Postgraduate Modules: POL6560 - The Governance and Politics of the European Union

Module Code


Module Title

The Governance and Politics of the European Union


Level 4




30 credits

Taught by:

Professor Simon Bulmer

Module Description:

This module focuses on the European Union (EU) as a system of public policy-making and aims to introduce students who are new to the discipline to its main institutions, decision-making processes and common policies. Students who have encountered the EU before are encouraged to refresh and deepen their knowledge and understanding. The module explores various theoretical and analytical approaches used in order to evaluate European integration and its decision-making. It examines different policy domains, such as the Single Market and Monetary Union, which are central to understanding the political economy of European integration, and other policy areas, such as the EU’s foreign and defence policies and its growing activity in justice and home affairs. Towards the end of the module, students will have the opportunity to discuss some of the key current issues confronting the EU’s future direction: its democratic legitimacy; its enlargement; the implications of the euro-zone crisis; and current challenges.

Module Aims:

The module aims to provide an advanced level of understanding of the major traditions of analysis of the European Union, notably integration theory and governance analysis, and apply them to the evolution, institutional framework and selected policy areas.
By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the institutions and the main common policies of the European Union.
  • Apply conceptual tools to analyse the prospects for success and failure of EU policy initiatives.

This module also equips students with a range of skills, including cognitive and communicative ones. Students will evaluate advanced concepts and theories, employ primary and secondary sources, present reasoned and effective arguments in written and oral form, pursue independent learning and gain the skills to show critical judgement. Varied learning and teaching methods will thus equip students with a range of important transferrable skills, which are vital in terms of employability, including working independently as well as part of a team, managing a varied workload, assimilating and synthesising multiple theoretical ideas, constructing coherent, independent and critical arguments.

Module Schedule:

1 Introduction: The Origins and Evolution of the EU
2 Theoretical Approaches: How best to analyse the EU’s evolution?
3 The Institutional Structure of the EU
4 Understanding EU Governance and the Policy Process
5 The Single European Market and the structural funds
6 Monetary Union, the euro-zone and economic governance
7 Cohesion and Structural Policies
8 Freedom, Security and Justice
9 Foreign, Security and Defence Policy: CFSP and CSDP
10 Enlargement
11 Democratic Legitimacy in the EU
12 The State of the EU: integration or disintegration?

Teaching Methods:

  • 12 * 2 hour lectures


  • Essay 1 (2,500 words) - 40% of mark
  • Essay 2 (3,500 words) - 60% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors.
  • Detailed 25-page module handbook.
  • Dedicated module site on MOLE2.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.
  • Opportunity to attend seminars held by the interdisciplinary European Union Discussion Group

Indicative Reading:

Wallace, Helen; Pollack, Mark; and Young, Alistair, Policy-Making in the European Union, 6th edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Bache, Ian; George, Stephen; and Bulmer, Simon, Politics in the European Union, 3rd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Cini, Michelle and Pérez-Solórzano Borragán, Nieves, European Union Politics 3rd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Hix, Simon and Hoyland, Bjorn, The Political System of the European Union 3rd edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011).

Nugent, Neill, The Government and Politics of the European Union 7th edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010).

Richardson, Jeremy (ed.) European Union Power and policy-making, 3rd edition (London: Routledge, 2006).

Lelieveldt, Herman and Princen, Sebastiaan, The Politics of the European Union (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

What our Students Say:

This module is the best module I have taken during both my undergrad and postgrad time at Sheffield uni. Simon and Ingi were inspiring and very clear in their seminars…. I especially like their method of group work – brilliant at helping us all meet each other and work on our presentation and public speaking skills’.

‘This module has been challenging yet stimulating and interesting. The Professors have been very supportive and the seminars have been interactive’.

Note: comments from 2011/12, when the module was co-taught with Dr Ingi Iusmen.