PO1ICD-Introduction to Contemporary Democracy

Module Provider: School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Level:4
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Pre-requisites:
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Co-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Christoph Arndt

Email: c.arndt@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
The module is intended to open students’ eyes to how democracy works or doesn’t work around the world today. The first section on the Origins of Democracy looks globally at where democratic and non-democratic systems exist and what factors determine this distribution. Later sections draw much of their empirical content from the UK, but also include comparisons beyond the UK where appropriate.

Aims:
The module has three principal aims:
• to cultivate students’ engagement with and thinking about how democracy works in the world today and whether it could be reformed to work better;
• to develop students’ understanding of core aspects of the contemporary democratic system and the determinants of whether a country is democratic;
• to introduce students to the methods of studying contemporary politics and to key concepts that are fundamental to all political study, such as correlation and causation, ideas and interests, representation and accountability, the role of compromise in politics, and collective action problems.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:
• demonstrate understanding of why some countries are democracies and others not, and of how democratization occurs;
• demonstrate understanding of how aspects of the contemporary democratic system operate in the UK and elsewhere;
• assess arguments about how well democracy operates in the UK and elsewhere today and how that operation might be improved;
• engage effectively with concepts such as correlation and causation, ideas and interests, representation and accountability, the role of compromise in politics, and collective action problems
• present material, orally and in writing, in a coherent and well-structured form.

Additional outcomes:
The module also aims to foster students’ interest in and critical engagement with debates about democracy and government in the UK and elsewhere today. It encourages them to express their ideas in front of others and to be ready for those ideas to be critically evaluated. It encourages them to listen to others and engage constructively in dialogue. It fosters their ability to use the library and the internet as means of finding information and arguments and to use computer programmes to present material effectively., orally and in writing, in a coherent and well-structured form.

Outline content:
The following module content is indicative and may be subject to minor changes:
The module has eight topics, organized into four sections:
• The Origins of Democracy. This section looks at forms of democratic and non-democratic system and at why some countries are democratic while others are not. It examines the global wave of democratization since the 1970s and explores in detail the processes of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.
• Democratic Institutions. The second section then looks at three key elements of the democratic system: the executive type (whether presidential or parliamentary); the electoral system; and the political parties. It examines variations in how these operate and implications of these variations for democracy and governance.
• The Citizens in Democracy. The third section focuses on the ways in which voters can influence democratic decision-making through participation in, for example, elections, pressure groups, and protests.
• Democratic Innovations. The final section looks at innovative ways in which democracy might be reformed to improve its operation. It critically assesses claims made for the greater use of referendums and for processes such as citizens’ assemblies and deliberative polls.

Global context:
The module is intended to open students’ eyes to how democracy works or doesn’t work around the world today. The first section on the Origins of Democracy looks globally at where democratic and non-democratic systems exist and what factors determine this distribution. Later sections draw much of their empirical content from the UK, but also include comparisons beyond the UK where appropriate.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module is taught primarily through seventeen lectures (including one introductory lecture) and ten seminars (eight on concrete topics and two on study methods). Students are expected to prepare for every seminar and to give individual oral presentations or participate in group presentations in some seminars. There is one further revision session in the Summer Term. This module also includes four hours of team building and careers skills workshops.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 9 8 1
Seminars 5 5 1
Guided independent study 60 60 51
       
Total hours by term 74.00 73.00 53.00
       
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 60
Written assignment including essay 40

Other information on summative assessment:
Students write 2 x 1500 word essays, one per term. The deadline is one week after the topic of the essay was discussed in the seminar class. The coursework mark will be the average of the two essay marks. The coursework mark will constitute 40% of the overall assessment.

Visiting students: will follow the same assessments and if enrolled for the full year will also sit the examination. Those visiting students who are here for Autumn and Spring terms only but wish to gain full credits will also write a 3000 word essay in place of the examination, to be submitted by the first day of term following their leaving date. Visiting students who are only studying for half credits in Autumn and Spring terms will submit one 1500 word essay per term and if here for only one term should submit one 3000 word essay in total.

Formative assessment methods:
Feedback is provided in-class on all seminar presentations. Students are welcome to discuss essay and presentation plans with the module convenor or with their seminar tutor during office hours.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    One three-hour examination.

    Requirements for a pass:
    40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    If a student fails to pass the year at the first attempt there is an opportunity to be re-assessed on one further occasion at the next opportunity in those modules achieving a mark of less than 40%. Students who are eligible for re-assessment have the right to re-assessment in all elements even if they have previously passed one of those elements. It is expected, however, that the majority of students would probably elect not to repeat an element in which they had already passed, in which case the confirmed marks would be carried forward.

    Coursework: Failed or missing coursework should be re-submitted by 1st August, emailed directly to politics@reading.ac.uk, AND submitted on Blackboard.

    Examination: Re-examination takes place in August/September of the same year.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding: There may be optional costs associated with photocopying or printing sources listed on the reading list relating to this module. Please note that the Library charges approximately 5p per photocopy.
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 9 October 2017

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