, it aims to assist you to develop a range of cognitive and social skills relevant to your intellectual, vocational and personal development. In pursuing these aims, the course seeks to prepare you for a variety of professional careers, including those in governmental and nongovernmental organisations, the media and business, or for research beyond the Masters level.

Course Content

Taught masters programmes require satisfactory completion of at least 180 credits, made up of 6 taught module (120 credits) plus a 15,000 word dissertation (60 credits). The MA and MRes programmes differ in that the MA programme contains more subject-specific modules and less research training, while the MRes programme contains more research training, in preparation for a research career or for undertaking a research degree such as a PhD.

• Power, Knowledge and the World (30 credits)
• Perspectives in Politics and International Relations (30 credits)
• Research in Action (15 credits)
• Three (15 credits) optional modules chosen from the list below
• 15,000 word dissertation on an approved topic in Political Parties and Elections (60 credits)

• Research Design and Process (20 credits)
• Two 15 credits optional modules chosen from the list below
• Perspectives in Politics and International Relations (30 credits)
• Quantitative Data Analysis I (20 credits)
• Qualitative Data Analysis (20 credits)
• 15,000 word dissertation on an approved topic in Political Parties and Elections (60 credits)

Optional modules can be drawn from modules such as those listed below, although the precise list of available modules may vary from year to year.

• Approaches to European Integration: History and Practice
• Comparative Public Policy
• Comparative European Politics (recommended)
• Diplomatic Law
• Diplomatic Practice
• Dimensions of Environmental Politics
• Environmental Diplomacy
• Environmental Movements: North and South
• Parties and Democracy (recommended)
• Right-Wing Radical Parties (recommended)
• The Changing International Agenda
• The Politics of Global Security
• The Theory of Global Security
• US Environmental Politics and Policy

Teaching & Assessment

Postgraduate teaching and learning generally takes place in a combination of large seminars and smaller discussion groups. Our academics typically lead the sessions, encouraging discussion between all students. Sometimes students will give presentations, either individually or in groups.

There is a strong emphasis on independent learning and students are expected to work on their own to produce their essays and dissertation. Most modules are assessed by a diverse range of coursework (e.g., essays, critiques, reports, presentations), though some modules may also be assessed by seminar contributions and/or written exams. Students take three modules in each semester. The taught modules are completed by May, leaving the summer months for students to write their dissertation.

Additional Costs

Apart from purchasing textbooks for modules, there are no additional compulsory additional costs.


SPIRE is a thoroughly international school, and is particularly welcoming to international students, as well as providing plenty of opportunities for home students to broaden their horizons.

We have staff with educational backgrounds in a wide variety of countries, such as Canada, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria, Romania, and Turkey, who present their research all around the world. Students have the opportunity to hear visiting lecturers from various different countries, arranged through our ERASMUS partnerships.

International students will join established international communities at Keele, and will find plenty of support mechanisms in place to help them make the transition to study in the UK.

Find information on Scholarships here - http://www.keele.ac.uk/studentfunding/bursariesscholarships/

Visit the Political Parties and Elections (MA/MRes) page on the Keele University website for more details!

Entry Requirements

Prospective students are expected to have a first or second class honours degree (or equivalent) in Politics or International Relations or in another social science or humanities subject. International students may be required to demonstrate their proficiency in the English language.

Course Fees

UK/EU: Full-time £5,000, Part-time £2,750; International: £13,260

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