Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
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Degree Programme Specification 2021/2022

Politics with Quantitative Methods

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: N/A
Final award: MA Honours
Programme title: Politics with Quantitative Methods
UCAS code: 8M9D
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Politics and International Relations
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Professor Ailsa Henderson
Date of production/revision: September 2013

External summary

Students of politics explore the origins and present-day contexts of conflicts over power and resources; the morality of political action, the limits of freedom and justice, and the processes of governance at various levels. Our programmes focus on a variety of issues in politics, political theory, public policy and international relations in Europe, Russia, Africa and the US. Politics is part of a vibrant research-led community consisting of c.30 full-time academic staff and over 400 undergraduate students. Our major programme aims include equipping students with substantive knowledge of a range of political systems, institutions, processes and ideas; enabling students to develop and apply their knowledge and skills to the understanding and evaluation of political issues and problems in the contemporary world; enabling students to develop key skills in critical thinking, conceptual analysis, research, oral and written articulation of information and argument. This degree has been developed as a strategic response to employers’ requests to have more quantitatively trained graduate social scientists.  Students with quantitative skills integrated with an understanding of politics are very attractive to a range of employers.  We ensure that our programmes equip students with transferable skills to enable them to succeed in the job market.


Edinburgh politics is a truly international community – we have students from all over the world. We have a vibrant student society– the Politics and IR Society. There is always plenty going on, and always someone for students to talk to about academic studies, leisure interests or life in Edinburgh.


Educational aims of programme

  • to deliver a broad-based curriculum incorporating major fields of study in politics;
  • to provide a sound and working knowledge of the use of statistics in social science at an advanced level;
  • to equip students with substantive knowledge of a range of political systems, institutions, processes and ideas;
  • to provide a curriculum supported and informed by a rich and active research culture;
  • to enable students to use both quantitative and qualitative methods to collect, evaluate and interpret empirical evidence, and undertake independent research;
  • to enable students to understand, evaluate and use both normative and explanatory theoretical frameworks in the study of politics;
  • to enable students to develop and apply their knowledge and skills to the understanding and evaluation of political issues and problems in the contemporary world, including within Scotland;
  • to enable students to develop key generic skills in critical thinking, conceptual analysis, research, evaluation of evidence, oral and written articulation of information and argument;
  • to equip students for progression to a wide variety of careers or to further academic study.


Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

On completing the programme students should be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of different political systems, institutions, processes and ideas;

  • evaluate alternative explanations of particular political developments and events;

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the use of maths in social science;

  • demonstrate a working knowledge of advanced statistics for social science;

  • identify and evaluate normative aspects in a variety of political argument;

  • understand and apply theoretical, conceptual and empirical approaches to the analysis of political systems, institutions, processes and ideas. 

How is this accomplished?

  • compulsory and optional elements in the curriculum ensure coverage of different political systems, institutions, processes and ideas;

  • lectures, lecture hand-outs, seminar programmes and presentations are the key channels for dissemination of knowledge and guidance to further reading/research;

  • content and assessment of compulsory courses ensures knowledge and critical engagement with normative and explanatory theories in Political Science;

  • essay and examination questions require independent reading and research beyond that provided in the classroom;

  • essay and examination questions in both compulsory and optional courses require evaluation and application of alternative perspectives or explanations of political phenomena;

  • seminar assignments and debates in both compulsory and optional courses encourage students to identify and evaluate normative aspects of political argument;

  • diversifying assessment allows students to perfect a broad range of academic skills.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

Graduates will be able to create new knowledge and opportunities for learning through the process of research and enquiry, including the abilities to:


  • identify and analyse the strengths and challenges of different social and political systems, and develop processes for promoting social and political progress;

  • undertake advanced quantitative analysis of social science data;

  • evaluate, critique, and build on the work of political science scholars;

  • exercise creativity in the formulation of important and constructive questions about political science and socio-political policy;

  • select and use appropriate methods of political enquiry, to identify a range of different research strategies and methods and to comment on their relative advantages and disadvantages;

  • recognise, build on, and transcend the boundaries of the various social science disciplines – their empirical methods and their analytical traditions - in the pursuit of publicly useful knowledge.

How is this accomplished?

In addition to above, through:

  • guidance on literature searching and web-based information sources in lectures and seminars;

  • specific assessed tasks in compulsory courses (e.g. textual analysis, production of research proposal);

  • requirements for seminar exercises and projects in ordinary and honours courses - peer and tutor feedback;

  • production, supervision and assessment of dissertations and placement projects.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

Graduates will be able to work independently and sustainably, in a way that is informed by openness, curiosity, and a desire to meet new challenges, including the abilities and dispositions to:

  • be independent learners who take responsibility for their own learning and are committed to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement;

  • be able to sustain intellectual interest by remaining receptive to both new and old ideas, methods, and ways of thinking;

  • be able to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought, taking into account ethical and professional issues;

  • be able to use collaboration and debate effectively to test, modify and strengthen their own views;

  • be able to respond effectively to unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts;

  • have a personal vision and goals and be able to work towards these in a sustainable way.

 How is this accomplished?


In addition to above, through:

  • requirements for tutorials to focus on students’ own reading and reflections;

  • requirements for and feedback on individual and group oral presentations in seminars (when applicable);

  • requirements for and feedback on group project work for seminars (when applicable);

  • assessed tutorial participation in some tutorials;

  • production of 10,000 word dissertation under supervision in fourth year;

  • emphasis on self-directed study (guided by course reading lists);

  • requirements for students to manage own time and deadlines.


Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates will recognise and value communication as the tool for negotiating and creating new understanding, collaborating with others, and furthering their own learning, including the abilities to:


  • make effective use of oral, written and visual means to critique, negotiate, create and communicate understanding;

  • use communication as a tool for collaborating and relating to others;

  • further their own learning through effective use of the full range of communication approaches;

  • seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness;

  • recognise the benefits of communicating with those beyond their immediate environments;

  • use effective communication to articulate their skills as identified through self-reflection.

How is this accomplished?


As above, but specifically:

  • emphasis on effective oral communication in tutorials;

  • emphasis on effective written communication in assessed assignment;

  • emphasis on tutorial participation and student presentations;

  • requirements to communicate and present quantitative evidence effectively in core courses;

  • requirements for collaborative tutorial work (when applicable);

  • requirements for and feedback on individual and group oral presentations in seminars (when applicable);

  • requirements for and feedback on group project work for seminars (when applicable).

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

Graduates will be able to effect change and be responsive to the situations and environments in which they operate, including the abilities to:


  • make constructive use of political analysis skills in personal, professional, and community life;

  • apply understanding of political risks, in relation to diverse stakeholders, while initiating and managing change;

  • be both adaptive and proactively responsive to changing socio-political contexts;

  • have the confidence to make decisions based on their understandings and their personal and intellectual autonomy;

  • transfer their knowledge, learning, skills and abilities from one context to another;

  • understand and act on social, cultural, global and environmental responsibilities, and help others to do the same;

  • be able to work effectively with others, capitalising on their different thinking, experience and skills;

  • understand and promote effectively the values of diversity and equity, while also recognizing possible trade-offs between these.

How is this accomplished?


By the combination of skills acquired at University, listed above.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

  • Library
  • IT skills
  • Research skills
  • Use of Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and other data processing software and word processing packages
  • Presentation skills and using presentation software
  • Awareness of data, its sources and uses


Programme structure and features

Programme Structure for 2013 entry onwards (MA Single Honours Politics with Quantitative Methods)

Politics with Quantitative Methods – Degree Programme Table


Semester 1

Semester 2

Year 1 (120 credits)

Introduction to Politics & IR

Political Thinkers


Mathematics for Social Science

Introduction to Statistics for Social Science


40 credits outside subjects


Summer School Conversion Course covering ISSS

Year 2


International Cooperation in Europe and Beyond

Comparative Politics


20 credits outside

Doing Social Research with Statistics


40 credits outside subjects

Year 3


Global Justice & Citizenship

Doing Political Research


20 credits PIR option 10

Approaches to Politics & International Relations


Statistical Modelling

Advanced QM Option

Year 4


Advanced QM Option

Advanced QM Option or PIR level 10


40 credits PIR options level 10


Dissertation 40 credits or Placement-based Dissertation

Notes: 60 – 80 credits for ‘with’ degree.

New QM courses

Year 1 & 2, Semester 1, Mathematics for Social Science

Learning objectives:

  • Social science problem solving with formal mathematic thinking

  • To cover the following topics

    • Gradients, equations and graphs of straight lines

    • Linear Regression

    • Graphs of quadratic functions, the solution of quadratic equations by computing the square and by the formula

    • Exponential and Logarithmic functions

    • Radian measure and trigonometric functions

    • Differentiation

    • Curve Sketching

    • Integration

    • Differential equations

    • Calculus of more than one variable

    • Vectors

    • Matrices

    • Eigenvalues and eigenvectors

    • Principal components

Year 1 & 2, Semester 2, Introduction to Statistics for Social Scientists

Learning objectives:

  • Basic SPSS skills, including graphical skills

  • Introduction to secondary data access and management

  • Understanding of measures of association

  • Appreciation of the difference between association and causality

  • An understanding of inference and the logic of sampling

  • Communicating basic statistics

  • The concept of control

  • Being able to construct 3 way cross-tabulations

  • An introduction to regression analysis


Year 2, Semester 2, Doing Social Research with Statistics

Pre-requisite: Introduction to Social Statistics for Social Scientists or conversion course

Learning objectives:

  • Data reduction techniques

  • Digital social research

  • Logistic regression

  • Using alternative software to SPSS

  • Ethics of survey fieldwork


Year 3, Semester 1, Statistical Modelling

Pre-requisite: Doing Social Research with Statistics

Learning objectives:

  • Multinomial and ordinal regression

  • Count data

  • Event history techniques

  • Log linear modelling


Honours options, semester long options

Pre-requisite: Statistical Modelling

Could include: SEM, Multilevel modelling, complex survey, panel data, cross-national models, latent variable techniques etc. Could also include courses shared with Mathematics (with separate tutorials and assessment). The options to be offered will be those which are being used in research in the School.


Year 1 to Year 2

Must pass (ie earn mark of 40%) all subjects

Year 2 to Year 3

A pass (40 %+) in six subjects overall including satisfying requirements for Honours entry. Entry into Honours Politics requires a mark of at least 50% in the required courses listed above

Year 3 to Year 4

End of semester degree examinations

Students with sufficient credits may exit at the end of year 3 with BA Humanities and Social Science

Year 4 Degree Classification

End of semester degree examinations and/or coursework. Degree classification based equally on performance across Years 3 & 4.

Classification based on performance across 12 semester courses or equivalent (240 credits).

Indicative Honours Options 2013-14 (not all options are available in any given year)

20 credits

Please note that all these courses are available to Politics students but are NOT all run by Politics IR.


Africa in World Politics (PLIT10003)

Approaches to Politics and International Relations (PLIT10060) – Compulsory

Armed Forces In Society (SCIL10033)

Comparative Politics (PLIT10061)

Comparing Scottish Devolution (PLIT10080)

Contemporary Feminist Thought (SSPS10001)

Contemporary Russian Politics (PLIT10048)

Core Texts in Political Theory (PLIT10059)

Criminal Justice: Policy And Practice (SCPL10002)

Designing and Doing Social Research (SCIL10062)

Doing Survey Research (SCIL10063)

Environmental Politics in Europe (PLIT10049)

EU As Global Actor (PLIT10062)

Europe & International Migration (PLIT10068)

Freedom In Political Theory (PLIT10074)

Global Justice & Citizenship (PLIT10054) - Compulsory

Global Politics of Sex & Gender (PLIT10075)

Governing the Social (SCPL10023)

Human Rights in International Relations (PLIT10063)

International Political Economy (PLIT10018)

International Security (PLIT10019)

Introduction to African Politics (PLIT10082)

Nations & Nationalism (SCIL10065)

Parties & Party Systems In Contemporary Democracies (PLIT10083)

Politics of the Middle East (PLIT10036)

Populism in Comparative Perspective (PLIT10083)

Realism in International Relations (PLIT10069)

Social & Political Movements: Theory & Practice (SCIL10047)

The Social Division of Welfare (SCPL10004)

Theories of International Relations (PLIT10053) – Compulsory

US Government (PLIT10027)


Teaching and learning methods and strategies

○ Best Practice in Feedback and Assessment;

○ Incorporate ideas from Innovative Learning Week in teaching practice;

○ Diversify teaching methods and approaches to learning (e.g. simulations; presentations; debates, etc.);

○ Linking students to on-going faculty research (e.g. ‘Understanding the Research Process’ seminars);

○ Research led teaching, in line with College learning and teaching strategy;

○ Essay writing workshops in 1st year.


Assessment methods and strategies

○ Use a diverse set of assessments (e.g. essays; exams; literature reviews; research reports; policy briefing papers, etc.);

○ Tutorial participation and learning exercises;

○ Single; pair and group presentations;

○ Dissertation is based on a work placement completed between the junior and senior honours years, and is conducted by the student on an individual basis guided by a series of supervision meetings with a member of staff.



Career opportunities

In recent years, single honours Politics graduates have entered the Civil Service, foreign affairs or political and parliamentary research. The degree programmes will also equip students for careers in finance and consultancy, the voluntary sector, journalism or teaching. Some graduates choose to go on to further training in accountancy or law or take postgraduate degrees with a view to pursuing an academic career.


Other items

○ The subject area, together with on course students, external examiners and quality assurance procedures, continually monitors the quality of the organisation, content, and delivery of its teaching with the aim of achieving the highest standards.

○ Diverse programme of activities co-ordinated by PIR Societies.

○ The teaching of the first cohort of students will be the subject of a report to the Nuffield Foundation as a condition of their funding.  This will provide further external input on the quality of the programme.

○ Opportunities for overseas exchanges in year 3 are possible as long as the student can confirm that they will have the possibility to follow advanced QM options while abroad.