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Session: 2022/23

Last modified: 24/03/2022 09:02:02

Title of Module: Democracy & European Political Parties

Code: PLTC09020 SCQF Level: 9
(Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework)
Credit Points: 20 ECTS: 10
(European Credit Transfer Scheme)
School:School of Education & Social Sciences
Module Co-ordinator:M  McNally

Summary of Module

This module will introduce students to some of the most important debates on democracy and the role of political parties in contemporary European politics. The first part of the course will explore the theory and institutions of modern liberal democracy, considering the possibility that it is confronted with a crisis today. This provides the context for examining the role of political parties in this so-called 'crisis of democracy,' considering

(a) to what extent they have contributed to this 'crisis';

(b) or if have the capacity to provide solutions to the current difficulties of liberal democratic governance.

The second part of the module will provide students with an opportunity to study a number of specific political parties across European democratic systems within the above framework of analysis (for example, in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany). Key questions for consideration include:

  • How successful is the relevant party at fulfilling its democratic functions in its particular representative system?
  • Has this party contributed to democratic crisis in its particular national context?
  • How coherent, practical and sincere are its ideas for democratic reform and transformation and how successful has it been at achieving these?
  • To what extent are the party’s ideological commitments undermine or even threaten democratic governance?

The module concludes by considering, in light of the course, whether political parties can continue to make meaningful contributions to democracy and its revitalization today. 

Module Delivery Method
Face-To-FaceBlendedFully OnlineHybridCHybridOWork-based Learning
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Term used to describe the traditional classroom environment where the students and the lecturer meet synchronously in the same room for the whole provision.

A mode of delivery of a module or a programme that involves online and face-to-face delivery of learning, teaching and assessment activities, student support and feedback. A programme may be considered “blended” if it includes a combination of face-to-face, online and blended modules. If an online programme has any compulsory face-to-face and campus elements it must be described as blended with clearly articulated delivery information to manage student expectations

Fully Online
Instruction that is solely delivered by web-based or internet-based technologies. This term is used to describe the previously used terms distance learning and e learning.

Online with mandatory face-to-face learning on Campus

Online with optional face-to-face learning on Campus

Work-based Learning
Learning activities where the main location for the learning experience is in the workplace.

Campus(es) for Module Delivery
The module will normally be offered on the following campuses / or by Distance/Online Learning: (Provided viable student numbers permit)
Paisley:Ayr:Dumfries:Lanarkshire:London:Distance/Online Learning:Other:
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Term(s) for Module Delivery
(Provided viable student numbers permit).
Term 1


Term 2check markTerm 3


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Learning Outcomes: (maximum of 5 statements)

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

L1. Explain the theory and institutions of liberal democracy and evaluate the democratic functions assigned to political parties;

L2. Communicate effectively in oral form using appropriate technology the role of political parties in the crisis of democracy;

L3. Conduct an inquiry-based project into a political party, analyzing and evaluating its contribution to democratic politics;

L4. Communicate effectively in written form complex ideas related to the course content

Employability Skills and Personal Development Planning (PDP) Skills
SCQF Headings During completion of this module, there will be an opportunity to achieve core skills in:
Knowledge and Understanding (K and U) SCQF Level 9.

Developing an understanding of the relationship between the theory and institutions of liberal democracy and political parties;

Exercising critical understanding of the crisis of liberal democracy and the role of political parties in it;

Demonstrating a detailed and in-depth critical understanding of one political party and its contribution to democratic politics.

Practice: Applied Knowledge and Understanding SCQF Level 9.

Articulating well-sourced interpretations and evaluations of complex ideas related to democracy and political parties;

Applying acquired concepts to explain, generalize and evaluate the crisis of liberal democracy;

Applying acquired concepts and principles to interpret and evaluate the practices, proposals and policies of one political party in terms of its contribution to democracy;

Retrieving, interpreting, analyzing and organizing information acquired through library and online sources.

Generic Cognitive skills SCQF Level 9.

Defining and synthesizing complex ideas and their realization in institutional form;

Critical evaluation of political parties in relation to the democratic quality of their practice;

Reasoned and well-sourced argument informed by a variety of academic sources.

Communication, ICT and Numeracy Skills SCQF Level 9.

Effective oral and written communication skills;

The formal presentation of interpreted and critically analyzed information;

The use of IT systems (hardware and software) to interpret, evaluate and present information in a suitable form.

Autonomy, Accountability and Working with others SCQF Level 9.

Working independently towards specified targets and deadlines;

Working effectively on group tasks and taking responsibility for a specified role;

Demonstrating initiative and leadership in collective tasks;

Exercising autonomy and initiative in the conduct of a clearly-defined project.

Pre-requisites: Before undertaking this module the student should have undertaken the following:
Module Code:
Module Title:
Other:Society, Politics and Policy study at L8, or equivalent
Co-requisitesModule Code:
Module Title:

* Indicates that module descriptor is not published.

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Learning and Teaching
Student contact will primarily take place through a series of interactive lectures and seminar classes. Learning will be student-centred and scaffolded towards greater independent study in the latter part of the module. Students will be required to engage in active collaborative learning in both lectures and seminars through group-work discussion on set tasks. The aim is to provide students with the opportunity to construct informed understandings of the nature and extent of democratic crisis today and the role political parties - including a number of selected case studies - play in this crisis. A key focus will be placed on developing analytical skills through engagement with a variety of sources and academic texts relating to the subject area.

There will be a requirement for independent study in terms of seminar preparation and the assessments which is calculated in the suggested notional hours below. The audio-visual presentation will provide the opportunity to practice important transferable skills that are aligned to UWS institutional graduate attributes. These include presentation skills, collecting and synthesizing information, using IT, and oral reasoning skills important for preparation for the world of 21st century graduate professions. The case study will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate skills in independent research, critical analysis, writing, referencing and working autonomously.
Learning Activities
During completion of this module, the learning activities undertaken to achieve the module learning outcomes are stated below:
Student Learning Hours
(Normally totalling 200 hours):
(Note: Learning hours include both contact hours and hours spent on other learning activities)
Lecture/Core Content Delivery24
Tutorial/Synchronous Support Activity12
Asynchronous Class Activity58
Independent Study106
200 Hours Total

**Indicative Resources: (eg. Core text, journals, internet access)

The following materials form essential underpinning for the module content and ultimately for the learning outcomes:

Alonso, S. Keane, J. and Merkel, W. (2011) The Future of Representative Democracy. Cambridge: CUP.

Dalton, R. (2019) Citizen Politics - International Student Edition: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies. 7th Edition. Washington: CQ Press.

Dalton, R. (2013) Political Parties and Democratic Linkage: How Parties Organize Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Passarelli, G. (2015) The Presidentialization of Political Parties. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Stoker, G. (2016) Why Politics Matters: Making Democracy Work. 2nd Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

(**N.B. Although reading lists should include current publications, students are advised (particularly for material marked with an asterisk*) to wait until the start of session for confirmation of the most up-to-date material)

Engagement Requirements

In line with the Academic Engagement Procedure, Students are defined as academically engaged if they are regularly engaged with timetabled teaching sessions, course-related learning resources including those in the Library and on the relevant learning platform, and complete assessments and submit these on time. Please refer to the Academic Engagement Procedure at the following link: Academic engagement procedure

Where a module has Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body requirements these will be listed here:
All fulltime students (part-time and distant learning students should check with their programme leader for any queries) are required to attend all scheduled classes and participate with all delivered elements of the module as part of their engagement with their programme of study. Consideration will be given to students who have protection under the appropriate equality law. Please refer to UWS Regulations, Chapter 1, 1.64 – 1.67, available at the following link:

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Supplemental Information

Programme BoardSocial Sciences
Assessment Results (Pass/Fail) No
Subject PanelUG Social Sciences - Politics & Criminal Justice
ModeratorA Van der Zwet
External ExaminerJ Derounian
Accreditation Details
Version Number


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Assessment: (also refer to Assessment Outcomes Grids below)
Audio-visual Presentation 30%
Case Study 70%
(N.B. (i) Assessment Outcomes Grids for the module (one for each component) can be found below which clearly demonstrate how the learning outcomes of the module will be assessed.
(ii) An indicative schedule listing approximate times within the academic calendar when assessment is likely to feature will be provided within the Student Handbook.)

Assessment Outcome Grids (Footnote A.)

Component 1
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Presentationcheck markcheck mark  300

Component 2
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Case study  check markcheck mark700
Combined Total For All Components100% 0 hours

A. Referred to within Assessment Section above
B. Identified in the Learning Outcome Section above

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  1. More than one assessment method can be used to assess individual learning outcomes.
  2. Schools are responsible for determining student contact hours. Please refer to University Policy on contact hours (extract contained within section 10 of the Module Descriptor guidance note).
    This will normally be variable across Schools, dependent on Programmes &/or Professional requirements.

Equality and Diversity
Aligned with the overall commitment to equality and diversity stated in the Programme Specifications, the module supports equality of opportunity for students from all backgrounds and with different learning needs. Using Moodle, learning materials will be presented electronically in formats that allow flexible access and manipulation of content (part-time and distant learning students should check with their programme leader for any queries). The module complies with University regulations and guidance on inclusive learning and teaching practice. Specialist assistive equipment, support provision and adjustment to assessment practice will be made in accordance with UWS policy and regulations. The University’s Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Policy can be accessed at the following link:

Our partners are fully committed to the principles and practice of inclusiveness and our modules are designed to be accessible to all. Where this module is delivered overseas, local equivalent support for students and appropriate legislation applies.
UWS Equality and Diversity Policy
(N.B. Every effort will be made by the University to accommodate any equality and diversity issues brought to the attention of the School)

2014 University of the West of Scotland

University of the West of Scotland is a Registered Scottish Charity.

Charity number SC002520.