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

Undergraduate Course: Parliamentary Studies (PLIT10091)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryDespite recent concerns about a crisis of democracy and the rise of ¿anti-politics¿, parliaments continue to be central political arenas in any democratic system. They provide critical linkages between, for instance, government and the public, government and civil society, and government and backbenchers. This course is designed to provide students with a policy-relevant and theoretically informed examination of parliaments in the United Kingdom. It is therefore concerned both with the formal processes and ¿ perhaps more importantly ¿ the cultures, traditions and relationships that make these institutions work.
Course description This advanced course will predominantly focus on the UK Parliament with the Scottish Parliament as a key comparator. The course begins with an outline of the place of parliaments in the wider constitutional and political system, and why they are central to understanding any representative democracy. From this, the course then develops a number of key themes in line with core functions of parliaments, including the development and legitimisation of law-making (and specifically the extent to which parliaments shape those laws); the articulation and construction of political, social and economic interests in parliaments (e.g. links to constituency as well as issues regarding descriptive and substantive representation of different societal groups); and the capacity and effectiveness of accountability arrangements and wider executive-legislative relationships. Additionally, the course examines key issues facing parliaments in the twenty-first century, including the decline of trust in political institutions and responses to scandals.

Uniquely, this course is taught in association with the Houses of Parliament Outreach Service and with support from the Scottish Parliament. The course is taught through academic seminars by the teaching team as well as through events and visits organised with both parliaments. In most weeks (Weeks 2-9), students will have an opportunity to meet with senior parliamentary officials and politicians to discuss the role and reform of parliaments. This opportunity is only available for students enrolled on this course and requires thorough preparation. This allows students to develop not only a detailed academic knowledge of the UK and Scottish parliaments, but also understand how academic research matches with the real and lived experience of politicians and officials in both parliaments. Additionally, the course offers two optional visits: one to the UK Parliament and one to the Scottish Parliament.

This is a unique course that may be demanding but is guaranteed to be intellectually rewarding for all students. It will ensure students have detailed academic as well as practical knowledge of the world of parliaments ¿ which remain crucial to understanding politics across the world. The course was awarded Best Course by EUSA in 2022.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004) OR Politics in a Changing World: An Introduction for non-specialists (PLIT08012) OR Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates (PLIT08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements This course is only available to Politics and International Relations 3rd and 4th Year Students.

Students who have not taken any of the pre-requisite courses, but have taken a similar course, should contact the Course Organiser to confirm if they are eligible to take this course.
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
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 30, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 90 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Briefing Paper (40%): 1,500 words
Essay (50%): 3,000 words
Tutorial participation (10%)
Feedback Students can consult the course convener at any time to receive feedback on their performance at seminars. The detailed feedback on the research briefing should allow students to prepare for the course essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate detailed knowledge of the structures and procedures of the UK and Scottish Parliaments
  2. appraise scholarly accounts of legislatures and legislative decision-making in the context of UK and Scottish parliamentary practice
  3. use different scholarly approaches and perspectives on legislatures to develop comparative analysis of the UK and Scottish Parliaments
  4. develop communication and transferable skills, including effective oral and written presentations, by applying scholarly understanding to the demands of parliamentary practice
Reading List
The study of parliaments is vibrant and active. The main academic journals for this course will often draw from the Journal of Legislative Studies, Parliamentary Affairs and Legislative Studies Quarterly. The majority of the course will focus on up-to-date journal articles to give students the latest research on parliaments. Nevertheless, here is an indicative list of some key academic books that inform this course:

Crewe, E. (2015) The House of Commons: An anthropology of MPs at work. Bloomsbury Academic.
Geddes, M. (2020) Dramas at Westminster: Select committees and the quest for accountability. Manchester University Press.
Judge, D. (1993) The Parliamentary State. SAGE Publishing.
Kelso, A. (2009) Parliamentary Reform at Westminster. Manchester University Press.
Russell, M. and Gover, D. (2017) Legislation at Westminster: Parliamentary Actors and Influence in the Making of British Law. Oxford University Press.
Thompson, L. (2013) Making British Law. Palgrave Macmillan.

You may wish to consider one of the following textbooks as part of the course:

Leston-Bandeira, C. and Thompson, L. (eds.) (2017) Exploring Parliament. Oxford University Press.
Besly, N. and Goldsmith, T. (2023) How Parliament Works (ninth edition). Routledge.
McFadden, J. and Lazarowicz, M. (2010) The Scottish Parliament: An introduction. Bloomsbury Academic.

To supplement your academic research, here are some insightful and highly recommended non-academic books about Parliament and British politics:

Dunt, I. (2023) How Westminster Works ¿and why it doesn¿t. W&N.
Flynn, P. (2012) How To Be An MP. Biteback Publishing.
Hardman, I. (2018) Why We Get The Wrong Politicians. Atlantic Books.
Hassan, G. (ed.) (2019) The Story of the Scottish Parliament. Edinburgh University Press.
White, H. (2021) Held in Contempt: What¿s wrong with the House of Commons? Manchester University Press.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements This course has a quota and preference will be given to Politics students.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Marc Geddes
Tel: (0131 6)51 3784
Course secretaryMr Ethan Alexander
Tel: (0131 6)50 4001
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