The development of students analytical skills is central to the Political Economy degree programme within the Department of Political Science and International studies at the University of Birmingham. Such skills are delivered to students through a series of discrete, yet interlocking, core modules. These operate at each level of the degree programme and are designed progressively to meet the requirements of skill enhancement. Key analytical skills are applied and developed in a range of optional modules. Core undergraduate research modules at levels 1 and 2 help to draw out, emphasise and deepen the generic application of these skills. The core research political analysis, political economy and international political economy modules are designed to prepare students for the final year dissertation, to which the Department attaches considerable significance as is reflected in its weight in the final degree result.
The study of political economy is conceived within broad social scientific terms. The provision of programme learning centres around a flexible synthesis of conceptually , substantively and historically orientated modules. The programme emphasis the theoretical variety and diverse roots of political economy. In addition to such conceptual development, the development provides a well rounded and wide ranging curriculum covering substantive topics in national, comparative and international political economy. These focus in particular on Britain the European Union and the Asia-Pacific region. The degree draws on modules relevant for political economy from elsewhere in the University, to provide specialist coverage in a number of related areas.
Critically skills are developed progressively through the three levels of the political economy programme, matching the purpose and characteristic learning mode for that stage of the degree.
Level 1 focuses on developing critical awareness, whilst locating the key foundations for political economy analysis within a broader social scientific framework incorporating insights from political science, international relations theory and economics. Key transferable skills developed include bibliographic, writing, presenting, observing, reading, note-taking, examination techniques and the uses of IT. Input from employers is explicitly included in the curriculum to emphasise connections between undergraduate study and future employment.
This is especially important in relation to the Political Economy programme, as approximately twice as many POLSIS graduates enter the business or financial services sector compared with the national first destination figures for all political science and international studies graduates (as compiled by the Quality Assurance Agency).
Level 2 concentrates on the developments of skills of critical analysis. The emphasis on developing research skills continues, including group work, and becomes increasingly closely focused on the level 3 dissertation. The study of the core conceptual framework of political economy continues, building on level 1, but is also broadened to introduce students to the specialist field of International Political Economy. Students have a somewhat greater range of choice in optional modules, giving them the opportunity to begin to fashion a substantive or theoretical theme for their degree.
The dissertation plays a central role at level 3, developing the ability of students to engage in *critical argument*. Such skills are also developed across the full range of the curriculum, as level 3 modules are organised specifically around the research specialisms of staff. Students have considerable flexibility in the choice of options and, depending on the choice they make, can either shape a tightly focused degree or opt for a more electric range of political economy modules.