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Power, dissent, equality: understanding contemporary politics

Tumultuous events like 9/11 and the war in Iraq have reminded people how vital – and sometimes how deadly – the world of politics can be. Even at the very local level, the everyday politics of schools, hospitals, petitioning and local council debate affects people’s lives. This module invites you into the world of politics in a fresh and accessible way, using a wide variety of case studies drawn from the UK and beyond. It sheds light on the inner workings of power, decision making and protest, and it covers politics from parliament to the street, and the politics of ideas as well as institutions.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

The module is designed around five core themes, each of which expresses key political dilemmas and debates in the UK and beyond.

Powers and structures explores the meaning and location of power – what is it, and who has it? – in contemporary societies, and asks about some of the more enduring structures within which power is to be found. This includes study of familiar political institutions like the House of Commons in the UK, but just as importantly involves power in our everyday practices as citizens.

Centre and periphery looks at issues like: what is the role of the state in our lives, how is it changing and why? What is nationalism, and why has it revived in the post-Cold War world?

Participation and dissent leads us to look, on the one hand, at voting and elections, and on the other hand at demonstrations and new, unconventional forms of political protest (such as anti-globalisation protest loosely coordinated via internet).

Equality and difference takes us through how we are seen as ‘equal’ and ‘different’ to each other and how this matters politically. As part of that, it leads us to look at the ways in which justice and policy ‘construct’ us as citizens – are we the same or are we different, and how does this feed into how we ought to be treated by governments (and each other)?

And finally, Evidence and argument takes a fresh angle on what counts as evidence and argument in political debate and political science.

Vocational relevance

Modules in government and politics are relevant to a wide range of employment. Politics graduates can be found in all financial and commercial occupations – such as business management, banking and insurance – and in a variety of other professions, including the law and accountancy. They are particularly attracted to the public sector – the civil service, local government and health administration.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Your final TMA must be submitted on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module starting in October 2014 and February 2015, when it will be available for the last time. A replacement is planned from October 2015.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school


This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have the study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, obtained either through level 1 study with the OU, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

Although the module is self-contained and provides all the resources you need for a full understanding of the subject, it is a level 2 module and some knowledge of social sciences ideas would be useful. Our level 1 module Introducing the social sciences (DD102) gives an excellent grounding for this module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


Start End England fee Register
07 Feb 2015 Sep 2015 £2632.00

Registration closes 08/01/15 (places subject to availability)


The deadline for financial support applications has now passed

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2015. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation. Fees for courses starting from 1 August 2015 will be available in March 2015.
This information was provided on 19/12/2014.

What's included

Module books and website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

You will need to make use of a personal computer and the internet. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.