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BA Politics and Russian / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Contemporary Parliamentary Studies and the British Political Tradition

Unit code POLI32041
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Weekly topics:

  1. Introduction to the Course and Parliamentary Institutions in the UK
  2. The parliamentary state, the British Political Tradition and the Parliamentary Decline Thesis
  3. Holding Government to Account: PMQs and PQs
  4. Holding Government to Account: Select Committees
  5. Making the Law: Scrutinising Legislation
  6. Making the Law: Private Members’ Bills
  7. Representation: MPs and their constituents
  8. Representation: The House of Lords
  9. Representation: Parliament and Political Parties
  10. The Future of the UK Parliament: Sovereignty and Brexit




The course unit aims to:

  • To develop a critical understanding of Parliament through the theoretical framework of the British Political Tradition and the Parliamentary State
  • Apply this conceptual framework to explore how the contemporary UK Parliament in practice works.
  • Situate this approach within a wider comparative and analytical literature on parliamentary institutions
  • To develop awareness of contemporary issues and themes of parliamentary politics including legitimacy, diversity and representation, executive power and media relations.
  • In so doing, encourage students to think analytically about the nature of the contemporary British political system.
  • To develop an understanding of major political events and how they have affected the evolution of the British state.
  • To develop skills of argument and analysis within a small, discussion group environment.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the structures, procedures and roles of key actors within the UK Parliament state
  • critically appraise empirical studies of legislative behaviour both quantitatively and qualitatively
  • critically appraise academic and journalistic accounts of legislative behaviour and the capacity of the legislature to hold the executive to account
  • apply conceptual tools such as executive mentality, party loyalty and institutional culture
  • demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communication and transferrable skills including making effective oral and written presentations, utilising specialist primary and secondary resources and having a critical awareness of these material, so deepening the capacity for independent learning.

Teaching and learning methods

The course comprises of 10 three hour sessions.    There will be some weekly variation in the way these three hour sessions are organised, depending for example on whether there are external speakers from Parliament or guest speakers involved in delivering particular sessions – outlined below.   The nature of the class may vary according to topic but it is likely that over the course of the module you will see a mix of short lectures as well as seminars which incorporate small group work, role-plays and debates.  All students will be expected to have completed the required reading and to be actively following parliament through a mix of relevant news reports, TV and radio shows, Parliament TV, blogs, twitter and other online parliamentary resources.

Assessment methods

Blog, 1000 words (30%)

Essay, 4,500 words (70%)

Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 15 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff

Recommended reading

The key text we will use during the course is: 

  • C Leston-Bandeira and L Thompson eds. (2018) Exploring Parliament, Oxford: OUP. 

For an introductory guide to the work of MPs the following book is fantastic (and a really good, short read!): 

  • E Crewe (2015) The House of Commons; An Anthropology of MPs at Work, London: Bloomsbury. 

For more detail about how parliament works as well as its rules and procedures, please go to one of the following:

  • P. Norton (2013) Parliament in British Politics [2nd edn] Basingstoke: Palgrave
  • Rogers, R & Walters, R, (2015)  How Parliament Works, [7th edn] London: Routledge
  • Evans, P (2012) DODS Handbook of House of Commons Procedure [8th edn]

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Louise Thompson Unit coordinator

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