IR5003 - Theories and Practice of Democracy

What will I learn on this module?

What is a democracy? Are elections enough? How can Western European 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 democracy beyond the ballot box; examining 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, consultation, citizen juries, deliberative polls), non-electoral representation, partnership working and governance, in context of the so called shift from government to governance.

There is a key focus on building your employability in the module. As part of the assessment, you will be asked to take part in a participatory budgeting/competitive funding bidding process. Where feasible, this will be based on a real life project remit linked with the goals and objectives of an external organisation. You will learn knowledge and practice skills used in policy-making, public governance, community engagement and developing and assessing successful funding applications. This is relevant to many roles in the public, private and voluntary and community sectors e.g. community and volunteer engagement officers, elected members, fund-raising officers, researchers etc. Employment related skills gained from this include: team-work, presentation skills, creating and justifying arguments, developing and assessing the merits of funding bids, finding and using evidence, using online IT tools and systems, budgeting public funds and developing projects to meet specific criteria.

How will I learn on this module?

The module will be delivered through one hour lecture sessions and two hour seminars/workshops, 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 Western European democratic governance. To this end, interactive 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 the seminar/workshop programme and independent study by the student. Through directed reading and the setting of specific tasks, you will be encouraged to use the seminars/workshops to test and develop your understanding of the core ideas relating to this module. You will be supported in the participatory budgeting/competitive funding bidding assessment in workshops designed to cover different elements of the bidding process such as building a research evidence base and costing.

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 real life or simulated participatory budgeting/competitive funding assessment. 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 help 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 funding bid that meets pre-determined funding/project criteria, and submit this to either a competitive participatory budgeting event or other bidding selection process. In doing this you will learn knowledge and practice skills used in policy-making, public governance, community engagement and developing successful funding applications.

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. Formative feedback will be given to assist students with the development of their funding bids: including feedback from the module tutor on project funding bids during tutor supported seminars/workshops and feedback on a written summary of funding project ideas by any external organisation involved. You will be asked to complete tasks in preparation for the seminars/workshops on themes relating to the essays, for which feedback from the tutors.will be given in classGroup tasks/work will offer the opportunity to build and practice your team-working skills, together with your ability to understand key concepts, gather, organise and utilise evidence, data and information.

You will also be given the opportunity to read and mark previous anonymised funding bids and take-home exam or essays within the classes using the module assessment criteria and feedback form. This will enhance your understanding of effective funding bids/essay styles and of how the assessment criteria translates into grades and feedback.

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 direct and indirect democracy, models of democracy, political 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. Team-work, 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/workshops 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 seminar/workshop programme, outlined above provides a constructive and supportive learning environment for the formative assessment of these learning outcomes (MLOs 1, 2, 3, 4). The group funding bid presentation and the essay will test your knowledge and understanding of the curriculum, as well as your intellectual/professional skills (MLOs 1, 3 (essay) ). The group funding bid presentation and the essay 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 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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