Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The goal of this module is to analyze the main ethical issues that are specific to the development of international organizations and transnational governance institutions since World War II.


  • The module will: a) address the ethical aspects of the design of international organisations and transnational governance institutions (should such organisations and institutions be democratically organised? Should they reflect differences in economic wealth or power?); and b) study the ethical implications relating to the impact of international organizations and transnational governance institutions on a range of variables including human rights, global distributive justice, and self-determination.
  • To provide an example, the module will explore, from an ethical point of view, the workings of the WTO. It will explore its voting structure, its impact on developing strategies and on human rights. This analysis will connected to the broader issue of the ethics of trade regimes in general and will feature detailed ethical evaluations of the existing trade related practices.
  • Similar patterns of enquiry will be devised for the international financial architecture, the regime governing climate change mitigation, or the role of the UN Security Council in determining standards for internationally legitimate uses of force.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • SSK 2: an advanced knowledge of the applied aspects connected to the moral evaluation of international organizations and global governance institutions ;
  • SSK4: an advanced knowledge of the main approaches to international ethics and global political philosophy
Subject-specific Skills:
  • SSS1: to develop the ability to analyse complex topics in political science and international relations broadly construed and to do so on the basis of directed and independent learning;
  • SSS2: to develop the technical, and qualitative research skills necessary to pursue research in political science and international relations;
  • SSS3: to carry out research in political science and international relations through independent work;
  • SSS4: to weigh critically qualitative and quantitative evidence in social and political analysis.
Key Skills:
  • KS1: the ability to think critically and creatively and to argue coherently;
  • KS2: the ability to think independently, including problem-solving ability and the ability to discriminate and use judgement;
  • KS3: the ability to organise data, abstract meaning from information and share knowledge at an advanced level;
  • KS4: the ability to communicate effectively across specialised subject areas in political science and international relations both orally and through written work.

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

  • Students will be taught and learn through self-guided learning, lectures, class discussion, and seminars.
  • Students are taught through one-hour lectures, followed by one-hour seminars. Each lecture will introduce the students to the key theoretical approaches or data relevant to the theme of the lecture. The lectures will be tailored to accommodate the differential knowledge and disciplinary skills of different cohorts and to make sure that students approach subsequent seminars with an appropriate level of knowledge and understanding.
  • The lectures will be followed by one-hour seminars during which students are required to individually present the weekly material to their peers. During seminars students are also encouraged to explore the lecture content in greater detail and to identify areas in which they require particular guidance, for example on further reading. The seminars will enable students to develop their abilities to conduct research, to communicate, to present theoretical alternatives and data, and to develop their own argumentation skills. Class discussion encourages background reading, contributing to the students’ independent learning. It will further allow students the opportunity to exchange ideas, to explore issues and arguments that interest or concern them in greater depth, and to receive feedback from both the group and the lecturer on their own arguments and understanding.
  • Students will be assessed through a final 3000 words essay. The essay formally tests skills of synthesis, analysis and critical evaluation with reference to material drawn from the module. It tests students’ ability to formulate complex arguments in articulate and structured English, within the discursive conventions and genres of academic writing (within an exam context). Exams indirectly test students’ ability to use sophisticated techniques of information retrieval and management, and to manage their time effectively. Each student will also be assessed on their ability to orally present their work through group presentations at the end of term. Students will receive collective feedback (i.e. feedback fro the group presentation) from the MSc Global Politics teaching staff (the reference here is to teaching staff responsible for the delivery of the core modules). Assessed presentations provide students with the opportunity to show their skills in synthetizing the content of the directed reading assigned on a weekly basis and to show that they can organise their ideas in a coherent and effective way. The assessment of presentations is crucial in determining the students’ ability to communicate their ideas orally.
  • Students will receive written feedback on formative work in all core modules to enable them to assess their understanding of the material before the examination. The formative work will consist in a short essay during the first part of the Michelmas and Easter terms (depending on when the modules are delivered) and of formative feedback on the weekly formative presentations

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 9 weekly 1 hour 9
Seminars 9 weekly 1 hour 9
Preparation and reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Presentation Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Presentation 25-35 minutes 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 90%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Presentation of 10-15 minutes with written feedback. Essay 2,000 words with written feedback.

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