PO2BGP-British Government and Politics

Module Provider: School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Non-modular pre-requisites: The total number of students able to take this module is 40. In the event that more than 40 students sign up for the module, the 40 students with the highest average mark across all Part I modules will be accepted. Students will be notified of whether they have been accepted for the module after Part I results have been published
Modules excluded:
Placement opportunity: Micro placement
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Mr David Marshall

Email: d.j.marshall@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the working and development of the current British political system and culture. This module may be taken as a pre-requisite for the Parliamentary Studies module in Part 3 (PO3PAR).

This module aims to develop students’ understanding of how the current British political system works and to engage them in thinking about how the system should be evaluated and how it might be improved.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:
• identify the main structures of the political and governmental system and their inter-relationships;
• appraise and assess critically competing interpretations of the ways in which British political institutions and culture have developed;
• consider what criteria might be used to evaluate elements of this system and assess those elements against these criteria;
• locate, assemble and analyse information on the subject by their own research, using a variety of sources;
• develop a research question relating to British politics and develop and execute a research project (either through a placement or independently) that will allow an answer to that question to be developed;
• organise material and articulate arguments effectively, both orally and in writing.

Additional outcomes:
The module also aims to encourage the development of the students’ effectiveness in group situations. Students will develop their IT skills by using internet resources and web sites as part of their research and by giving presentations using PowerPoint. Through the academic placement, students will gain direct understanding of how aspects of politics work in practice and will gain experience of planning, organizing, and conducting research in a work-based environment.

Outline content:

The module builds upon the ground laid in Part One, focusing upon key political institutions and processes, such as voting, the electoral system, parties, interest groups, the bureaucracy and the political executive. There is a particular, but not exclusive, focus upon the way these institutions and processes have evolved in the period since 1997. A core part of the module is an academic placement, taking place over two weeks, usually during the Easter vacation, through which students will be able to explore some aspect of British government and politics in detail.

Global context:
Comparisons are made between politics in the UK and politics elsewhere, particularly in other developed democracies. The impact of international context upon British politics is considered.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Selected topics relating to British government and politics are explored through a combination of lectures and classes requiring preparatory reading and research and structured group discussion. Students give one oral presentation and write one essay relating to these topics. There is a two-week academic placement, which normally takes place during the Easter vacation. Students receive guidance on planning and organizing their placement, and there is an extended workshop during which students will present their placement plans. Students have the option of replacing the placement with an independent research project.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 7 3
Seminars 8 3
Practicals classes and workshops 2
Guided independent study 48 37 20
Placement 72
Total hours by term 63.00 117.00 20.00
Total hours for module 200.00

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

Other information on summative assessment:


Students will write one essay of 3,000 words (+/- 10%) on a selected seminar topic. The deadline for submission on Blackboard will be two weeks after the seminar in which the topic is discussed. Non-submitted essays will be awarded a mark of zero. The mark for this part of the coursework will is 35% of the module mark. 

Students will also give one oral presentation on one seminar topic (different from the topic of the essay), which will form the basis of class discussion. This presentation will be of 10 to 12 minutes in length. It will count for 15% of the overall module mark, of which 75% will be based on the visual aids used (PowerPoint or handouts) and 25% on the oral presentation itself. The deadline for the submission of visual aids (on Blackboard) will be 1 hour before the start of the seminar. Students who cannot give their oral presentation and are granted extenuating circumstances will have the full presentation mark based on the visual aids.

Students will write a report of 5,000 words (+/- 10%) on their academic placement or independent research project. The deadline for submission on Blackboard will be 31 May. This report will count for 50% of the overall module mark. A placement report should show learning about some aspect of British politics gained through the placement and reading of relevant materials. It should include a section of 500–1,000 words that reflects upon the placement experience and indicates what the student has learnt about his or her skills and competences, about how placements can be secured and made successful, and about how the placement fits into and contributes to the student’s career learning plans. An independent research project report should show learning about an aspect of British politics based on work of a quantity equivalent to that required for a placement. 

Visiting students will do the same assessments but those working for half credits omit the summer term report.

Formative assessment methods:
In addition to the presentations outlined under ‘summative assessment’, students give a third presentation on their plans for the academic placement. This presentation will be around 5 minutes in length. It is formatively but not summatively assessed.

Students are welcome to discuss their essay, presentation, or placement plans with the module convenor during his 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:

    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.

    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: 31 March 2017

    Things to do now