Programme Specification: MSc Political Theory

Programme Specification: MSc Political Theory
1. Awarding Body
2. Details of accreditation by a
professional/statutory body, e.g. ESRC;
BPS etc
3. Name of final award
4. Programme Title
5. Duration of the course
6. Based in the Department/Institute:
7. Relevant QAA subject benchmark
8. Application Code
9. First written/last amended
Political Theory
12 months full-time, 24 months part-time
Government Department
August 2004
10. The programme aims to:
Provide an academically challenging education, in a research-active environment, to
intellectually able students from a wide range of countries;
Provide access to the wider context of the social sciences;
Enable students intending to pursue higher degrees to develop the necessary analytical
and theoretical sophistication, and breadth and depth of understanding, within their field of
Enable students who go directly into non-academic careers (e.g. government, the
voluntary sector, international organisations, business and media) to become articulate, clear
thinking individuals, able critically to analyse complex bodies of material;
All programmes aim to provide advanced postgraduate education, and, in the case of RT
programmes, research training in the social sciences, of the highest standards;
Programmes in Government and IR aim to provide specialist study opportunities to
students with a first degree in a cognate area;
Study both analytically and historically core political ideas and theories;
Concentrate on problems of ethical justification in politics;
Examine debates over ideas such as justice and freedom in the history of political
Cover ancient, modern and contemporary concepts and thinkers.
11. Programme outcomes: knowledge and understanding; skills and other attributes
Students completing Masters degrees should possess:
An advanced, critical, understanding of the main theoretical and policy debates within
their chosen field;
Specialist knowledge of at least one sub-field of their chosen area;
The ability to work independently, employing an empirical and analytical knowledge of
their field in the planning and presentation of succinct, precise arguments, written and oral;
The ability to design and independently execute a ‘long essay’/’dissertation’ on an
approved subject of their own choice within their field.
In addition, students completing the MSc Political Theory will be expected to have a firm
understanding of the last three points set out in section 10 above.
Information relating to careers can be accessed here
12. Teaching, Learning and assessment strategies to enable outcomes to be achieved
1. Teaching
1.1 Design
The programme comprises a compulsory methods course (GV 405) five optional half unit
courses from a total list of 14 and a dissertation. The methods course is designed to
encourage students to explore the foundations of different approaches to political theory,
from historical analysis, positive analytical theory and normative political philosophy in
order to locate themes and approaches in political theory within the broader context of
debates in social science. This course is geared towards building the methodological selfconsciousness that we expect in graduate dissertations.
Students also take five specialised options out of a list of 14. The list can vary depending
upon staff availability. These options are designed to provide students with a detailed
coverage a narrow and sharply focused range of debates or literature. On completion of
each course students should be in a position to construct a viable research project for
more advanced study. Students will acquire and advanced knowledge of a variety of
specialist fields in political theory.
1.2 Modes of Delivery
The Department and the Political theory Group believe that the most appropriate form for
advanced study of political theory is the seminar or small class. Practical considerations
sometimes mean that classes might extend up to 20 members, but where courses are of
particularly high demand the seminar convenor will run more than one group, subject to
constraints of the timetable. The standard size of most seminars will be 15. We do not
offer formal lectures at the graduate level, although were appropriate teachers might open
a seminar with an extended lecture type introduction.
Half Unit seminar courses involve 20 hours contact teaching in ten seminars with and
additional four hours for revision in the summer term.
1.3 Staff Expertise
The Department has one of the largest concentrations of Political Theorists in the United
Kingdom and offers a considerable depth of expertise running from historical and
classical theories to formal social choice theory. All the teaching is conducted by full
members of the department, there are no teaching assistants involved in teaching at this
2. Learning
2.1 The role of seminars
Seminars are used to offer students the chance to deepen their understanding of their
reading by writing, presenting and critically discussing papers on topics set out by the
course convenor. The format of discussion and dialogue is that most suitable to
cultivating the analytical and critical skills required to do political theory. The seminar
format provides the opportunity for students to prepare written briefs on a topic, issue or
thinker as a way of informing debate, and identifying issues for further discussion.
The seminar convenor is primarily concerned with directing the discussion and keeping it
focused on the core issue at hand. Faculty use the opportunity of critical engagement with
the class to impart new insights supplement students reading and understanding.
The interactive nature of seminar teaching allows a number of distinct functions
a. Formative assessment and feedback on class presentations, both within the seminar
through discussion and afterwards through oral or written feedback.
b. Independent learning through preparatory reading and research, the preparation of
presentations and the preparation of responses and questions.
c. The development of oral and communication skills in the presentation and defence of
complex arguments. All students are strongly encouraged to participate and seminar
convenors will do all they can to ensure a wide and constructive participation in each
2.2 Support
Each student is assigned a supervisor who advises on course choices and academic
performance. The supervisor will ordinarily help the student prepare the dissertation and
be the first port of call for advice on the framing of the dissertation research project.
The programme convenor will advise on issues arising from option choices outside of the
Political Theory scheme. Students can, with advice, take options outside of the
Government Department.
Information on study skills, IT training, library resources and language support is given to
students during induction and is available on the LSE website. The Department is
represented on the Library and Information Services Committee.
The M.Sc Programme manager in the Departmental Office is also available to provide
practical advice where necessary and can direct students to other School wide services.
3. Assessment
3.1 Formative Assessment and Feedback
All students are required to write two term essays per course. These are marked and
returned to students with detailed comments and an indicative grade. This indicative
grade is designed to suggest the level at which the student is currently working. It is not a
predictive grade and forms no part of the final summative assessment. Students are also
given feedback on presentations.
3.2 Summative Assessment
This Programme conforms to the LSE Classification Scheme for masters Degrees.
Summative assessment is by means of closed-book two hour examinations in the
summer term for all courses except GV 498 Multiculturalism, Nationalism and Citizenship
and GV 4A3 Social Choice Theory and Democracy. Examinations for the option courses
involve eight questions from which candidates must answer two. GV 405 Methods in
Political Theory is divided into three parts each containing three questions. Each
candidate must answer two questions from two different sections of the paper.
GV 498 and GV4A3 combine the two hour exam with an assessment essay. The exam
comprises 75% of the overall assessment and the essay 25%. The essay for GV498 must
be no longer than 3000 words and for GV 4A3 no longer than 4000.
Candidates are also required to submit a 10 000 word dissertation on a topic agreed with
their supervisor and the M.Sc. Political Theory Convenor.
All components of summative assessment are double-blind marked, with samples
moderated by the external examiner.
13. Programme structures and requirements, levels, modules and awards
See MSc Political Theory programme regulations.
Additional information
14. Criteria for admission to the programme
A first or second class honours (2;1, 2;2) degree of a UK university or equivalent in a subject
appropriate to the programme to be followed. Most graduate programmes assume that the
student will have prior knowledge to degree level in particular disciplines. Competition varies
between programmes and the level of grades/marks required will vary. For most programmes
students will need a first or at least an upper second class honours degree or its equivalent.
Students who are taking or have taken a recognised degree programme outside the UK will
need to have obtained, or expect to obtain, at least 70 per cent of the available marks in their
final year examinations. If their country uses the cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA)
system they should have normally obtained, or expect to obtain, a GPA of at least 3.5 (out of
4) or above.
15. Indicators of quality
1.High demand for the programme, and high qualifications required for admission.
2.The high fees paid by students taking the programme.
3.Consistently good examination results and very favourable remarks by external examiners.
4.Student questionnaires plus feedback via staff-student liaison committees.
5. The LSE Careers Centre website provides data on career destinations of LSE graduates.
16. Methods for evaluating and improving the quality and standard of teaching and
MSc Convenors’ Meeting which raises teaching issues and reviews regulations and
assessment methods. 2 per year.
MSc Student Representatives Meetings. 2 per year.
MSc Student Meetings. 1 per year per programme.
Postgraduate Teaching Review. 5 yearly cycle per programme.
TQARO Student Surveys. 1 per module.
The Teaching and Learning Centre is available to monitor and observe teaching and offers
constructive advice on how to improve the standard of teaching and quality.
The Teaching Learning and Assessment Committee which regulates all aspects of teaching
Departmental TLAC review once every five years.
The Graduate Studies Sub-Committee which oversees all graduate programmes and ensures
that significant changes to programmes and courses pass through a sequence of formal
stages, so that curricular changes are appropriate and compatible with other developments.