Module code: POL1025

Module Overview

The primary focus of the module will be on different aspects of representation. It simultaneously introduces students to some of the most relevant issues and debates surrounding challenges to representation across (liberal) democracies in different global and cultural contexts. Drawing on different perspectives from across political science, this module offers an opportunity to consider the ways in which citizens' opinions and preferences are constructed, as well as how politics and political agents account (or not) for these opinions and preferences. The module uses a mixture of case studies from different national contexts and largely rely on comparative evidence to explore key issues and deepen students' knowledge of representation and its challenges. The case studies are designed to build more general criitical thinking and analytical skills that students can use to form their own understanding of various aspects of representation and some of its principal challenges, being able to transfer learnings and skills across other modules in Levels 5 and 6 and further afield in their career.

Module provider


Module Leader

VAN HAUWAERT Steven (Politics)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 97

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 20

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

The relationship between what citizens want and what citizens get is a central concern in the study of democratic politics. The interaction between public opinion and government activity forms the foundation of any political regime, but most notably of representative democracy. The process of representation is therefore a crucial guideline for politics.

The principal focus of this module lies on the interdependent relationship between citizens and public opinion, on the one hand, and elected officials, policy-makers and their decisions, on the other hand. Ultimately, the goal of this module is to help students arrive at a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the forces that shape public opinion, the ways that those opinions are expressed in the public sphere, the process by which the public will is discerned and translated into policy outcomes and some of the main pressure factors on these relationships. Special consideration is given to various aspects of representation, such as issue specificities and political inequality more generally, as well as the role of electoral competition and political institutions. The final stages of the class also highlight some of the more prominent challenges to representation today focusing students' abilities on sustainable thinking and global and cultural intelligence.

The discussion of these questions does not necessarily focus on a single geopolitical context, but takes a rather comparative angle. In support of this, the module draws heavily from classic readings related to representation and democratic political theory more generally. It simultaneously relies on insights from modern political science and empirical practice, allowing students to examine representation and its challenges from a variety of perspectives.

Weekly lectures will cover the topics listed above. The seminars will provide an opportunity for students to consider relevant political materials and develop their own perspectives and understanding on the subject through intensive debate and discussion.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework COURSEWORK 1 40
Coursework COURSEWORK 2 60

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The module's assessment strategy aims to develop and test students' abilities to:

  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of key concepts and topics in the literature on and related to representation

  • Critically engage with the module material available on SurreyLearn and beyond

  • Present and develop clear arguments, within a limited word count.

  • Begin analysing global and national political issues and moving away from pure description.

  • Critically evaluate different approaches used in the reading material to help build own arguments and knowledge-base.

Summative assessment:

- Coursework 1 (40%). A critical essay-style review from core readings (first half of semester)

- Coursework 2 (60%). An essay-based assignment as described on SurreyLearn on pre-set questions (second half of semester). 

Formative assessment and feedback

A number of individual and group workshops with the students are designed to guide them throughout the different steps of the assessment.

Module aims

  • Develop students' understanding of the processes, theories and empirical regularities of political institutions and political behaviour in both comparative politics or international relations
  • Develop students' ability to employ critical thinking and demonstrate social scientific literacy, including basic quantitative literacy, preparing them for Level 5 and 6 modules and beyond, in their careers.
  • Develop students' basic capacity to use contemporary social science research methods to conduct rigorous research ton political phenomena, useful for further Level 5 modules on research methods and design.
  • Develop effective written communication skills, especially their ability to convey complex concepts and information in a clear and concise manner, geared towards employablility
  • Apply abstract theory and research methods to understand real-life contemporary political events and public policies, enhancing their global and cultural intelligence

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Communicate a thorough theoretical understanding of the structure and operation of representation KCPT
002 Demonstrate knowledge of the central questions, theories, approaches and findings in comparative representation research KCPT
003 Comprehend and critique contemporary political science research on representation to use further afield KCPT
004 Conduct basic but rigorous social science research related to public opinion, policy outcomes and challenges to representation, through digital and non-digital means KCPT
005 Discuss some of the main concepts and key debates associated with the dynamics of representation and some of its main challenges to reflect global and cultural intelligence KC
006 Identify some of the main models involved in the formation, expression and representation of citizens' opinions and preferences KCP

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:

Introduce students to a new topic, and provide room for student-led discussion of the topic. Provide initial contact with concepts and material that links to other modules in their curriculum, with a view to develop digital capabilities (researching material online), employability skills (knowledge) and widen horizons to understand issues of global and cultural diversity and sustainable thinking around representation and democracy, as well as become resourceful in their study skills and resilient in recognising the challenges of studying representation in modern democracies.

The learning and teaching methods include:

11 1-hr lectures

11 1-hr seminars

Additional captured content and digital resources are available via SurreyLearn for students to support their learning and skills development.

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: POL1025

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Public Affairs MPA 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
International Relations BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics and Sociology BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

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 2025/6 academic year.