Undergraduate Modules: POL231 - Never Mind the Ballots! State and Society in the UK Today

Module Code:

POL 231

Module Title:

Never Mind the Ballots! State and Society in the UK Today


Level 2


Semester 2


20 Credits

Taught by:

Dr Felicity Matthews, Senior Lecturer in Politics

Module Description:

This module explores changing state-society relationships across the UK, and their impact on government institutions. Traditionally, the British state has been viewed through the lens of the Westminster Model, which is top-down, power-hoarding, adversarial, exclusive, and with little emphasis on public participation. Yet changes to the fabric of the state through processes such as Europeanisation, devolution and the transformation of the public sector have challenged these assumptions. This module therefore considers where power resides within the state; how citizens interact with the state; and how the contemporary state should be understood in terms of accountability, legitimacy and governability.

Module Aims:

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

  • Map the institutional landscape of the contemporary British state and chart the prevailing patterns of governance within and across the United Kingdom.
  • Understand the factors and trends that underpin the evolution of socio-political relationships, and account for their intended and unintended consequences.
  • Deploy key academic theories, assess their relevance to empirical experience, and evaluate between competing explanations and interpretations.
  • Identify and unpack the normative assumptions that have dominated the analysis of British politics.
  • Develop answers to key questions regarding the viability, legitimacy and relevance of governing institutions.

This module also equips students with a range of important transferrable skills, which are vital in terms of employability, including working independently and as part of a team; managing a varied workload; assimilating and synthesising multiple data sources; constructing coherent arguments; and preparing written reports and verbal presentations.

Module Schedule:

Week Topic
1 Majoritarianism and the Westminster model
2 Parliament and the balance of power
3 The expanding scope of the judiciary
4 Interest groups and the policy process
5 Trends in public service delivery
6 Contemporary dilemma 1: climate change
7 Voters, parties and elections
8 The role and influence of the media
9 Citizens, social capital and civil society
10 Patronage and public appointments
11 Changing patterns of governance
12 Contemporary dilemma 2: the global financial crisis

Teaching Methods:

  • 12 * 1 hour lectures
  • 11 * 1 hour seminars


  • Essay - 50% of mark
  • Unseen Examination - 50% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors.
  • Detailed 20-30 page module handbook.
  • Dedicated module intranet site.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Indicative Reading:

Bogdanor, V. (2010) The New British Constitution. Portland, OR: Hart.

Hay, C. (2009) Why We Hate Politics. London: Polity.

McLean, I. (2010) What’s Wrong with the British Constitution? Oxford: OUP.

Stoker, G. (2006) Why Politics Matters. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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