What’s it like studying Politics?

Ronnie Guha

Why Politics?

Politics has been prevalent for hundreds, or potentially even thousands, of years. We can study politics from extremely far back in history, for example by looking at how power is distributed in societies. There is much to it and it has become a vastly complex and debated subject. It remains as such to this day. With its constant appearance in the media and our lives, it is an excellent subject to study at university. Personally, I am fascinated by the topical questions surrounding our society and the state – questions which people have been asking for a very long time!

Why Durham?

With such a large scope of study, topics in politics can be highly theoretical, or on the other hand, highly applicable. At Durham, you might find yourself studying Western political thought alongside election campaigns and voter behaviour. The School of Government and International Affairs (SGIA) is responsible for teaching politics at Durham and it offers a wide variety of modules in so many different areas – there is no lack of choice. SGIA also puts on a number of different events for students who study their modules. There is a staff/student weekly coffee morning with free coffee, tea, biscuits, cakes and (what they claim is) quality chat with SGIA staff. They have organised events like a staff vs student football match for those who want to take part. On the more academic side of things, they organise talks from guest speakers such as professors from other universities, alumni, research experts who specialise in certain fields etc on academic topics and career paths.

Some politics-based societies at Durham include the Politics and International Relations Society, the History in Politics Society and a number of political party-based societies. One of the largest societies at Durham is the Durham Union which is completely student-run and puts on debates surrounding topical political questions. They also invite guest speakers and recently had the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk speak, which all SGIA students were invited to.

Other than the teaching and societies, Durham is a tranquil and picturesque place which boasts a rich history. With its own castle, which is a World Heritage site and now occupied by the university, and grand Cathedral where all students matriculate, Durham is the perfect place for anyone who wants to live somewhere with a unique culture.

What is the content/teaching like?

As a social sciences subject, politics modules generally include less contact hours and more independent work. While it is best to spend some time reading and making notes, this does not mean that politics students spend hours every day in libraries. In reality, a lot of reading can be found online and generally essential reading for lectures only includes a chapter or two, and/or some articles from journals.

Lectures are usually once a week per module – most students do six modules – and these cover the basic content, context and overview of the main arguments/debates on a topic. You will find a range of students in politics lectures, with some studying politics, politics and international relations, international relations, politics and economics, PPE, liberal arts, combined honours in social sciences and people who take politics as a module unrelated to their main degree focus. This means that lecture halls are large and full of people. Some teaching is done through seminars which generally happen once a fortnight per module. These are smaller groups and include discussions on questions surrounding the lecture/reading topics.

Political Theory Seminar class in a classroom in the SGIA building

Above is a picture of my political theory seminar which generally has around ten students and one seminar leader – we were discussing equality of opportunity vs equality of outcome, and whether we should ban fee-paying schools.

Discover more

Our School of Government and International Affairs (SGIA) is ranked 7th in the UK for Politics in the Complete University Guide 2023. 

We are a research-intensive department and we use innovative teaching techniques to ensure we combine our latest world-leading research into the programmes we deliver.  

Feeling inspired? Visit our SGIA webpages to find out more about studying with us. 

To find out more about student life in Durham follow our students on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube

Ronnie Guha

My name is Ronnie and I am a first year at Grey College studying PPE. I play a few college sports – I am a goalkeeper for Grey College Football D Team (although I am no good and prefer the social aspect of football), a novice rower for Grey College Boat Club and play for Grey College Mixed Lacrosse. I am also part of Grey College Charity Fashion Show 2023 as the Head of Fundraising (hence the fancy picture because we all had to get a photoshoot). Outside of college, I am a member of the infamous Durham University Curry Club, which essentially means occasionally going to eat curry at an Indian restaurant, meeting people from all around Durham University.

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