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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Referendums in Comparative Perspective (PLIT10097)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryReferendums are used increasingly in advanced industrial states and this is no less true in the UK. The September 2014 referendum on Scottish independence follows a referendum on further devolution in Wales and there is the prospect of a referendum on Europe in the future. This course studies referendums in comparative perspective, pairing an exploration of key themes and concepts (timing, setting the question, citizen engagement) with seminal case studies (Quebec in 1995; Australia in 1999, Northern Ireland in 1998). Throughout the focus will be on locating referendums within a wider literature on political behaviour and deliberative democracy as well as identifying best practice for the conduct of referendums.
Course description Week 1: Theories of Direct Democracy and the Rise of Referendums

Week 2: Rules and regulations I: Authority to hold referendums
Case: Scotland 2014 (vs Catalonia and Basque country)
Week 3: Rules and regulations II: Clear questions and clear majorities
Case: Quebec 1995
Week 4: Who votes (and how much)?
Case: New Caledonia 1998 (and planned for 2014)

Constitutional Change
Week 5: Building a demos: Integration or fragmentation?
Case: Draft Constitutional Treaty referendums in Netherlands and France 2005
Week 6: Issue framing
Case: Australia 1999
Week 7: Referendums as political problem solving or obstacles to change
Case: Europe 1975; Devolution 1979, AV 2011
Week 8: Deliberative democracy and Information campaigns
Case: British Columbia 2005 vs Ontario 2007

Conflict resolution
Week 9: Agreements and divided societies
Case: Bosnia 1992 vs Northern Ireland 1998
Week 10: International intervention
Case: Montenegro 2006
Week 11: Conclusion & revision
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
The course pursues the following aims:

-To introduce students to the wider literature related to the study of referendums, including deliberative democracy, civic republicanism, vote choice and civic engagement
-To enable students to engage critically with claims about the strengths and weaknesses of referendums as a democratic device
-To enable students to identify from key case studies lessons for best practice in the conduct of referendums

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course students are expected to be able to:

-Demonstrate a working knowledge of the stages of referendums
-Evaluate comparative referendum experiences in light of various criteria such as voter engagement, campaign strategies, rules and regulations
-Be able to place Scottish referendums within a broader comparative context
Reading List
Hobolt, Sara Binzer, Europe in Question: Referendums on European Integration. Oxford University Press.
Hug, Simon, Voices of Europe: Citizens, Referendums and European Integration. Rowman and Littlefield.
Leduc, Lawrence, The Politics of Direct Democracy: Referendums in Global Perspective. Broadview Press
Quortrup, Mads, A Comparative Study of Referendums: Government by the People. Manchester University Press
Tierney, Stephen, Constitutional Referendums: The Theory and Practice of Republican Deliberation. Oxford University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements The course will be taught in 11 x 2 hour seminars. The first hour will focus on a key theme (eg question design) and the second hour will focus on a seminal case. Students will be divided into groups to present the seminal case and be responsible for structuring discussion in the second hour, drawing lessons from the case for key concepts in referendum design. The presentation will be assessed at 10%. A short assignment will explore a key concept, while the major essay will compare two cases. The final method of assessment will be a take home exam.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Bettina Petersohn
Tel: (0131 6)51 4752
Course secretaryMiss Natalie Stroud
Tel: (0131 6)51 3162
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