Course outline

By studying Politics, as part of PPE or History and Politics, you will gain a thorough understanding of the impact of political institutions on modern societies. It will help you understand the workings of political systems, explain the processes that maintain or change those systems, and examine the concepts and values used in political analysis and discourse. You will develop a knowledge and understanding of key areas of the discipline such as comparative government, political theory, sociology and international relations.

  • Year one

    In the first year of both joint-honours degrees you will gain a foundation in Politics that covers:

    • The Theory of Politics – an introduction to major theoretical approaches to democracy.
      • (Please note, if you study History and Politics you will be given the option to study the Theories of State instead of the Political Theory paper. Theories of State offers an introduction to some of the major influences on the development of Western political thought)
    • The Practice of Politics – an introduction into how politics and government is practised in democratic, partially-democratic and non-democratic states.
    • Political Analysis (not examined) – an introduction to quantitative methods in political science.
  • Years two and three

    If you study PPE, in the second year you will have the choice of opting for two of the three branches or continuing with all three.

    In the second year, all HP undergraduates and all PPE undergraduates who continue with Politics choose two options from the following five core papers:

    • Comparative Government
    • British Politics and Government since 1900
    • Theory of Politics
    • International Relations
    • Political Sociology

    In the third year, all joint-honour undergraduates who continued with Politics chose from a number of optional papers. In 2021/22 these papers were*:

    • Modern British Government and Politics 
    • Government and Politics of the US
    • Politics in Europe
    • Politics in Russia and the Former Soviet Union
    • Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa
    • Politics in Latin America
    • Politics in South Asia
    • Politics in the Middle East
    • International Relations in the Era of Two World Wars
    • International Relations in the Era of the Cold War
    • Political Thought: Plato to Rousseau
    • Political Thought: Bentham to Weber
    • Marx and Marxism
    • Sociological Theory
    • Labour Economics and Inequality (organised by Department of Economics)
    • Social Policy
    • Comparative Demographic Systems
    • Politics in China
    • The Politics of the European Union
    • Advanced Paper in Theories of Justice
    • Comparative Political Economy
    • Special Subjects in Politics:
      • International Security and Conflict
      • Feminist Theory

    *Please note, these options are illustrative only as Politics option papers are subject to change year-to-year.

  • How the degree is assessed

    All politics papers, bar the thesis, are currently assessed by written examination. There are two sets of University examinations for Politics:

    • the Preliminary Examination (‘Prelims’), normally taken at the end of your first year (you will be required to pass Prelims to progress to the second year);
    • the Final Honour School (‘Finals’), normally taken at the end of your third year.

    History and Politics students must submit a thesis on a subject of their choice in their final year. Theses are optional for PPE students.

How we teach politics at Oxford

Politics is taught through a mixture of lectures, classes and tutorials, with the last playing a particularly important role. Most students will have 1-3 tutorials a week. These involve preparing an essay and then an hour long conversation about the essay, and the subject, with a tutor and 1-3 fellow students. The tutorial system differentiates Oxford from almost all other universities.