Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module SGIA2371: Challenges and Conflict in European Politics

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA2371: Challenges and Conflict in European Politics

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Any Level 1 SGIA module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To deepen students understanding of European politics and the common challenges faced by European countries.
  • To encourage students to critically assess the current challenges confronting democratic politics in the EU member states, including the impact of EU membership and democratic backsliding, changing conflict lines in political competition, the tension between responsiveness and responsibility.
  • To explore common European challenges and evaluate varying responses on issues such as populism, immigration, the impact of European integration, globalisation and the financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the environment and climate change.
  • To enable students to understand the similarities and differences in democratic politics across Europe, such as issues of political representation and participation.
  • To improve students ability to examine real-world challenges through theoretical concepts, applying them to individual case studies and through comparison.
  • To enable students to engage with current debates affecting European states.


  • The content of the module will focus on politics within and across European countries from a comparative perspective. Indicative topics may include:
  • the process and dynamics of political representation including responsiveness, party competition and changing lines of conflict in Europe.
  • the challenges of populism, the rise of anti-establishment parties and the immigration issue
  • the forms and evolution political participation, the impact of declining trust on political participation and political disengagement
  • the relationship between the EU and its member states and the impact ofEuropeanisation and globalisation
  • the challenge of democratic legitimacy in the EU and disintegration in the EU.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will acquire knowledge and understanding of:
  • the key issues that matter across European countries
  • the current challenges to democratic politics and governance in Europe
  • the interaction between domestic, regional and global forces
  • the impact of the EU on its members and the effects of globalisation on European countries
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Having completed this module, students will be able to:
  • effectively describe and evaluate common challenges and comapre the impacts of wider processes across European countries
  • examine and analyse real-world problems through theoretical concepts and empirical application in selected cases
  • critically assess competing arguments and explanations of current challenges in European politics
  • develop logically consistent arguments supported by empirical evidence
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will have demonstrated their ability to:
  • perform critical analysis by critically reporting on the specific themes and by reviewing the relevant literature
  • engage in evaluation and comparison of a specific theme
  • engage in critical debate and develop, present and defend coherent arguments
  • think under pressure and write succinctly and fluently in an exam

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

  • The module is taught via lectures and seminars. The lectures introduce the specific topics and highlight illustrative examples, present contrasting expalnations and link these with evidence to examine the conditions under which these expalnations apply. The seminars are designed to provide a setting for critical discussions and a more in-depth assessment of the recommended literature. They also enable students to develop their understanding for the formative and summative assessments. The seminar activities aid the development of research skills, communication skills and critical thinking.
  • The module has the following assessments:
  • The formative assessment is a 1,500 word essay
  • The summative assessment is in the form of an unseen 2-hour exam. The examination will be comprised of two parts. The exam will include two essays to be selected from two separate lists of questions corresponding to the themes in each term.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Distributed through the term 1 hour 16
Seminars 9 Distributed through the term 1 hour 9
Module-designated office hours 3 Spread over the year 1 hour 3
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Exam Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Exam 2 hours 100% August

Formative Assessment:

One 1,500-word essay

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