Surrey University Stag


Module code: POL3089

Module Overview

This course directly engages with debates on and challenges to democratic development. At its foundation, this includes a discussion and definition of democracy, its contours and the different forms and interpretations of democracy. Building on this, the course then engages in a careful examination of how different phenomena pressure or challenge democratic principles. The course divides these pressure points into two broad categories and subsequently considers how internally- and externally-derived challenges affect democratic functioning. The discussion as a whole will focus on the impact throughout a variety of geo-political contexts.

This course provides an occasion for students to acquire in-depth knowledge of how different social, economic and political phenomena put pressure on democratic functioning. In addition to introducing students to the core principles of liberal and representative democracy, students will acquire insights into a wide variety of large-scale issues and debates that characterise various regimes, like democracies and autocracies. More specifically, this course focuses on a number of pressure points within and challenges to today’s democracies, ranging from various forms of crisis to terrorism, populism and polarisation. The examination of these different challenges will be tightly structured and designed to help students gain a deeper and more substantial understanding of both empirical and normative questions, as well as comparative politics more generally.

Module provider


Module Leader

VAN HAUWAERT Steven (Politics)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

JACs code: L200

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 100

Seminar Hours: 22

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

This module directly engages with debates on and challenges to democratic development, therefore indicative content includes:

  • Definitions of various forms of democracy and their interpretations.

  • Current affairs and case studies on pressures or challenges of the democratic principles.

  • Introduction of two broad categories (internal and external challenges) that affect democratic functioning

  • Draw inspiration from various contexts around the world

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework ASSIGNMENT 1 (1000 WORDS) 20
Coursework FINAL ASSIGNMENT (3000 WORDS) 60
Coursework ASSIGNMENT 2 (1000 WORDS) 20

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

- Two high-quality blog posts to be submitted for publication, each 1,000 words and 20%

- Critical review of week’s assigned literature – 3,000 words, 60%

Formative assessment and feedback

Students will receive feedback on both blog post entries . Time will be set aside in seminars to discuss aspects of the assessment. Where students are asked to complete small tasks in advance of - or during - classes, verbal feedback will be given to the group as a whole.

Module aims

  • Build on existing knowledge of democracy and democratic institutions
  • Identify the core components of (representative) democracy in a wide range of geo-political settings
  • Engage in debates about democratic functioning
  • Gain an extensive understanding of how and why democratic principles are challenged
  • Increase the awareness of the subsequent implications of democratic challenges
  • Understand how democracies can be further consolidated
  • Provide insights into important contemporary issues and debates
  • Practice the understanding of comparative methodologies

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Competently engage in an academic discussion on the principles of representative democracy KCPT
002 Enhance understanding of how democratic functioning can be impacted by a wide variety of challenges KCPT
003 Link specific challenges to representative democracy to societal change, social trends or political cycles CPT
004 Develop the critical and analytical skills of students, while further stimulating the development of cognitive and verbal skills CPT
005 Challenge students to think differently CT
006 Independently develop a democratic challenge of choice, apply and combine relevant arguments and literatures to its explanation and propose potential solutions KCPT
007 Work both independently and in group, demonstrating initiative, organisation and time-management PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Encourage critical engagement with political leadership from a range of perspectives

  • Facilitate the analysis of endogenous and exogenous challenges by encouraging the use of transferrable research skills

  • Encourage independent research between classes

The learning and teaching methods include:

Workshop sessions (2 hours per week x 11 weeks) to include:

  • Lectures

  • Prescribed reading

  • Group discussions

  • Data collection sessions

  • Independent study

  • Research and analysis of primary material.

It may also include the preparation of short tasks prior to the weekly seminars (information to be given to students in the preceding seminar), and the support through digital resources and captured content on SurreyLearn.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: POL3089

Other information


Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.