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Understanding politics: ideas and institutions in the modern world

What is politics? Who is engaged in politics locally, nationally and internationally? How do we study politics? This online module answers questions like these and explores how political ideas, institutions and processes help govern our world. Using a range of study materials you will explore the interrelationships between politicians, pundits and publics. You will learn the key practical skills that are used to explore and explain the ways in which politics, in all its forms, helps order the social world and provide for the governance of persons and the administration of things.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

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

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Module

Module code
DD211
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
60
Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.

OU SCQF FHEQ
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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What you will study

Understanding politics: ideas and institutions in the modern world is explored in six blocks.

Block 1: Introduction
The first block provides an introduction via the following core question: What is politics? By examining the many interpretations and impacts of this question, the block addresses ‘who?’ or ‘what?’ is political; it explores the spaces and places ‘where’ politics is conducted; and considers ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ politics is best practiced or studied.

Block 2: Political concepts
Block 2 explores political concepts and shows how ideas shape how we think about, talk about, and practise politics. It looks in turn at key concepts such as freedom, equality, power and sovereignty and examines how ideas can influence the social world and so offer helpful answers to urgent political questions.

Block 3: Ideas and ideologies
This block examines how concepts, once turned into ideologies, can be taken up and made use of by practitioners of politics and by the public. By being produced and consumed in a number of ‘public’ and ‘private’ locations, ideologies such as  conservatism, liberalism, socialism and feminism offer explanatory frameworks which organise our opinions, help us interpret and navigate the political world, and provide us with some sense of identity.

Block 4: Political institutions in liberal democracies
Block 4 looks at political institutions in liberal democracies, comparing and contrasting the very different political systems of two particular nations, the UK and the US. It outlines their different executive, legislative and judicial arrangements, explains the structures of their constitutions, exploring the political roles of the Prime Minister and the President, political parties, electoral politics, interest groups and social movements.

Block 5: Global politics
In this block you will investigate global politics by looking at the interrelationship of the ‘national’ to the ‘international’, the ‘local’ to the ‘global’. The block introduces you to key themes and perspectives in the study of international politics, looking at the role of international institutions, non-state actors and issues, exploring the ways in which globalisation is making the world smaller and more interlinked.

Block 6: Revision
The module concludes by revising the key concerns, issues and arguments raised in the previous blocks.

Supporting study materials
The module is delivered online via the module website, which includes all study support, a multiplicity of online text, audio and visual assets, together with two printed module books.

You will learn

You will acquire and apply knowledge and understanding of key political debates, applying these to your understanding of the contemporary social world. This will help you explain and evaluate issues of ethical, social, political, policy and public concern, with the ability to assess their impact on real-world institutions and events.

As well as building your interdisciplinary social science knowledge, you will develop practical and transferable skills. These include critical thinking; report and essay writing; making presentations; ICT skills; collaborative working skills; synthesising and applying knowledge. You will also learn how to:

  • manage your time effectively, organising and completing a programme of work to a specified standard
  • learn from feedback from others
  • critically reflect on your own learning.

Vocational relevance

This module offers a comprehensive grounding in the study of politics at OU level 2 and provides opportunities to develop skills that will be relevant to your current or future career.

Studying this module, as part of a social sciences qualification, could open up employment opportunities in a wide range of occupations in politics; business; banking; insurance; education; health professions; administration; law; social services; voluntary and campaigning organisations; the media; public relations; public service organisations and government (national and local); planning and environmental management; criminal justice system; and social welfare organisations. The module provides a set of transferable skills and aptitudes that are relevant to many other career pathways.

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.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

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

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Understanding politics: ideas and institutions in the modern world starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2024.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Essential Documents website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
    Examination
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have a good knowledge of the subject area, obtained either through OU level 1 study, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

    We recommend that you start with our key introductory module Introducing the social sciences (DD102). This interdisciplinary OU level 1 module, with its integrated teaching of key study skills, provides a firm foundation for OU level 2 study.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    06 Oct 2018 Jun 2019 £2928.00

    Registration closes 13/09/18 (places subject to availability)

    Register
    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2024.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    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 monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

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

    Employer sponsorship

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

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module 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 module.  

    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. 

    Mixed payments

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


    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.


    Please 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 fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 21/07/2018.

    What's included

    The majority of the module content is delivered online via the module website. There are two printed module books.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD211 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Overcoming barriers to study if you have a disability or health condition website.