Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies

It’s official! We’re University of the year

This information is for 2016 entry only - from 2017 entry our parliamentary opportunity will take the form of a pathway available for all students on the BA Politics to apply for, rather than a separate programme. See BA Politics

In this Section:

If you want to …

  • work for an MP in Westminster
  • spend a semester in Washington or Canada
  • assess what you really believe about freedom and democracy
  • take a course that offers you the freedom to tailor your degree programme

... then choose BA Political and Parliamentary Studies.

“BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies is a great way to combine the academic study of politics with a year spent gaining practical experience on placement working in a political environment.” Dr Richard Hayton, course leader.

Politics defines our lives. Studying BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies will enable you to analyse the political changes occurring all around us in a theoretical and critical way, and help you understand the operation of political institutions such as Parliament in practice as well as in the seminar room.

The unique range of country and conceptual expertise in our School will provide you with a comprehensive grounding in fundamental political ideas, structures and approaches. With that foundation in place, you will develop your own expertise and tailor your module selection in order to build a portfolio of in-depth study around your own interests and concerns.

You will receive foundational teaching in all of the core areas of the School’s expertise, including modules in political theory and British politics, in international relations and in development studies.

Among the skills learned at this time, you will also develop your ability to communicate, both orally and in writing. You will develop your time-management and team-working abilities as you work, both independently and in groups, to deliver a range of assessed outputs.

You will then build on your knowledge by studying more advanced modules in British Central Government, political systems, political theory and the methods of political analysis. As a BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies student, you take a module in Parliamentary Studies, developing your knowledge of the Westminster system in preparation for your placement. As well as further developing the skills already introduced, you will learn new skills of political enquiry and research.

Year three of BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies is your parliamentary student placement year. You may spend a full year on placement in London, attached to a parliamentary office at Westminster; or you may spend one semester attached to an office in the US Congress or Canadian Parliament, whilst attending our partner universities in Washington or Ottawa, and then the second semester at Westminster.

Opportunities in the US Congress or Canadian Parliament are limited, and dependent on availability with our partner institutions in North America. We award them competitively to the best-performing students. In these placements, you work as part of the office team and develop work-related skills as well as a greater understanding of politics and policy. 

In your final year, you will produce an extended piece of individual research on a topic of your choosing in the politics dissertation, and complement that study by selecting from a wide range of specialised modules delivered by staff in areas of their own research expertise. These activities will foster your development of independent learning and research skills.

Year One

Compulsory modules

Making of the Modern World examines the current divide between the global North and South, and considers the impact of colonialism, capitalist industrialisation and the slave trade upon the contemporary situation. You will analyse the history of resistance to colonial rule, the attraction of socialism to post-independent governments, and examine the legacies of colonial rule across the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Freedom, Power and Resistance: An Introduction to Political Ideas is an introduction to political theory and an invitation for you to subject your own political views to critical examination: to work out what you think and why you think it.

International Politics introduces you to the complex changes currently underway in the international system and their political implications across the globe. We discuss the main ideas, concepts and philosophies that inform the contemporary world order.

British Politics provides an introduction to British politics since 1945, focussing on key debates about the changing character and conduct of politics; the social and economic context of politics; political ideas and party alignments; and Britain’s international position and constitutional developments.

Comparative Politics involves the systematic study and comparison of political systems. In this module, you will examine the political systems of three different nations from across the globe, focusing on their respective political histories, political economies, party systems, social movements and foreign policies.

Studying and Researching in POLIS will equip you with the necessary study and research skills to enable them to effectively engage with the studying in the department. It will help you to idenitfy the link between the development of your own research and study skills.

Studying in a Digital Age

Discovery modules

You will choose one discovery module to make up your year. Discovery modules allow you to study modules that may be taught outside your subject or home school.

Year Two 

Compulsory modules

Approaches to Analysis introduces you to the ways that we conduct research in the social sciences, with particular emphasis on approaches commonly used in the fields of politics, international development and international relations. You will engage with key methodologies, theoretical frameworks and methods used in practical research.

Parliamentary Studies will help you identify and develop the specific skills required to ensure you will be prepared for your placements in Parliament in the following academic year.

British Government focusses on the key governing 'triangle' of Whitehall-Westminster-Palace, and on the organisation and operation of central government in Britain. We look at the people who run the country: how they get to those positions, the powers and responsibilities they have, how they are held to account, and at how government policy is made.

Revolution and Reaction: Political Problems in the 20th Century  explores some of the seminal thinkers of this period and situates them in the context of the problems and challenges that they were attempting to resolve. It also sheds light on how these thinkers – by grappling with key concepts such as power, class, culture, gender and race – sought to contest many of the prevailing orthodoxies of politics and political theory. 


Justice, Community and Conflict will allow you to develop knowledge and skills that will enable you to think more critically and systematically about current social and political affairs. It introduces the work of key contemporary analytical political theorists and elaborates on fundamental ideas and concepts in analytical political theory. 

Optional modules

You will choose one to three modules from within the School. 

Discovery modules

You will then choose one or two discovery modules from across the university.

Year Three

You will spend a year on placement. You may spend a full academic year on work placement in London, attached to a parliamentary office at Westminster, OR you may spend the autumn semester attached to an office in the US Congress or Canadian Parliament, whilst attending our partner universities in Washington or Ottawa, and then spend the spring semester at Westminster.

Opportunities in the US Congress or Canadian Parliament are dependent on availability with our partner institutions in North America. We award them to our best performing students.

All students undertake the parliamentary student placement with an MP at Westminster, including junior ministers, front bench opposition MPs and back benchers of all parties. There are also opportunities to take placements with political consultancies, party organisations and research bodies. Students have also been involved in elections in Britain, the US and Canada.

In these placements, you work as part of the office team and develop work-related skills as well as a greater understanding of politics and policy.  

Year Four

Compulsory module

The only compulsory module in Year Four is your Dissertation. This is a piece of written work of 12,000 words, and can be researched on a topic of your choice. It allows you to produce an extended piece of written work on a topic of special interest to you.

Optional modules

You will choose three optional modules from a specialist list from within the School.

Discovery modules

You will choose a discovery module from across the university. 

Course structure, learning and assessment

You will usually take three modules in each semester. There are normally two weekly lectures and one weekly seminar for each module in the first year of the degree. Higher level modules vary in their delivery: for example, some are taught through two-hour seminars and do not have lectures. Your placement year is spent in an office/work environment. In your final year, in addition to taught modules, you will have meetings with your dissertation supervisor.

Contact time

We offer a range of opportunities for extra contact time with staff and other students in order to deliver a comprehensive learning programme.

First, all teaching staff hold three feedback hours per week during which you can drop in for one-to-one consultation and tutoring. Secondly, you will allocated a personal tutor with whom you will meet regularly throughout the year to discuss your progress and plans. Thirdly, we organise a lively programme of research seminars and lectures which all students are encouraged to attend. Finally, the School operates a student-led discussion programme in which you are able to discuss your work among your peers in an informal setting.

Teaching methods

We deliver our teaching through lectures and small group seminar and tutorial sessions. Independent learning is also a major part of degree-level study.

Lectures provide an introduction to module topics and a framework for further independent study. Comprehensive reading lists are available for all modules and you are expected to prepare thoroughly for seminars and tutorials by reading widely and engaging with essential texts.

Seminars and tutorials provide an opportunity for you to work through and discuss key issues, problems and difficulties among your peers and under the guidance of your tutors. The sessions involve some or all of the following teaching methods: question and answer, group work, individual or group presentations and open student and tutor-led discussions.

Finally, all modules have an on-line presence in the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The VLE houses a variety of learning resources including lecture notes, presentation slides and audio podcasts, digitised readings and links to other web-based media.


The course uses a variety of assessment methods including coursework essays, exams, group projects, critical reviews and reports. We offer you feedback on your work throughout the course of the degree; we provide this through direct comments on assessed work and also meetings with module tutors and personal tutors.

A range of special characteristics make studying Politics and Parliamentary Studies at Leeds an exceptional experience.

Unique parliamentary placements

BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies is the only course in the UK to combine placement opportunities in London and North America.

All our students do a placement in the British Parliament, attached to a departmental or MP’s office, but we also offer a semester’s placement in either the Canadian Parliament or US Congress to our best performing students.

We were also one of the first politics course in the UK to offer parliamentary placements as part of our undergraduate politics degree course, and have years of experience in supporting students through their placements.

Taught by experts

Many members of our teaching team are also members of the Leadership, Parties and Institutions research group.

This group is acknowledged as one of the leading centres on Westminster research in the country. The group carries out internationally-esteemed research into the history and processes of Westminster and the role and functions of parties, including electoral analysis.

Our academics embed this research into their teaching materials, allowing you to draw on their academic expertise to inform and frame your work.

Staff also have wide-ranging networks with external organisations and stakeholders in the political process, giving you access not only to the highest level of applied knowledge, but also to those involved in the reality of international politics.

Commitment to innovative teaching

Our course offers you the opportunity to study with, and learn from, a team with a genuine commitment to quality and innovative teaching. Our team is committed to critical, engaged and accessible scholarship and teaching.

Wide range of modules

The University of Leeds offers one of the largest selection of optional and discovery module ranges in the country and, as an politics student, you have the opportunity to take modules offered by other schools and departments in the university.

The School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds is also one of the largest departments of its kind in the UK. The size of our department means we can offer you a large range of various political and international studies modules. This allows you to tailor your module selection to develop your own personalised portfolio of knowledge, skills and abilities.  

Potential career pathways

Anyone wishing to follow a career based in political life, including political PR, policy-making, think-tanks, or to specialise in Parliamentary research, will find BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies an ideal opportunity to combine study and work experience.

Our students have gone on to a wide-range of successful careers in the political world and beyond. Our graduates include MPs, civil servants, special advisors to senior ministers (including at Number 10), staff of political parties, Parliamentary researchers and office managers, academics, political consultants, public affairs specialists and many more.

Placement opportunities

An integral part of BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies is the parliamentary placement where you spend either a full year attached to a parliamentary office in London, or one semester attached to an Office in the US Congress or Canadian Parliament and the second semester at Westminster.

This placement will give you a deeper understanding of the political and policy process and help you to develop your employability skills. During the placement, you work as part of an office team, allowing you to refine your time-management, team-working and workload management abilities within a dynamic political environment.

Professional skills training

The course provides numerous opportunities for you to develop professional skills and enhance your employability. You will develop qualitative research skills, including interviewing skills. You will also develop quantitative research skills, including skills of statistical analysis and interpretation. More generally, BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies affords a range of opportunities for the development of transferable skills including team working, time-management and presentation skills.

Core career skills and knowledge

You will develop knowledge of political systems and processes: for example, of how a bill becomes law in British government. You will also learn details of specific forms of policy and legislation from across the globe, such as the UN declaration on Human Rights. You will develop ethical and cultural awareness through your study of diverse country contexts and of the theories and ideas that underpin political systems. Finally, you will also develop research skills and familiarity with handling, processing and interpreting datasets.

Aristotle called man a 'political animal' and argued that politics was the 'master science'. Politics is essentially the study of government and governing, but it is also concerned with, more immediately, familiar human interests and challenges: war, poverty, the media, immigration, the economy, protest and revolution – conflict and cooperation in human life.

Politics tries to understand and explain how we live together under government in both a historical and contemporary perspective, and it tries also to discover how we should live together, how we might go about improving society.

Politics is also about power: who gets what, why and when. The study of politics is also the academic understanding of the ideas, institutions, and practices that characterise political life both in the UK and the wider world.

Because the domain of politics is so very broad, the discipline embraces a variety of approaches: historical, social, economic and cultural, but at its heart it is the study of one thing: ourselves – the political animal.

© Copyright Leeds 2016