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Durham University

Postgraduate Modules 2019/2020

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run in each academic year. Each module description relates to the year indicated in the module availability box. Please be aware that modules may change from year to year, and may be amended to take account of, for example: changing staff expertise, disciplinary developments, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback.

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA49230: Global Political Theory

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aim of this module is to provide students with an advanced knowledge of the crucial debates in global political theory. The module will explore the nature of ethical obligations between persons living in different political communities alongside the moral assessment of specific institutional practices within the global economy and the global political system more broadly. It will aim to introduce students to issues such as: the nature and justification of different responses to global terrorism, the distributive and ethical consequences of global financial integration, the nature and extent of moral obligations towards the global poor, the moral and political consequences of global inequality, the nature of human rights, the nature of fair trade, the relationship between just and unjust combatants in war.


  • The module will present different theoretical positions and authors by drawing on current debates in the fields of international ethics, international political theory, and contemporary political philosophy. Questions that arise in these debates might include the following ones: does the idea of justice make sense in the global context? Does the global order violate the poor’s rights? Do we have special obligations toward fellow citizens? Is global inequality a problem? Is democracy a universal right? What is a human right? Are developed countries justified in imposing tariffs on imports from developing countries? Is capital mobility morally tenable?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will acquire knowledge and understanding of:
  • • an advanced knowledge of the applied aspects connected to the moral evaluation of international organizations and global governance institutions;
  • • an advanced knowledge of the main approaches to international ethics and global political theory.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • • develop the ability to analyze complex topics in political science and international relations broadly construed and to do so on the basis of directed and independent learning;
  • • carry out research in political science and international relations through independent work;
  • • weigh critically qualitative and/or quantitative evidence in social and political analysis.
Key Skills:
  • Students will also develop some important key skills, suitable for underpinning study at this and subsequent levels, such as:
  • • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level;
  • • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution;
  • • Advanced ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources, as well as primary sources, and policy reports;
  • • Ability for independent thinking informed by the academic debate at an advanced level.
  • • Advanced essay-writing skills and the ability to work to a deadline;
  • • Effective written communication of research and policy applications;
  • • Ability to reflect critically on their own work and performance.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students will be taught and learn through self-guided learning, lectures, class discussion, and seminars. Students are taught through one-hour lectures. A number of seminars will also be offered to complement and further explore selected aspects developed in the lectures. Lectures will introduce the students to the key theoretical approaches or data relevant to the theme of the lecture. The lectures will be tailored to accommodate the differential knowledge and disciplinary skills of different cohorts and to make sure that students approach tutorials with an appropriate level of knowledge and understanding.
  • One-hour seminars will encourage students to explore selected elements of the lectures in greater detail and to identify areas in which they require particular guidance, for example on further reading. The seminars will also enable students to develop their abilities to conduct research, to communicate, to present theoretical alternatives and data, and to develop their own argumentation skills. Class discussion encourages background reading, contributing to the students’ independent learning. It will further allow students the opportunity to exchange ideas, to explore issues and arguments that interest or concern them in greater depth, and to receive feedback from both the group and the lecturer on their own arguments and understanding.
  • Students will be assessed through a final 72 hours take home exam. The take home exam will formally test skills of synthesis, analysis and critical evaluation with reference to material drawn from the module. It tests students’ ability to formulate complex arguments in articulate and structured English, within the discursive conventions and genres of academic writing (within an exam context). Exams indirectly test students’ ability to use sophisticated techniques of information retrieval and management, and to manage their time effectively.
  • The formative work will consist of a 1500 word essay submitted at the beginning of Epiphany term. The formative essay will help students to prepare for the take home exam and hone their understanding of the key elements in the material. Students will receive written feedback on formative work to enable them to assess their understanding of the material before the examination.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 14 Weekly 1 hour 14
Seminars 14 Weekly 1 hour 14
Preparation and Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Take home exam Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Take home exam 3000 100%

Formative Assessment:

1500 word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University

    If you have a question about Durham's modular degree programmes, please visit our User Guide. If you have a question about modular programmes that is not covered by the User Guide, or a query about the Postgraduate Module Handbook, please contact us using the Comments and Questions form below.