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POLVOA32 British Politics: Institutions, Elections, and Public Opinion 5 ECTS
Period I Period II Period III Period IV
Language of instruction
Type or level of studies
Intermediate studies
Course unit descriptions in the curriculum
Politiikan tutkimuksen tutkinto-ohjelma
School of Management

General description

The strange world of British Politics raises many questions for students of political science. How can a political system based on tradition rather than governed by a formal constitution work so well? How can a modern country appoint rather than elect the second legislative chamber (House of Lords), yet still claim to be a democracy? Why does the need to form a government based on a coalition throw the country into crisis? These are only some of the fascinating issues that will be dealt with in this course. Other topics include devolution, the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, and the future of the British State.

This course in also interested in what the British people think, and in the lessons that we can learn about ‘public opinion’ more generally from this. We consider why the two main parties win so many of the votes at elections, and why people vote for different parties depending on the type of election. We also take a closer look at how to conduct research into public opinion. Participants are given guidance on completing their own public attitudes surveys (opinion polls) and on using a simple statistical computer programme to analyse the data. Students may submit a final report based on their findings as the main piece of assessed work.

This is a seminar-based course. Attendance at seminars is compulsory and students are required to read the material distributed electronically before every session.

Enrolment for University Studies

The maximum number of students is 20. Priority is given to students majoring in political science at the University of Tampere. In order to register for the course, you must fill in the registration sheet that is placed on the politics notice board (Pinni A, 4th floor) before 5pm on Wednesday, 17th of October. Those accepted to the course will receive information (by email) of their acceptance on Thursday, 18th of October.


Einion Dafydd, Teacher responsible


22-Oct-2012 – 10-Dec-2012
Seminar 14 hours
Mon 22-Oct-2012 - 10-Dec-2012 weekly at 10-12, Pinni A2088
19-Nov-2012 at 10 –12 , Linna, computer room 51
26-Nov-2012 , no classes


Numeric 1-5.

Evaluation criteria

Students have three options for submitting assessed work. All students will be required to give a seminar presentation individually or in pairs (25%). Participants may choose the ‘essay option’, the ‘learning diary option’, or the ‘group project option’. Students wishing to choose the ‘essay option’ are required to submit a 10-page essay on a topic unrelated to the seminar presentation given, with the question to be decided with the course co-ordinator (75%). Participants opting for the ‘learning diary option’ are required to submit a 10 page diary of their learning process, outlining what they have learnt from their participation in each seminar (75%). Those choosing the ‘group project option’ are required to conduct a public attitudes survey in groups on any issue of current relevance to politics in any context (to be agreed on with the course convener). All students must contribute equally to the group’s work; the grades of individual students may be lowered in instances where there is clear evidence that this is not the case. Students are required to give a 15–minute group presentation on the survey, outlining how it was undertaken and the results (25%). Participants must also submit a 10 page final report on the survey (including graphs and tables), together with the survey documentation (i.e. the survey questionnaire and the SPSS dataset file). The final report is to be completed individually (50%).

Further information

Indicative seminars for the course:

1. Introduction: The British State, and how to conduct a (very good) public attitudes survey.

2. Westminster Politics: The ‘Mother of Parliaments’ and No. 10 Downing Street

3. Elections in the UK

4. The novelty of the Coalition Government, and Britain and the EU

5. Computer lab session: A simple introduction to analysing your survey data

6. Devolution and the future of the British State

7. Final Presentations and Conclusions