Why Study Politics in Britain?

Why Study POLITICS IN BRITAIN? The study of politics - or political science, as it is sometimes called – is very well established in the UK. Almost every UK University contains a sizeable politics department.

Over 90 offer politics degrees (or a combined degree involving an element of politics), with most offering both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Of the 250 or so institutions that comprise the European Consortium of Political Research – a pan-European organisation of political scientists-57 are from the UK.

This is the largest single national grouping, and more than France, Germany and Italy combined. So a student studying politics in Britain is part of a large and vibrant community, with a huge range of conferences, journals and books, well established in the wider academic community.

The British Political Studies Association – the body that represents political science academics , and which this year celebrates its 50th birthday – has over 1000 members.

A world of choice!
Because of this, the choice offered by the British universities is vast. Between them, British universities offer almost 2000 separate undergraduate degree programmes in politics, covering almost every conceivable area of the discipline.

If you want to study Politics of Flower Arranging, then you’re probably out of luck. But if you want to study almost anything else, then it’s a fair bet that a British University somewhere will offer it.

Moreover, most British degree programmes are extremely flexible. Nearly all allow students customise their degree to suit their own needs and interests.

Although degrees will have some compulsory elements - to ensure that the core elements of the programme are covered – most allow for students to choose optional elements as well. And because many British departments are large, so too is the choice of modules.

My own institution, for example, offers around fifty different modules for final year students – and that’s just from within the politics department. Most universities also allow students to take modules from outside the department, where the range is even wider.

So if your main aim is comparative government but you’d like to try some political theory, most politics departments will be able to accommodate you.

Similarly, if you’re interested in international relations, but you want to get your hands dirty doing some quantitative research, then you shouldn’t have any problems.

Of course, it’s worth checking with the departments in which you are interested, just to check that they offer the sort of options that you want to take. Some smaller institutions, for example, may not offer quite as wide a range of options as the larger ones.

But this combination – the large range of institutions, the even larger range of degree programmes , al with an even greater range of modules - means that the student studying politics in Britain can choose a course of study perfectly tailored to fit their own individual requirements.

Not only that, but the teaching style in the UK is personal. If you are drawn to a particular department by the presence of a “name”, then it’s likely that the individual will be teaching you and be accessible to you.

For the most part, British academics are not locked away in their offices, far from students. Postgraduate supervision, in particular, is much more likely to be personal and direct.

Of course, some universities will be better than others 9and some academics better than others) but your supervisor in Britain is still very likely to be familiar to you.

An Open Environment
Also, for all the obvious reasons • the language, the shorter degree programmes, the established universities • British universities are pretty cosmopolitan places, with lots of students from overseas.

This is an advantage when studying any subject, because it means that British universities are used to coping with overseas students, and have the support services that you might need.

For example, nearly all universities will offer extra classes to allow students to develop their English. But it is a particular advantage when it comes to the study of politics, because it encourages an outward-looking and international approach to the study of politics. It prevents the inward, parochial approach.

In fact, there is only one down-side to studying politics in Britain, every time you tell people what you are studying you get the same response:

“Do you want to be the Prime Minister?” followed by a slight pause before they launch into a rant about what is wrong with politicians today.

For this reason, I always lie, and pretend I’m a chemical engineer; on-one ever starts telling you their opinions on chemical engineering! Most politics students don’t want to be prime minister, but plenty do want to go on to work in public affairs – including the media, interest groups, political parties or lobbying organisations – either in this country or elsewhere.

A degree in political politics can be a springboard into political life, if that is what you want.

Some universities offer vocational degrees which contain a work placement, where the student works for or in parliaments or pressure groups. But even without these, a degree in politics is an equally good way of getting onto graduate employment schemes.

In fact, for whatever reason you choose, a degree in politics is valuable. And there’s nowhere better to go than the UK. 

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