Why study at POLSIS?

POLSIS offers an intellectually rich and rewarding experience at a leading university in a dynamic and ambitious city.

Undergraduate degrees

Choose to study in POLSIS and take the opportunity to examine some of the most important political issues, both at a national and international level, that we, as citizens, face in the 21st century.

Masters degrees

The Department of Political Science and International Studies offers the broadest range of MA programmes of any department in the UK, all delivered by internationally-recognised staff.

Doctoral research

We welcome applications for Research degrees in a variety of subject areas. We offer PhD and MPhil study with the support of dedicated supervisors who are experts in their field.

Great lecturers and researchers

Our modules and programmes are taught by leading scholars working at the forefront of their respective fields.

The Department has long-established strengths in the fields of Asian politics, British politics, Diplomacy, Environmental politics, European studies, Gender and feminist theory, International political economy, International relations theory, Party politics, Political sociology, Political theory, Russian and Eurasian Studies and Security studies.

In order to understand how best to facilitate learning, and to ensure that learning in POLSIS is an experience students 'never forget', many of our staff members are involved in research into pedagogical theory and practice.

Scholarship on learning and teaching, published in leading disciplinary journals such as PoliticsInternational Studies Perspectives and pedagogy journals including Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, enables academics to engage with theoretical approaches to learning activities and to explore issues and concerns in learning and teaching.

More information

Student enhancement activities

In POLSIS we offer much more than a degree. As a student here, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, you have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of events, with some or all of the costs paid for by the department. Some of these are targeted to help you build skills and experience for your CV, others are more open events designed to expose you to high-level speakers on current debates relevant to all POLSIS students.

Our student experience activities

Teaching and learning

We advocate an enquiry-based approach to learning, which means that we encourage you to become an independent and self-motivated learner. Through the programme of study we offer, we will develop the qualities that employers value in today's university graduates - qualities that will set you apart in your future career.

To help you develop the above-mentioned skills, we adopt a range of teaching methods. They may include:

  • Lectures - listening to experts sharing their knowledge and discoveries in challenging and provocative ways. Students are expected to 'read-around' the subject matter of their lectures, adding to their understanding and developing their critical faculties and analytical skills.
  • Seminars - where you present and discuss your ideas and knowledge in smaller groups and debate interpretations and opinions with other students.
  • Tutorials - are your opportunity to discuss your work with your tutor, usually in small groups.
  • Workshops - are problem solving sessions facilitated by a member of academic staff; these sessions usually involve students working in groups.

Our lecturers and tutors will ensure you have all the resources you need to make the transition from A levels to the more rigorous demands of a degree.

Innovative practice

In POLSIS, we are always looking to devise interesting modules that can enhance learning.  Over the last few years we have introduced the following new modules:

  • International Political Economy - asks the big questions about the global political economy, such as 'Is the future Made in China?' and 'Is it true that crime doesn't pay?' (on the 'illicit economy').
  • Law, Politics and the International System: Mediating Power beyond the State - an advanced introduction to the role of law in contemporary international relations. This module is organised around case study analysis of topics, including human rights, the use of force, international criminal justice, and 'self-determination'. 
  • Sociology of 'Race' and Ethnicity: A Global Perspective - approaches the concepts of 'race' and ethnicity from a sociological perspective through historical contextualization. Unlike other modules of its kind, this module is neither British-centric nor does it have a scope which is restricted to the twentieth century.

Innovation extends from the content of our modules to our teaching methods themselves, including our methods of assessment.  The following are all examples of recent innovations in our practice:

  • Use of course-related blogs: intended to allow students to follow developments in current affairs, about which there may be few 'published' sources of information.
  • Seminars based around 'small team exercises': students participate in these under a tutor's direction; they represent an innovative application of peer-assisted learning.
  • Our assessment methods now range far beyond the traditional format of essay-and-exam – though this does remain important to what we do.  For example, new formats include the simulation exercise, the production of a documentary in small group, the briefing paper, and the literature summary.


Our graduates are well prepared for the world of work whether they chose to work in the public, private or third sector.

POLSIS is committed to working closely with employers and students to ensure that our students have the opportunity to develop the skills that are in demand and that are essential to the professional development of graduates.

Our curriculum as well as our learning and teaching enable students to graduate with the following skill sets that employers and alumni tell us are essential.

The strengths that we focus on in the Department are derived from those identified by Universities UK, and there are seven of particular relevance to POLSIS students.

The 'lucky seven' aspects of employability

  1. Self-management - Readiness to accept responsibility, flexibility, resilience, self-starting, appropriate assertiveness, time management, readiness to improve own performance based on feedback, reflective learning.
  2. Teamworking - Respecting others, co-operating, negotiating/persuading, contributing to discussions, and awareness of interdependence with others.
  3. Problem solving - Analysing facts and situations and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions.
  4. Communication and literacy - Application of literacy, ability to produce clear, structured written work and oral literacy – including listening and questioning.
  5. Information literacy - Basic IT skills, including familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, file management and use of internet search engines.
  6. Initiative and originality - Frequently mentioned by both employers and universities is entrepreneurship/enterprise: broadly, an ability to demonstrate an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking.
  7. Underpinning all these attributes, the key foundation, must be a positive attitude: a 'can-do' approach, a readiness to take part and contribute, openness to new ideas and a drive to make these happen.

Our approach to employability is both flexible and developmental.

  • We review our skills provision annually to ensure that we are able to respond to changing demands in the employment sector.
  • We encourage our student to be aware of the need to develop their employability skills.
  • We facilitate student-employer engagement opportunities to improve student employee and career learning, and better market the attributes of our graduates to future students and future employers.
  • We have a range of curriculum enhancement activities with which students can get involved to enhance their graduate attributes, including the POLSIS Annual Student Conference.

POLSIS Graduates are innovative, independent individuals who are reflexive in their approach, professional in their attitude and positive in their engagement with others.

Equality and diversity

In the School of Government, we are committed to creating a caring, accessible and inclusive environment in which everyone feels they belong, fit, and may thrive. We welcome, value, and embrace diversity in our staff and student body, such as differences in nationality, cultural backgrounds, race, ethnicity, disability, age, class, religion or belief, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. 

We aim to embed this commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in our teaching and learning practices, our tutorials, our extensive module choices, our curriculum, student representatives and groups, welfare services, research, and the wide range of events and seminars organised. The School of Government will not tolerate any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination.

The University of Birmingham currently holds a Bronze Athena SWAN Charter Award. Its Equality Scheme ‘Advancing Equality, Valuing Diversity’ document sets out the equality objectives and actions for 2016-20. The latest Equality and Diversity Annual Report (2017) details work undertaken over the last year to meet our equality objectives.