Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module SGIA49030: Debating the European Union

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA49030: Debating the European Union

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • Provide advanced knowledge and understanding of debates relating to the nature, current state and future of European integration;
  • Examine controversial issues that have divided public opinion in the EU such as EU enlargement, the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, and the fallout from the Eurozone, the refugee and the Brexit crises but also controversies relating to future policies such as the development of a European Army and moves towards a more federal and a more democratic EU;
  • Enable critical evaluation of opposing perspectives from leading scholarship and by employing empirical evidence on a wide range of disputes in the EU;
  • Develop advanced knowledge and understanding of current issues and debates in EU.
  • Examining the tensions between the EU’s internal and external ambitions and the increasing diversity of national interests amongst the 27-member states;
  • To provide an understanding of how the European Union reacts to domestic and international crises;


  • •The content will focus on debates in relation to the nature and overall value of the EU, including different visions of what the EU should be. Indicative module content may include:
  • • the changing nature of the integration and policy making process;
  • • the relationship between the EU and its member states;
  • • the efficiency and the democratic credentials of the EU governance system;
  • • more power to the EU or renationalization;
  • • Euroscepticism and political representation in the EU;
  • • Elections and referendums in the EU;
  • • the Brexit process;
  • • the fallout from the Eurozone and refugee crises;
  • • the implications of differentiated integration;
  • • the rise of populism and nationalism in Europe and the decline in trust in European institutions.
  • The content will also focus on the external dimension of the EU, in particular on debating what kind of actor is the EU in international affairs. Indicative module content may include:
  • • the EU as a global actor;
  • • the normative power of the EU;
  • • EU’s global image;
  • • the experience and implications of enlargement;
  • • the impact of European neighbourhood policy;
  • • the relationship between EU trade policy and development;
  • • EU security and the relationship with NATO;
  • • the EU and globalisation;
  • • EU counter-terrorism policies;
  • • EU’s response to international crises, the cases of Ukraine, Syria and Libya.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will acquire knowledge and understanding of:
  • • debates relating to the nature, current state and future of European integration;
  • • the whole spectrum of thinking about the European Union, including pro-European and Eurosceptic perspectives;
  • • the EU governance system and the policy process and how they inter-relate with the member states and international actors;
  • • the major crises in the EU and their implications for European countries
  • • the EU-27’s variable geometry as a result of successive waves of enlargement;
  • • the nature and variety of challenges facing the EU in the contemporary Internal Relations environment;
  • • the role and influence of the EU in the world.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate specific skills, such as:
  • • apply relevant concepts and approaches to EU politics;
  • • interpret and analyse the policy processes operating within the EU and how these are differentiated between internal and external policies;
  • • critically assess issues in EU governance system and its implications for the member states and for associated countries;
  • • identify and evaluate the tension between national politics and the process of supranationalisation;
  • • Critically evaluate different interpretations of controversial political issues and major events in the EU.
Key Skills:
  • Students will also develop some important key skills, suitable for underpinning study at this and subsequent levels, such as:
  • • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level;
  • • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution;
  • • Advanced ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources, as well as primary sources, and policy reports;
  • • Ability for independent thinking informed by the academic debate at an advanced level;
  • • Advanced essay-writing skills and the ability to work to a deadline;
  • • Effective written communication of research and policy applications;
  • • Ability to reflect critically on their own work and performance.

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

  • The module is taught via lectures, seminars and a workshop.
  • The module includes 12 lectures. These are designed to ensure that students with different backgrounds approach the subsequent seminars with an understanding of the practical and intellectual requirements of the module.
  • Subsequent 11 seminars provide an opportunity to discuss the issues raised in the lectures. Some of the seminars will be based on individual student presentations, where students identify, investigate, formulate and advocate reasoned arguments in support of each side of the debate based on conflicting beliefs. Other seminars will be based on activities relating for instance to analysis primary documents and case studies. There will also be an emphasis on simulation activities which emphasise active learning to aid student understanding of the key issues and the complexities of decision-making in the EU. The two-hour workshop will be focused on a simulation activity of decision-making in the European Council. The seminar activities and the workshop enable the students to acquire knowledge and understanding of the subject matter and develop their abilities to communicate and to develop their own skills in argumentation.
  • The module has the following assessments:
  • A summative essay of 3,500 words essay at the end of the module. A set of essay questions will be provided, and students will select one question. Students are required to use both primary and secondary sources to test arguments in the essay. This allows students to demonstrate acquisition of knowledge, analytical capacity and research skills on specific topics. This enables them to demonstrate that they have sufficient subject knowledge and understanding to meet the assessment criteria.
  • Aformative assessment is an essay of 1,500 words from a selected list of questions and a seminar presentation as part of the Oxford style debates. The essay and presentation will enhance students’ ability to research topics, gather and analyse empirical material and develop transferable skills such as teamwork, organisation and effective communication.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 12 Spread evenly throughout the teaching period 1 hour 12
Seminars 11 Spread evenly throughout the teaching period 1 hour 11
Workshop 1 In the second term 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 275
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3500 100%

Formative Assessment:

Student presentation in seminars and an essay of 1,500 words in length.

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