IR5003 - Theories and Practice of Democracy

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What will I learn on this module?

What is a democracy? Are elections enough? How can democracy be improved in contemporary society? In this module you will be invited to challenge the traditional view that elections are sufficient for democracy. In doing so, you will explore theoretical and contemporary debates and practices surrounding direct and indirect democracy, political representation and participation. Case studies will be used to explore themes such as citizen participation (e.g. Participatory budgeting, e-democracy, consultation, focus groups), non-electoral representation, partnership working, social capital and the big society in context of the so called shift from government to governance.

How will I learn on this module?

The module will be delivered through lectures and interactive sessions, with a view to developing your skills in comprehension and communication. You will be introduced to important conceptual material on which you can build an understanding of contemporary democratic governance. To this end, lectures will be given to provide you with an outline understanding of the core concepts and issues, which will then be explored in more detail through interactive sessions and independent study by the student. Through directed reading and the setting of specific tasks, you will be encouraged to use the the interactive sessions to test and develop your understanding of the core ideas relating to this module.

Developing your presentation and employability skills is a key part of the design and delivery of the module. Students will engage in experiential learning through a simulated participatory budgeting/bidding exercise. Participatory budgeting is a form of democratic engagement in which residents and community groups decide how a pre-determined amount of public money is to be spent. Community groups and residents are asked to develop and present projects that meet pre-determined policy criteria (e.g. environmental/economic/social objectives). A voting event is then held within the community to decide which of those projects will be funded. Participatory budgeting has been used in the UK, including by Newcastle City Council, and worldwide. In your first assessment for the module, you will be asked to work in groups to develop a project that meets pre-determined policy criteria, and either present this during a simulated participatory budgeting event or offer it as a written project bid. In doing this you will have the opportunity to experience 'democracy beyond the ballot box' and will learn knowledge and practice skills used in policy-making, public governance, community engagement and developing successful funding applications. This is relevant to many roles in the public and voluntary and community sectors e.g. community engagement officers, elected members, fund-raising officer, researchers etc. Employment related skills gained from this include: team work, presentation skills, creating and justifying arguments, developing funding bids, finding and using evidence, budgeting public funds and developing projects to meet specific criteria etc.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The delivery and formative assessments for this module are designed to support reflective, tutor-supported and peer-supported learning. There are two components of formative assessment: session presentations and a mock exam. The aim of these is to provide you with feedback that will be helpful for your assessments and employability. Where possible, you will have the opportunity to build and practice your presentation and team-working skills, together with your ability to gather, organise and utilise evidence, data and information. In each session, a group of between one and four students will give a presentation on the seminar topic. Presentation and team-working skills will be explored in week one. Presentation topics will also be allocated in the first seminar. After the presentation, individuals will be given the opportunity to reflect on their experience of presenting and will have the opportunity to receive verbal feedback from the tutor with a view to developing their skills.

You will be given the opportunity to complete a practice exam question. You will be asked to answer one question. Feedback on how you answered this question will be given via a student-led peer review process (with input from the module tutor). You will also have the opportunity to review and mark (using the module assessment criteria) example answers.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of key concepts, theories and practices associated with democratic theories, representation and participation.
2. Debate and analyse the shift from government to governance in modern European democracies, and explore the democratic implications of this.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of sources; and use communication and information technologies for the retrieval, analysis and presentation of information in seminars and in the summative assessments for the module.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. To value the importance of collaboration to my learning and development and to appreciate its centrality to fostering intellectual curiosity.

How will I be assessed?

The interactive sessions outlined above provides a constructive and supportive learning environment for the formative assessment of these learning outcomes (MLOs 1, 2, 3, 4). The group presentation or project bid in the simulated participatory budgeting event and the timed exam will test your knowledge and understanding of the curriculum, as well as your intellectual/professional skills (MLOs 1, 3 (essay) (MLO 2, 3 (exam)). The group presentation/project bid in the simulated participatory budgeting event and the timed exam are the summative parts of the module.





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Course info

UCAS Code L2L2

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2021

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