Influencing and promoting UK politics

Houses of Parliament

Our acclaimed research into political participation and public engagement has led to direct and on-going changes within the UK political system.

Work by Professors Matthew Flinders and Colin Hay, from the University's Departmemt of Politics, has influenced the way select committees are goverened, promoted politics through major public debate, and reinvigorated the teaching of the subject.

Professors Flinders and Hay's research focusses on the increasing levels of political disengagement among the public.

Professor Hay's work – winner of the Political Studies Association's Richard Rose prize in 2009 - produced new insights into the role of the tabloid media in promoting critical and cynical attitudes.

In June 2012 Professor Hay submitted evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into Press Standards. The evidence demonstrated the negative impact of tabloid readership on the public's attitudes towards politics.

Professor Flinders has examined political disengagement through a different set of theories, methods and approaches.

In 2011 he hosted a three-part series – In Defence of Politics - on BBC Radio 4 that attracted a listening audience of over 2.5 million. Following its success, Professor Flinders was commissioned to write and present a second programme for BBC Radio 4 - When Politics and Comedy Collide. Focussing on the impact of political satire and comedy on young people, the programme was aired in December 2013 and led to significant public debate, featuring in the pages of The Times, The Independent, Huffington Post, The Guardian and The Stage.

Professor Flinders has also maintained active relationships with a range of select committees and more recently with the Liaison Committee.

In 2012 he contributed to the Liaison Committee's review of the effectiveness, resources and powers of select committees and addressed the need for select committees to play a more vigorous role in promoting the public understanding of politics. His evidence led to the introduction of a new 'core task' for all select committees in this area.

In the same year Professor Flinders received the Political Communicator of the Year award from the Political Studies Association of the UK.

The award-winning work by Professors Hay and Flinders has also made history in teaching. In 2012, after negotiation and co-operation with the Speakers of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, we launched the first undergraduate module in history to be formally accredited and co-taught by the Houses of Parliament.

Later in 2012 the Speaker of the House of Commons announced his decision to extend this Sheffield-led initiative across the UK, and later, beyond the UK. The Sheffield-based pilot has, therefore, had a major impact in reinvigorating the study of Parliament around the world.