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Home > Courses > Postgraduate > Elections, Campaigns and Democracy
More in this section Politics & International Relations

Elections, Campaigns and Democracy MSc

UCAS code
Year of entry 2018
Course Length
1 year full time
2 years part time
Department Politics and International Relations »


Elections are more unpredictable than ever. Recent campaigns have shocked and surprised pundits and politicians alike. From the 2015 UK General Election, to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump – recent elections have thrown up some unexpected results. This course is designed to better understand how modern election campaigns work, to identify what strategies have been employed, which have been successful, which have failed, and why. What explains the success of political outsiders and how best can mainstream parties respond? Why have recent results been so unpredictable? And how can we better track public opinion and analyse voting behaviour? 

Working with academics who are expert in the field of elections and polling agencies who have worked on political campaigns, you will get both a theoretical and practical insight into the challenges of running a modern election campaign. This course is ideal for anyone who wants a career in campaigning, social research or political consultancy, or is interested in a career in government or academia. 

The Department of Politics and International Relations has a strong commitment to high quality, cutting-edge research which informs our teaching. We are an international research community that draws on various methodological and theoretical approaches to the study of domestic, transnational, regional and global politics. This includes research into areas such as security, international diplomacy, public policy, the European Union, voting behaviour, political participation, and the impact of new communication technology on politics, nationalism and migration. 

This course is also offered at Postgraduate Diploma level for those who do not have the academic background necessary to begin an advanced Masters degree. The structure of the Diploma is identical except that you will not write a dissertation. If you are successful on the Diploma you may transfer to the MSc, subject to academic approval.

Core modules

Elections and Campaigning

In this module you will examine why people vote for different political parties, and how voting behavior is shaped by different mobilisation strategies. You will learn why political outsiders have recently gained so much electoral support, and how best mainstream parties can respond. You will develop an understanding of how campaigns shape voting behavior and influence the criteria citizens use in deciding how to vote, see how these patterns have changed over time, and be able to identify the main factors that shape electoral behavior and election outcomes across western democracies.

Dissertation

The dissertation is the culmination of independent supervised research, and will be around 10,000 words in length. Your choice of dissertation topic will be made at the end of the spring term, and you will be allocated a supervisor with expertise in your chosen field. You will submit an outline of the project, with an indicative bibliography, to the Programme Director at the beginning of the third term, and your supervisor will arrange a series of progress meetings over the summer period. Your dissertation may be either a critical analysis of a theoretical problem or the result of an empirical project.

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

You must take either Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods in Politics and International Relations or Theories and Qualitative Approaches in Politics and International Relations.

Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods in Politics and International Relations

This module provides an introduction to a range of quantitative methods commonly used in the study of Politics and International Relations, equipping you with the skills to successfully study and analyse a wide range of political phenomena. You will examine ways in which theoretical propositions can be tested with empirical data, and a substantial part of the module will be based in labs where you will learn how to carry out quantitative analysis on existing data sets on elections, democracy and war. The aim is to empower you so that you are confident in interpreting and handling statistical data. No prior knowledge or experience of statistics is needed, and you will develop both a conceptual understanding of the statistical techniques and practical experience in conducting statistical analysis.

Theories and Qualitative Approaches in Politics and International Relations

This module will provide you with an introduction to the core theories and qualitative approaches in politics and international relations. You will examine a number of explanatory and theoretical frameworks, their basic assumptions, strengths and weaknesses, and concrete research applications. You will consider the various qualitative techniques available for conducting search research, the range of decisions qualitative researchers face, and the trade-offs researchers must consider when designing qualitative research. You will examine qualitative methodology in political analysis, including interviews, focus groups and ethnography; analysing textual data; comparative qualitative methods; and comparative qualitative analysis of history and political change.

You must take at least one of Analysing Public Opinion, Political Leaders and Democratic Politics, and Rejuvenating Politics - New Trends in Political Participation.

Analysing Public Opinion

This module focuses on how to measure and analyse public opinion. Working with survey practitioners you will learn about some of the challenges and pitfalls about measuring public opinion, and how best to overcome these. You will examine the sources of public attitudes towards a range of topics, such as immigration, Europe, and foreign policy, and how these attitudes have changed over time. You will also explore the link between public opinion and policy change, helping you to develop a critical understanding of the complexities of public opinion research.

Political Leaders and Democratic Politics

This module will introduce you to political leadership in the UK and USA. You will explore the political executives of two established democratic systems, one parliamentary and one presidential, and evaluate the processes through which they are selected. You will examine the role of leaders and the alleged importance of leadership effects in democratic elections, including the appeal of new populist figures. You will look at the two systems in comparison, and examine leadership in non-democratic systems, considering the importance of leadership in general.

Rejuvenating Politics - New Trends in Political Participation

In this module you will develop an understanding of political distrust and suspicion. You will consider the disconnection felt by many citizens from their elected representatives, and how citizen engagement in conventional avenues of political participation has declined. You will examine the decline of electoral turnout to the rise of other forms of political behavior, such as protest movements and digital activism. You will learn about who participates and why, and what can be done to involve more citizens in the political process.

Internet and New Media Politics

This module will provide you with an introduction to contemporary debates about the role and influence of new technologies on the values, processes and outcomes of global governance institutions, public bureaucracies, representative institutions including political parties and legislatures, and pressure groups and social movements. You will examine persistent and controversial policy problems such as the digital divide, privacy and surveillance, intellectual property issues, and the power of the new media sector in domestic and global economies. You will primarily consider the politics of the United States and Britain, but will also look at examples from around the world, including developing nations.

Social Media and Politics

This module addresses the ways in which social media are changing the relationships between politicians, citizens, and the media. You will develop an understanding of the broad arguments and debates surrounding the democratic implications of social media that are ongoing, not just in academic circles, but also in public commentary, political circles, and policy networks. Drawing on recent empirical research published in the most highly rated academic journals in the field, you will to be able to identify how social media are used by citizens, politicians, and media professionals to access, distribute, and co-produce contents that are relevant to politics and public affairs.

Media, War and Conflict

In this module you will examine the theories, concepts and issues surrounding the role of media in war and conflict in the early twenty-first century. The post-9/11 global security situation and the 2003 Iraq war have prompted a marked increase in interest in questions concerning media, war and conflict, and you look at the relationships between media, governments, military, and audiences/publics, in light of old, new, and potential future security events. You will develop an understanding of the theories of media effects in conflict situations, covering a number of important themes, including embedding, sanitisation, legitimacy, and terrorism and publicity. You will exlore the role of ethics, technology, and professional norms that inform war reporting, analysing a range of media with consideration for conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues in light of ongoing conflicts around the world.

United States Foreign Policy

In this module you will develop an advanced knowledge of the key concepts, themes and issues in United States Foreign Policy. You will look at both the history of US foreign policy as well as contemporary issues, utilising readings of key texts on a weekly basis to provide you with an in-depth exploration of these issues and how Americans think about foreign affairs.

Understanding Defence

In this module you will analyse the content and sources of change in defence policy during the post-Cold War era. You will look at changes to the objectives of defence policy, military capabilities, force structures and doctrines of the world’s major military powers (the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia). In so doing, you will asses the extent to which these reforms have helped the state concerned to meet its central security challenges. In addition, you will develop an understanding of the embedding of defence policies within regional and international institutions and the sources of defence cooperation. You will also see the implications of non-state actors in defence, notably private military companies and non-governmental organisations.

Non State Violence, Civil War and Security

In this module you will develop an understanding of the changes to post-Cold War defence policy. You will look at the new objectives of defence policy, military capabilities, force structures and doctrines of the world’s major military powers (the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia). You will analyse the extent to which these reforms have helped the state concerned to meet its central security challenges.You will explore the embedding of defence policies within regional and international institutions and the sources of defence cooperation, analysing the role and implications of non-state actors in defence, notably private military companies and non-governmental organisations.

Identity, Power and Radical Theory

This module will introduce you to new conceptualisations of identity, difference, power, and politics that are associated most notably with what has been termed 'Post-Marxist' or the 'New Left'. You will see how recent changes in both political theory and practice – some of which are associated with changes linked to globalization and the emergence of new social movements – present compelling a paradigm shift in the way politics is understood. You will focus on four concepts – identity, power, resistance, and otherness – that have become salient in contemporary political philosophy and international relations theory and on four theorists – Althusser, Gramsci, Laclau & Mouffe, and Foucault – whose thought on these issues has underpinned a great deal of New Left political theory and practice. You will look at how these issues have become prominent in the theory and politics around feminism and lesbian politics, and at new problematics for thinking about political thought and practice, with particular focus on what has been called the 'micropolitical' realm.

Theories of Globalisation

This module will provide you with an overview of political, and social science theories of, approaches to the study of globalisation. You will look at issues and debates central to the theorisation of globalisation. You will critically evaluate contending theories of globalisation, examining world global capitalism, global culture, the long history of globalisation, the making of world society, global transformations, the global age beyond modernity, the organisation of global culture, global flows and global networks, and the cosmopolitan perspective.

Sovereignty, Rights and Justice

Given the complexity and controversy of events and occurrences in international affairs, it seems strange to think that the disciplines of international relations and political theory were considered to be separate in the 20th Century. In this module you will look at the re-emergence of international political theory after the Cold War, developing a comprehensive understanding of international events. In doing so, you will examine and evaluate key ideas about the central notions of sovereignty, the rights of states and individuals and what justice means in an international context. You will engage with material at the cutting edge of contemporary political and international relations theory, thinking about issues that will be of increasing importance in the 21st century.

Human Rights - From Theory to Practice

This module explores some of the key issues which arise in the moral evaluation of human rights, both in general and with respect to particular rights. You will consider the role of rights in political and moral discourse and develop an understanding of some of the key criticisms to which they’ve been subject. You will also look at the three major categories of rights which have attracted much debate: economic rights, minority rights, and group rights. Finally, you will gain an oversight of the three central rights in liberal societies, examining the ways in which they have been interpreted and defended in light of recent political debates.

Global Politics and Religion

In this module you will develop an understanding of the global religious resurgence that has taken place in recent decades. You will consider the connection between globalisation and religious nationalism with specific reference to how globalisation has brought politics and religion into new and important configurations, including Iranian theocracy, liberation theology in Nicaragua, the Solidarity movement in Poland, Zionism, Hindu nationalism in India, Muslim movements in Turkey, the evangelical right in the United States and Islamic fundamentalism. You will draw on perspectives from Sociology, Theology, History, and Anthropology to move beyond Western conceptions of religion, viewing religion and its relationship to politics from a 'global' perspective.

Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework and a dissertation.

Entry criteria:

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1); or equivalent

Mature students with substantial work experience will also be considered. 

English language requirements:

IELTS score of 6.5 with 7.0 in writing and no sub-score below 5.5 for non-native English speaking applicants.


If you require Royal Holloway to sponsor your study in the UK, your IELTS must be a UK government-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT).

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below




Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.

 Additional information:

  • This course will attract those with backgrounds in politics, international relations and from allied disciplines such as history, economics, geography, and both recent graduates and mature students with work experience.

Graduates of political degrees have much to offer potential employers having developed a range of transferable skills, both practical and theoretical, whilst studying with us. With up to 90% of our most recent graduates now working or in further study, according to the Complete University Guide 2015, it’s true to say our graduates are highly employable. 

The methodological nature of a politics degree provides graduates with valuable analytical and research skills in preparation for careers in government, political consultancy, NGOs and research organisations.

In recent years, departmental graduates have secured jobs in a wide range of professions, such as the law, the civil service, accountancy, management, journalism, broadcasting, teaching, international development and diplomacy. In fact, six-months after graduation, 90% of our most recent graduates are enhancing their skills with further study or forging careers in companies and institutions such as:

  • Bloomberg
  • The Church of England
  • Citigroup
  • The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  • The Conservative Party
  • Ernst & Young
  • The European Commission Global Capital
  • HM Treasury
  • The Henry Jackson Society
  • House of Commons
  • Ipsos MORI
  • The Labour Party
  • KAYAK
  • NATO Headquarters
  • Oxford Business Group
  • Proctor & Gamble
  • Quadrangle
  • Save the Children 

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £8,500

International students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £14,900

Other essential costs**: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

* These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee, usually equivalent to approximately half the full-time fee. Please email student-fees@royalholloway.ac.uk for further information on part-time fees. All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees and our terms and conditions.

** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.

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