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Course overview

Are you passionate about politics or even want to be a politician? Do you want to make the world a better place? Our American Studies and Politics degree will provide you with the intellectual training to understand a range of political ideas. It will give you a deeper knowledge of how governments work in today's world. This course will sharpen your research, presentational and analytical skills, providing the ideal platform for your future career.

We offer a real variety of modules in both Politics and American Studies covering:

  • Understanding global politics
  • Parliamentary studies
  • International human rights
  • The American Presidency
  • Civil Rights
  • US Foreign Policy

You will also study American and Canadian film, music, art, history, literature and culture in the largest department of its kind in Europe.

You can also experience North America, by choosing to study abroad for a year at a US or Canadian university. You do this by transferring to the study abroad programme at the end of your first year. The option to study abroad is dependent on your academic performance and the availability of places.

More information

Why choose this course?

  • With our specialist advise and guidance you can study what excites you and follow your particular interests
  • Sharpen important career skills by developing independent thinking, initiative and team working
  • Improve your writing and communication and become an active researcher
  • As a joint honours student you will benefit from skills development and assessment methods from both subjects

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2021 entry.

UK entry requirements
A level offer ABB
IB score 32

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

If you have already achieved your EPQ at Grade A you will automatically be offered one grade lower in a non-mandatory A level subject.

If you are still studying for your EPQ you will receive the standard course offer, with a condition of one grade lower in a non-mandatory A level subject if you achieve an A grade in your EPQ.

Foundation progression options

You can also access this course through our Foundation Year. This may be suitable if you have faced educational barriers and are predicted BCC at A level.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

Teaching methods

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials

How you will be assessed

Your assessment will vary according to the topic studied. Typical assessment methods may include:

Assessment methods

  • Commentary
  • Dissertation
  • Essay
  • Presentation
  • Reflective review
  • Written exam

Contact time and study hours

As well as scheduled teaching you’ll carry out extensive independent reading and research. A typical 20 credit module involves between three and four hours of lectures and seminars per week. You would ideally spend 8-10 hours doing preparation work.

Your lecturers will usually be academic staff. Some of your classes may be run by temporary teaching staff who are also experts in their field.

Class sizes vary depending on topic and type. A weekly lecture on a core module may have 50-60 students attending while a specialised seminar may only contain 10 students.

You will have a personal tutor from the Department of American and Canadian Studies as well as a Joint Honours advisor in the School of Politics and International Relations.

Study abroad

International study year (optional)

  • Students registered for the four-year programme attend a major North American university for one year.
  • You pay reduced fees (Home/EU students - £1,385, International - 50% of the relevant international fee) during your year abroad.
  • We have a dedicated Year Abroad team who will help you with every aspect of your year, both before you go and during your stay. 

Find out more on our studying abroad webpage.

Placements

Become 'workplace-ready' with our Work Placement and Employability programme tailor made for students in the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies. It helps you develop skills and experience that allow you to stand out to potential employers.

You also have access to a wide range of work experience and volunteering schemes through the:

Modules

In year one you will typically take modules in international relations, political theory, and comparative politics, as well as American history and culture. You will learn to compare political institutions and behaviour in Western liberal democracies, gaining a thorough understanding of the history of political ideas.

You will take 120 credits of modules split as follows:

  • Compulsory core modules (120 credits)

You must pass year one but it does not count towards your final degree classification.

Politics core modules

Understanding Global Politics

This module provides an introduction to the study of international relations.

It focuses on some of the main theoretical approaches in the discipline: ways of explaining and understanding global politics, each of which has developed over time rival accounts both of the features of world politics on which we ought to concentrate and of the concepts that we ought to bring to bear in our analyses. It illustrates each of these broad theoretical approaches - and some of their pitfalls - by introducing the study of some 'structural' aspect of global politics, such as conflict, peace, institutions and globalisation.

The module therefore supplies the introduction to international relations that will be necessary for those who go on to study contemporary global affairs and more advanced modules such as those on international political economy, global security, or foreign policy analysis.

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
Problems in Global Politics

This module explores some of the major problems that exist in contemporary global politics. It introduces you 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 you to better understand global politics.

Introduction to Political Theory

This module introduces you 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 module will be text based.  

American studies core modules

Race, Power, Money and the Making of North America, 1607-1900

This module provides an introduction to the history of North America from European contact through to the start of the 20th century. It considers how the interactions of European colonizers with Native Americans shaped the future of the region. It also addresses the rise of Atlantic slavery, its development over time and the eventual emergence of distinctive African-American cultures. The module takes students through a broad chronological period which includes European colonization, independence and Civil War while inviting them to examine the influence and development of attitudes towards race, class, gender, democracy and capitalism.

Approaches to American Culture 1: An Introduction

This module aims to introduce students to some of the key facets of American culture across a broad historical range. The emphasis will be on texts and cultural artifacts beyond those encountered in the core modules on American Literature and American History. In this respect we are likely to focus on a variety of forms, which may include music, painting, cinema, television and various genres of writing. We will concentrate on important and influential cultural forms, demonstrating and exploring connections made across different time periods and, in particular, with developments in contemporary America. Ideally the module will help to open up ways for the students to move between different parts of the undergraduate programme, while also encouraging them to think critically about some of the assumptions that they bring to the subject.

Approaches to Contemporary American Culture 2: Developing Themes and Perspectives

This module aims to develop further some themes and perspectives encountered by students on Approaches to Contemporary American Culture 1. The emphasis will be on texts and cultural artefacts beyond those encountered in the other American Studies core modules. In this respect we are likely to focus on a variety of forms, which may include music, painting, cinema, television and various genres of writing. We will concentrate on important and influential cultural forms, demonstrating and exploring connections with developments in contemporary America. Ideally the module will help to open up ways for the students to move between different parts of the undergraduate programme, while also encouraging them to think critically about some of the assumptions that they bring to the subject.

American Freedom? Empire, Rights and Capitalism in Modern US History, 1900-Present

This module examines the history of the United States in the twentieth century. It will assess changes and developments in the lives of the American people who have faced the challenges of prosperity, depression, war, liberal reform, political conservatism, minority protests, multicultural awareness, and international power.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules may change or be updated over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for the latest information on available modules.

In year two, you will choose from a range of optional modules to begin tailoring your degree to your interests and career aspirations. In politics and international relations you will choose one core module and will have free choice of two additional modules. In American studies, you will take the core module 'Key Texts in American Social and Political Thought', and choose from a wide range of optional modules.

You will take 120 credits of modules split as follows:

  • Compulsory core modules (40 credits)
  • Optional modules (80 credits)

You must pass year 2 which counts one third towards your final degree classification.

American studies core module

Key Texts in American Social and Political Thought

From its colonial past to its present status as a global superpower, American history has been riven with debates about society and politics. This module will reconstruct these debates by analysing key texts in the history of American political and social thought, from the settlement period to the present. You will be introduced to debates over such perennial issues as religion, race, class, capitalism, gender, sexuality, and war, as they arose in different periods. We will use primary sources to probe and interpret these debates, and show how they continue to shape American society and politics in the present. This module is compulsory for Single honours students and Joint Honours History and Joint Honours Politics. It is available as an option for Joint Honours English, Film and Television and Latin American Studies students.

Politics optional modules

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.  

Politics and Public Policy in China

This module provides a comprehensive introduction to the politics and public policy of contemporary China. You will be familiarised with useful approaches to the study of Chinese politics.

In the first part of the module, you will develop knowledge and understanding of China's leadership and succession, the structure of the party-state and the role of its major branches, central-local relations, and crisis and epidemic management, from the SARS to Covid19.

In the second part, you will compare and contrast the genesis of mainland China's rudimentary welfare state with the example of Bismarck's German Empire, which is widely credited as the birthplace of the welfare state in Europe.

Following an overview of the policy-making cycle and public administration in China, you will explore the challenges of implementing regulatory and redistributive policies under authoritarian conditions. You will put insights into practice by critiquing public policies in China, ranging from labour and migration through education to health.

How Voters Decide

Elections are the foundation of representative democracy. The act of voting creates a link between citizens' preferences and government policy. This means that the choices voters make have important consequences.

But, how do voters make these choices? Are they based on the policies that parties promise to enact in the future, or is it more about the policy successes (or failures) that parties have experienced in the past? Does the party's leader make a difference? Can campaigns or the media's coverage change how voters see their electoral choices? Finally, given the importance of elections, why do many citizens choose to abstain from the process altogether?

How Voters Decide will explore the choices that citizens make when they participate in elections and it will provide students with the skills necessary to evaluate arguments about electoral behaviour in Britain and beyond.

International Politics in the 20th Century

The module examines issues and themes in 20th-century international politics, from the eclipse of the 19th-century European diplomatic order to the collapse of the global bipolar system at end of the Cold War.

The course is taught from the disciplinary standpoint of international relations rather than that of international history. Therefore, various theoretical perspectives are brought to bear on each of these themes. For instance, we discuss:

  • the broad differences between the disciplines of international relations and international history in respect of explaining and understanding the international politics of the 20th century
  • questions of causality in international relations with reference to the onset of the Cold War
  • questions about political psychology with respect to the Cuban missile crisis
  • questions about prediction and the purposes of theory in relation to the end of the Cold War
British Party Politics

Political parties were central to the British political system throughout the 20th century and remain so at the beginning of the 21st. Despite persistent criticism, and perennial claims of their 'decline', parties are an essential component of any student's understanding of British politics and remain the central means by which the electorate passes judgement on the government. 

This module examines the structure, ideology and history of British political parties. Topics covered include how the major and minor parties fought the 2015 general election, along with a discussion of how parties adapt to change.

Crises and Controversies in European Politics

This module aims to provide you with a systematic introduction to current debates in the comparative analysis of European politics.

The module adopts a thematic approach and focuses on both traditional fields of comparative enquiry, such as the study of party systems and representation, elections and voting behaviour, party competition and government formation, executive-legislative relations, as well as emerging fields of interest, such as political participation, extreme right politics, immigration, political corruption and the political and social challenges of globalisation and European integration.

The diverse experiences of liberal democracy in European countries and the political and social changes that they have undergone are discussed thematically in the seminars. In the seminars, a country-expert system is used whereby you are assigned a particular country to cover. The module covers both long-established democracies in Western Europe and newer democracies in Central and Eastern Europe.

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 you to deepen your 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.  

International Political Economy and Global Development

This module studies the historical development of international political economy with a specific focus on development as well as the different ways this can be theoretically analysed.

While some speak about the internationalisation of the temporary order, others think in terms of more drastic changes and define them as globalisation. Similarly, while some are very optimistic that increasing free trade administered by the WTO will lead to general development, others argue that this is precisely the mechanism, with which underdeveloped countries are kept in a situation of dependence.

Based on the teaching of background information on different IPE theories and the immediate post-war period, it is these kinds of questions the module will be addressing. The module builds on the first year modules Understanding Global Politics and Problems in Global Politics, challenging you to deepen your theoretical as well as empirical knowledge in IPE.

It is also a preparation for the research-led third year modules, which require a much more developed capacity of analysing empirical developments from a range of different theoretical perspectives.

Social and Global Justice

'Justice' has been one of the key themes of political theory at least from the time of Plato, as questions of who gets what, when, and why are absolutely central to political discourse. Should people be able to keep what they earn with their talents, or is it only fair to take wealth away from those who have it to give to those who have little? Do different cultures deserve equal 'recognition'? 

Recently these questions of distributive and social justice have taken on a global dimension. Does the developed world have obligations to distant others, and do they have rights against it?

This module will look at these questions from a contemporary perspective, looking at ideas about justice from thinkers such as the utilitarians, John Rawls, Thomas Pogge, Susan Moller Okin, and Bhikhu Parekh.

Political Parties and Party Systems Around the Globe

This module will offer an overview of political party development and the functioning of party systems in democratic states around the world, with a special focus on post-transitional democracies in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Applying a variety of analytical concepts, theoretical approaches and empirical indicators to the study of party politics, the module will highlight the institutional and sociological determinants of party organisation development and system stability as well as the consequences of party failure and party system collapse.

American studies optional modules

Immigration and Ethnicity in the United States

This module examines the history of immigration to the United States from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. We trace the making and remaking of immigrant communities, cultures, and identities from the nineteenth century to the present day. You will analyse models of race, ethnicity, culture, and nation by focusing on the perception and reception of immigrant groups and their adjustment to US society. We will ask questions such as: How have institutions and ideologies shaped the changing place of immigrants within the United States over time? How have immigrants forged new identities within and beyond the framework of the nation state? And how has immigration transformed US society?

The American Pop Century

This module surveys the history of American popular music in the 20th century, focusing on the major genres and exploring the artistic, cultural and political issues they raise. In addition to examining the music’s aesthetic qualities genre by genre, the focus will be on key developments within the music industry, on the ways in which commercial and technological changes have influenced the production and consumption of music, and on the ways in which musicians and audiences use pop music to engage with American culture and society. We’ll spend quite a bit of time listening to and analysing music, but you do not need any specialist musical expertise or knowledge to take the module.

American Radicalism

American radicals have been dismissed as impractical, wild-eyed, and subversive - even "un-American"- although many of their most visionary aims have been realized. This module will consider these paradoxes, beginning with the American Revolution in the late 18th century. 19th century subjects will include the abolitionists, early feminism, utopian socialism, anarchism, and farmer populism. 20thcentury subjects will include the Socialist Party in the 1910s, the Communist Party and the anti-Stalinist left in the 1930s, opponents of the Cold War, the 1960s New Left, Black Power militancy, and more recent radicalisms, including the gay liberation movement, women's liberation, and resistance to corporate globalisation.

The US & the World in the American Century: US Foreign Policy, 1898-2008

This module offers a critical introduction to understanding America's place in the world. It provides historical and political analyses of U.S. foreign relations, looking at the themes and traditions that have shaped America's increasing influence in global affairs from the late nineteenth century to the present day. From the war of 1898 to the conflicts of the early twenty-first century, it examines how America's involvement abroad has changed over time. How can we understand the evolution of America's relationship with the wider world; what interests and themes have lain behind the execution of American power? The course analyses traditional political and diplomatic issues, as well as the link between foreign and domestic policies, the role of foreign actors and private organisations from religious groups to citizen organisations to NGOs that have served to shape America's actions abroad. It also engages with important contemporary trends in the historiography of U.S. foreign policy, including those that emphasise the significance of race, gender, emotions, and religion.

Contemporary North American Fiction

This course will consider the contexts and development of contemporary fiction and the novel in the United States and Canada since the 1990s. It will do so by positioning literary works within their wider historical, political and cultural context. The course will examine the dominant ideas and concerns of a number of fictions and novels by writers from a range of ethno-cultural backgrounds. Issues for discussion will include the impact of race, ethnicity, gender, class, generation and sexuality on North American fiction and the novel; the bearing of technology on contemporary fiction; and various debates about the nature of the historical novel in the twenty-first century.

Presidential Rhetoric - Genres and Media

This module examines developments in American presidential rhetoric.

It begins with early presidents who set the generic conventions (Washington’s Farewell Address) or became models (Lincoln: Second Inaugural/Gettysburg Address) and established the President as an international leader (Woodrow Wilson).

But the core of the module is the impact of changing media from FDR’s radio “fireside chats” through JFK and Reagan’s use of television to Barack Obama’s and Donald Trump’s use of social media.

Much of the focus will be on speeches and press conferences and the interaction between the White House press corps and the President, his speech writing staff, and press secretary.

America's Borders: Culture at the Limits

This module offers a hemispheric approach to North America by focusing on the history and culture of two significant borderlands regions, the Canada-US border and the Mexico-US border,as well as providing a general introduction to border theory and comparative approaches to the borderlands.

The module adopts a multi- and interdisciplinary approach to the border as a place, culture and concept and moves from the colonial period into the twenty-first century. We will analyse a diverse range of historical, literary and cultural texts (testimony, fiction, poetry,drama, film, television, art, architecture, music and performance) and engage a series of critical debates about the nature of cultural and ethnic encounter, race, nation and empire. 

American Violence: A History

This module seeks to analyse the patterns and prevalence of violence in the USA. You will consider theories such as its origins in frontier settler societies and this may allow comparative study of Canada. You will understand the relationship between violence and the gun control debate and the related issue of American ideological antipathy to state power. You will also look at the celebration of violence as a source of conflict resolution and examine the US government’s use of violence as an instrument of foreign policy. Possible topics include violence incidental to settler-native people contact or plantation slavery, the right to bear arms in the Constitution, the resort to force within US foreign policy including atomic weaponry, ‘state terrorism’, and the military-industrial complex.

African American History and Culture

This module examines African American history and culture from slavery to the present through a series of case studies that highlight forms of cultural advocacy and resistance and thus indicate how African Americans have sustained themselves individually and collectively within a racist, yet liberal society. These will illustrate the resilience of African American culture via music, literature, art and material culture. Examples may include the persistence of African elements in slave culture, the emergence of new artistic forms in art, religion and music during the segregation era, and the range and complexity of African American engagement with US public culture since the 1960s across art, literature and popular culture. Weekly topics might include material culture in the Gullah region of South Carolina; or the growth of urban black churches in the North during the period of the Great Migration highlighted by the development of Gospel choirs and radio preaching.

North American Regions

This module will deploy the concept of "region" and, more broadly, “place” to explore key North American texts— drawn primarily from the spheres of film, television and literature. The notion of the "regional" will be applied expansively as well as conventionally to incorporate everything from the urban to the suburban/exurban; border territories; the transnational. Possible areas of study may include the American West; the Pacific North-West; New York City; the black inner city “ghetto”; "mountain" people and the Appalachians; Hispanic-America; first nations; French-Canada; Texas; Chicago; New Orleans; California; and the transnational impact of extensive US military occupations (post-war Japan; South Vietnam; twenty-first century Iraq). This module is compulsory module for Single Honours students and Joint Honours English, Film and Television and Latin American Studies students. It is also available as an option for Joint Honours History and Joint Honours Politics students.

Business in American Culture

This module introduces students to the conflicting views about business that can be heard echoing through American literature and culture in the last two centuries. These views are evident when literature and culture directly represent the business culture-its executives, managers and employees, or the physical and mental conditions of employment and entrepreneurship; they are also evident in the narrative unconscious of works appreciated for qualities other than their treatment of business. This module aims to try and understand not only what drives American culture's preoccupation with business, but also to study the various strategies used as literature and culture represents what the module calls the discourses of business: the way that business as a theme is written and talked about in the United States by presidents, by social critics, by journalists, and by writers and other cultural producers; the way that the historical accumulation of this collective input has fashioned a set of rules that govern the way successive generations can think about business; the way that specialised and professionalised languages of business become tropes and metaphors to be used outside of a strictly business environment. The module examines these discourses in a variety of representational forms from the mid-nineteenth century through to the present day: shorts stories and novels; newspapers, magazines and illustrations; speeches, autobiographies and memoirs; film and television.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules may change or be updated over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for the latest information on available modules.

You can apply to spend your third year studying in North America, transferring to a four-year course and returning to Nottingham for your final year to complete your course.

This is not compulsory - if you opt not to study abroad, you will complete your degree in three years. Eligibility is dependent on satisfactory performance in your first year and subject to availability.

(If taking year three abroad)

In your final year, you will undertake a dissertation on a topic of your choice in politics or American studies. You will be allocated a dedicated supervisor and will also take optional modules from a wide selection to make up your remaining credits.

You will take 120 credits of modules split as follows:

  • Compulsory core modules (minimum of 20 and maximum of 40 credits) - research dissertation
  • Optional modules (minimum of 80 and a maximum of 100 credits) – a range of options are available covering aspects of North American History and Culture and Global Politics.

You must pass year 4 which counts two thirds towards your final degree classification.

Core modules

Either:

Dissertation in Politics and International Relations

This module enables you to undertake a sustained piece of research and analysis into a subject within the discipline of politic and international relations.

Or:

Dissertation in American and Canadian Studies

This module involves in-depth independent study of a subject in American and Canadian Studies. It encourages both student-centred and student-initiated learning. The topic you choose must be appropriate for your course and must be approved by the module convenor. You are assigned a supervisor with expertise in your chosen area of study. The completed dissertation should be 6,500 words in length for the 20 credit module and 10,000-12,000 words in length for the 40 credit module. The 20 credit dissertation is for one semester only and the 40 credit version is year-long.

Recent dissertation titles include:

  • To Ban or Not to Ban: Changing Motivations Behind Efforts to Censor African American Literature in America’s Public Schools, 1976-2018
  • The Development of Television in the Canadian North and its Role in the Preservation of Inuit Culture
  • The Feminist Justification for the Afghanistan War: The Cooperation Between the Bush Administration and the Feminist Majority Foundation
  • "The Teeth of the World are Sharp”: James Baldwin’s Protest Novels
  • Towards Humane Borders: Activist and NGO Responses to the Militarisation of the US-Mexico Boundary
  • “A Blended World … A Safe Space for Everybody”: A Case Study of Underground Ballroom Culture
  • “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues”: The Empowerment of Black Female Blues Singers - Romance or Reality?
  • “Older Arts and Newer Technology”: Cultural Recoding in Bharati Mukherjee’s Desirable Daughters

Politics optional modules

Ideas and Politics in Contemporary Britain

The aim of this module is to explain and assess the nature and role of ideas and ideologies in British politics. It examines how and why the policies of the 'mainstream' British parties (Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) have been affected by ideas and ideologies, on the one hand, and by political pragmatism, on the other. 

It also explores the ideas, ideologies and policies of minor parties and 'new social movements' (ecologism; fascism, Nazism and racism; feminism; multiculturalism, and nationalism) and their significance for the study and practice of politics in Britain today.

The War in Iraq

This module will comprehensively deconstruct the causes, conduct and consequences of one of the most controversial wars of the modern era: the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It will assess how the road to war was paved at the United Nations and through the formulation of a 'coalition of the willing'. It will then critically evaluate how the swiftly concluded invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein gave way to a vicious insurgency.

The adaptation of the US military to the demands of counter-insurgency warfare will be analysed, as will British military performance in southern Iraq. The module will end by critically assessing the effectiveness of the 'surge' strategy under the implementation of Gen. David Petraeus, and evaluating the utility of 'analogical reasoning' through comparisons with the Vietnam War.  

Politics Placement

This module involves a part-time placement (one day a week) in an external organisation, and is aimed at developing hands-on work experience and employability skills in a workplace relevant to students of politics. Pre-placement training will be provided via three half-day workshops at the beginning of the module.

Each placement will be arranged by the work placement officer. Placements will be provided by organisations involved in private, public and third sector organisations, such as the civil service, charities and political parties.

Departmental mentoring will take the form of a weekly drop-in tutorial with the module convenor, in which experiences are shared and work is undertaken on the assessment tasks. Group presentations will occur during the final four hour workshop, at which time each group will critically reflect on their experiences of the ethos and goals of their host organisation.

China in Global Politics

China, as the new and upcoming superpower, has become a focal point of global attention. This module introduces you to the major topics in China’s interaction with the evolution of China’s foreign policy since 1949 as well as its role in the international political economy.

The module will explore how domestic politics and other developments have contributed, on the one hand, to the rise of China as a great power of the first league and to the emergence of a 19th-century European-type of nationalism, on the other.

Much of the module will be an examination of China's political and economic relations with major powers and regions such as the US, Asia, the EU, the UK, Russia and Africa, the responses towards China from these powers and regions, and major issues in their relations. This module will also survey China's role in critical global issue(s) as well as the global order and governance.

How to Save a Planet: Green Political and Ethical Theory

Is economic growth good? Should we control world population, and if so, how? Are Extinction Rebellion’s tactics justified? Is it wrong to fly away on holiday? Should we ban the internal combustion engine? Human beings’ growing impact on the earth raises many new questions.

This module will explore some answers from green political and moral philosophy, including ways that existing theories fall short. This exploration will begin with the study of Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ (1962), often taken as the fountainhead of the ‘modern’ environmental movement, before tracing the development of green political theory through to contemporary environmental ethics.

Green political and ethical theories will be illustrated through application to concrete cases such as climate change, environmental direct action, and pollution.

Political Challenges and Multiple Crises in the Global Economy

The global economy presents a wide variety of political challenges and can create multiple types of crisis for states and the actors within it. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the whole system under pressure and revealed its fragility.

This module analyses some of these challenges and crises, which range from sovereign default to the global free trade system and the impact of climate change, to help us understand and explain the international political economy. It draws on scholarship from the fields of international relations theory, international political economy, security studies, and economic history to provide students with a more nuanced understanding of global politics.

Politics of Democratic Backsliding in East and Central Europe

This module studies the politics of democratic backsliding in East and Central Europe. During the last three decades the region of East and Central Europe has undergone a historically unprecedented development of democratic transition from communism, the establishment and consolidation of democratic institutions, political parties and party systems, as well as the integration into Western political, economic and security alliances, most notably the European Union. Recent trends towards democratic backsliding in the region have cast doubt on the success of post-communist transformation.

This module focuses on the politics of democratic backsliding in East and Central Europe in the context of contemporary debates surrounding the de-consolidation of democracy across the globe.

Populism, Elites and Democracy

Populism is a contentious term. Over the last few decades we have witnessed a surge of ideologically diverse populist movements with strong democratically elected leaders acting in the name of ‘the people’ across the globe. For some, populism is illiberal, anti-pluralist and a danger to democracy; for others, it is the ultimate democratic act of popular sovereignty.

This module examines the controversial relationship between populism and democracy. It surveys key theoretical developments in democratic theory and the populist literature to compare mainstream and alternative definitions/conceptualisations of populism. The modules examines the problematic relationship of elites (‘the 1%’) – whether financial, social or political – in relation to liberal democracy and the masses (‘the 99%’). It explores concepts and events key to the populist surge, such as ‘post-truth’ politics, the polarisation of politics, the ‘friend/enemy’ relation, ‘us versus them’ relation, ‘elites’, ‘democratic leadership’, ‘representation’, the 2019 prorogation of the British Parliament, and ‘identification’.

You will have the opportunity to examine a range of different progressive and regressive populist leaders/associations, such as: Donald Trump, Vikor Orbán, Hugo Chávez, Brexit 2016, the UK general election 2019, the Yellow vests movement, the Danish People’s Party, Fidesz, the People’s Party, Occupy, Syriza, Podemos, Jobbik and Alternative for Germany.

Responding to Violent Extremism

This module will bridge the gap between academic study and pragmatic policy. It will consider how extremist ideas come into politics through extremist versions of ideology and religion, based on theories of prominent writers in the field.

It will consider political ideologies’ reliance on power and the role of violence through past case studies such as anarchism, Nazism and religious extremism. The module will also look at responses to terrorism utilising a case study approach that explores the United Kingdom’s and United States of America’s methods.

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.

Theories of the Modern State

The state is the predominant site of power and authority in the modern world. Where modern states do not exist there is usually civil war or occupation; where they are ineffective, politics, society and economy tend to be unstable. But the modern state is also itself a site of violence and coercion in the name of which much suffering has been inflicted on those subject to its power, at home and abroad. Modern politics, then, simply cannot be understood unless we also understand the modern state.

By taking this module, you will become familiar with some of the most important theories of the modern state in the history of political thought, from Bodin and Hobbes, through Hegel and Weber, to Lenin, Robert Paul Wolff and Carole Pateman. You will come to appreciate how the power and authority of the modern state have been characterised, justified and repudiated during the modern era.

Secret Intelligence and International Security

This module is 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. 

Disasters, Politics and Society

Disasters are defined by the United Nations as ‘a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope with using its own resources.’ The failure successfully to reconcile human behaviour with environmental threats has, throughout time and in different places, led to multiple disasters.

This module will examine the relationship between natural hazards and human society, how and why disasters happen and how the impact of disasters can be ameliorated. With reference to cases across the globe, there will be a focus on how social life has mitigated, adapted and evolved in the face of environmental hazards.

We will examine the social, economic and technological processes that mediate the relationship between human society and the natural world. We will examine key themes such as governance, technological innovation, urbanisation and migration, gender, culture and identity, global patterns of production and consumption, health and pandemics, race and class to understand why disasters impact on different people in different ways.

The EU as a Global Power

Against the backdrop of increasingly tense EU-US relations, Brexit, and rising nationalism in Europe, this module analyses the European Union's international role. It first introduces concepts and decision-making processes related to EU foreign policy both, by Member States and EU institutions. In particular, we analyse the processes within the European Communities, and the CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policies) / CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policies) frameworks.

The module then critically assesses security and economic policies towards Africa, the Middle East and China. Themes to explain the nature of contemporary EU foreign policies include: European integration, intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, neoliberalism and ethical foreign policy, development aid (including for health and education) and diplomacy, post-colonialism, as well as military and civilian means for conflict-management.

Gender and Political Representation

What does it mean to be represented in politics? This module uses gender as a prism through which to view intersectional debates on political representation. We ask what women’s representation is, what it looks like in political institutions, how gender norms shape access to and participation in political institutions, why women's representation matters for policy outcomes, how it impacts on social movements and voting behaviour, and how it matters in global governance.

Our approach is broadly comparative, focussing on theories and case examples from both high-income countries in the Global North and low- and middle-income countries in the Global South. Our wide selection of countries also allows us to consider what role women’s participation can have in quality of governance and democracy. We recognize that global norm diffusion is key to boosting women’s representation, from gender quotas and gender mainstreaming in the UN's Beijing Platform for Action to the gender equality provisions in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and our discussions will also be of interest to students of international relations. The module engages with diverse perspectives and methodologies and will enable students to develop transferable skills in analytical literacy that can be applied across the social sciences.

Middle East and the World

This module covers:

  • Introduction – background history, empire and its importance, Sykes Picot
  • 1910-20s - WW1 and Balfour Declaration
  • 1930-40s inc. Palestine, WW2, beginning of the Cold War and creation of Israel
  • Cold War and the Middle East - Egypt and Suez, and Arab-Israel conflict
  • Turkish history and politics – including foreign policy
  • Nationalism – Kurdish and Pan-Arab
  • “Terrorism” – Iranian revolution, Iranian hostage crisis, Palestinian issue, Lebanon, Libya, plus the end of the Cold War – USSR to Russia, Chechen wars x2, Arab-Israel again. Islamic state - religion/terrorism/nationalism nexus
  • 1990s - First Gulf War and policing Iraq (including Iran-Iraq war 1980s). Authoritarianism as a legacy of the Cold War – Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya
  • 2000s - Iraq War
  • 2010s: The Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil war
  • Legacy and contemporary issues – Iran nuclear issue, Yemen, Saudi Arabia
Russia and Great Power Politics: From Lenin to Putin

"Russia is a Great Power or it is nothing” – this belief has dominated Russian foreign policy thinking in the past as it does today. The module develops an understanding of Russia’s international politics in historical perspective – from the October Revolution in 1917 until today. Why is being a Great Power so important to Moscow and how successful has the country been in achieving and maintaining this status in the international system? What is Russia’s self-perception as an international actor and how does this contrast with the country’s international image?

Within the framework of relevant theoretical approaches to the study of international relations, the module will focus on a wide range of historical events and developments that will lead to a better understanding of Russia’s role in the world today. Themes to be discussed will include, amongst others:

  • Stalinism and Soviet foreign policy
  • Gorbachev’s ‘New Thinking’
  • Military power and foreign policy
  • Russia and its neighbours
  • The annexation of the Crimea
  • Human rights and international relations
Special Relationship? Anglo-American Security Relations

The Anglo-American so-called 'Special Relationship' has provoked controversy since the term was coined after World War Two. To some commentators it has represented an attempt by the UK to hide its decline by lofty rhetoric and becoming the 'poodle' of a Superpower. To others, it has been a relationship that has served the interests of both countries and provided a foundation for Western cooperation.

This module explores the salient aspects of a relationship that has been built around security, conventional and nuclear. On the one hand, it investigates areas of collaboration, such as nuclear and intelligence sharing, where the US and the UK have worked closely together. On the other, it uncovers issues that have provoked tension between the two sides and it seeks to understand the depth of these disagreements.

The first part of the module looks at the period of the Cold War, when both countries were focused on the threat from the Soviet Union. The second part of part of the module looks at the post-Cold War period and how the relationship has fared amidst the US-led War on Terror and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

American studies optional modules

Prohibition America

This module explores the United States' bold but disastrous experiment with Prohibition during the period 1918 to 1933, with particular focus on crime, disorder and policing, as well as Race, class, gender, and religion.

We examine pre-1920 temperence, women's reform movements, and state-wide restrictions; changing patterns of alcohol consumption and the rise of the Anti-Saloon League; and the reasons for the shift to national prohibition, along with passage of the Eighteenth Amendment and Volstead Act.

We consider the impact of the outlawed liquor trade on US society, politics, and culture during the 1920; the rise of bootlegging and smuggling; changes to the vice trades and rise of crime syndicates, and the inglorious end of Prohibition.

US Foreign Policy, 1989 - present

An introduction to the key institutions, structures and processes that combined to produce American foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. You'll analyse the role of the bureaucracy, Congress, public opinion and the media to understand how US foreign policy is formulated and conducted. You'll spend around three hours per week in lectures and seminars if you study this module.

Popular Music Cultures and Countercultures

This module examines the role played by American popular music in countercultural movements. We focus on the ways in which marginalised, subordinate or dissenting social groups have used popular music as a vehicle for self-definition and for re-negotiating their relationship to the social, economic and cultural mainstream. We explore how the mainstream has responded to music countercultures in ways that range from repression to co-optation and analyse how the music and the movements have been represented and reflected on in fiction, film, poetry, journalism and theory.  Among the key moments examined are the folk revival and the 1930s Popular Front, rock 'n' roll and desegregation in the 1950s, rock music and the 1960s counterculture, and postmodernism and identity politics in the music of the MTV age.

History of the Civil Rights Movement

This module examines a range of documents and scholarly controversies pertaining to the Civil Rights Movement between 1940 and 1970. Documents will include public and organisational records, photo-journalism, speeches, memoir and personal papers.

Controversies will include those relating to the chronological limits, spatial dynamics, and gender politics of the movement, as well as those relating to the movement’s goals and achievements.

Ethnic and New Immigrant Writing

This module will consider the development of ‘ethnic’ and new immigrant literature in the United States from the late 19th century to the contemporary era.  You will examine a range of texts from life-writing to short fiction and the novel by writers from a range of ethno-cultural backgrounds, including Irish, Jewish, Caribbean and Asian American. Issues for discussion will include the claiming of the United States by new immigrant and ‘ethnic’ writers; race and ethnicity; gender, class and sexuality; labour and economic status; the uses and re-writing of American history and ‘master narratives’; the impact of US regionalism; how writers engage with the American canon; multiculturalism and the ‘culture wars’; and the growth of ‘ethnic’ American writing and Ethnic Studies as academic fields.

North American Film Adaptations
This module examines North American short stories and novels and their film adaptations, paying attention to the contexts in which both the literary and the cinematic texts are produced as well as to the analysis of the texts themselves. In particular, the module takes an interest in literary texts whose film adaptations have been produced in different national contexts to the source material.
Varieties of Classic American Film, Television and Literature since 1950

What is a film, television or literary classic? How has this term come under pressure and fractured over the past half century or so? In this module you will consider the concept of the mid and late twentieth century American “classic” in a variety of contrasting and overlapping contexts. These contexts will be elaborated on the basis of their formal, generic, period and/or cultural designations that will cover university and exam curricula reading lists, popular opinion and widespread critical consensus (such as the currently prevalent view, for instance, that the early twenty-first century constitutes a ‘golden age’ of US television).

Photographing America

This module examines the development of photography in America from roughly 1945 onwards. The module breaks the period down into themes and considers:

1. the transformation of ‘documentary’ photograph;

2. the emergence and importance of colour photography;

3. experimental, conceptual and post-conceptual photography;

4. issues of serialism and seriality;

5. landscape photography;

6. the photobook

7. analogue/digital

The module will draw on the work of a diverse range of photographers, including Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Ed Ruscha, Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, Robert Heinecken, Stephen Shore, Todd Hido, William Eggleston and Doug Rickard.

Recent Queer Writing

This module explores lesbian, gay, transgender and queer writing, focusing especially on the search for agency and the representation of gender and sexuality in selected contemporary texts. The majority of writers studied will be Canadian, although some American examples will also be included. The module is multi-generic, engaging with forms including novels, short fiction, life writing, poetry, drama and graphic narratives. Topics for discussion will include: 

  • LGBTQ sexuality;
  • constructions of masculinity and femininity;
  • the politics of representation: the extent to which writing can enable agency as subjects or citizens;
  • intersections between race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, and the construction of gender and sexual identites
  • writing for LGBTQ youth
  • literature studies will be contextualized in relation to relevant debates in feminist, queer, post-colonial and transnational theories

Representative authors for study may include James Baldwin, Jane Rule, Dionne Brand, Dorothy Allison, Shyam Selvadurai, Tomson Highway, Leslie Feinberg, and Ivan Coyote.

American Madness: Mental Illness in History and Culture

Experiences of and ideas about madness, insanity, and mental illness have varied and changed radically within American history and culture. This module will survey and analyse these changes from the mid-19thcentury to the present. We will consider how and why medical authority, gender, and class have all impacted the way in which mental illness is understood, and consider the significance of changing approaches to treatment. Sources used on this interdisciplinary module range from medical accounts and psychiatric theory to memoir, fiction and film. The aim is to place representations of mental illness in their historical context, and to ask what they reveal about related ideas about identity, conformity, social care and responsibility.

Sexuality in American History

From the Puritans to Playboy, sexuality has been a focal point in the culture, politics, and society of the United States. This module will examine Americans' differing attitudes over time toward sexuality. Representative topics covered may include marriage and adultery, homosexuality and heterosexuality, nudity, abortion, birth control, prostitution, free love, and rape.

The Special Relationship, Spit and Slavery- Britain and the US 1776-1877

This module encourages students to reassess the Anglo-American relationship during an era of major upheaval in both nations (1776-1877).

Taking students from the American Revolution through to the end of the Reconstruction era the module will challenge learners to examine how events and ideas forced Britons and Americans to reconceptualize their relationship.

Through the module, students will engage with concepts crucial in the formation of the modern world including race, ethnicity, liberty, republicanism, class, gender, manners and reform.

Troubled Empire: The Projection of American Global Power from Pearl Harbor to Covid-19

This module will challenge students to critically engage with the period that Henry Luce referred to as the “American Century”. It will cover a range of case studies between Luce’s injunction and the subsequent US entry into World War Two in 1941 and the recent twin-crises marked by the 2008 Great Recession and the Covid-19 global pandemic. In doing so, it will prompt students to consider both the projection of American power on a global scale after 1941 and the considerable challenges that this project faced. Incorporating a series of focused case studies and reflections on the wider contexts relating to them, it will give students first-hand experience of weighing up the practical challenges US policymakers faced and the way that historians have subsequently assessed their efforts and understood their actions. 

Film and Television Genres

You'll be introduced to the key concepts and theoretical work on specific film genres. Each year, the module investigates a particular genre or cycle such as action cinema, television drama, low-budget film productions and TV movies, and more. Combined with what you have learnt on previous modules, you will look at genre in the context of production and consumption, spending around five hours a week in workshops and seminars.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules may change or be updated over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for the latest information on available modules.

Fees and funding

UK students

£9250
Per year

International students

£19,000*
Per year
*For full details including fees for part-time students and reduced fees during your time studying abroad or on placement (where applicable), see our fees page.

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland starting your course in the 2021/22 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our Brexit information for future students.

Additional costs

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles.

If you choose to take an optional placement module, the cost of travel will be dependent on location of placement and proximity to term-time address.

Please note that these figures are approximate and subject to change.

Year abroad

Reduced fees (subject to change)

If you choose to spend a year abroad, you will pay reduced fees, currently set at:

  • Home/EU students: £1,385
  • International: 50% of the relevant international fee

Costs incurred during the year abroad

These vary depending on country, but always include:

  • travel
  • accommodation
  • subsistence
  • insurance

Depending on the country visited you may also have to pay for:

  • visa
  • additional administration fees and study supplies in the host country or organisation

There are a number of sources of funding:

  • Student Finance Loan
  • Means-tested travel grant
  • University of Nottingham bursaries and scholarships

Your access to funding depends on:

  • the course you are taking
  • your residency status
  • where you live in term time
  • your household income

You may be able to find paid work or take up an internship on your year abroad.

For more information please contact our Year Abroad Officers.

Scholarships and bursaries

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. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £1,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* 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

We offer a range of Undergraduate Excellence Awards for high-achieving international and EU scholars from countries around the world, who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers. This includes our European Union Undergraduate Excellence Award for EU students and our UK International Undergraduate Excellence Award for international students based in the UK.

These scholarships cover a contribution towards tuition fees in the first year of your course. Candidates must apply for an undergraduate degree course and receive an offer before applying for scholarships. Check the links above for full scholarship details, application deadlines and how to apply.

Careers

At Nottingham you will acquire a strong academic foundation and a range of excellent transferable skills, such as the ability to study independently and communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing. You will leave us with specialist knowledge of international issues and political systems that will enhance your global career prospects.

Our graduates develop careers across the private, public and charitable sectors. Private sector destinations include print and television journalism, broadcasting, television and film production, advertising, marketing and personnel as well as the commercial and financial sectors. Some go into party politics as parliamentary assistants, councillors in local government and even MPs; others work for the civil service and in research and data analysis.

Third-sector careers include working for non-governmental organisations, charities and development agencies. Some graduates opt for further study or take vocational qualifications in postgraduate law or teaching.

Students taking the four-year option with a year abroad will be able to demonstrate adaptability, independence, initiative, and a unique understanding of North America, among other desirable qualities for employers.

We recognise that graduates often need more than just a great degree to stand out from the crowd. As such, we help provide valuable placement and internship opportunities for politics and international relations students. We currently have over 25 placement partners providing 100+ placements a year, including internship opportunities in Westminster and even overseas.

Find out more about skills and experience gained and career destinations of American and Canadian Studies and Politics students.

Average starting salary and career progression

82.9% of undergraduates from the School of Politics and International Relations secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £26,736.*

* HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020, using methodology set by The Guardian. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

76.7% of undergraduates from the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary was £22,668*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

 

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.

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers (Ranked in the top ten in The Graduate Market in 2013-2020, High Fliers Research).

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" I chose to study at Nottingham because it’s one of the best in the country for an American Studies degree and the campus is beautiful. The pastoral care from the department is excellent, especially during the sometimes-difficult transition in first year. There are regular career talks open to all students about different paths you can take after your degree, given by people established in the industry. From one of these talks I have established an informal mentorship in my field of interest. "
Annastasia Graham, BA American and Canadian Literature, History and Culture

Related courses

The University has been awarded Gold for outstanding teaching and learning

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2017-18

Disclaimer

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.