POL40540 Comparative European Politics

Academic Year 2023/2024

The aim of this module is to provide an advanced understanding of major theoretical, empirical and substantive issues in the politics of Europe, both at domestic and EU-levels. After examining the methodology of comparison, the module's primary focus is on the political systems of Europe in a comparative context, through the prisms of executive-legislative relations, political parties, elections, and patterns of political representation. Core themes include the emergence of illiberal as well as liberal variants of democracy, the origins of new populism and the differences between extreme-right nationalist and left-wing variants; central themes in the political discourse of European societies, particularly in the way democracy itself functions.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
- Understand the politics of Europe from a comparative perspective;
- Explain the strengths and weaknesses of a comparative approach to important political issues;
- Understand how the political and legal institutions of a variety of European countries function;
- Understand continuities and changes in the social, organisational, and ideational bases of political representation.

Indicative Module Content:

The modules takes a comparative approach to the politics of contemporary European societies, analysing the dynamics of domestic politics, mindful of the context of multilevel EU governance where appropriate.
Topics include classic themes in comparative politics: institutions of representation and constitutional government, political mobilisation and organization, as well as key themes in contemporary European discourse such as immigration and the causes and consequences of economic crisis.
The central focus of the module is on the extent to which democratic governance itself may be in crisis.
To this end, we consider topics such as problems of 'responsible' versus 'responsive' representation though parties (as Peter Mair called it), why we see new challenger parties on both right and left, what 'populism' means and what it betokens, liberal vs illiberal democracy, European integration vs European disintegration.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Teaching and learning approaches include the following:
- Some key points are available on slides prior to the class.
- Students read set core chapter(s) and paper(s) before the class, with a view to coming to class prepared to discuss one or more of the set papers, and to share thoughts and reflections on core issues cutting across the readings.
- Extra readings are included in the course outline, to engage with according to the student's interests.
- Classes are primarily discussion-based and involve a combination of small-group exchanges and large-group interaction.
- The first part of the class typically focuses on cross-cutting analytical themes; the second part zooms in on the politics of specific countries, one to be highlighted in each week of the semester. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Book review, details in the course outline Unspecified n/a Graded No


Assignment: Essay, details in the course outline Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Assignment: Weekly themed reports on the politics of individual countries; portfolio upload at end of term Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
In-Module Resit Prior to relevant Programme Exam Board
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

An outline or draft should be submitted prior to the first summative assignment, and formative (and ungraded) feedback is provided via Brightspace. This is not required prior to the second summative assignment, although students may do this if they wish. Individualized feedback as well as a grade is provided via Brightspace as soon as possible after each major assignment. The weekly activities can be completed either individually or in groups and the quality of the discussion in class provides the learning opportunity. All students may request individual meetings to discuss the comments on their written work, their progress, and any other concerns.