What is the course about?
The last few years have raised questions about our political institutions: are they still fit for purpose? To find out, we shall explore the British constitution and uncover the way that it really works, including the impact of Brexit. We shall discuss proposals for reform and ask, as we enter the 2020s, whether the country needs a period of quiet stability or radical change in the way it is governed.
What will we cover?
• What is a constitution? Why do they matter? How is Britain different?
• Key principles: parliamentary sovereignty, the separation of powers, the rule of law
• Commons: Who become MPs? What is their job? What are their powers?
• Lords: Who are the peers? What is their job? What are their powers?
• Government: Who are ministers, the Cabinet and PM? What do civil servants do?
• Devolution: Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly
• Judiciary: Who becomes a judge? What are their powers? Are they political?
• Human Rights: What is the ECHR? What is the Human Rights Act? Do they work?
• Electoral Reform: What is PR? What is AV? What are the pros and cons?
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Define a constitution and explain key characteristics of the British constitution
• Explain key principles, assess their importance, and whether they apply to Britain
• Understand the House of Commons and evaluate proposals for reform
• Understand the House of Lords and evaluate proposals for reform
• Assess the powers of ministers and the role of civil servants
• Explain what powers are devolved to Belfast, Edinburgh, and Cardiff
• Discuss the role of the judiciary and the extent to which they are political
• Evaluate the Human Rights Act, ECHR, and a ‘British Bill of Rights’
• Critically explain alternative electoral systems, such as PR and AV.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course and no prior knowledge is required.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Each class is broken down into bite sized explorations of key topics, introduced by the tutor and followed by class discussion; in addition, the tutor introduces the sesssion and sums up at the end to make sure you fully understand the important points. You will be provided with an introductory reading list, but this is designed to enhance your study and, while we encourage you to read up each week, you can follow, enjoy, and contribute to the discussion without doing so.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No other costs. Please bring a pen and notebook to class if you wish to make notes.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please see our range of Politics courses on our website.