Key Facts

Course Title: Political Parties and Elections
Course type: MA, MRes
Mode of Study:Full Time or Part Time
Contact Details:Kathryn Ainsworth
Website: Go to School homepage
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Subject Area: Politics and International Relations
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Like them or loathe them, political parties and elections are important. Elections constitute an essential element of modern democracy and defining moments for the distribution of political power. For their part, political parties help link politics and society, compete in elections and structure political processes within and between key political institutions. As Schattschneider famously observed in 1942, ‘Modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of … parties’.

Yet political parties vary enormously in respect of their social rootedness, policies, size, organisation, internal distribution of power and candidate recruitment, but also, for example, in how they operate within and between legislatures and executives. Similarly there is a myriad of ways in which electoral systems can be structured, and considerable diversity in, for example, the frequency, nature, financing, style and competitiveness of elections. Moreover, both parties and elections have in recent years undergone significant change, not least as a result of technological innovation, and both remain major topics of at times heated public debate.

In short, political parties and elections significantly shape the nature, quality and legitimacy of contemporary politics. This Masters is concerned above all with investigating the rich diversity of political parties and elections in the contemporary world. Keele was the first UK university to offer a taught Maters in political parties and elections and this course benefits from Keele’s unusually high concentration of international research and teaching expertise in this area, much of it organised in the Keele European Parties Research Unit.

The course is taught over a 12 month period (September-September; January-January). It is available as a full-time and/or part-time mode of study. Students completing the course have gone on to a variety of careers in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Aims of the Course

The aim of the MA/MRes in Political Parties and Elections is to provide you with the factual knowledge and conceptual and analytical skills that will enable you to reflect critically on the manner in which political parties and elections operate in the modern world. In addition, it provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate originality and self-direction in generating and investigating research questions.

More broadly, it aims to assist you to develop a range of cognitive and social skills relevant to your intellectual, vocational and personal development. In pursuing these aims, the course seeks to prepare you for a variety of professional careers, including those in governmental and nongovernmental organisations, the media and business, or for research beyond the Masters level.

Entry Requirements

Prospective students should have a first or good second-class honours degree, or its equivalent. This first degree should be in Politics or any other social science subject (e.g. Law or Sociology), or a humanities subject (e.g. History, Philosophy, English, or Modern languages).

Where English is not a first language, proof of English language competence will be required (IELTS 6.0 or equivalent, with a minimum of 5.5 in each sub-test).

Course Content

Semester 1

Semester 2


Advanced Approaches to Politics and International Relations

Perspectives in Politics and International Relations


Research in Action

Three optional modules

Two optional modules


Optional modules include:

  • Parties and Democracy
  • Elections and Voters
  • Party Organization
  • Right-Wing Radical Parties
  • Comparative European Politics
  • Approaches to European Integration

Teaching and Assessment

Postgraduate teaching and learning generally takes place in a combination of large seminars and smaller discussion groups.  Our academics typically lead the sessions, encouraging discussion between all students. Sometimes students will give presentations, either individually or in groups.

There is a strong emphasis on independent learning and students are expected to work on their own to produce their essays and dissertation. Most modules are assessed by a diverse range of coursework (e.g., essays, critiques, reports, presentations), though some modules may also be assessed by seminar contributions and/or written exams. Students take three modules in each semester. The taught modules are completed by May, leaving the summer months for students to write their dissertation.

Additional Costs

Apart from purchasing textbooks for modules, there are no additional compulsory additional costs. 

world map SPIRE is a thoroughly international school, and is particularly welcoming to international students, as well as providing plenty of opportunities for home students to broaden their horizons.

We have staff with educational backgrounds in a wide variety of countries, such as Canada, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria, Romania, and Turkey, who present their research all around the world. Students have the opportunity to hear visiting lecturers from various different countries, arranged through our ERASMUS partnerships.

International students will join established international communities at Keele, and will find plenty of support mechanisms in place to help them make the transition to study in the UK (see the ‘International Applicants’ button above).