BA Politics, Philosophy and Economics / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
United Nations Security Council in Practice

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI32151
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The UN Security Council holds the main responsibility for international peace and security and is a critical part of the security governance infrastructure. This unit analyses the role, tools and practices of the United Nations Security Council. The unit begins with debates over how to understand the United Nations as forum or as an actor. It then introduces practice theory, including current debates, and how it can be used. We then consider the significance of language that is used in Security Council decisions, and diplomatic practices that are used in decision-making. The unit then moves into tools and themes within the Security Council, such as peacekeeping, the relationship with the International Criminal Court, and setting the agenda. 


  • Equip students to critically engage with literature and debates on the UN Security Council and literature
  • Enable students to critically assess the role and efficacy of the UN Security Council across a range of issue areas
  • Assist students to develop the knowledge and insight to understand the breadth of actions of the UN Security Council, as well as detailed understanding on specific tools and thematic areas


Topics may include:

Part 1: Framework

1)      What is the UN and introductory material

2)      Practice theory and why it matters

3)      Language in the UN Security Council

4)      Diplomatic practices

Part 2: Tools and Themes

5)      Setting the agenda

6)      Peacekeeping

7)      The International Criminal Court

8)      Sanctions

9)      The Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

10)  Overview and essay preparation

Teaching and learning methods

Students will be expected to access and read set texts every week which can be downloaded via blackboard and the university library. Research will involve wider use of library search tools and relevant empirical sources. Weekly lectures will introduce students to key concepts, followed by weekly seminars which will involve discussion and debate on cases, ideas and concepts. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Critically describe the role and function of the UN Security Council
  • Demonstrate awareness of the tools used by the UN Security Council and the limitations of these tools
  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of practice theory and the practices of the UN Security Council

Intellectual skills

  • Assess the UN Security Council and its role in global governance
  • Demonstrate understanding of the United Nations as both a forum and an actor
  • Analyse the effectiveness of the UN Security Council across different issue areas

Practical skills

  • Critically engage with academic literature
  • Discuss and debate the role of the United Nations with their peers
  • Write sustained essays on aspects of global governance

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Greater awareness of global politics
  • Enhanced analytical skills
  • Increased ability to debate complex ideas with colleagues

Assessment methods

Essay, 2,800 words (70%) Critical Review, 1,200 words (30%)

Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission.

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.

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.

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

  • Lowe, V., et al., Eds. (2008). The United Nations Security Council and War. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Luck, E. C. (2006). The UN Security Council: Practice and Promise. Oxon, Routledge.
  • von Einsiedel, S., et al., Eds. (2016). The UN Security Council in the 21st Century. Boulder and London, Lynne Rienner Publishers.
  • Welsh, J. and D. Zaum (2013). Legitimation and the UN Security Council. Legitimating International Organizations. D. Zaum. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Slack Unit coordinator

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