Module Catalogue 2019/20

POL3092 : Political Parties and Elections in the UK

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Tom Caygill
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
POL1017Governing Under Pressure: The Politics of the UK & EU
Pre Requisite Comment

A/AS Level Politics or POL1017

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module is centrally concerned with party and electoral politics in the UK. Through an examination of three key aspects of the electoral process in the UK - parties, institutions and voters - this module aims to:

* Introduce the main political parties in the UK, their idealogies, policies and leadership;
* Assess party competition in the UK's increasingly-diverse multi-level party systems;
* Develop an understanding of how electoral systems and institutions in the UK impact upon the electoral process;
* Assess the various models of voting behaviour and their applicability to modern electoral competition in the UK.

Outline Of Syllabus

An indicative outline of the syllabus / lecture programme for this module is as follows:
1. Introduction to the Module
2. The Development of the UK Party System
3. The Role and Functions of Political Parties
4. The Conservative Party
5. The Labour Party
6. The Liberal Democrats
7. Beyond the Mainstream; Minor Parties in the UK
8. The UK’s Multi-Level Party Systems
9. Developments in Party Organisation & Funding
10. Election Campaigning 1
11. Election Campaigning 2
12. Political participation & activism in parties
13. Electoral Systems and their Impact in the UK 1
14. Electoral Systems and their Impact in the UK 2
15. Electoral systems and their impact in the UK 3
16. Explaining voting behaviour 1
17. Explaining voting behaviour 2
18. Explaining voting behaviour 3
19. Contemporary challenges in British elections
20. Contemporary challenges to British Parties
21. Brexit and Party Politics
22. Conclusion: Political Parties and Elections in the UK

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

1.       Assess the development of the main British political parties;
2.       Analyse the dynamics of party competition in the UK;
3.       Understand the impact of electoral systems upon the representative process in the UK;
4.       Provide informed and considered analyses of why and how people vote the way they do;
5.       Critically assess the challenges facing political parties and the representative process in the UK.

The module builds upon concepts introduced and knowledge gained in POL1017 European Political Systems, and seeks to develop student knowledge for further modules and independent study in POL3046 Dissertation and POL3048 Project in Politics.

Intended Skill Outcomes

At the end of the module students should be able to:

Subject specific skills

• Analyse the development of the UK’s national and devolved party systems
• Identify and assess the sources and development of party ideology
• Understand how the UK’s parties compete in ideological and policy terms
• Assess the impact of leadership and party performance in office
• Analyse developments in party organisation, funding and election campaigning in British politics
• Understand the impact of electoral systems in the UK
• Identify and assess the key models of voting behaviour in the UK context

Cognitive/intellectual skills

• Managing & Prioritizing Knowledge: identify relevant and subject-specific knowledge, sources and data; manage such information in an independent manner
• Analytical Thinking: identify, understand, interpret and evaluate relevant subject-specific arguments made by others; construct independent arguments
• Critical & Independent Thinking: ability to think critically and construct one’s own position in relation to existing and ongoing debates in the field

Key skills

• Communication Skills: ability to communicate clearly with others, both orally and in writing
• Clear organisation of information: show efficiency in the organisation of large amounts of complex information and the ability to identify, describe and analyse the key features of the information
• Teamwork: ability to work with others in a team, negotiate conflicts and recognize different ways of learning
• Diversity: ability to acknowledge and be sensitive to the range of cultural differences present in the learning environment
• Self-Reflexivity: ability to reflect on one’s own progress and identify and act upon one’s own development needs with respect to life-long learning and career development
• Time Management: ability to negotiate diverse and competing pressures; demonstrate ability to work efficiently to deadlines

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:003 groups of approx. 20 students
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1164:00164:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures will introduce students to the key information, concepts and debates that will provide the basis for self-directed study and seminar discussion. These lectures will draw upon a range of theoretical and empirical examples drawn from the political party and electoral behaviour literature to provide relevant examples.

The seminars will provide an environment in which students can explore and deepen their understanding of the issues raised in lectures and readings through discussion in a small group context with their peers, via the exploration of case studies and through asking questions. The seminars will also provide the context in which students will develop many of the skills outcomes associated with the module. They will be central to the development of critical thinking and data synthesis skills. The seminars, with their requirement for advance preparation, will promote self-management skills while the in-seminar discussions will provide opportunities to develop and enhance interaction and group-working skills.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A50Exam paper will be sectioned. Section 1: Political parties and party systems. Section 2: Electoral systems and voting behaviour
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M50Students will be given a choice of either selecting an essay or producing a ‘policy briefing’ report. 2000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The sectioning of the exam paper will ensure that students must demonstrate knowledge of both the major strands of the module – parties and party systems; electoral systems and voting behaviour – thereby addressing each of the intended knowledge outcomes.
The continuous assessment essay/briefing report will allow students to demonstrate in-depth subject specific knowledge, while at the same time being oriented towards intellectual and key skills-based outcomes. In particular, the policy-briefing option will be specifically designed to emphasise skills that are likely to be useful to students in seeking employment, while still being rooted in academic practice.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2019/20 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2020/21 entry will be published here in early-April 2019. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.