How you'll learn
Studying politics and international relations at Reading isn't just about learning what other people already know. It's about developing an in-depth knowledge and understanding, and having the opportunity to put your ideas to the test.
You will develop your critical thinking and analytical skills, and learn how to work both independently and in a group. Having such skills will help you massively in your future career.
A strong emphasis on small-group teaching
We don't just make you sit in huge lecture halls listening to us speak. Lectures are important, because they give you frameworks within which you can develop your thinking. But beyond that, we give you plenty of opportunities to develop your own ideas, present them, and hear what others make of them through small-group seminars. By the third year, almost all of your learning will be through small-group seminars.
“All the staff are experts in their field and are always enthusiastic about what they teach. They welcome questions and discussion. All the students also love what they do, so the community feel of the Department is unique and friendly.”
Explore politics and develop additional skills through innovative modules
Our undergraduate degrees enable you to explore politics in a variety of exciting ways, while developing useful practical skills and gaining first-hand experience at the same time.
Below are a couple of examples of some of the innovative modules we offer.
Step into the shoes of a UN representative
Our "Model United Nations" module enables you to visit an overseas conference and take part in a simulation of the United Nations in action. It's a great way to learn by doing, and it also gives you the chance to engage with students and academics from other universities across Europe and the UK.
Work on a politics show
In your second year, you may get the opportunity to run a politics radio show through our "Media and Politics" module. This module teaches you the skills required to successfully run a radio show, but also requires you to engage in political research and discussion around media theory and how it's applied.
“This module has helped me learn and improve so many useful skills. I've become more efficient at working in a team; when we have to compile, edit and broadcast a show weekly, everyone's contributions are really important. The delegation of tasks and developing good working relationships with everyone are key to making a good show. Working in a studio has also increased my technical skills when dealing with the sound systems and using software such as Audacity to edit and compress audio samples. But most importantly, my communication skills have hugely improved since starting the module. ”
The show has previously featured a number of special guests, including Douglas Carswell, Eddie Izzard, US Ambassador Matthew Barzun, South East MEP Daniel Hannan, and former Coalition government Cabinet Minister Sir Vince Cable.
Engage with key figures and practitioners in the field
Learn about the world of politics and international relations and beyond directly from those who play a role in it. We regularly welcome guest speakers who are the experts putting theory into practice every day.
In February 2017, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, visited the University of Reading for a Q&A session with Politics and International Relations undergraduates, led by Dr Mark Shanahan.
During the visit, Mr Bercow revealed that he had voted for the UK to remain a member of the European Union in the June 2016 referendum. He also admitted to having concerns about some views expressed by US President Donald Trump.
“I was very engaged by the well-informed students. They asked a wide variety of penetrating questions.”
Mr Bercow's comments were later picked up by the Sunday Telegraph, and he came under fire from political opponents who feel he should be seen to be impartial in his role as Speaker.
In a blog post for the Department of Politics and International Relations – which features a video of the full Q&A – Dr Mark Shanahan addressed some of the questions raised by reporters and politicians and noted how the students were able to witness first-hand how MPs can go from welcome guests to political targets in just days.
Other recent guest speakers
- Sir Vince Cable (former Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister)
- Matthew Barzun (United States Ambassador to UK)
- Stella Creasy (Labour MP)
- Eddie Izzard (stand-up comedian, actor and writer)
- Daniel Hannan (Conservative MEP)
- Dame Margaret Hodge (Labour MP)
- Paul Flynn (Labour MP)
- Tim Yeo (politician)
- Douglas Carswell (politician)
- Lord Kerslake (former head of the Civil Service)
- Giorgio La Malfa (former Italian Minister)
Screencasts and technological learning
Dr Emma Mayhew, Associate Professor in British Politics, has created a series of short 3-6 minute videos specifically designed to support student learning and development within the Department of Politics. This suite has been enormously popular. Although specifically designed only for Reading Politics students these screencasts have registered over 6,000 views. In a survey carried out over the last three years, 100% of students said that they found these screencasts helpful.
Guided independent study
We encourage and help you to become an independent learner by giving you the knowledge to pursue your own background reading -- and not just what's on the reading list we give you. You will become adept at independent critical thinking and analysis, which will prove invaluable in your future career.