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School of Politics and International Relations

FAQs for Prospective Students

Essential questions for prospective students at the School of Politics and International Relations

All applications for our undergraduate degree programmes, including those from mature students, should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Further details of UCAS and the application process can be found on the Queen Mary website.

We've detailed some frequently asked questions below which you may find useful.

1. How is the course assessed?

Courses at the School of Politics and International Relations are assessed through a combination of coursework and examination – some modules are weighted towards coursework (which doesn’t necessarily mean a traditional essay, by the way) some towards unseen exams and tests: in short it varies, and that’s something you might want to bear in mind (along with the topic covered of course!) when you choose your modules.

2. How is the course taught?

Our programmes last three years – unless you are studying a language as a joint honours degree, in which case it’s four. Students must take 120 credits per each year of study. Most modules are typically worth 30 credits (which means you’ll study four modules per year). However in your final year there are a lot of 15 credit modules so it’s possible to study more than four modules. Some of these are compulsory and others are optional. Most of our early modules follow a lecture and seminar format, with lectures covering the main themes, theories and issues, while the smaller group seminars are designed for interactive discussion and debate.  As you move through, the distinction between formats begins to break down, and when you do your final year dissertation, you will enjoy (we hope that’s the right word!) one-to-one supervision.

3. How much contact time will there be?

Each module offers around 2-3 contact hours per week, which amounts to 8-12 hours per week per programme. In addition all students are able to meet teaching staff (and their academic advisors) during their designated weekly drop-in and feedback hours. The latter allow our students to meet with an academic on a one to one basis to discuss any academic issues relating the programme, coursework and assessments.

4. How much self-study is required for the course?

Students doing degrees in arts and social sciences are expected to complete a fair bit of independent study per week, much of which you don’t need to be on campus to do. This would include recommended seminar readings, preparing presentations, doing coursework, and revising for exams.  Ideally you’ll be doing around twenty hours – but remember that’s an average across the year: some weeks you may do less; some weeks you may do more.

5. Will the course change or develop during my time at university?

Our programmes begin with largely compulsory modules that equip our students with the necessary theoretical tools and techniques to approach, research, analyse academic materials and topics. Choice increases in the second year.  And once you enter your final year, you are able to choose from a wide range of optional modules that fit within the programme pathway.  Our students are also able, within limits and across the years, to study modules from other Schools, such as English, History, Geography or Languages.  Essentially, as you go on, things get more optional, more specialised, and, we hope, more intellectually challenging.

6. Will the course leader have much involvement?

All our faculty are directly involved in the teaching of core and compulsory modules.  And we don’t have ‘star’ professors who you will never see except on the website: we have a flat structure where everybody does about the same amount of teaching, balanced, of course, by their administrative and management responsibilities, as well as by the need to take time out now and then for research.  Our staff are at the cutting edge of that research, so our students benefit from teaching that is forefront of what is happening in the world today.

7. Can I use all the facilities advertised in the prospectus?

Indeed, you can.  Our students have access to all campus facilities: this includes the library, computer labs, and multiple eating, sports and social spaces, etc.


This post is based on the article "Eight questions you must ask on a uni open day" in The Student Room.


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