Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2008-2009 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2008/09 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • Within the current climate of ‘permanent emergency’ in the post 9/11 context of the ‘war on terror’, security has become a predominant issue in public policies. At the core of this problematics, the module aims to cover four major, yet highly interwoven, key aspects of contemporary developments in security politics:
  • Concerned with political answers to threats of terrorism and security concerns, the course aims to explore the causes and effects of the current dynamics and global recalibrations of security politics in the European context;
  • The module examines the multifaceted popular perceptions of current security issues;
  • The module investigates the proliferating range of trans-national, public-private networks of responsibility in providing increasingly standardised security solutions world-wide. In this, the course places particular emphasis on the role and responsibility of Western security companies in international transfers of expertise in security politics;
  • The module aims to critically examine the wider social implications of current developments in security politics (privacy issues, issues of social exclusion, etc.).


  • The module adopts an interdisciplinary perspective which is concerned with the complex and subtle interactions between strategies of security politics on local, national and global scales. Within this broad aim, it is possible to identify several key issues, such as the:
  • current globalisation of social risks (terrorism, political violence, hooliganism) and the globalisation of security partnerships, risk norms and security technology;
  • relationships between security politics and business interests;
  • increasing use of high-tech surveillance technologies and its social effects;
  • perception of security threats by the population at large;
  • interactions between risk-discourses, risk-perceptions and the proliferation of high-tech surveillance. The course thus enables students to place security politics within the context of their earlier and more general studies and to appreciate the wide impacts of security issues, concepts and theories in current social and political debates.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Through the module, students should acquire subject specific knowledge in order to:
  • explore and understand the multiple processes and relationships, through which current developments in security politics are conditioned;
  • develop an advanced understanding of sophisticated methodological approaches for examining the complex processes shaping the interconnections between risk discourses, popular fears and the proliferation of surveillance;
  • critically examine the relationships between different disciplinary security-approaches and to consider their appropriateness for understanding current developments in security politics.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Through the module, students should also further develop subject specific skills, enabling them to:
  • identify and apply appropriate methods of analysis in support of analytical argument, including the analysis and evaluation of competing theories, concepts and explanations;
  • effectively utilise diverse sources, including appropriate primary sources;
  • understand the significance of security issues to public policies;
  • demonstrate an independent and self-critical approach to learning.
Key Skills:
  • During the module, students will demonstrate and further develop important key skills. They should be able to:
  • retrieve and utilise a wide range of information using their own initiative;
  • accurately assess the suitability and quality of resources;
  • plan and complete a written assignment on-time and in appropriate format;
  • show flexibility in using knowledge and subject specific skills to meet the specific demands of the module;
  • develop a critical and fully independent approach to the controversial and contested dimensions of the course;
  • take responsibility for their own work.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching and learning is by 9 two-hour blocs, comprising nine lectures in the first hour and 9 seminars in the second.
  • Lectures at the start of each bloc introduce the main thematic and conceptual issues of the session. They set out the principal processes in different domains of security politics and offer instruction and information necessary for the advanced understanding of the key topics of the course.
  • In the second part of each session, the module uses seminars in order to provide a framework for subsequent debate, analysis and discussion exploring the contested and dynamic nature of the subject. Seminars offer the opportunity for considering particular problems in this field, and for understanding the difficulties of weighing up a variety of factors in reaching analytical conclusions.
  • Apart from the first session, each seminar will be focused on the discussion of one particularly relevant text for the understanding and conceptualisation of current developments in security politics. The aim is to develop an analytical critique that places the specific piece in appropriate context and assesses the extent to which the piece should be regarded as important, or even seminal, in our thinking about security, terror and surveillance.
  • Summative assessment is by a case-study project (100%). The aims of the case-study project are for students to examine, analyse and assess the critical issues surrounding the module themes. The cases, chosen from a specified list, raise serious and controversial issues in the context of ‘security, terror and surveillance’ and challenge students to come to a reasoned, well-argued judgement about both the international political responses to current security and terror threats and the wider social implications of security politics. Students will develop a critical and independent approach to defend a superior course of action or draw more general lessons of particular insights into the subject.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 Weekly 1 hour 9
Tutorials 9 Weekly 1 hour 9
Preparation and Reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Case-study based project report from list of specified cases 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

10-15 minute student presentation in seminars supported by handout of 1000 words with feedback via presentation proforma.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University