Becoming Enlightened Citizens: Foundations in Politics and Government

The details
Essex Pathways
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Foundation/Year Zero: Level 3
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 27 June 2025
25 May 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA T7W8 American Studies (United States) with Film (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA MT28 Criminology and American Studies (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA R008 European Studies (Including Foundation Year),
BA R9T8 European Studies and Modern Languages (Including Foundation Year),
BA R9R8 European Studies with French (Including Foundation Year),
BA R9R6 European Studies with German (Including Foundation Year),
BA R9R7 European Studies with Italian (Including Foundation Year),
BA L921 International Development (Including Foundation Year),
BA L2M8 Politics with Human Rights (Including Foundation Year),
BA L2CH Social Sciences,
BA LFCH Social Sciences,
LLB ML26 Law with Politics (Including Foundation Year),
LLB M1V2 Law with History (Including Foundation Year)

Module description

This module is designed to explore the structures and dynamics of politics and government, providing a broad introduction to the ideas and institutions that shape the contemporary political world. It begins by looking at the beginning of Western political thought and how these ideas emerged and evolved to shape how we view the role of government today. The module then challenges conventional political thought and practices by providing an introduction to how politics shapes and is shaped by individuals, identities, culture, and society. We then explore the nature of representation, elections, and political participation in modern democracies, and issues of inequality that arise around these themes. The final section of the module examines contemporary issues that shape the modern political landscape, such as economic inequality, climate change, globalization, and crises of democracy.

Throughout the module, students will be exposed to critical perspectives of conventional practices and schools of thought; to explore new ways of thinking and doing, and envision a future that is equitable and sustainable for all. Students will be challenged to look beyond conventional Western (and neo-liberal) visions of the proper role between states, people, and the economy by engaging in thoughtful discussions and debates during seminar sessions.

Students will also gain confidence in their political knowledge and analytical skills by learning the basics of how to read and understand empirical social science, and how to use reason and evidence in their writing, as well as in forming their own political beliefs.

The module does not assume any prior knowledge of any of the topics. It aims to instil the skills and knowledge to allow all students to understand the political world so that they can become active agents of change within it. Students will also practice key academic skills to prepare them fully for academic life as an undergraduate in the social sciences and humanities.

The module is designed to complement concepts and skills learned in the Analysing the Social and Political World module, though it is not requisite for students to be enrolled in the Social and Political module.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide an introduction to the main concepts of politics and government.

  • To encourage students to think critically and carefully about issues such as democracy, citizenship, inequality, and sustainability.

  • To encourage students to follow events in contemporary politics and current affairs so that they can navigate the complex social and political world.

  • To understand the importance of the relationship between morality and politics.

  • To encourage students to be confident in the expression of their thoughts and ideas in seminars and groups.

  • To enable students to become familiar with the academic conventions of university life.

  • To understand the basic principles of empirical social science.

  • To develop a sense of political efficacy and to engage in the political process.

Module learning outcomes

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

    Demonstrate good knowledge and understanding of the main concepts of politics and government, including critical perspectives that challenge conventional ways of thinking.
  1. Critically analyse complex issues and themes in contemporary politics.

  2. Evaluate complex real-world problems from multiple perspectives in the context of politics and government.

  3. Evaluate and distinguish between normative and non-normative claims, and base normative evaluations on empirical observation.

  4. Develop, articulate and clarify your personal values and ethics to engage in thoughtful academic dialogue and debate.

  5. Write clearly and effectively.

  6. Select and evaluate primary and secondary sources and reference them accurately in their assignments.

  7. Understand the basic principles of empirical social science.

Skills for your professional life (Transferable Skills)

By the end of this module, you will have practised the following transferrable skills:

  1. Application of theory to practice & real-world problems.

  2. Team working through problem-solving in small groups.

  3. Time management and managing workload by keeping up with weekly activities and timely completion of assignments.

  4. Resilience, confidence building, and growth mindset by practising and honing your critical thinking and analytical skills.

  5. Reflective practice by engaging in periodic self-evaluations.

  6. Self-motivation and taking responsibility by undertaking research on a topic of your choosing.

  7. IT skills through the use of various technologies, such as Moodle and Microsoft Word.

Module information


Foundations in Politics and Government

  •  Introduction to Politics and Early Political Thought

In this introductory week, students will be introduced to basic concepts in politics and early thinkers in political philosophy. We will pay special attention to some of Plato's and Aristotle’s ideas.

  •  Politics and The State

Here students will be introduced to the concept of the state, the roles of government, and social contract theory. We will wrestle with questions such as: Why do we have government? and How strong should that government be?

  •  Democracy and Legitimacy

Those of us who grow up in democratic countries often take for granted that democracy is the greatest type of government. But what exactly is democracy? How can we define and measure it? Are democracies more legitimate than other forms of government?

  •  Crash Course in UK Government

This week we will focus on the structure of government in the United Kingdom, providing a broad overview of its institutions. We will also discuss constitutional principles and how they are applied to the UK context.


  •  Liberalism

Liberalism has had a profound impact not only on Western society but also on the entire globe. This week examines early liberalism as an outspring of the Enlightenment and how it has evolved over time. Students will examine the writings of liberal thinkers such as John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls.

  •  Conservatism

This week will continue our foray into political ideologies by examining conservatism. We will trace the development of conservative thought from Edmund Burke to the many strands of modern conservatism.

  •  Socialism

This week’s topic will explore the content and history of the socialist ideology, as well as its applications in practice. Students will be introduced to the writings of Karl Marx.

  • Nationalism

What exactly is a nation anyway? And what is the deal with nationalism? We explore these questions and more this week as we explore the concept of the nation and the varieties of nationalism.

  •  Special Topic: Current Politics

This week is reserved to explore an unfolding political event.

Spring Term

  •  How to Read and Understand Social Science

This week will introduce students to the empirical approach to politics and how it contrasts with theoretical approaches. Emphasis on quantitative methods, making connections with Analysing the Social and Political World module.

Identity, Culture, and the Media

  •  Politics and Identity: Race, Gender, and Social Class

This week we turn from political ideologies to contemporary debates about the roles of race, gender, and social class in politics. Does one’s social class, gender, or race impact their ability to engage equally in political and social life? Have we spent too much time focusing on identity politics?

  • Politics and Identity: Race, Gender, and Social Class Continued

We will continue our exploration of the politics surrounding race, gender, and social class.

  •  Political Culture and Media

This week, we will examine concepts such as political socialization and the role of media in politics.

“Of the People, by the People”

  •  Representation and Elections

Many of us take for granted our privilege to live in democratic countries. This week we will contend with the concepts of political representation and political equality. We will also examine different electoral systems and political participation in a comparative context.

  •  Political Participation

This week continues our examination of the role of The People in democracy, taking a closer look at what motivates people to participate in politics.

Contemporary Issues

  •  Globalization and Political Economy

The world is increasingly interconnected, posing challenges to governments, political leaders, and economies. We will contend with questions such as: What is the proper balance between global order and sovereignty? What is the relationship between states and markets?

  • Inequality

Economic inequality is a defining feature of modern developed countries. Is this problematic, or is it a natural and desirable outcome of a healthy capitalist system?

  •  Climate Change and Environmental Politics

Global climate change is slated to have an immense impact, with potentially devastating effects, such as mass displacement and migration, economic crises, and food shortages. How can these challenges be addressed politically?

  •  Writing Retreat

Students will be given time to work on their essays in class, with feedback from the instructor.

  •  Crises of Democracy

This week will focus on potential threats to democracy, including topics such as the decline in civic engagement, the material performance of democratic countries, populism, and mass migration. Are we facing crises of democracy as some have claimed, or is their concern exaggerated?

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 2-hour lecture per week.
  • One 2-hour seminar per week.

Teaching and learning on Essex Pathways modules offers students the ability to develop the foundation knowledge, skills, and competencies to study at the undergraduate level, through a curriculum that is purposely designed to provide an exceptional learning experience. All teaching, learning and assessment materials will be available via Moodle in a consistent and user-friendly manner.

Lectures and seminars are designed to complement each other. Lectures will cover a broad overview of the week's topics, providing students with a foundation in the concepts and theories necessary for a more in-depth analysis. Seminars are designed to help students delve more deeply into a specific aspect of the week's topic. During seminars, students will engage in thoughtful discussions about the week's topic and assigned reading(s), as well as work on both solo and group activities and exercises.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting

Additional coursework information

Formative assessment

  • Throughout the year, students will work on in-class individual and group exercises and activities during seminar sessions, such as weekly seminar worksheets. Some activities are designed to help students grasp and engage with the concepts learned in lectures and the readings, others are aimed at helping students work toward their summative assignments. 
  • For the latter activities, students will receive feedback during seminar sessions on how to improve before submitting their summative assignments. Students will also complete weekly online quizzes to assess their understanding of the week’s lecture material.

Summative assessment

  • Two end-of-term in-person tests (1.5 hours) – Tests will assess both the breadth and depth of students’ knowledge and understanding of the concepts and theories learned during each term. Tests will use a variety of question types, including multiple-choice, concept identification, and short essay. The test will be open-book (restricted), meaning that students will be allowed to bring specified materials to use during the test. 
    • Research Question and Proposal (500 words) – To help students prepare for their final essay assignment, they will first submit a proposal for their paper, outlining their topic of interest, the research question they want to explore, some brief background about their topic and why it is important, and identify several potential reference sources to use in their final papers.
    • Research Essay (1,500 words) – Students will choose one of the topics covered in the module to explore in more depth. They will propose a simple research question related to their chosen topic, formulate a clear thesis statement, and engage in a review of the scholarly literature on their topic to try to answer their research question.

Reassessment strategy

  • Failed coursework - Resubmit a piece of coursework (2,000 words) which will be marked as 100% of the new module mark. The reassessment task will enable the relevant learning outcomes to be met.

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Raynee Gutting, email: raynee.gutting@essex.ac.uk.
Dr Raynee Gutting
Lucy Anthony (lanthony@essex.ac.uk)



External examiner

Miss Jan O'Driscoll
University of Chester
Dean of Lifelong Learning and Director of Foundation Years
Available via Moodle
Of 3939 hours, 62 (1.6%) hours available to students:
3877 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Essex Pathways

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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