Study Politics – A Comprehensive Subject Guide

This guide offers a comprehensive overview of the key concepts, theories, and topics within the realm of politics. Whether you’re a student pursuing a degree in political science or someone with a keen interest in understanding the complexities of political systems and global governance, this guide provides an essential foundation for grasping the intricacies of political thought and practice, empowering you to engage with the critical issues that shape our world.


Table of Contents

What is Politics?

Politics is a multifaceted and complex field that encompasses various activities, processes, and structures related to governance, power, and decision-making within a society or among nations. At its core, politics is concerned with how societies and communities organise themselves, make collective decisions, and allocate resources. Here are some key aspects and definitions of politics:

  1. Governance: Politics is often associated with the governance of a community, whether at the local, national, or international level. It involves the creation and implementation of laws, policies, and regulations that guide the behaviour of individuals and institutions.

  2. Power and Authority: Politics examines the distribution of power and authority within a society. It explores who holds power, how it is acquired, and how it is exercised. Political actors include governments, political parties, interest groups, and individuals.

  3. Ideology: Political ideologies are sets of beliefs and values that shape the goals and policies of political actors. These ideologies can include liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and many others, each with its own vision of a just and well-ordered society.

  4. Conflict and Cooperation: Politics involves both conflict and cooperation. While conflicts can arise over competing interests and values, politics also provides a framework for resolving disputes through negotiation, diplomacy, and, in some cases, force.

  5. International Relations: The field of international politics focuses on the interactions between nations, addressing issues such as diplomacy, conflict resolution, trade, and alliances. International organisations like the United Nations play a critical role in global politics.

  6. Citizenship and Participation: Politics is not limited to government and elites. It includes the role of citizens in a democracy, where voting, activism, and civic engagement are essential for influencing political decisions.

Why Study Politics?

Studying politics is valuable for several reasons, as it provides essential knowledge and skills that can benefit individuals, communities, and societies as a whole. Here are some compelling reasons to study politics:

  1. Understanding Governance: Politics helps you understand how governments operate and make decisions. This knowledge is crucial for informed citizenship and for participating effectively in a democratic society.

  2. Civic Engagement: Studying politics can inspire civic engagement and activism. It encourages individuals to be actively involved in their communities, advocate for change, and participate in the democratic process through voting, campaigning, and volunteering.

  3. Critical Thinking: Politics cultivates critical thinking and analytical skills. It requires the ability to assess information, evaluate policy proposals, and form reasoned opinions about complex issues.

  4. Influencing Policy: Those who study politics can influence policy and public discourse. This can be through involvement in advocacy, policy analysis, or by pursuing a career in government or public service.

  5. Social Justice: Political studies often examine questions of justice and equity, leading to a better understanding of issues like poverty, discrimination, and human rights. This knowledge can be applied to promote social justice and advocate for marginalised communities.

Best Universities for Politics in the UK

Here is a list of the top UK universities in this field according to the latest QS World University Rankings:

RankInstitutionEntry StandardsStudent SatisfactionResearch QualityContinuationGraduate prospects outcomesGraduate prospects on trackOverall Score
1University of Oxford2053.3699.68282100
2University of Cambridge1933.2499.5927699.5
3UCL (University College London)1893.713.597.4898896.7
4University of St Andrews2114.233.1699.1817896.5
5London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London1883.783.5198.2827295
6University of Warwick1724.173.4297.2787894.4
7King's College London, University of London1863.843.2696.5847694.4
8Durham University1803.543.198.1818693.3
9The University of Edinburgh1983.523.598.8826893.3
10University of Exeter1653.893.3397.6817893.3
11University of Bath1693.792.9798.2848092.9
12University of Bristol1703.653.2999.7776892.1
13University of Leeds1573.723.0798.4828291.9
14University of Glasgow2073.793.2798.1747291.9
15University of Manchester1603.663.4398.2797091.7
16University of York1523.833.3795.8787691.1
17SOAS University of London1453.83.3497.4797891.1
18Loughborough University1473.932.8798.6827090.5
19University of Birmingham1503.693.2397.1807490.4
20University of Nottingham1493.683.1697.2787490
21University of Surrey1204.233.0994.1858089.8
22University of Strathclyde2153.933.5695.9567089.7
23Lancaster University1423.853.2297.8698089.7
24University of Sheffield1573.753.496.4676889.5
25Cardiff University1443.673.1997.5747089
26City, University of London1183.823.1196.3857888.8
27Queen Mary University of London1423.63.4597726688.6
28University of Southampton1353.813.1198.5717288.6
29Aston University, Birmingham1253.883.296.3727487.9
30University of Stirling1874.022.8799.4576687.6
31Aberystwyth University1244.163.1598.4675887.4
32University of Aberdeen1884.062.6896.2676687.3
33Newcastle University1483.633.0397.6656887.3
34Royal Holloway, University of London1313.923.5597.3616087.2
35University of Sussex1313.793.3796.4656687.1
36University of Liverpool1333.573.0497.1706886.6
37University of Leicester1183.843.0396.5667686.2
38University of Essex1193.953.4694.9656286.2
39Swansea University1263.752.8894.8697285.6
40Brunel University London1123.86395.5657885.4
41University of Reading1203.893.2793.5627085.3
42Edge Hill University1164.122.9494.885.1
43Queen's University Belfast1493.263.0693.2696485.1
44Keele University1193.912.894.7707084.9
45Northumbria University, Newcastle1313.923.0692.2696084.9
46University of East Anglia UEA1293.693.3494.6576284.6
47University of Kent1203.73.0695.8616484.2
48Oxford Brookes University1083.762.8294.4687884.1
49Bristol, University of the West of England1134.092.9293.6667284.1
50University of Plymouth1184.053.0595.8565483.8
51University of Portsmouth1113.813.2494.7615482.9
52University of Lincoln1213.942.9695.1515682.8
53University of Greenwich1143.822.894.282.7
54Manchester Metropolitan University1213.872.8293.8586282.6
55Nottingham Trent University1113.872.9793.5616282.5
56University of Hull1234.122.3491.5626082.3
57University of Dundee1673.722.8393.3515482
58Canterbury Christ Church University974.282.5191.9656281.9
59University of Chester1043.962.2598.1704681.7
60University of Salford1143.733.2592.8516281.7
61Liverpool Hope University1093.921.9396.8686081.7
62Sheffield Hallam University1024.072.791.4655881.7
63University of Huddersfield3.983.0894.6435281
64De Montfort University1033.762.4592.3687481
65University of the West of Scotland4.052.2795.3486481
66Coventry University1174.212.9481.7666480.9
67Leeds Beckett University1054.012.5694.2457680.7
68Bournemouth University1023.833.0988.9587080.7
69University of Westminster, London1084.013.0488546480.6
70Goldsmiths, University of London1103.412.8592.6576680.5
71University of Derby1183.762.549080.1
72University of Winchester1183.562.4780.4707478.9
73Ulster University1173.773.384486278.7
74Liverpool John Moores University1183.9694.677.2
75University of Northampton973.831.296.477.2
76York St John University1184.0790.376
77University of Hertfordshire1014.458774.6
78London South Bank University1093.9488.573.8
79London Metropolitan University99490.7613873.2
80University of East London813.352.384.571.3

Entry Requirements for a Politics Degree

Entry requirements for a Politics degree in the UK can vary depending on the specific university and the level of study (undergraduate or postgraduate). 

Undergraduate (Bachelor’s Degree):

  1. Academic Qualifications: Typically, you’ll need to have completed your secondary education or an equivalent, such as A-levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB). Good grades in relevant subjects like Politics, History, or the social sciences are often preferred.

  2. A-Level or Equivalent: Many universities in the UK require A-levels (or equivalent qualifications) in Politics or related subjects, and they may specify minimum grades. For instance, you might be required to have A-levels in subjects like Politics, History, or Sociology.

  3. International Baccalaureate (IB): If you’ve completed the IB, you’ll typically need a specific number of Higher Level (HL) points, often with a minimum score in a relevant subject.

Postgraduate (Master’s or PhD Degree):

  1. Bachelor’s Degree: For a Master’s degree, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, and for a PhD, you’ll need a Master’s degree in a related field. Your degree should generally be in Politics or a closely related discipline.

  2. Academic Performance: Your academic performance during your previous studies is essential. Universities typically require a minimum grade or GPA for admission.

  3. Language Proficiency: If your first language is not English, you may need to provide proof of English language proficiency through tests like IELTS or TOEFL.

Jobs for Politics Graduates

Here are the career prospects for graduates in this field:

  • Political Analyst: Political analysts study and analyse political trends, policies, and events to provide insights and recommendations to government agencies, think tanks, or media organisations.

  • Legislative Assistant: In government, legislative assistants provide support to legislators by conducting research, drafting legislation, and liaising with constituents.

  • Public Relations Specialist: Public relations specialists work for government agencies, non-profits, or private companies to manage their public image, communicate with the public, and respond to media inquiries.

  • Diplomat/Foreign Service Officer: Diplomats represent their country’s interests abroad, negotiating agreements, addressing international issues, and promoting diplomacy.

  • Campaign Manager: Campaign managers play a key role in political campaigns, organising strategy, fundraising, and outreach efforts for political candidates.

  • Journalist/Political Reporter: Politics graduates often become political journalists, reporting on political events and issues for newspapers, magazines, television, and online publications.

  • Government Affairs Specialist: Government affairs specialists work for corporations, trade associations, or non-profits to engage with government officials and advocate for policies that benefit their organisations.

What Professions Attract Politics Graduates?

Politics graduates enter diverse professions, with top choices including business, research, and administrative roles (10%), sales and marketing (7%), media (6%), and finance (5%). Post-graduation, 60.4% are employed, 13.6% pursue further study, and 13.4% balance work and study, illustrating their versatile career paths.

Salary for Politics Graduates

Check out the average salary for graduates in this field: 

Low skilled: £19,000

Medium-skilled: £22,000

High-skilled: £26,000


Topics for Politics Dissertation

Below, we present a diverse array of research areas, each offering an opportunity to delve into the complexities of Politics and make a significant contribution to its advancement:

  1. Political Theory: This area delves into the philosophical foundations of political systems and the nature of justice, rights, and governance.

  2. International Relations: Research in this field examines global politics, international conflict, diplomacy, international organisations, and issues of security and peace.

  3. Comparative Politics: Comparative politics involves the study of different political systems, including the analysis of governments, political parties, and policies in various countries.

  4. Political Economy: Political economy explores the relationship between politics and economics, examining issues like economic development, trade, and the impact of economic policies on society.

  5. Public Policy Analysis: This area involves evaluating and analysing government policies, their impact on society, and potential improvements or changes in policy formulation.

  6. Political Behaviour: Research in political behaviour focuses on understanding how individuals and groups make political decisions, vote, and engage in civic activities.

  7. Environmental Politics: Environmental politics examines the policies, regulations, and governance structures related to environmental conservation, climate change, and sustainability.

  8. Human Rights and Social Justice: Research in human rights and social justice explores the protection and promotion of human rights, justice, and equality, often within national and international contexts.

  9. Gender and Politics: Gender studies in politics examines the role of gender in political systems, including issues related to women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and gender equality.

  10. Media and Politics: This field investigates the role of media in shaping public opinion, influencing political discourse, and impacting democratic processes.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK

One of the most important things to consider is how much the degree is going to cost. Here is a general guide for 2023/2024:

  • For home students in England, universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.
  • In Wales, institutions can charge up to £9,000 for home students. However, Welsh students can apply for a fee grant to cover some of the cost of their tuition fees. This grant is currently not repayable or income-assessed.
  • Northern Irish universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and may charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK.
  • Scotland does not charge home students fees at the undergraduate level; however, students from England, Wales, or Northern Ireland are expected to pay up to £9,250 per year. International students from outside of the UK will pay significantly more to study in Scotland.
  • International students can expect to pay between £10,000 and £26,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees at universities across the UK. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year. As for postgraduate degrees, the average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year.
Besides the tuition fees, there are also several other cost considerations such as food, accommodation, phone bills, books, social life, memberships, and others. Remember to check out our free student budget calculator

Other Subjects to Consider

Given that you are interested in this subject area, you might also want to consider the following options: 

Frequently Asked Questions

Consider your interests, passions, and career goals. Research various degree programmes and their content to see which aligns best with your aspirations.

While earning potential is important, it’s also crucial to select a degree that you’re passionate about and suits your skills. A balance between your interests and potential career prospects is ideal.

Location can impact your overall university experience. Consider factors like cost of living, proximity to industry hubs, and personal preferences.

Evaluate tuition fees, available scholarships, and potential for part-time work. Create a budget to ensure you can manage your finances during your studies.

Consider combining your passions with practical skills. For example, if you love art but want job security, explore fields like graphic design or digital marketing.

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