BA Politics and German

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Comparative West European Politics

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI21001
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


European politics is more fascinating than ever. In this module, you’ll learn about a wide array of topics that will also be relevant for subsequent modules you take too. For example, we’ll cover structural inequality, international diplomacy, environmental politics, law and constitutions, the economy, history, party politics and the far-right, and more. We’ll also explore some of the most important political science concepts, such as the causes of political instability, political party systems, and the varieties of capitalism around Europe. We’ll be talking about some of the very latest issues facing our three countries – France, Germany and Sweden – such as upcoming elections, protest movements, and foreign policy stances, so that you’ll get the very latest information on the countries. The module is designed and led by Dr. Paul Tobin, Senior Lecturer in European Politics, who specialises in West European and European Union politics. He looks forward to discussing his areas of expertise with you all, and hopefully, you will join him in feeling passionate about this subject.

There are no requirements for having taken previous modules, as everything will be explained from a first principles perspective. Also, there is no need to speak French, German or Swedish in any way!





This course unit aims to:

Analyse and understand the differing approaches to governance exhibited in Western Europe, particularly in France, Germany and Sweden. This analysis will be structured around a comparative perspective that is primarily based upon several key theories of democracy. As a result of taking this course, students will be well positioned to conduct further comparative and specialised area courses in the Third Year. 

Learning outcomes

This module enjoys three main learning outcomes:

1) to extend the study of comparative politics, looking comparatively at three large democracies in Europe, namely France, Germany and Sweden, all of which reveal distinctive institutional patterns;

2) to introduce students to some key political science theories and models. The selected theories and models have been chosen precisely because they are excellent vehicles for introducing second year students to the study of comparative politics; and

3) to provide students with the conceptual equipment for more advanced comparative politics and specialised area courses in the third year. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Develop an in-depth knowledge of the political and policy-making processes of contemporary France, Germany and Sweden.
  • Build a good understanding of the historical traits that have shaped the political culture in France, Germany and Sweden; 
  • Enhance their understanding of the political economy of Western Europe and of the impact of European Union membership on the political and economic landscape in the region;
  • Develop an understanding of several key theories of democracy and policy-making.

Intellectual skills

  • Develop their skills on the use of the comparative method in the study of political phenomena;
  • Enhance their ability to think critically about key developments in Western Europe affecting the entirety of the European continent, including the integration of the European Union.

Practical skills

  • Strengthen debating and public speaking skills through participation in tutorials.

Employability skills

See additional notes at the bottom of the page

Assessment methods

Two Essays:

Essay 1 - 2000 words (44%)

Essay 2 - 2500 words (56%)


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

All of the required reading for the module is digitised, and there is no need to buy any books at all. If you really wish to do so, the following may be of interest.

Hancock, M. D. et al Politics in Europe 7th ed (Macmillan: 2019).

This book has very good sections on France (by Safran), Germany (by Conradt) and Sweden (by Hancock). There are multiple copies in the library.

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Paul Tobin Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This is a great module for students wishing to develop and demonstrate skills that can be applied in a wide range of different jobs, voluntary roles, internships and work placements. It could be particularly useful for people considering careers in the civil service, journalism, think tanks, research and policy, and charitable organisations.  Although the cases are France, Germany and Sweden, the ideas we examine are applicable the world over. For example, you will learn about foreign policy, welfare policies, economic policies, party politics and much more, making this module an ideal grounding for a wide range of jobs.

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