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Renske's Teaching


Core Issues in Comparative Politics (term 1,2,3) PO233 - BA level, year 2

Why do political regimes and institutions develop how they do, where they do? How do people view democracy, and are there different opinions around the world? Why are some countries more likely to experience a civil war than others? How to understand nationalism? What is populism and how to explain it? How to compare parties and party systems around the world? What is the impact of different types of electoral systems? The second-year module ‘comparative politics’ introduces several core issues, methods, and concepts in the field, and students learn how to develop academic research projects and film projects related to topics of the module.

Research projects: Students work on their own individual research proposals and projects in comparative politics in which they develop an interesting and relevant research question, describe the relevant theories, critically assess concepts and measurements, compare countries using the appropriate methodology, collect and analyse empirical data, and draw conclusions. The aim is to put research-led teaching into practice.

Film projects: 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 ‘what, why democracy’ – hence applying their acquired academic, theoretical and empirical knowledge from this module. The aims are to develop new skills for students, use interdisciplinary approaches, and to put theoretical knowledge into practice.

Dissertation (term 1,2,3) QS304 - BA level, year 3

The dissertation allows students to develop a research project independently, with the support of a supervisor(s), and to write a substantial piece of work discussing the results of this research. Whilst this is a self-directed research exercise, students are expected to have regular meetings with their supervisor(s) throughout the year, in order to receive guidance on defining and developing the research topic and on arguing and presenting their thesis.

Students will be required to analyse secondary quantitative data sets as part of their project. The dissertation aims to enhance skills in quantitative research, critical analysis and argumentation, creative thinking, and academic writing, and to foster the specific intellectual interests and aptitudes of individual students.

Democratisation and Development (term 1 only) PO9B5 - MA level

This module focuses on core debates in the field of development and democratisation. It discusses a broad range of different regions and countries, theories and approaches, methods and techniques, concepts, political debates and policy implications. The module overall is on balance directed more to democratisation than to development, but to the exclusion of neither. Participants are invited to specialise and where relevant may apply the general frameworks to any suitable countries in which they have a particular interest, in the North, South, East or West.

Theories of development have evolved over many years, influenced chiefly by the concerns of economics, political science and sociology. Since the late 1980s, when many countries in Eastern Europe and Africa democratized, a ‘wave’ or waves of democratisation have been a focal point of interest, especially in parts of the developing world and former communist countries. This module explores the relationships – the interface - between development and democratisation, in the context of examining the many different meanings associated with the two central terms. Theories that maintain the two are causally connected in special ways are examined in the light of the evidence: how development influences democracy’s prospects, and democratisation’s significance, whether favourable or unfavourable, for development.

We have an outstanding international reputation in this area with world leading researchers. In addition, we attract a number of internationally renowned researchers to give guest lectures and seminars relating to this field. This module explores a number of cutting-edge research topics and is supported by the ongoing research work within the department. E.g. you are more than welcome to come to the events organised by Warwick's GRP Programme 'International Development'!

The Value of Democracy (term 2 only) PO9D5 - MA level

What is the value of democracy? What is democracy for? Do we need democracy? The study of such questions is essential at the moment. The pulling power of ISIS among young Muslims living in western democracies, the strong Russian machine of propaganda against democracy, and the rise of populism within democracies: democracy is going through challenging times. It is more and more pertinent and essential to formulate the values and benefits of the democratic form of government. We need a clearer narrative around what democracy is and what it brings us, and what not.

In this module, we will first discuss and compare different concepts, focusing on 'values' and 'democracy'. Then, we will explore the effects of democratic systems on key outcomes such as control of corruption, peace, climate change. Are democracies less corrupt, more peaceful, and greener? Finally, the module will discuss and challenge the ideas that democracy is a constructive value (focusing on the role of education) or an intrinsic value (democracy is valuable for its own sake). The module will pay attention both for the general patterns, and also for specific cases such as the Arab Spring, corruption in India, Putin's Russia, France and its 'war against terrorism', illiberal developments in Hungary, the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, populism in Europe and the USA.

By choosing this module you will be challenged by the dynamism of a theme that is discussed on a daily basis: not just academics but also policy makers and journalists are interested in issue whether democracy is still ‘worth it’. This module will give you the tools to effectively interrogate the challenges around the value of democracy, through interactive and engaging seminars, readings, guest lecturers, and group tasks.

Dissertation (term 3 only) - MA level

SUPERVISION of PhD and Postdoc Projects (term 1,2,3)


1. ‘Data Analysis and Interpretation’ (MA level)

2. ‘Comparative Politics in Developing Countries’ (MA level)

3. ‘Introduction to Research Methods’ (BA level - first year)

4. ‘Methodology and Statistics’ (BA level - first year)

5. ‘Introduction to Political Science: Theories, Concepts, and Methodology’ (BA level - first year)