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Core Issues in Comparative Politics (PO233)

Why do political regimes and institutions develop how they do, where they do? Why are some countries democratic and others not? Why do people use political violence in some places and times? What role does populism play in contemporary democracies? What effects do different institutional designs have upon political outcomes? Why do different ethnic groups sometimes live together peacefully, and sometimes not? Why does the level of voter turnout vary across countries?

Programme content

This module introduces the core issues of comparative politics. Students will compare political developments in different countries around the world, and apply their theoretical knowledge of comparative politics by working on both academic research projects and film projects.


  • Research projects: In term 1 and term 2, students work on their own individual research proposal on the topic ‘what, why democracy’ in which they develop an interesting and relevant research question, describe the relevant theories, concepts and measurements, compare countries, and collect and analyse empirical data. The aim is to put research-led teaching into practice.
  • Film projects: In term 2, students will get the opportunity to develop other skills, such as film making and working together in small groups. Students will make their own film (of around 3 minutes) on the topic ‘Democacy under Threat’ – hence using their acquired academic, theoretical and empirical knowledge from this module.


At the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of key issues in comparative politics; to understand the core concepts and theories (e.g. democracy, civil war, political systems, nationalism, participation); to comment classic books and journal articles in the field; to describe national political systems (around the world, but i.e. in Africa, Latin America, and Asia) and their essential elements; to make critical evaluations of differences between various national political systems; to critically apply the theoretical literature to practical examples; and finally to gather and analyse evidence, data and information from a variety of sources