Governance and Political Development MA


Fact file

MA Governance and Political Development
1-2 years full-time
Entry requirements
A first degree with at least an upper second class honours, or an equivalent qualification
Other requirements
Mature applicants without standard entry requirements but with substantial and relevant experience may be considered.
6.5 (with no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


This course will introduce you to a variety of political systems and development across the world with the opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad.
Read full overview

The MA Governance and Political Development is a unique programme that will allow you to take advantage of the strengths of the School of Politics and International Relations in comparative politics.

The course focuses on the different models of political institutions, processes and development across the globe. Making use of our strength in Asian politics and especially Chinese politics, we thereby use the comparative methods to better understand the varieties of contemporary governance.

The course links into four interdisciplinary research centres of the school: the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies, the China Policy Institute, the Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Economic and Political Research, and the Methods and Data Institute.

The programme is offered as a one-year full-time course, based entirely at Nottingham, or a two-year full-time course, where you spend the first year at Nottingham and then have the opportunity to spend semester one of your second year at a partner European institution or at our China or Malaysia campuses. This allows you to directly experience the comparative method of studying at different institutions and living in different countries.

Our partner institutions are the universities of Aarhus, Cologne, Vienna, Gothenburg, Konstanz, and the Central European University in Budapest.

The programme will:

  • introduce you to a variety of theoretical perspectives on democratic and authoritarian regimes and their empirical manifestation
  • invite you to consider the merits of different methodological tools (qualitative and quantitative) for studying different facets of democratic development and allow you to specialise in the comparative method
  • introduce you to debates surrounding the economic and cultural pre-requisites of democracy
  • encourage you to think broadly and critically about the possibility of democracy in different parts of the world, and the challenges in crafting democratic regimes
  • include a semester overseas if you are on the two-year course, allowing you to take advantage of advanced methods training and the opportunity to study in a different country

Key facts

  • Ranked in the UK top 15 for research power in the latest Research Excellence Framework
  • Top 100 worldwide for politics and international relations in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017
  • Committed to excellence in teaching, having won 13 Higher Education Academy awards
  • Expert academics who contribute to public debate through national and international media, including such publications as The Independent, The LA Times and Le Monde

Course details

This course is available for full-time study only, over one year or two years.

One-year programme

You will be based in Nottingham and complete your dissertation over the summer.

Two-year programme

You will be based in Nottingham for your first year.

Semester one in the second year is carried out at a partner European institution or at our China or Malaysia campuses. Semester two in the second year is devoted to a research project, which must normally be carried out at Nottingham in order that you benefit from regular supervision and the facilities available on campus. The summer period after the end of semester two contains no formal teaching.

You will be required to take taught modules to the total of 180 credits, with a 15,000-word dissertation worth 60 credits, bringing the total number of credits to 240 for the two years of study.


Assessment will be via a combination of written exams, essays, book reviews, presentations and your dissertation.



Year one


Comparative Democratic Development

At the dawn of the 21st century, the status of democracy across the world is uncertain. In Central and Eastern Europe, it has become the only game in town, but in other regions like Russia or the Arab World it has suffered reversals.

To make sense of these events, this module examines and is structured around some of the big, important questions that have long interested political scientists around the questions of democracy:

  • What is democracy? 
  • Why are some countries democratic and others not? 
  • How did democracy emerge in different countries? 
  • What difference does democracy make for people's lives? 

The module adopts a global and comparative perspective, by focusing on countries in specific regions and by studying different data-sets on the design, functioning and influence of democratic institutions.

Designing Political Enquiry

The module is designed to allow you to develop a critical understanding of the methodological issues involved in designing and undertaking political science research and to strengthen their ability to read and evaluate political science literature more generally.

The first part of the module focuses on issues of research design in political science, in particular, the use of the comparative method in political science research. It exposes you to a broad range of methodological issues involved in designing, conducting and writing up research based on a relative small number of cases in areas of comparative politics, international relations, and public policy. Topics that are addressed in the module include issues involved in developing a research question, problems of conceptualisation, measurement, and strategies and approaches to causal theorising in small N research.

The second part of the module addresses various methods of generating and processing data for political science research. Methods that are covered include the use of documentary sources, observation, and various forms of interviewing.



You will take 80 credits with a minimum of 60 credits to be taken within the school.

Comparative politics modules

The Politics of South Asia

This module introduces you to the politics of modern South Asia, focusing on Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The region is growing in international importance both strategically, economically and politically. The module evaluates alternative explanations for the different democratic trajectories of these states, despite their shared colonial past, and the interaction between 'tradition' and 'modernity' in developing political institutions. 

In so doing it examines the different strategies of nation building adopted by the elites of these very diverse states, and how and why the considerable ethnic and religious diversity of the region has impacted on the 'quality' of democracy. It concludes with an examination of the international politics of South Asia, and considers future scenarios for the region.

Global Asia

This module examines major themes, debates and issues related to the study of politics and international relations in the specific regional context of Asia. It will explore key features and themes in Asian politics including political systems, political economy and development, political values and ideas, as well as pan-Asian themes and international relations/global politics including intra-regional, trans-regional and international issues. It combines theoretical perspectives with historical developments and contemporary issues in Asian politics.

Topics will include:

  • democracy and democratisation
  • authoritarianism and hybrid regimes
  • "Asian values" and humanitarianism, nationalism, political economy of development
  • gender relations
  • affirmative action
  • terrorism, non-traditional security and human security
  • resource politics
  • nuclear Asia
  • environmental challenges
  • globalisation
  • Asia on the global stage
Gender and Development

This module examines major themes, debates and issues in the field of gender and development. We will focus on the relationship between ideas and concerns of gender (in)equality and processes, policies, and practices of economic, social and political development.

The module will explore the key literature and major debates in the field of feminist political economy, linking academic, policy-related and practitioner/activist debates. It will also explore how political, economic and social processes of globalisation and development intersect, impact, and are in turn influenced by gender relations in the South.

Political Representation in the EU

Content to be confirmed.

Europe and the Developing World

This module analyses the decision-making process and current policy issues in both economic (first pillar) and political and security (CFSP: Common Foreign and Security Policies, and ESDP: European Security and Defence Policies) policies within the European Union.

We will examine theories, concepts and case studies to explain the nature of contemporary EU policies towards Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Themes include: 

  • theorising EU security policies
  • instruments of security policies
  • issues such as post-colonialism
  • intervention
  • ethics of intervention
  • just war theory
  • asylum policies
  • migration policies
  • the fight against terrorism and WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)
International Political Economy

The study of international political economy is essentially interdisciplinary, based on the premise that the political and economic domains are inextricably intertwined in the international system.

The module will introduce you to the main approaches to international political economy, provide a brief overview of the post-war international political economy, before the main focus is turned towards globalisation and the related structural changes in the global economy. This will include a theoretical engagement with the concepts of globalisation, regionalisation and regionalism as well as an analysis of empirical changes in the areas of international trade, finance, production and development with a particular emphasis on the current global economic crisis.

The module will further address the question of the relationship between globalisation and the individual instances of regional integration including the EU, NAFTA and APEC, before it looks at recent formations of resistance to globalisation expressed in demonstrations against G8 meetings (eg Heligendamm 2007) as well as developments around the European and World Social Forums.

When Does Russia Expand and Why?

Russia's annexation of the Crimea will strike many Westerners as merely the latest chapter in a long history of Russian imperialism. Does Russia always expand when it has the opportunity? Or is its expansion, when it occurs, explained by contingent factors?

This module will examine Russia's expansion and contraction from the 17th century to the present, and the causes underlying it.

Approaches to Quantitative Human Rights Research

Why are human rights well protected by some states while others have a notoriously bad repression record? Understanding the conditions under which governments protect human rights is crucial for the field of international relations and policy makers alike.

This module will discuss current quantitative research on political and economic determinants of human rights. We will address the state of the art work on personal integrity rights, civil and political rights, socioeconomic rights and labour rights. The main goal is to rigorously review and assess published research and methodological approaches to identify research gaps and formulate research questions which will advance the human rights literature.

At the end of the class you will have a clear understanding about cutting-edge quantitative human research, how to select appropriate methodological approaches and how to design your own human rights project. 

European Union Politics

This course analyses how the growing competencies of the European Union and changing nature of the integration process affect politics at both the national and European levels.

We look at how the EU affects the role of political institutions in the traditional chain of representation in the member states and the wider challenges it poses to democracy. The main themes include: 

  • the current problems of political representation
  • the impact of the EU on the traditional role of parties as representatives of civil society interests
  • the preferences of public opinion with respect to the EU
  • the impact of the EU in national and European elections, the sources and expression of Euroscepticism
  • the democratic deficit in the EU
  • referendums and EU democracy
  • the future of the European Union

Non-comparative politics modules

Terrorism and Insurgencies

This module is designed to acquaint you with two of the most important aspects of contemporary international security: terrorism and insurgencies.

Both threats have become more acute in recent years and much intellectual, military and economic capital has been used up in efforts to contain them. In taking this module, you will begin to understand the nature of the threats posed by terrorists and insurgents. You will understand how such threats come about and why individuals are drawn towards exercising the use of force against certain governments, their representatives, and the citizens of those governments. 

You will also understand the nature and scope of counter-insurgency practices. You will discuss what works and what does not and the controversies encountered in implementing certain measures. By the end of the module, you will be conversant with, and have an appreciation of, factors which affect the security of many people in today's world.

Theories and Concepts in IR

The War on Iraq and the US and British invasion of the country in 2003 has led to huge tensions in geopolitics. At the same time, the supposed 'threat' of international terrorism and continuing financial turmoil in the world economy have both brought to the fore the global politics of co-operation and confrontation.

Whilst it might be possible to agree on the signifcance of these events, the explanation and/or understanding of them is dependent on prior theoretical choices. The purpose of this module is to make you aware of the diversity of approaches to international theory.

Within International Relations (IR) theory there exist highly divergent interpretations and applications of key concepts (eg power, the state, agency, structure, and world order) as well as contested views about the practical purpose underpinning theories of world politics. The overall aim of the module is to provide you with a solid theoretical and conceptual grounding of this diversity. As a result, it will be possible to recognise not only how international theory informs policy-making and practice but also, perhaps, how truly contested the underlying assumptions of world politics are.

The Road to Guantanamo

This module explores the way in which state authorities have treated prisoners of war, civilian internees and detainees from circa 1860 - the dawn of the modern era of international humanitarian law - to the present day. It examines developments in state practice and international law relating to the detention of 'enemy' individuals, and explores different national, ideological and cultural approaches to the issue of captivity.

The module is explicitly historical in character and methodology but will draw on international and political theory where appropriate to explain state and individual behaviour.

Contemporary Warfare

This module aims to explore the dynamics of conflict in the modern world. It will primarily address the increased role that non-state actors play in global security. It will introduce you to empirical analyses of numerous terrorist and insurgent groups, as well as to theoretical understandings of sub-state violence in the post-9/11 world.

This module will enable you to engage with the concepts of resistance and rebellion in international relations and widen understanding of the multiple levels of global security.

War, Peace and Terror

This module explores the blurring boundaries between war and peace, and the implications for understanding security.

The first section assesses the changing nature of warfare, including theories of asymmetric warfare and terrorism; the second section examines the 'dark arts' of international relations, from assassination to psychological warfare, operating in the grey area between war and peace.

With large scale conventional warfare increasingly unlikely, the third section considers 'new' security issues in peacetime such as poverty and disease.

Grand Strategy

This module examines how nations have sought to integrate political, economic, and military goals to preserve their long-term interests. It analyses a variety of national strategies in order to understand how geography, history, culture, and finance influence decision making at the highest levels of government in times of war and peace.

The module draws on scholarship from the fields of international relations, diplomatic history, and strategic studies to provide students with a more nuanced understanding of great power politics.

Justice Beyond Borders

The module introduces and explores the concept of distributive justice on an international and intergenerational basis. Standard accounts of distributive justice typically operate upon the assumption that the relevant principles are framed by, and apply within the borders of the nation-state.

This module examines how justice has traditionally been conceptualised, and challenges the idea of the nation-state as providing limits to the proper operation of principles of justice. Justice between nations, and between generations, as well as between humans and non-humans, forms the focus of this module.

The programme for dealing with these themes includes: international theories of justice, with particular reference to faminie relief and humanitarian intervention; intergenerational justice and personal identity, 'biocentric' theories of justice; animal rights; and, direct political action.

The Theory and Practice of Diplomacy

This module focuses on the changing nature of diplomatic practice, together with the range of conceptual tools that seek to explain this international activity. Its focus is contemporary.

It provides a political analysis of new developments such as the public diplomacy, the decline of resident embassies and foreign ministries, and the role of regional/multinational organisations and summitry. It also encourages you to consider future theoretical and practical developments in this field.

Ethics, Killing and War

This module examines the ethics of war. It focuses on the justice of war (jus ad bellum) and justice in war (jus in bello) from an analytical perspective. The module introduces and explores the questions of when (if at all) war can be legitimate, and what bar to actions (if any) exist in the conduct of war.

Its subject-matter is contemporary in nature, drawing on recent developments in the just war tradition and applied ethics more generally. It uses examples of recent armed conflict (from WWI to Gulf War II) to illuminate and test these positions.

Specific issues examined include: the criteria of a just war; aggression and self-defence; terrorism; the killing of non-combatants; the Doctrine of Double Effect; pacifism; consequentialism and deontology; political obligation; and, nuclear deterrence. Conflicts covered include the Gulf Wars; Kosovo; Vietnam; Korea; various Israeli conflicts; WWII; and WWI.

War, Peace and Political Thought

This is an advanced course in the history of international political thought. It is structured in two parts.

The first is concerned with an approach to the history of international theory, influential in the field, which insists on placing theorists in one of three 'traditions'. We interrogate the integrity of these traditions, in each case, by examining the work of at least two writers who are said to belong squarely to the tradition, or indeed to have founded it.

In the second part of the course, we look at a number of respects in which international relations theorists and political theorists are turning their attention to the history of international thought in order to illuminate some aspect of contemporary global politics.  

Political Utopianism

Utopianism lies at the heart of politics. Utopias and dystopias provide the visions, aspirations and directions of future politics. They also offer criticisms of the political present and predictions for the future. They anticipate the good life and explore fears for a nightmare existence.

This module seeks to explore the concept of utopia and we will look at utopian and dystopian theory, fiction, film and social experiments.

Secret Intelligence and International Security

An introduction to the concepts and practices of secret intelligence and its place within international security. The module is split into three sections.

The first examines conceptual issues and models; the second explores some of the roles of intelligence in the 21st century; and the third examines how intelligence actors can actively shape international relations. These are highly relevant issues, which are regularly in the media and in which students are interested. 


Research methods training

Quantitative Political Analysis

This module introduces you to the estimation, quantification, and coding of political data as well as the descriptive and inferential analysis of data using probabilistic and statistical techniques.

The module will also provide you with hands-on skills of data analysis and will enable you to write professional academic reports on these analyses.

Political Discourse Analysis

This module introduces you to discourse analysis as a method of studying political language. The module is rooted in the interpretive approach to political science. It works from the premise that attention to the material inputs to political decision-making only makes sense in the context of a thorough awareness of the beliefs informing political practice.

The module unfolds in two parts. In the first part you are introduced to discourse analysis as method, evaluating different approaches and looking at examples of discourse analytic texts in politics and international relations.

The second part of the module operates as a series of student-led workshops. You choose a case study and work step by step each week through the different stages of a discourse analysis. By the end of the module you should be critically aware of the power of language in international relations and should be comfortable using discourse analysis to analyse the language of politics.


Year two

Semester one

Subject to receiving an average of 60% in year one, you will progress to study at one of our European partners, or our China or Malaysia campuses, where you will take 60 credits or their equivalent.

Those who do not receive an average of 60% in year one will remain in the UK and will take 60 credits; 40 credits of which will be taken within the school.

Semester two

You will complete your dissertation. 

The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



Funding information is available on the school website and can also be found on the Graduate School website.

International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of masters scholarships for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your masters course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.



The MA Governance and Political Development will give you the necessary knowledge and skills for a career in a range of sectors, such as working for international organisations (eg World Bank, UN, OECD, International IDEA), NGOs (eg Oxfam), political foundations, think tanks, civil service, political institutions (eg parliament, ministries), and political parties. It is also a stepping-stone for further doctoral studies, as the programme provides you with a sound methodological training.


We offer a range of local, national and international placement opportunities, which may be paid or voluntary, part-time alongside your studies or longer placements during University vacations.


If you wish to continue your studies after completing this course, we offer a range of research opportunities with PhD supervision in most subject areas.

Employability and average starting salary

90% of postgraduates from the School of Politics and International Relations who were available for employment secured work or further study within six months of graduation. £22,429 was the average starting salary, with the highest being £29,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career and professional development

Whether you are looking to enhance your career prospects or develop your knowledge, a postgraduate degree from the University of Nottingham can help take you where you want to be.

Our award-winning Careers and Employability Service offers specialist support and guidance while you study and for life after you graduate. They will help you explore and plan your next career move, through regular events, employer-led skills sessions, placement opportunities and one-to-one discussions.

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