University of Chester

Programme Specification
Politics BA (Hons) (Combined Honours)
2014 - 2015

Bachelor of Arts (Combined Honours)



University of Chester

University of Chester


Undergraduate Modular Programme

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

3 years full-time

7 Years

Annual - September

L2 combi



17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Social Science Social and Political Science

Politics and International Relations


Social and Political Science

Friday 1st January 2010

The educational aims of the programme are consistent with the educational aims of a politics degree as set out in the benchmark statement for Politics and International Relations. They are also consistent with the QAA's FHEQ stipulation for a 'bachelor's degree with honours' level descriptor as referred to in the benchmark statement and as mapped across this programme specification under the learning outcomes section.

They are as follows:

  • To place questions of politics and international order and decision-making at the centre of analysis
  • To ensure that students acquire knowledge and understanding in appropriate areas of theory and analysis
  • To enable students to understand and use concepts, approaches and methods of their discipline and develop an understanding of their contested nature and the problematic character of inquiry in the discipline
  • To develop in students a capacity to think critically and independently about events , ideas and institutions
  • To encourage students to relate the academic study of politics to questions of public concern and to relate the academic theory to policies in practice
  • To assist students to develop a range of cognitive and social skills relevant to their intellectual, vocational and personal development
  • To provide a curriculum supported by scholarship, staff development and a research culture that promotes breadth and depth of intellectual enquiry and debate
  • To create a learning environment that is receptive to the needs and views of students and encourages them to achieve their full potential

Specifically, graduates will be able to demonstrate a wide range of abilities and skills in:

  • Knowledge and understanding of the subject
  • Generic intellectual skills
  • Personal transferable skills

(benchmark 4.12 and 4.13)

In addition, the programme-related educational aims are for students to achieve the learning outcomes linked to the individual modules, which in turn link back to the programme-wide educational aims.


Learning outcomes for the programme conform with those of the benchmark statement. Individual modules havetheir own learning outcomes to reflect these as appropriate, and to link withthe programme learning outcomes. The programme as a whole delivers all these skills, and individual modules will incorporate some or more of the skills. The learning outcomes for the modules are written to reflect first the knowledge and understanding, and second the more applied skills.
Knowledge and Understanding
The benchmark lists what graduates in politics should be able to do in terms of knowledge and understanding of the subject:

  • Understand the nature and significance of politics and human activity
  • Apply concepts, theories and methods used in the study of politics to the analysis of political ideas, institutions and practices
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of different political systems, the nature and distribution of power in them; the social, economic, historical and cultural contexts within which they operate, and the relationship between them
  • Evaluate different interpretations of political issues and events (benchmark 4.14)
The FHEQ honours level descriptor identifies a number of outcomes to measure the knowledge and understanding of an honours student. The benchmark statement has alreadytaken these into account. All modules identify the knowledge and understanding learning outcomes.

Thinking or Cognitive Skills
The benchmark statement refers to graduates in politics having the following ‘generic intellectual skills’ and lists them as:
  • Gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a wide variety of secondary and some primary sources
  • Identify, investigate, analyse, formulate and advocate solutions to problems
  • Construct reasoned argument, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement
  • Reflect on own learning and seek and make use of constructive feedback
  • Manage own learning self-critically
  • Recognise the importance of explicit referencing and the ethical requirements of study (benchmark 4.16)
All modules require the application of the above skills, and these will be assessed both formatively and summatively.

Practical Skills
The emphasis of the programme is on employability skills, and therefore students will be able to apply their knowledge and understanding, and their thinking and cognitive skills, to practical scenarios. All modules keep to the theme ofemployability skillsbut this will be evidenced/ assessed in different and appropriate ways.

Key Skills
  • Communication
  • Application of Number
  • Information Literacy and Technology
  • Improving own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving
The benchmark statement relates to all the aboveunder the headingpersonal transferable skillsalbeit worded differently as follows:
  • Communicate effectively and fluently in speech and writing
  • Use communication and information technology including av technology, for the retrieval and presentation of information including where appropriate statistical or numerical information
  • Work independently, demonstrating initiative, self organisation and time management, progressing through the degree programme to become a mature independent learner
  • Collate with others to achieve common goals through, for example, group work (benchmark 4.17)
The FHEQ level-descriptor also lists a number of outcomes which involve application and communication. All modules explicitly involve, and many assess, the development of the above skills. Application of number will be in a practical context, through understanding for example polling and voter trends, and applying quantitative research methods.

Transferable Professional Skills
The generic graduate is expected to have these skills, termed by the FHEQ ' qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment'. Some of these would come under the key skills or personal transferable skills. 'Professional' might also apply toskills related to aprofession linked to the political sphere, in which case our graduates will be well-placed.

The subject benchmark statement suggests that 'all that can be asked of institutions is that they should continue to develop their teaching and research and to offer to their students a curriculum which is founded on the discipline which has developed to date; which reflects their particular approach to the discipline and which draws on their specialist strengths'. It therefore acknowledges the broad scope of the subject area and the opportunity for individual programmes to tailor the guidance to their own strengths. The benchmark points out that 'perhaps in no other academic discipline are the subject matter and approaches so much in contention and in flux'. In line with this guidance, the subject is taught at the University of Chester from an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on the strengths of our staff and their particular subject expertise. This results in a wide-ranging curriculum, reflecting a number of discipline areas (as sanctioned and encouraged by the benchmark) but also providing key central level-related building blocks. At the programme's core is an emphasis on employability skills, which  is evident throughout the curriculum, within individual modules and in the way in which modules link. Employability skills are delivered in both a broad manner- encompassing for example inter-disciplinary perspectives; but also with the emphasis on relevance and the application to practice. The curriculum makes links throughout between the theoretical base and practice, using case studies, scenario planning and re-enactments. There are visits to political institutions, and guest speakers invited to the University. These opportunities for real work exposure become especially important at a time of recession, where graduates are less in demand and where honing relevant skills is all the more crucial. Work Based Learning offers students the opportunity to undertake a 5-week placement. During the placement, students have the opportunity to develop knowledge, skills and abilities appropriate to any work setting. Students are free to arrange their own placement, or undertake one arranged by the Work Based Learning Office. The placement need not necessarily be related to a student's academic discipline(s). Whilst all efforts are made to match students to placements which align closely with their academic interests and /or prospective career, this is not always feasible. The number of placements available is sometimes restricted, particularly in certain specialist areas, and some students may have to complete placements in organisations or roles outside their preferred specialism.

The curriculum addresses the local targets set out in the Departmental Learning and Teaching Strategy which are: work towards facilitating employability; lifelong learning and reflective engagement with the wider society; develop assessments which support student learning, engagement, progress and achievement; promote diversity in the student experience and academic practice; use technology to underpin the educational provision; provide professional development which enhances learning and teaching, and pursue innovation, scholarship and research.

In the first year there are three core modules. In the second year, students can decide on the weighting for their subjects. In the final year, students can select the modules they wish to take depending on their interests, and of course the double module Politics Dissertation is an individual piece of research in which they can follow up their interests further.

Combined Honours only
Mod-Code Level Title Credit Major Equal Minor
EU4102 4 Introduction to European Studies 20 Optional Optional Optional
SO4102 4 Self and Society 20 Optional Optional Optional
SO4103 4 Welfare Politics 20 Comp Comp Comp
SO4104 4 Media, Representation and Society 20 Optional Optional Optional
SO4304 4 The Criminal Justice Process 20 Optional Optional Optional
SO4701 4 Introduction to British Politics 20 Comp Comp Comp
SO4704 4 Thinking about Politics and International Relations 20 Comp Comp Comp
SO5701 5 Politics and Policies 20 Comp Comp Comp
SO5702 5 The Individual and the State 20 Optional Optional Optional
SO5703 5 Global Politics and International Relations 20 Comp Comp Comp
SO5704 5 Researching Politics 20 N/A N/A N/A
WB5101 5 Enhancing your Employability through Work Based Learning 20 Optional Optional Optional
SO6702 6 Political Communication 20 Optional Optional Optional
SO6703 6 Politics of Sustainability 20 Optional Optional Optional
SO6704 6 Security and Insecurity in World Affairs 20 Optional Optional Optional
SO6706 6 Politics Dissertation 40 Comp N/A Optional

120 credits at Level 4 leads to a Certificate in Higher Education
240 credits gained from Level 4 and Level 5leads to a Diploma in Higher Education
360 credits gained from Level 4, Level 5 and Level 6 leads to an Honours Degree

The entry requirements will be:

- A minimum of 240 UCAS points, of which 200 points must be obtained from GCE A Levels, including a grade C in one subject. The remaining points may be achieved from GCE AS Levels, or Level 3 Key Skills

- BTEC National Diploma/Certificate: merit/distinction profile

- OCR National Extended Diploma/Diploma: merit/distinction profile

- Irish Highers/Scottish Highers: B in 4 subjects

- International Baccalaureate: 24 points

- QAA recognised Access to HE Diploma, Open College Units or Open University Credits

- The Advanced Diploma: acceptable on its own

Please note: A BTEC National Award, OCR National Certificate or the Welsh Baccalaureate (core) will be recognised in our tariff offer.

In keeping with the mission statement of the University of Chester and the Department’s commitment to widening access and participation, we will offer a flexible entry system for mature students and for those who possess non-standard entry qualifications.

The subject benchmark provided the basis for skills development across the modules, and the broad template for the mix of learning, teaching and assessment on the programme as a whole (and within specific modules). It is non-prescriptive, which means that the programme has been able to apply the guidance in accordance with available resources. The curriculum development process started with the proposed content suggested by the benchmark; the methods of teaching and learning and the methods of assessment were all checked off against the benchmark with the result that we have committed to deliver (where appropriate) the recommendations found therein. We needed to weigh this with our own expertise and existing resources, as programme development takes place within a clear institutional context.

In keeping with the University's commitment to diversity, progression and retention, teaching and learning methods on this programme are diverse and enable students of varying abilities to develop to their full potential. The teaching team will use their knowledge of learning and teaching methods to create a strong team teaching ethos with an emphasis on evaluation and reflection.   Formative work is linked to the skills required to pass the summative assessment. The team work with Student Support and Guidance to ensure that all learning and teaching is accessible to all students.

Sources which have informed the programme's teaching and learning strategy include the Departmental Teaching and Learning Strategy, HE educational theory (for example as gained from interaction with the University of Chester's Learning and Teaching Institute) and the Subject Centre for Sociology, Anthropology and Politics, which has extensive resources on teaching and learning. In addition, guidance has been sought from the Political Studies Association, specifically the Learning and Teaching Specialist Group,  and from academic sources such as journals on learning and teaching, some with a specific emphasis on politics.

The result is a wide range of forms of teaching and learning, in keeping with the template set out by the benchmark statement.

The benchmark statement identifies teaching and learning methods designed to:

  • meet aims and objectives of the programme
  • foster knowledge of and enthusiasm for the subject
  • stimulate engagement and participation in the learning process
  • encourage deep rather than surface learning by students
  • encourage students to reflect on and take responsibility for their own learning
  • take account of the different circumstances and needs of students (benchmark 5.1)

All assessments (formative and summative) have been developed with the above criteria in mind.

The benchmark suggests that forms of teaching include an appropriate balance drawn from among the following:

  • lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops
  • whole group, small group, individual teaching
  • student-led and tutor-led sessions
  • skills-based, discussion-based and knowledge-based classes
  • tutor-student interaction including face to face, via IT and in some cases, specially designed learning materials (benchmark 5.2)

The benchmark emphasises that student learning takes place in a variety of settings and that politics students learn through:

  • speaking, listening, reading, writing
  • engagement with printed, oral, broadcast and electronic sources
  • group and individual work
  • observation participation and reflection

And are expected to use a range of learning methods which include:

  • critical reading of a wide range of texts
  • independent research using both primary/ secondary sources
  • group discussion
  • contact with political actors (benchmark 5.5 and 5.6)

All the above are addressed across the modules. In addition, some modules are more likely than others to draw on guest speakers, and undertake visits which would result in 'contact with political actors', such as 'Introduction to British Politics'.

Each module descriptor specifies the learning and teaching methods appropriate for that module, and which will build formative development towards the achievement of learning outcomes through summative assessment.

The overall strategy is one of supporting students in reaching their potential, and mindful of the various agendas within the University, to ensure retention and progression. Members of the teaching team are familiar with the requirement to provide a positive learning experience for our students, and to put an emphasis on formative and developmental work.

In keeping with the learning and teaching methods outlined in the benchmark statement, assessment will be varied across the modules and across levels. Given the USP of employability skills for the programme, assessments also reflect the needs of employers for graduates with skills requisite with a politics degree, and include for example report, policy and executive summary writing skills. All summative assessment is preceded by formative assessment which will underpin the skills needed for achieving the learning outcomes through the summative assessment. The benchmark suggests that assessment methods are designed to:

  • meet the aims and objectives of the programme
  • promote student learning
  • be capable of being used for diagnostic, formative and summative purposes
  • be valid, reliable and fairly administered
  • allow students to demonstrate their learning according to explicit and transparent assessment criteria
  • provide appropriate opportunities for feedback (benchmark 5.7)

and that forms of assessment can include an appropriate balance of a wide range of options, which the benchmark lists. The assessment grids maps out a wide and innovative range of assessments.

The benchmark statement is clear about the characteristics of a politics graduate (with a 'bachelor's degree with honours') and in its aim to define 'graduateness' in politics. It describes it in terms of three areas of performance, knowledge and understanding; generic intellectual skills and personal transferable skills. Student achievement is expressed according to the benchmark in terms of learning outcomes on the successful completion of the programme. The benchmark identifies in some detail typical and threshold standards in the three areas of performance (above).

The overarching graduate profile will depend on the other subject with which politics is combined. However, the Department is confident that the students who take combined honours at Chester will have gained the knowledge understanding and skills expected of a combined honours graduate in politics, given the strong employability skills theme.

The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.

In practical terms, the Department works with colleagues from Student Support & Guidance, Learning Support Services and from Marketing Recruitment and Admissions to ensure the various agendas are taken into account. In addition, the Institution's Teaching and Learning Strategy (reflected in the Departmental and the Programme strategies) sets out specific aims as part of the diversity agenda.  

The programme team have little influence over who applies to the programme, but will provide support and guidance for students with for example, diverse abilities, through the formative approach to teaching and learning which is embedded in the programme. The drive to retain students, and to enable them to progress, also means that the teaching team are strongly student-focused. The programme team will be mindful of statistics which identify trends in recruitment and retention, and will endeavour, through working with colleagues in for example Aim Higher, as well as working with local Colleges, to encourage Access entrants and to address diversity and equality issues. The subject matter of a number of the modules is likely as well to challenge and to analyse particular political positions on these agendas.


In summary, the programme aims to achieve breadth and relevance through delivering employability skills, and to ensure that all students, regardless of their other subject, achieve the outcomes expected of a combined politics graduate. A single Honours route is also offered.

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