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POL1015 : The Westminster System: Politics of the UK

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Geoff Horn
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module focuses on the key political institutions, processes and actors that operate in the UK’s political system. It seeks to increase our understanding of how historical trends and contemporary developments have contributed to the changing nature of British politics in an era of heightened political instability. It will do so by an analysis of the functions, character and development of the core components of the UK political system.
The module aims:
• To secure a foundational knowledge and understanding of the key institutions, processes and actors within the UK political system
• To develop a comparative perspective of the UK political system through an awareness of historical evolution and international comparison
• To evaluate the relevant concepts, issues and debates related to contemporary British politics
• To assess the contemporary challenges and pressures facing British politics and how these are reshaping the UK political system: such as the impact of constitutional reforms, the empowerment of Parliament, devolution of power, the changing party system, increasing electoral volatility and the UK’s troubled relationship with the European Union

Outline Of Syllabus

Lecture topics may include:
1.       Introduction: studying political systems
2.       Contemporary Britain: the state of democracy
3.       The Westminster System: the changing constitution
4.       The Legal System: the judiciary and the rule of law
5.       UK Parliament (1): The House of Commons
6.       UK Parliament (2): The House of Lords
7.       UK Government (1): Prime Minister and Cabinet
8.       UK Government (2): Ministers and Civil Service
9.       Devolved Government (1): Scotland
10.       Devolved Government (2) Wales
11. Devolved Government (3) Northern Ireland
12.       Local Government in England: transformation and decline
13.       The EU: Britain and Europe
14. Brexit: a threat to the Union?
15.       Elections (1): electoral systems
16.       Elections (2): electoral behaviour
17.       Political Parties (1): organisation and ideologies
18.       Political Parties (2): the changing party system
19.       Participation (1): engagement in party politics
20.       Participation (2): pressure group activity

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials112:0022:0011 hours pre-recorded/online lectures; 11 hours Present-in-Person (PiP) lectures
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities113:0033:00Quizzes; guided readings and seminar preparation tasks.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:0010 Present-in-Person (PiP) seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1124:00124:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk111:0011:00PiP Student Consultation and Feedback
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 literature on the UK political systems in order 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 seminar discussions will provide opportunities to develop and enhance interaction and group-working skills.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M752000 words
Prof skill assessmnt2M25Portfolio of tasks based on seminar preparation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The professional skills assessment will assess students understanding of key terms, concepts and ideas across the entirety of the syllabus

The 2000 word essay will provide students with the opportunity to explore aspects of the UK political system in greater depth. The essays will provide a means of assessing their ability to place and synthesise the material gained from lectures and seminars in addition to empirical, conceptual and theoretical understandings derived from their own independent study. The essays will also assess students’ ability to critically and succinctly evaluate such material.

Reading Lists