Contemporary Challenges in World Politics

3 weeks
Course Type
Summer School

This programme introduces students to different approaches to studying politics and international relations, which will then apply to a range of contemporary political issues and case studies. Topics covered include development, environmental politics, inequality, and the rise of populism. Students will also have the chance to develop their own research, and apply what they have learned on the course to a topic of their choosing under supervision of the teaching staff.

In the aftermath of the Cold War, a Western form of liberal democracy and the capitalist economic model appeared to be ascendant in world politics. Since then, a number of challenges have emerged that have undermined Western hegemony and America's status as the only global superpower. These include, but are not limited to: the rise of China, India and other nations as more significant geopolitical players; ideological concurrent undermining of the capabilities of the nation state; popular resistance to governments across the international political economy and development.

In this course we apply some of the main analytical tools of politics and international relations to these topics. We use these to make better sense of some of the main structures and forces at play in global politics, and to gain a deeper understanding of contemporary issues. We will also discuss changes in the academic disciplines of politics and international relations, espeically the move away from a predominantly Western, state-centred worldview towards one that takes into account a greater range of global perspectives. The topics we cover in the course are all related to challenges to this worldview, and will include:

  • Global perspectives on social justice
  • The challenge of addressing climate change
  • Populism and other contentious forms of politics
  • Extremism and debates around security
  • International relations beyond the West


Please note that the programme plan is subject to change for BISS 2020.

To be accepted onto the Contemporary Challenges in World Politics programme you must:

  • Be aged 18 years or over at the start date of the BISS programme.
  • Be studying an undergraduate programme at a University outside the UK or be registered as an International student at a UK university.
  • Be of good academic standing (based on a translated transcript, verified by your University). 

English Language Requirements

  • Have achieved English Language proficiency of IELTS 6.0 overall with no lower than 5.5 in any band.
  • Have achieved English Language proficiency of TOEFL IBT 80 overall with no less than 19 in listening, 19 in reading, 21 in speaking and 19 in writing.
  • Have achieved English Language proficiency of PEARSON with a minimum of 53 in listening, reading, writing and speaking.


The teaching on this course will be split between lectures and seminars, and a research-led activity performed in small groups. The lectures and seminars will be taught by members of the politics department who will draw upon their expertise in political economy, international relations, comparative politics and political theory. Students will learn about some of the main research paradigms used by researchers through applying them to real-world case studies, and will have the chance to experience learning in a British university environment.

For the research component of the course, students will work in small groups under the supervision of the teaching staff. They will work to apply some of what they have learned to their group's choice of topic. This will give the students the chance to develop their own work, in greater detail, and to work closely with an academic at a level appropriate to them. Supervisors will work with students to develop their research and presentation skills. At the end of the course we will come together to present and discuss each other's research.

Contact Hours

The programme is formally assessed with a group presentation and a group research project.

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