PIM84-Parliamentary Studies

Module Provider: Graduate Institute for Politics and International Studies
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Mark Shanahan

Email: m.j.shanahan@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:
This highly innovative module is offered in partnership with the Houses of Parliament and is co-taught by parliamentary staff alongside staff from the Department of Politics. This module provides students with an understanding of the working of Parliament both in theory and in practice.


Students will develop a detailed knowledge and understanding of the functions and workings of the UK Parliament and how Parliament fits within the wider UK political system.  This understanding will be based on real-world engagement with Parliament and parliamentarians as well as the insights of scholarly research. Students will also develop practical skills in interpreting current parliamentary activity in light of existing scholarly literature relevant to Parliament, and evaluative skills in interpreting and analysing the impact of the Parliamentary process on the UK’s citizens. 

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that the student will:
• understand the functions and workings of the UK Parliament, how Parliament fits within the wider UK political system, and how the UK Parliament compares to legislatures in other democracies;
• understand and engage with debates about the efficacy of Parliament, how Parliament has evolved over time, and how Parliament might be reformed in the future to improve that efficacy;
• be able to evaluate the contributions to Parliament of the different elements within the system and to analyse the immediate and lasting impacts of each
• to have a critical understanding of the roles of Government and opposition and to be able to evaluate the ideological influences on how each operates within the Parliamentary system
• understand in detail the activities during the period in which the module is taught of one particular part of Parliament and interpret how this relates to the roles of that part of Parliament and of Parliament as a whole.

Additional outcomes:
Students’ understanding of and engagement with British politics and democratic politics more generally will be enhanced through direct experience – both through a trip to Parliament and through participation in seminars with a range of parliamentarians and parliamentary officials. Students will become expert in one key area of Parliamentary business and will collaborate to share their expertise with fellow students, and with those involved in the business of Parliament.

Outline content:

The module will introduce students to Parliament’s history and current function.  Working with parliamentary officials and Members, we will explore and assess the key elements of the institution including:

  • how legislation is made;

  • the relationship between Parliament and Government;

  • the House of Lords;

  • Select Committees;

  • devolved powers;

  • the role of the media.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Key topics are considered via a combination of lectures and small group seminars within three-hour weekly teaching sessions. Each session will begin with an interactive lecture either from an academic or parliamentary speaker. This will be followed by small-group discussion, presentations focused on specific questions and role play relating to assessed project work. Each session requires preparatory reading. Students will also be expected to attend four ‘Policy in Practice’ departmental seminars across both Autumn and Spring terms. In addition, this module includes a fully funded trip to Parliament and a devolved Assembly/Parliament. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 20 12
External visits 8 8
Guided independent study 102 50
Total hours by term 130.00 70.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 35
Report 50
Oral assessment and presentation 15

Summative assessment- Examinations:
There is no examination.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will write one report of 4,000 words (+/- 10%) evaluating the work over the duration of the module of a particular part of Parliament such as a committee or a specific office. Students will provide regular updates within seminars before writing a report outlining the purpose, activities and achievements of their object of study over the 12 core teaching weeks. Non-submitted essays will be awarded a mark of zero. The mark for this part of the coursework is 50% of the module mark. 

Students will undertake a group exercise leading to a group presentation and individual report of 3,000 (+/- 10%) words on an agreed aspect of the business of Parliament – this could include an evidence submission to a Select Committee or a critique of an aspect of current business.  The Presentation and ensuing Report paper will count for 50% of the overall module mark, with 15% given to the Group presentation and 35% to the individual follow-up written work.

Formative assessment methods:
Formative assessment methods:
Student will be expected to deliver regular updates on the focus of their report in the final part of weekly teaching sessions. Students are welcome to discuss reports and briefing papers with the module convenor during office hours.

Penalties for late submission:

Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:
50% overall module mark

Reassessment arrangements:
Reassessment is in original assessment method. Failed or missing coursework should be resubmitted by 1st August, emailed directly to politics@reading.ac.uk, AND submitted on Blackboard.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

1) Required text books: Recommended rather than required texts – circa £50

2) Specialist equipment or materials: 

3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear: 

4) Printing and binding: Students may incur photocopying costs for seminar reading or essay research at 5p per sheet.

5) Computers and devices with a particular specification: 

6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence: 

Last updated: 20 April 2018


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