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Politics BA(Hons)

Attendance UCAS code/apply Year of entry
3 years full time See course combinations for joint honours UCAS codes 2016
6 years part time Apply direct to the University 2016

Why choose this course?

Politics is fundamentally about power, the ways in which it is organised and expressed, and the way it flows throughout society. This joint honours course explores questions related to power and politics, such as the tension between freedom and equality, ethics and obligations, the nature of war and terrorism, and the development of human rights. 

See the course combinations section for more information about the different joint honours options.

Watch this video to find out what our students have to say about studying this course at Kingston University:

What will you study?

Politics is about who gets what, when, how, why and where, directing you to key questions of power, justice, human rights, order, conflict, legitimacy, accountability, obligation, sovereignty, decision-making and governance. This degree will enable you to develop a critical understanding of the political issues that affect societies across the world. It takes an interdisciplinary approach, examining political life from a variety of perspectives, including area studies, cultural politics, international politics, human rights, political theory and political sociology.

Throughout your studies, you will be supported by an integrated programme of study skills development, employability training and one-to-one academic support from a personal tutor. There are also opportunities for work placements and internships. You do not need to have studied politics and international relations before, and the course is not just for those who want a career in politics-related fields.

Year 1 is designed to provide a solid foundation of knowledge and skills. You will be introduced to some of the key themes in political thinking and ideology that have guided political practice over the past 200 years, as well as the controversies associated with institutions and systems of power in the UK. The first-year curriculum is also accompanied by a focus on academic skills development, helping you to hone your abilities and approach to learning.

Year 2 allows increasing flexibility in your choice of study topics. The focus on political theory continues in more depth, and you will have the opportunity to explore international relations, human rights and the politics of Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Many students also take the opportunity to study abroad in mainland Europe, North America or Australia.

Year 3 centres on your final-year research project, which explores a topic of interest in depth. You will be supported by a supervisor, receive research skills training, and participate in discussion forums to explore your ideas. The project culminates with a presentation at our end-of-year student conference. You will also study taught modules and have the opportunity to study issues of political violence, political extremism and the influence of popular culture on political processes and ideas.

Module listing

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list. Those listed here may also be a mixture of core and optional modules.

Year 1 (Level 4)

  • This module provides an introduction to some of the major strands in radical political thought, in both their historical and contemporary contexts. We will be looking at some of those ideas and ideologies which have emerged throughout recent history, and which have sought to bring about widespread political, social and economic reform. We will be examining the ideas themselves, and the ways in which they were seeking a fundamental change in the existing system. We will also be placing the ideas in the particular political and social contexts of their time, and will study some of the people and movements who have been key in developing these radical arguments. However, we will also focus on the contemporary relevance of radical thought, and consider whether these ideas have purchase in today's world. As such, this module is well-suited to both Politics and History students, and forms a core module for all those taking Politics, International Relations and Human Rights.

    This module is also aimed at preparing new students for their time at university, and will provide advice and training regarding academic skills and personal development.

  • This module will supply students with a comprehensive overview of the historical background of the UK’s current political system and its current operation. One of the key factors in understanding the politics of the UK, and indeed any given nation, is how a political system has evolved to its current state. The module is divided between providing a historical overview of how we got to where we are today and a survey of how the most important elements of UK politics work.

    A key element of the module is putting the UK in a comparative context. By doing so it will help students better understand the idiosyncrasies of UK politics and how the way the UK operates differs from and is similar to other democratic nations.

    The module is broadly speaking divided into four parts:

    1. A political history of the current UK system.

    2. Key political institutions.

    3. Politics of the masses (e.g. elections, parties and the media)

    4. Politics below the national (local politics and devolution).


Year 2 (Level 5)

  • Contemporary international politics involves a plethora of global actors, institutions and processes that provide governance at an international level.  They help to regulate the behaviour of states, maintain stability in global politics and encourage cooperation between.  Moreover, in an increasingly inter-connected world, global governance mechanisms provide the starting point for a fuller sense of international community – a platform for the peaceful resolution of disputes and an environment in which human rights and international development goals might be realised. 

    At the same time, contemporary global governance mechanisms are also affected by important limitations, with states demonstrating the frequent tendency to pursue their own narrow national interests, rather than working towards a global common good.  Students taking this module examine these themes by exploring different theory perspectives and by learning about the characteristics of the existing global governance structures. 

    The module begins by introducing students to some of the key tools for understanding and analysing international politics. International relations theory has played valuable role in helping us to understand the nuances and underlying processes that influence state behaviour and the development of foreign policy.  It follows on by introducing students to the study of the organisation and processes of international relations in a wider sense, examining the ways in which international development policy is formulated and the systems of global governance are organised.

  • This module is a core module for Full-Field Politics & International Relations students and Half-Field Politics students. It can be taken as an option by Half-Field International Relations and Human Rights students.

    The module offers a critical introduction to the foundations of modern political thought. It is organised around an examination of the work of several major political philosophers and the concepts associated with their writings. Beginning with an exploration the origins of modern political theory in Machiavelli, it goes on to look at debates about of human nature, the state, and property within social contract theory, and the development of political thought in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by thinkers such as Mill, Marx, and Rawls. The module will examine a number of core political concepts, including freedom, justice, gender, equality, democracy, and tolerance, and address the central questions of moral and political philosophy: How should we act? How can we live together? Why should we obey the state? Throughout the module students will be encouraged both to challenge the arguments and assumptions of the thinkers that they study and to consider their contemporary relevance.

  • In the past, as today, within the legal frameworks laid down by governments and authorities, perceptions of what constitutes criminal or deviant behaviour are both shifting and contested. The function of a protest over food supplies, for example, may be viewed differently by those engaged in the action than by those enforcing the law. Similarly, in many early modern societies, it was deemed acceptable for the man, as head of the household, to exert ‘moderate correction’ on his wife and children to ensure they continued to uphold acceptable standards of behaviour. However, exactly what constituted ‘moderate correction’ meant different things to different groups.

    This module will give students an understanding of the cultural and social history of crime and deviance in Britain and Europe c. 1450 - 1850. Although broadly following the chronology across the 400 years, the approach is primarily thematic. Aspects of criminality covered include historical approaches to the study of homicide and violence; the relationship between gender and crime, for example, in attitudes towards prostitution and infanticide, and in the prevalence of domestic crime; attitudes towards sexual crimes such as rape and sodomy; and notions of ‘social crime’ within acts of riot or protest. Aspects of deviancy considered include women's adultery and effeminacy in men, as well as the behaviours and lifestyles that left many vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft. Within the overall structure there will be two elements of greater focus. Firstly an examination of witchcraft, a crime which combines the aspects of violence, sexuality and gender, and one which was classed as ‘exceptional’ by the authorities in their attempt to demonstrate the reality of the ‘Satanic Pact’. The second focus will look at crime in eighteenth century Britain, a period of unprecedented social change and wealth creation that witnessed an explosion in the number of crimes for which a person could be hanged, and the widespread adoption of transportation overseas as penal policy. The course ends with a look at the works of Enlightenment thinkers such Beccaria and Bentham and the impact of such ideas on a changing penal policy that moved swiftly from maiming and attacking the body, to the rise of new penitentiary systems in the nineteenth century where, arguably, the mind became the focus for punishment.

    Through the use of primary source materials in a variety of formats (imagery, written documentation, statistical data, web-based resources), and through comparison of alternative historiographies this module will enhance student's analytical skills in history.

  • This module begins with a survey of the main sweep of historical, political and economic developments, social actors and movements that gave shape to Latin American politics from its colonial beginnings to the early modern era.  The over-arching theme in the first teaching block is the contentious development of the nation-state and national economy in the global system, the legacy of which continues to shape the political landscape of the region.  In the second teaching block, students will engage with substantive themes in contemporary Latin American politics, and examine current flashpoints in regional politics through the eyes of a range of actors.  We explore and evaluate the range of new forms of participation that have emerged since the 1990s to contest the limitations of formal democracy under neoliberal globalization: from the barrio to factories, communities taking root on occupied land and urban spaces, constituent assemblies, popular assemblies and UN summits – or if all else fails, the streets.  We end by examining national and regional development strategies that emerged at the beginning of the 21st century as a response to the perceived failure of neoliberalism, and ask, is there a new politics emerging in the region?

  • This module is a core requirement for students taking Human Rights at level 5, and can also be taken as an option by students in related fields. The module introduces the contested and evolving relationships between the theory and practice of securing human rights.  It starts with an overview of key frameworks and mechanisms designed to secure rights at the international, regional and domestic levels.  A central feature of the module is to introduce key critical themes, from which issues can be dissected and analysed through a range of contemporary and international case-studies.  Themes may include: ‘Human Rights, Security and Forced Migration’, which analyses the way in which the issue of forced migration brings together a variety of legal, political and security debates.  ‘The Politics of Human Rights in Development’, which examines the recent convergence of the fields of human rights and development (inclusive of ‘the right to development’ and the proliferation of ‘rights-based approaches to development’).  ‘Rights in the aftermath? Truth, Justice and Reconciliation’, which examines the globalization of transitional justice discourses and the propagation of different mechanisms (ranging from International Criminal Tribunals, to national truth commissions, to local justice initiatives).  And, ‘Indigenous Peoples, Rights and Beyond’ that engages with central issues surrounding indigenous peoples’ claims, whilst also probing the gravity of particular contested issues (such as ‘the right to self-determination’ and broader ‘sovereignty' challenges).  The module concludes by asking: what is the future for human rights? 

  • This module will introduce students to the controversies and debates over slavery and other forms of violence committed against groups of people in the modern world and their responses seeking emancipation. Beginning in 1492 with the development of a modern racism, it looks at the destruction of indigenous peoples in the Americas, the subsequent development of US Slavery, and the struggles of African Americans into the twentieth century. These cases will be revisited from the perspective of gender, and compared to other forms of structural oppression of colonised peoples and workers.

    The module will consider the challenges in identifying the standpoint of the oppressed and study examples of how ‘subaltern’ oppressed groups enter politics.   There are case studies of different historical and contemporary movements for emancipation, exploring some of their key debates and the challenges of constructing unity whilst respecting diversity. The module as a whole will encourage the critical analysis and assessment of the various interpretations that have been put forward and facilitate the development of students’ research skills, ability to work together and communicate their ideas.

  • This module is a Level 5 option that introduces students to the multi-faceted entity called ‘Europe’ and looks at key political, social and cultural trends in today Europe, including its geo-political role in a globalised world. Teaching block one focuses on political parties and party families, the growth of populism and of xenophobic parties. Attention is also paid to changing patterns of political participation and the rise of protest politics, which is analysed via a variety of case studies such as environmental organisations, feminist groups and student anti-tuition fees protest. Teaching block two starts by asking a key question: what is Europe? followed by equally important questions such as how Europeans feel about Europe today? Why is Euro-scepticism on the rise throughout Europe? It also investigates European integration and European Union enlargement: does an integrated Europe still make sense as a political project? Was the euro a good idea? Should Turkey be part of the EU? By posing these questions, the module attempts to capture different voices of contemporary Europe in order to equip students with solid grounding to make sense of what is happening in the contemporary world.

    The module will be delivered through lectures and seminars.


Year 3 (Level 6)

  • This module is the 'capstone' module for full-field Politics and International Relations students. Working in small groups, students will be provided with the skills and support necessary to embark upon, complete and present a final year research project. The initial focus of the module will be on small groups of students working to familiarise themselves with an area of staff research expertise, under close supervision of that subject matter expert. This will be made possible through the establishment of a range of staff-led, research-orientated 'reading groups', to which students will sign up. During the first half of the module, students will also receive training in project design and implementation, to complement and consolidate the research methods training received at Levels 4 and 5. The research skills and foundational subject knowledge acquired in the first part of the module will allow students to embark upon their own research project as the year progresses. Individual projects will reflect student interests and desired focus, but will remain embedded within one of the areas of Politics, International Relations and/or Human Rights offered by staff as an initial 'reading group'. The student-led research projects will be presented at the end of the year in an undergraduate academic conference: Themes and Issues in Politics, International Relations and Human Rights.
  • This module explores the social, cultural and political history of Britain from 1960 to the present day.  Particular weight will be attached to considering the changes and continuities in ordinary people's lives and leisure in this period, through an examination of the impact of such phenomena as the Beatles, Eastenders and Facebook.  These cultural aspects will be complemented by an evaluation of the role of such social factors as class, gender, ethnicity, and education as well as the place of individual character in influencing people's experiences and opportunities.  The inter-action between socio-cultural changes and politics will also be a major theme, with analysis of changes in government policy, ideology and leadership style from Harold Wilson through Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair.  The issue of a changing British national identity and character will also be addressed.  This is contemporary history, with a firm emphasis on the relationship between the near past and the present, encouraging students also to reflect on their own experiences of a very recent period of history.  A range of contemporary sources, including film, television, music and memoir will be used to foster engagement with the period.  This is also an era increasingly attracting the attention of historians both of society and political culture, and this growing historiography will be analysed, with a particular focus on debates over the leisure, habits and attitudes of 'the people'. 

  • This research-led module explores the rise and impact of the Extreme Right in the 20th and early 21st centuries in Britain and in three other countries in Western Europe (namely France, Germany and Italy). It adopts a historical and comparative approach, and focuses on fascist, populist and authoritarian ideas, parties and movements in Britain and across Europe, and the challenges these posed for the liberal democratic state and its main institutions. The relationship between democracy and dictatorship proved to be a major source of controversy and change in the 20th century, and the question of how the liberal state 'managed' (or mis-managed and succumbed to) the threat from the Extreme Right has been a major theme in the historiography in recent years. In fact, such issues remain very prominent today. The first half of the course thus describes and analyses the historical developments, main patterns and key controversies engendered by these events and challenges in the interwar period. The second half of the course explores the extent to which these historical developments and the associated challenges were possibly replicated in the post-1945 period, especially with the more recent resurgence of the extreme Right across Britain and Europe in the early 21st century. 

  • Of interest and value to students of history, politics, international relations and economics, this L6 option module examines offers a comparative historical perspective on twentieth British, American and world affairs. That century was of immense significance for both countries. At its outset Britain, with a worldwide empire, appeared to be the primary global power. At century’s end (and with the demise of the Soviet Union), it had been supplanted by the United States. Now, in the twenty-first century, there is speculation as to whether and for how long American primacy may endure. The prospect of American 'decline' is currently a source of anxiety among American policymakers. Historians have identified many reasons for American ascendancy and British ‘decline’ during the period 1900-2000. Were these two phenomena related, closely or otherwise? The answer to that question is by no means straightforward. Vitally important as were internal social and political changes, study of relations between the two countries – and of their relations to other states and nations – also provides us with insight into the scale and nature of historical change on a global scale. Focusing on key case studies in twentieth century British, American and international history the module provides stimulating study into issues of power and 'decline'.     

  • Cold War, Hot War examines various events in the Middle East from past to present and will provide a comprehensive outlook on a troubled area.

    It begins by studying the historical foundations in the region and then explores the impact of the Cold War on the region through case studies such as the Eisenhower Doctrine; the Baghdad Pact, the Suez Crisis and the 1973 war. All this would be assessed against the wider framework of nationalism and regional politics from the early 1950s to the collapse of the USSR in 1990s. Using primary documents we will then assess the consequences of the end of the Cold War on the current crisis and the rise of religiopolitics. The theme of nationalism and leadership will be further explored during the second half of the module, focusing on a number of case studies (Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Israel) their ‘hot wars’, foreign policy and current upheavals and challenges.

  • This module takes a critical look at the concepts of crime, power and class in the contemporary world, and the impact of ‘crimes of the powerful’ on the struggle for human rights and social justice. The gaze of many political scientists and criminologists tends to be focused firmly ‘downwards’, towards analysing the misdemeanours of the poor, the dispossessed, the underclass. This module, in contrast, will focus ‘upwards’, in an attempt to understand and explain deviant actions by states, corporations, and the ruling class more broadly. Through the use of case studies, presented by the teaching team but also generated by students, we will examine issues such as war crimes, torture, corruption, global supply chains, police abuses, and state terrorism. 

  • This module will be examining some deeply troubling events in recent history and politics and the various ethical, legal and political responses that they have generated. It has been argued that the Holocaust was a critical turning point, a catastrophe which required a fundamental ethical, legal and political rethinking of how the rights of human beings could be protected when states in the modern world engage in the systematic attempt to murder large numbers of people, including many of their own citizens. The module begins with reflections on the Nazi attempt to eliminate a whole group of people (the Jews) and to murder and enslave millions of others. It then considers a range of responses, including the Nuremberg trials, the Genocide Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It examines a number of cases of genocide and crimes against humanity that have nevertheless occurred subsequently. It evaluates the repeated failure for decades to halt or prevent these crimes and then considers the rethinking caused by the genocides in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the setting up of ad hoc tribunals and an International Criminal Court to prosecute perpetrators and provide justice to victims. It concludes with reflections on how much progress has been made in protecting citizens in a world of sovereign nation states and what forms of justice can work after such crimes have been committed. These are highly contested questions and the module is designed to encourage the critical analysis and evaluation of a wide range of arguments that have been put forward from a variety of perspectives.

  • Conceptions of self and other are deeply embedded in violent conflict, an activity which typically results in the most egregious violations of human rights.  Highly polarised identities often sit uneasily with a universal humanity.  Based on the broad theme of the universal versus the particular, this module explores the interaction between identity, violent conflict and the abuse of human rights.  It provides students with the opportunity to consider how protracted conflicts may be better resolved more effectively and human rights better protected.  The module blends theoretical discussion of political violence with an analysis of recent conflicts and the legal and institutional mechanisms which have emerged to reduce their detrimental impact on human rights.

  • Culture and politics are often taken for granted; we tend to assume we know what they are. However, when it comes to defining either culture or politics, much uncertainty arises. Does culture mean a collection of artefacts or a ‘web of meaning’ as anthropologists would put it? Is culture part of a superstructure or part and parcel of hegemony? Is it part of structure which constrains human behaviour? What is politics? If the personal is political as feminists have claimed, is everything and anything politics? Is the distinction between the public and private no longer tenable? What is the relationship between culture and politics? Is there any? Is culture driving politics or the other way round? And where is identity situated in this relationship? The module explores these fundamental questions using identity politics as an overall framework.

    Identity politics is an umbrella term that refers to a type of politics which does not appear to be class based, such as environmental politics or the LGBT movement. While the traditional political parties are generally losing their members, these often single-issue based movements attract more participants, thus facilitating political participation of a different form. The central contention in the idea of identity politics is that the focus of politics has shifted from industrial values to post-industrial values (Inglehart), and that we are witnessing the rise and development of new types of politics in which identity and culture play as major a role as class position, if not a more important one. This is a contestable claim which deserves careful examination. For instance, is the idea of identity politics a form of ideology in the Marxist sense?

    The module use the idea of identity politics as a starting point to investigate culture and identity in today’s politics through thematic studies and case studies.


You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University on a not-for-credit basis as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Most of our undergraduate courses support studying or working abroad through the University's study abroad programme or Erasmus programme.

Key information set

The scrolling banner(s) below display some key factual data about this course (including different course combinations or delivery modes of this course where relevant).

We aim to ensure that all courses and modules advertised are delivered. However in some cases courses and modules may not be offered. For more information about why, and when you can expect to be notified, read our Changes to Academic Provision.

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This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

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Ask a question about this course

Arts and Social Sciences Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)20 8417 2378/2361
Email us


This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

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