POL20220 Introduction to Political Institutions

Academic Year 2022/2023

This course takes as its starting point the new literature on institutional economics and comparative political economy, with a focus both on the basic theory and on contemporary empirical research. Institutions have proven important for economic and social development. The course will look at how institutions shape the incentives of economic agents, and how this influences economic outcomes in various contexts. Much discussion nevertheless revolves around which types of institutions matter for economic growth and development, and to what extent these institutions change over time.

The course covers these and other topics including: the role of geography, corruption; crony socialism & capitalism; causes and consequences and how to measure crony socialism & capitalism; democracy and economic development; understanding democracy deficit in the middle-east and failed states, discussed recently in institutional economics.

The objective of the course therefore is to give students a solid foundation in the basic concepts of new institutional economics, as well as a first impression and understanding of the topics studied and the methodologies used at the frontier of institutional research today.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

 Basic understanding of theories on Institutions.
 Should be able to describe the causes and effects of institutions, how institutions evolve and why institutions vary.
 Should understand how various institutional arrangements work, with an emphasis on economic and political institutions
 Should be able to identify recent empirical work that aims at evaluating and quantifying the mechanisms of the models you study in this course.
 Students should be able to use of some of the course contents in their academic work, for example in the analyses of their Bachelor’s thesis.

Indicative Module Content:

Key topics covered will be:

1. The concept of institutions. What are they and why they are important
2. Types of institutions
3. How institutions shape economic and political outcomes
4. How are institutions shaped?
5. Who shapes institutions and why?
6. Why explains variation in institutions across the world?
7. Do institutions really matter?

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The teaching and learning approaches used in this module will be as follows:

1. Class room lectures.
2. Intensive class discussions.
3. Critical writing; Review of published research work.
4. Case study-based learning.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

This module is designed specially for students who are either interested in or intend to specialise in the fields of Development Studies, Political Economy, Development Economics and Politics of Development. Therefore, this module is recommended for those students who are interested in the afore-mentioned fields.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Multiple Choice Questionnaire: There will be a one-hour MCQ class test covering 25% of the overall weighting towards the end of the trimester. Week 12 n/a Graded No


Essay: Take home essay paper Unspecified n/a Graded No


Class Test: There will be a one-hour mid-term class test covering 25% of the overall weighting. Week 7 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

A detailed written feedback is provided to each student on their term paper assignment (i.e., take home exam) within 20 working days of the deadline for the assignment in according with university policy.