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Undergraduate Course

Politics, Philosophy and Ethics BA (Hons)

Investigate democracy, rule, revolution, conflict and resolution. Discover how and why societies work the way they do.

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Our world is changing fast. With new technologies, political upheaval and global environmental concerns, The challenges we face now are different from previous generations. Confront the biggest issues facing the world today, and consider how we can address them.

York campus

  • UCAS Code – L2V5
  • Duration – 3 years full time, 6 years part time
  • Start date – September 2021
  • School – School of Humanities

Minimum Entry Requirements

    104 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language.

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2021 entry £12,750 per year full time

Discover why York St John is The One

Course overview

Philosophers have played an influential role in the development of political and ethical thought throughout history. Combine a deep understanding of political theory with an appreciation of the complex ideas behind philosophical thought. You will use these different approaches to analyse, challenge and debate contemporary issues that impact the world around us. By applying philosophical theory to everyday concerns, we will discover its relevance in our own lives.

Drawing upon the works of historical and contemporary thinkers, you will explore the evolution of political thought. This will raise complex and relevant questions about equality, justice and power. We encourage you to look beyond standard topics and simple answers to consider questions which reflect your own interests.

Some of the topics you may cover include:

  • Social justice and inequality
  • Globalisation and the changing role of the state
  • Morality, evil and suffering
  • Genetic engineering
  • State security
  • Responses to climate change.

Tackling difficult issues like these not only shows future employers that you are not afraid to take on complex problems, it will also change how you see the world. This combination of subjects will help you to develop as an insightful thinker, an effective communicator and a self aware global citizen.

Course structure

Year 1

Our academic year is split into 2 semesters. How many modules you take each semester will depend on whether you are st­udying full time or part time.

In your first year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • 3 compulsory modules in semester 1
  • 2 compulsory modules and 1 optional module in semester 2.

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.

Optional modules will run if they receive enough interest. It is not guaranteed that all modules will run every year.

Modules

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

This module is your introduction to the academic study of Politics. You will become familiar with basic terms, concepts, methodologies and issues in the study of politics, preparing you for the rest of your degree. We will explore the diverse definitions and the scope of politics, and discuss what politics means to you. We will also introduce you to some of the essential skills you will need to succeed a degree level, including academic writing, researching and referencing.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

The world and its issues and debates do not neatly divide into discrete subjects. This module is about how politics overlaps and interacts with other fields of study. You will consider case studies that incorporate perspectives from both politics and other subjects as you gain an interdisciplinary approach to politics. This will mean learning from staff from across the university who are experts in a range of topics.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module you will look at key issues in political philosophy, exploring the ideas of thinkers throughout the history of political thought. You will respond to fundamental issues in political thought, questioning who should rule, why we should we obey the state and what a just society looks like. You will develop your analytical skills by examining arguments and perspectives based on philosophical and conceptual frameworks.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

The module will take you through important debates in the philosophy of religion, from the classic to the contemporary. You will come to understand religion as an ever present aspect of human society. In doing so you will challenge established ideas and learn to construct rational arguments. The module will focus primarily on the western philosophical tradition and its relationship with the Abrahamic faiths. However, we will also consider how philosophical and religious thought interact in other traditions.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will examine the contemporary British state and its relationship with society. Focusing on the dominance of traditional state institutions and practices, you will consider the impact of these in society. We will also take a historical perspective, acknowledging that the present cannot be fully understood without analysing the past. Studying political economy will also help you to understand the nature and impact of economic policy.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module you will explore ethics in both religious and secular traditions, applying them to various contexts, such as famine and affluence. You will consider:

  • What informs the ethical decisions people make
  • How people form their attitudes to moral dilemmas
  • Whether there are sources for moral reasoning other than religious ones
  • What, if anything, rich nations owe poorer nations.

You will reflect on your own assumptions surrounding these issues, and explore the relationship between ethical thought and religious belief.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will engage with debates surrounding the nature and extent of ‘globalisation’ and its impact on the role and power of contemporary states. You will learn how states are situated in the international political and economic system, and interrogate the relative power of states and international organisations in the context of globalisation.

Year 2

In your second year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • 1 compulsory module and 2 optional modules in semester 1
  • 2 compulsory modules and 1 optional module in semester 2.

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.

Optional modules will run if they receive enough interest. It is not guaranteed that all modules will run every year.

Modules

Credits: 20

Optional module

Explore the origins and evolution of the political ideologies that have shaped major social and political developments from the 18th century to the present day. You will look at the ideological movements that have emerged as critical responses to the mainstream. The ideological traditions you study may include:

  • Liberalism
  • Conservatism
  • Anarchism
  • Nationalism
  • Fascism
  • Feminism
  • Environmentalism
  • Multiculturalism

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will examine contemporary issues in society and explore how political philosophy can help us develop arguments in response to these issues. You will discover the impact that political philosophies can have on decision makers, social groups and wider society. The issues you will explore may include:

  • Taxation and welfare
  • Minority rights
  • Freedom of speech
  • Criminal punishment
  • Civil liberties and national security
  • Global inequalities and wealth distribution
  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia and humanitarian intervention

Credits: 20

Optional module

Democracy is the dominant form of political organisation around the world, and it is essential to fully understand how it is put into practice. You will explore the development and evolution of democracy. This includes discussions on the concept and various models of democracy, as well as the institutions (executives, legislatures, judiciaries) and processes (electoral and party systems) that rely on it. You will complete a comparative analysis of democratic states throughout the world, examining both established democracies and democracies in transition.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will apply the knowledge and understanding you have built through the course so far to a new area. We will use the medium of film to explore theological and ethical issues. We will introduce you to the language and conventions of film analysis, before supporting you to explore individual films or scenes in detail. As you move towards your final assignment you will investigate a theological theme or ethical concept to explore through your choice of relevant films.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

This module focuses on modern western philosophy in an important period of intellectual history. You will be introduced you to the most influential philosophers from the beginning of the 17th century through to the end of the 19th century and explore the ethical and religious issues surrounding their work. You will learn about the interaction between philosophical and religious, and construct your own arguments in response to these ideas. This will help you to understand the concepts behind the debates surrounding religious belief in contemporary life.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Our politics degree teaches you to understand not just political concepts, but also how politics is studied and researched. This module will give you an overview of the different theoretical and methodological approaches used to study the political world.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

This module gives you the opportunity to apply your developing understanding of ethical thought to an important area of contemporary life. Applied ethics is an essential part of philosophy. Within this field there is a significant focus on matters of life and death, with many of the debates in this area employing religious arguments. By considering a range of widely debated issues, you will come to understand how ethical theory interacts with practical matters and everyday life.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will focus on politics and policymaking at a local level. You will hear from external speakers whose work has a political dimension, bringing local politics to life and introducing you to potential career paths. As part of this module you will take part in either a 10 day work experience placement or complete a work related project. This may involve designing campaign materials, analysing a current City of York Council policy proposal or contributing to the Students’ Union elections.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module is an opportunity to reflect on how the skills and knowledge you are gaining on your degree can benefit you in the future. You will use the expertise and resources available within the university to find out more about the possible career options available to you. You will also explore the philosophical, theological and ethical issues which may arise in the workplace, investigating theological meditations on the nature and meaning of work in the contemporary world.

Year 3

In your third year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • A Dissertation module. You can choose either a 20 credit option or a longer 40 credit option which is spread across semesters 1 and 2.
  • 2 optional modules in semester 1
  • Either 2 or 3 optional modules in semester 2, depending on which of the Dissertation options you choose.

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.

Optional modules will run if they receive enough interest. It is not guaranteed that all modules will run every year.

Modules

Credits: 40

Optional module

This year long module will involve working independently to research a topic of your choice within the field of Politics, Philosophy and Ethics. It is the culmination of your degree studies, and your chance to explore a topic that you are passionate about. You will plan, research, and write a piece of work that demonstrates your ability to structure a sustained argument, research effectively and think independently. A dissertation supervisor will help you define and develop your project throughout the year.

Credits: 20

Optional module

As with the full dissertation, this module will see you plan, research, and write an extended piece of work on a topic of your choice. However, because this shorter option is worth 20 credits rather than 40, your final piece of work will be half the length of the full dissertation. While it is shorter, this version of the dissertation is just as much an opportunity to choose an area that particularly interests you and find your own angle on the topic.

Credits: 20

Optional module

We largely accept the existence of government and state as political institutions with formal power and authority to rule over us. While we may question the decisions or actions of particular governments and leaders, we rarely question the fundamental need for some form of government. On this module you will study perspectives of the social contract, primarily through the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Exploring possible justifications for why we need government and the state.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will explore a range of developments in modern political philosophy, and consider how political philosophy contributes to our understanding of, and influences, the modern world. This will involve studying work by a variety of scholars. In doing so you will engage with themes including:

  • Justice
  • Libertarianism
  • Marxism
  • Feminism
  • Multiculturalism
  • Citizenship

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will examine the persistence of authoritarian rule in the 21st century. You will study the characteristics of authoritarian systems, the structures, actors and actions that foster and maintain them. You will also consider the place of authoritarian systems in international politics, and examine their relationships with totalitarianism and democracy. We will use case studies to illustrate and analyse theoretical and conceptual approaches to authoritarianism.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will explore in detail the institutions, structures and processes of global governance. In particular we focus on the institutions of the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. We also cover regional organisations such as the European Union, and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations. Global issues will be examined to analyse the work of these institutions, which may include:

  • human rights
  • international terrorism
  • global inequality
  • the environment
  • conflict and peace

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will explore the complex and often problematic relationship between feminist ethics and the Abrahamic religions. You will draw on your understanding of the complexity of religious traditions and ethical theories, as you explore arguments made by feminist thinkers. You will also examine and reflect upon various presumptions, prejudices and discriminations made in relation to gender, at both theoretical and practical levels.

Credits: 20

Optional module

The concept of religion in the public sphere has developed in recent years. Today it is a way for religious communities to participate in the public arena and to converse with citizens on issues wider than religious matters. We will discuss the nature, rationale and methods of public engagement for religious communities in various global contexts. We will also consider how religious communities can help to create a public sphere where various political, economic, social and religious bodies can interact with each other for the public common good.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will explore philosophical thinking on war, considering whether war can ever be right. You will also think about how war should be conducted and how they should end. You will examine arguments dating from Aristotle, early Christianity and the Enlightenment through to the present day. You will also examine alternative perspectives, such as Asian perspectives of just war, forms of pacifism and nonviolent resistance.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will explore how longstanding questions and concerns over social and distributive justice are of increasing concern at a global level, for both philosophers and activists. We will confront fundamental questions of justice. You will examine how approaches to justice have evolved in social, international and global contexts. We will cover various issues within the scope of global justice, including:

  • Human rights
  • Humanitarian intervention
  • Poverty and economic inequality
  • Gender
  • Natural resources
  • Migration
  • The environment

Credits: 20

Optional module

Explore the politics of the Middle East. Starting with the historical context, you will examine internal and external factors affecting the region, such as rising Arab identity and nationalism, and a rejection of colonial rule. You will then explore a range of contemporary issues, which may include the regional economy, the role of Islam, conflict, women, dictatorship and democracy. You will also examine the Middle East from an international relations perspective, focusing on the interests of the international community in the area – particularly the USA and Russia.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will explore how policy making takes place in exceptional times. Each week we will examine a case study of a political crisis, considering how it unfolded and evaluating the responses. You will use the case studies to discuss the ideas of blame, agenda setting and crisis resolution in these contexts. Drawing on experience you gained in previous modules of designing policy briefs and political party manifestos, you will build transferable skills in prioritisation and working under pressure.

Credits: 20

Optional module

Global health concerns are becoming increasingly important to ongoing debates about the social impact of worldwide economic and environmental change. On this module you will learn about contemporary health issues from the point of view of both international relations and ethics, and explore the connections between these approaches.

You will study:

  • Infectious and non infectious diseases
  • The relationship between war and disease
  • The role of the World Health Organisation
  • Health in foreign policy
  • Responses to global health emergencies

Teaching and assessment

Teaching and learning

We use a range of teaching styles and settings to support your learning. This will include:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops
  • Events
  • Field trips.

Alongside your timetabled contact time, you will be expected to study independently. You will need to read around your subject, engaging with academic literature, including books, academic journal articles, original texts and official reports. This will ensure that you get the most out of your degree, as well as building valuable time management skills.

Our teaching draws on both our research and professional experience. This means your learning is informed by the most current thinking in the subject area. You can find out more about our research and backgrounds by visiting our staff pages.

Assessment

Assessment is entirely through coursework, with no exams. We are committed to authentic, relevant assessment. This is to ensure that your work reflects the kinds of work you will go on to in professional employment or further study. You will experience a wide range of assessment modes designed to help you develop new skills and prepare for your career. This may include:

  • Essays
  • Portfolios
  • Individual and group presentations
  • Video presentations
  • Posters
  • Group reports
  • Book/article reviews
  • Study reports.

You will receive feedback on your work throughout each module. This will help you to improve your work for your graded assessments.

Career outcomes

Your future with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Ethics

This degree could lead you to a career directly related to Politics, such as working in local government or the Civil Service, or it could take you in a completely different direction, using the many transferrable skills you will develop. These include problem solving, developing arguments, analysing and evaluating information, collaboration, independent working, communication and more.

This degree could be the first step toward your career in:

  • Local government
  • Policy development
  • The Civil Service (they offer a Fast Stream graduate scheme)
  • Political and social research
  • Journalism
  • Charities and the third sector.

Discover more career options on Prospects careers advice pages.

You could also progress onto a postgraduate degree and take your learning even further.

 

Whatever your ambitions, we can help you get there.

Our careers service, LaunchPad provides career support tailored to your ambitions. Through this service you can access:

  • Employer events
  • LinkedIn, CV and cover letter sessions
  • Workshops on application writing and interview skills
  • Work experience and volunteering opportunities
  • Personalised career advice.

This support doesn't end when you graduate. You can access our expert career advice for the rest of your life. We will help you gain experience and confidence to succeed. It's your career, your way.

Entry requirements

Qualifications

Minimum Entry Requirements

    104 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language.

Calculate your UCAS Tariff points

International Students

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements.

Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our International pages.

If English is not your first language you will need to show that you have English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

International entry requirements

This course is available with a foundation year

If you do not yet meet the minimum requirements for entry straight onto this degree course, or feel you are not quite ready for the transition to Higher Education, this is a great option for you. Passing a foundation year guarantees you a place on this degree course the following academic year.

Liberal Arts foundation year

Mature Learners Entry Scheme

If you have been out of education for 3 years or more and have a grade C GCSE in English Language or equivalent, you are eligible for our entry scheme for mature learners. It's a scheme that recognises non-traditional entry qualifications and experience for entry onto this course. Information on how to apply can be found on our dedicated page.

Mature entry offer scheme

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. You can read them on our Admissions page.

Fees and Funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay depends on whether you live inside the UK or EU, or internationally (outside the UK/EU). Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

UK and EU 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 2021 entry onto this course is

  • £9,250 per year for full time study
  • £6,935 per year for the first 4 years if you study part time.

These prices apply to all UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

You can find out more about funding your degree by visiting our funding opportunities page.

Funding Opportunities

Placement year funding

If you choose to take a placement year, and your course offers it, you can apply for the Tuition Fee and Maintenance Loan for your placement year. How much you are awarded is based on the type of placement being undertaken and whether it is a paid or unpaid placement. The tuition fee for your placement year will be reduced.

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2021 entry £12,750 per year full time

International 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 2021 entry to this course is £12,750 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all students living outside the UK/EU.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a Student Visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your degree.

International Fees and Funding

Additional costs and financial support

There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.

Course-related costs

While studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.

Study Abroad

For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.

Accommodation and living costs

For detailed information on accommodation and living costs, visit our Accommodation pages.

Financial help and support

Our Funding Advice team are here to help you with your finances throughout your degree. They offer a personal service that can help you with funding your studies and budgeting for living expenses. 

All undergraduates receive financial support through the York St John Aspire card. Find out more about the Aspire scheme and how it can be used to help you purchase equipment you need for your course. 

ASPIRE CARD

Course highlights

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