Politics and American Studies BA


Fact file - 2016 entry

UCAS code:TL72
Qualification:BA Jt Hons
Type and duration:3 year UG
Qualification name:Politics and American Studies
A level offer: ABB 
Required subjects: none specific but critical thinking and general studies not accepted 
IB score: 32
Available part time: yes
Course places: 22 
Campus: University Park Campus 

Course overview

On this course you will study a range of compulsory modules in American history and literature, as well as the government and politics of the USA. You can also choose optional modules in both subjects as well as from a wide range offered across the University. There is an opportunity to transfer to a four-year degree course, spending your third year in North America, depending on satisfactory performance.

Year one

In year one you will take modules in political theory and in comparative politics. You will learn to compare political institutions and behaviour in western liberal democracies and gain a thorough understanding of the history of political ideas. You will also take modules in American history and literature in the School of American and Canadian Studies.

Year two

In year two, you will take one compulsory module from Approaches to Political Studies or Designing Political Research. You will also take modules in American thought and culture, along with other options in American studies.

Year three

In year three, you will undertake a dissertation under the supervision of a member of staff and also take optional modules in either politics or American studies from a wide selection of modules offered by both schools.

More information 

See also the Department of American and Canadian Studies.

Entry requirements

A levels: ABB, none specific but general studies and critical thinking not accepted

English language requirements 

IELTS 6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

Pearson Test of English (Academic) 62 (minimum score 55)

Alternative qualifications 

For details please see alternative qualifications page

Flexible admissions policy

We may make some applicants an offer lower than advertised, depending on their personal and educational circumstances.


The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result, may change from year to year. The following list is therefore subject to change but should give you a flavour of the modules we offer.

Please view the American and Canadian Studies website for details of their modules.

Typical year one modules

Core politics modules 

Introduction to Comparative Politics

This module seeks to compare and contrast the decision-making structures of modern democratic states. Topics to be covered will include: 

  • politics
  • government and the state
  • the comparative approach
  • constitutions and the legal framework
  • democratic and authoritarian rule
  • political culture
  • the political executive
  • legislatures
  • political parties and party systems
  • electoral systems and voting behaviour
  • the crisis of democracy

This module aims to:

  • study the structure and politics of modern democratic states 

The lectures and readings will include a number of contemporary examples, and the module will help the students to understand similarities and differences between politics as practiced in a wide range of countries. Moreover, the module will introduce students to the methods of comparative politics, and explore hypothesis construction and theory testing. 

Modern Political Theory

This module introduces students to the ideas of some of the canonical thinkers in the history of political thought, such as Burke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, and Marx. The module considers the impact of these thinkers on modern political thought and practice, with reference to key political ideas and historical developments (such as liberty and equality, and the Enlightenment). The course will be text based.  

This module aims to provide knowledge of:

  • the history of western political thought
  • some central issues and debates of political philosophy
  • the contexts in which the various thinkers wrote
  • the principal arguments of their canonical texts 
  • their analysis of key ideas such as property, liberty, the role of the state etc 
Understanding Global Politics

This module introduces global politics through the major theoretical, historical and empirical ways of seeing international relations. We consider how different approaches understand global politics, the role of different actors in global politics and different approaches to organising international relations. In particular, the module highlights the major issues of war and peace, and global poverty.  

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to the major theoretical, historical, and empirical ways of seeing international relations
  • provide detailed instruction on the study of global politics through encouraging students to engage with key concepts and theoretical interpretations
  • deepen students' appreciation of these issues through studying six key thinkers in the field  


Problems in Global Politics

This module explores some of the major problems that exist in contemporary global politics. It introduces students to a wide range of challenges faced by states and non-state actors in the international system and engages with topics ranging from security concerns to economic issues. The module draws on a wide range of ideas and examples from around the world to help students to better understand global politics.   

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to specific problems and questions that have arisen in the "global" arena
  • provide a firm foundation for further study on theoretical, comparative, or institutional studies
  • encourage students to engage critically with key questions such as what constitutes a "state"  


British Political History Since 1945

This module will introduce and interrogate British political history since 1945. The module will take students through key issues and controversies in post-war British politics and as they relate to leaders and governments (in lectures) and key debates over controversies (in seminars). 

The module will explore a range of issues relating to:

  • economic policy
  • social policy and the welfare state
  • industrial relations
  • foreign and defence policy
  • Europe
  • local government and nuclear deterrence

Seminars will employ a range of activity-based scenarios to develop student understanding of key crises experienced by leaders and governments since 1945.  

This module aims to:

  • give students a broad general knowledge and understanding of specific crises and controversies in post-war and contemporary British politics
  • provide knowledge of the specific historical context(s) within which political actors and institutions in British politics have operated over the period since 1945  

Core American studies modules

American History 1: 1607-1900
American History 2: 1900-Present Day
Approaches to American Culture: An Introduction
Approaches to American Culture: Developing Themes and Perspectives

Typical year two modules

Core politics modules

Approaches to Politics and International Relations

The module introduces students to alternative theoretical approaches to the study of political phenomena.

We consider the different forms of analysing, explaining, and understanding politics associated with approaches such as:

  • behaviouralism
  • rational choice theory
  • institutionalism
  • Marxism
  • feminism
  • interpretive theory 
  • post-modernism

The module shows that the different approaches are based upon contrasting 'ontological' suppositions about the nature of politics, and they invoke alternative 'epistemological' assumptions about how we acquire valid knowledge of politics and international relations. 

We examine questions such as: 

  • what constitutes valid knowledge in political science and international relations? 
  • should political science methodology be the same as the methods employed in the natural sciences? 
  • can we give causal explanations of social and political phenomena? 
  • can we ever be objective in our analysis? 
  • what is the relationship between knowledge and power? 


Designing Political Research

This module will help students to understand some of the key methods used by professional researchers who work in the areas of politics and international relations. We give you hands-on experience in research skills relevant to undertaking projects in politics and international relations, many of which will be useful to you in your future careers.  

This module aims to:

  • develop an understanding of select methodological issues involved in the design and conduct of political science research
  • critically assess different types of research methods that are used in political science
  • critically evaluate the political science literature from a methodological point of view
  • provide a solid starting point for the design and conduct for individual research projects in the future  

Core American studies modules

American Thought and Culture 1: Settlement to World War I
American Thought and Culture 2: 1917-Present

Plus an additional module chosen from a list provided by the Department of American and Canadian Studies 

Optional politics modules include  

Civilisation and Barbarism

This module explores some of the major themes in the study of International Relations. Themes include:

  • power and order 
  • strategy
  • war
  • imperialism
  • emancipation
  • race
  • law
  • 'civilization'
  • barbarism
  • terrorism
  • torture
  • human rights

The course is distinctive in two respects:

  • First - the study of these themes each week takes its bearings from a significant text, and that text in its entirety
  • Second - the emphasis is on the interplay between the form and style of these texts and the ideas they contain

Students read all sorts of texts – novels, reportage, essays, a manifesto, a treatise, perhaps even a film – to investigate the political and ethical dimensions of the work. This module aims to:

  • familiarise students with modern international relations texts that have become building-blocks of the literature, the schools of thought they belong to and/or have given rise to, and key themes and debates in the field
Democracy and its Critics

Democracy is a contested concept and organising principle of politics both ancient and modern. Its appeal seems to be universal, yet it has always had its critics. 

This module investigates the nature of democratic principles, the arguments of democracy's opponents and the claims of those who say that contemporary life is inadequately democratised. A particular feature of the module is the use of primary sources to investigate historic and contemporary debates.  

This module aims to:

  • provide an ability to assess the core constitutive ideas of democracy in its many manifestations 
  • give an understanding of the case made against democracy by its various opponents 
  • give an understanding of the appeal of democracy, but also why its establishment can be problematic  
Global Security

This module explores issues in global security since the end of the Cold War. It focuses on security in a broad sense, from issues relating to the use of force by states, through to violence by non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, and on to the concept of human security. 

The module builds on the first year modules 'Understanding Global Politics' and 'Problems in Global Politics', challenging students to deepen their theoretical as well as empirical knowledge in international security. It is also a preparation for the research-led third year modules that require a much more developed capacity of analysing empirical developments from a range of different theoretical perspectives.  

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to different theoretical approaches in global security
  • facilitate an understanding of the empirical development of global security since the end of the Cold War
  • investigate the breadth of issues within the field of global security
  • prepare students theoretically for advanced Level 3 modules in IR  

Optional American studies modules include 

The CIA and US Foreign Policy, 1945-2008
The Contemporary American Novel
The Government and Politics of the USA 

Typical year three modules

Core politics/American studies modules

Dissertation in politics and international relations or American Studies
This module enables students to undertake a sustained piece of research and analysis into a subject within the discipline of politics and international relations, or American Studies.

Plus additional modules chosen from a list provided by the Department of American and Canadian Studies. 

Optional politics modules include 

Airpower and Modern Warfare

Today, war without airpower is an unlikely prospect and major military operations, as a rule, are launched with overwhelming air attacks. 

In recent years, the utility of 'strategic' airpower has increasingly come under question. Whilst technological innovation continues to strengthen airpower's capabilities, the relevance of these capabilities in contemporary conflicts cannot be taken for granted. 

This module critically assesses the role of air power in modern conflict within the broader framework of strategic and security studies. It will assess the evolution of air power theory since the First World War and examine the limits of its practical application with reference to specific air campaigns. 

Particular emphasis will be placed on the role of air power in the post-Cold War security environment, for example, in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency campaigns. 

This module aims to:

  • develop a comprehensive understanding of developments in airpower strategy and its role in warfare from the First World War until today
  • demonstrate the ability to relate the role and uses of airpower to relevant theoretical debates in contemporary strategic and security studies 
  • critically engage with the literature on airpower   
Feminist Political Thought

What is feminism? Is it relevant today? This module will introduce the main branches of feminist thought, including liberal, socialist, radical, black and postcolonial feminisms. We will also examine core themes in contemporary feminism, such identity, power, men and feminism, the role of women in politics and the politics of the private sphere (which raises the topics of sex and sexuality).

This module aims to:

  • offer first-hand encounters with primary texts
  • build the skills to apply political theory to real life
  • give the ability to understand and compare key a range of feminist theories
Governing Britain's Cities: Power, Politics and Difference

Cities are places of both conflict and cooperation, characterised by civic pride and neighbourliness but also by social inequality and, on occasion, violent protest. Cities are also places of difference, experienced in diverse ways by men and women, older and younger people, and by citizens from different ethnic and religious groups. Given such complexity, how should Britain's cities be governed? 

The module examines approaches to city leadership, local representation, citizenship and community engagement, and public service delivery. Students will analyse contemporary policy issues (localism, Big Society, austerity, multiculturalism), gain a grounding in urban theory, and also have the chance to test their knowledge 'on the ground' (via case studies and presentations from policymakers, practitioners and activists).  

This module aims to:

  • offer a critical overview of a range of theoretical approaches to understanding city governance and urban politics, including interdisciplinary insights
  • familiarise students with key issues in urban politics (top-down and bottom-up)
  • introduce students to the main policy options for governing cities, with particular reference to Britain
  • offer students the opportunity to critically assess research-based case studies
  • familiarise students with the challenges and opportunities faced by local policymakers and practitioners, and to enhance their employability in these areas
Intervention in Africa

This module analyses political, economic, cultural and especially military intervention in Africa. It focuses on the role of external actors such as International Organisations, regional organisations, and NGOs, with a special emphasis on the role of France, the UK and the European Union. We will examine theories, concepts and case studies to explain the nature of contemporary intervention.

This module aims to:

  • promote a critical engagement with material in the International Relations and European Foreign Policy field
  • provide an insight into the link between theory and practice of intervention
  • provide an understanding of why and how European governments respond to Africa issues
  • provide a basis for further study or careers in government, international organisations, media and the military
Politics and Drugs

This module studies the implications of the growing abuse of narcotics for the political system from both a national and international perspective. It will examine the production, consumption and trade in drugs as an international problem. 

The development of and issues associated with contemporary British drug policy will be explored and the theoretical questions raised by drug control policy will be examined.  

This module aims to:

  • consider the extent of the contemporary drug problem and its implications for national and international politics
  • examine the nature of national and international policies to combat illicit drug use 
  • explore the political issues surrounding prohibition
  • undertake a critical evaluation of UK and international drug policy
Politics of East Asia

This module affords an understanding of the linkage between international and domestic politics in East Asia. The module is divided into three parts:

  • The first part offers conceptual and historical perspectives that enable one to analyse how international and domestic politics relate to each other.
  • The second part focuses on China and Japan, and examines their domestic transformation and foreign policy development in the post-cold war period. 
  • The third part focuses on key issues of the region, and examines how those issues affect domestic transformation of East Asian states, and in turn, how the domestic transformation affects those issues. 

This module aims to:

  • enable students to identify and discuss conceptual and historical perspectives found in the literature on the politics of East Asia
  • explore ways to analyse the links between global and domestic politics in East Asia and how they relate to the conceptual and historical perspectives in the literature
  • develop a framework of enquiry within which students can construct subject-related knowledge and relevant research skills 
The Politics of Ethnic Conflict

Questions relating to nationalism and ethnic conflict have become more prominent in political debate since the end of the Cold War, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated the continuing importance of constitutional crafting as a means to manage ethnic diversity within states. This module evaluates differing definitions of the 'nation' and 'ethnic group', examines different state strategies to manage diversity such as multiculturalism, assimilation and integration, and considers different explanations of conflict between different ethnic groups. 

It then examines in more detail strategies adopted by particular states to manage their diversity. The countries of India, America, France, Afghanistan, the UK, and Germany are focused upon, but students are encouraged to use material relating to other countries if they have particular knowledge of these cases.  

This module aims to:

  • offer a critical overview of a range of approaches to understanding concepts of nationalism and ethnicity
  • introduce students to the different strategies of ethnic conflict regulation
  • offer students the opportunity to assess critically how these strategies are applied in various states
  • encourage students to consider the comparative implications of the strategies discussed 
Transforming Welfare States

Welfare is the biggest spending area for all advanced states and, in relation to migration, healthcare and unemployment, for example, an area of intense controversy. This module explores the rapid changes that welfare states are undergoing, considers why this is happening and what are the limits of such change. The focus is relentlessly international and comparative.

This module aims to:

  • judge what has happened to change welfare states in the most recent period
  • assess the pressures for continuing change
  • evaluate the policy alternatives we now face

Students will develop skills in the evaluation of different theories of welfare and welfare change, a knowledge of the comparative world of differing welfare regimes and a capacity to judge theory against varying forms of empirical evidence.

The Rights and Wrongs of Climate Change

What should the world do about climate change? How should we proceed in the face of persistent claims that it won't do serious harm, or isn't occurring at all? 

Should poor countries as well as rich ones be obliged to cut their carbon emissions? Is it wrong for individuals to fly? What if you offset your flight? How much weight should we accord harm that may come many years in the future? 

Arguments about climate change raise many of the most controversial issues in contemporary ethics and political theory. This module will examine these debates and the broader questions they hinge on. This module aims to:

  • familiarise students with some of the key debates surrounding climate change
  • expand students' knowledge of moral philosophy, political theory and environmental ethics 

Optional American studies modules include

African American Photographic Culture
Fictions of America
Prohibition America
US Foreign Policy, 1989-2009 


You will have a broad knowledge of American culture, politics and society, and an understanding of important political theories and concepts. You will also have the ability to develop and sustain a reasoned argument and to critically analyse political situations. If you were successful in transferring to the four-year degree, your overseas experience will recommend you to employers.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2014, 94% of first-degree graduates in the School of Politics and International Relations who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £23,047 with the highest being £48,000.*

In 2014, 93% of first-degree graduates in the Department of American and Canadian Studies who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £19,857 with the highest being £28,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU first-degree graduates, 2013/14.

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Studying for a degree at The University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take. Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our Careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.  


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The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help.

Home students*

There are several types of bursary and scholarship on offer. Download our funding guide or visit our financial support pages to find out more about tuition fees, loans, budgeting and sources of funding.

To be eligible to apply for most of these funds you must be liable for the £9,000 tuition fee and not be in receipt of a bursary from outside the University.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International/EU students

The International Office provides support and advice on financing your degree and offers a number of scholarships to help you with tuition fees and living costs.


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