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What Is Political Science and Sociology?

TTreelinedhe school of Political Science and Sociology is unique in Ireland for offering two academic disciplines in a fully integrated way.

Political Science is the systematic study of political life, political activity or behaviour, as well as basic political concepts, such as freedom, democracy and equality. It combines elements of history, economics and philosophy but has its own unique approach and style.

Sociology is the study of society, social issues, and social activities or practices. It includes a factual dimension in the collection and critique of social facts and trends, together with a more critical and theoretical literature which reflects on the general nature of society, social order, and social problems.

Both disciplines aim to provide detailed factual information about the nature of social and political life in our societies, but they also try to generate deeper arguments and analysis about why our societies are the way they are, and if they could be improved.

Why Study Political Science and Sociology?

Political Science and Sociology should be a definite subject for any student interested in current affairs and politics. However, many students find it a genuinely engaging and stimulating subject in its own right. It provides an excellent basis for the development of critical thinking, good communication skills, and is appreciated by employers as imparting in students superb awareness of vital social and political trends in society.

Postgraduate programmes include the MA in Community Development, the MA in Family Support Studies, the MA in Gender, Globalisation and Rights and the MA in Social Work, while the M.Litt. and Ph.D. by research in Political Science and in Sociology are also offered.

What Will I Be Studying?

The undergraduate programme provides an introduction to basic concepts in political science and sociology, Irish society and politics, political sociology, political and social theory, social science research methods and computer skills, European society and politics, public policy, and development theories and practice. Students are also facilitated in choosing a specialist interest from a range of special topics. The School of Political Science and Sociology offers a genuinely interdisciplinary social sciences education. Students have opportunities during the course of the undergraduate programme. 

First Year

The First Year programme in Sociological and Political Studies provides an understanding of major political and social developments taking place in Ireland and the wider world. It is a foundation for the study of Sociological and Political Studies in subsequent years while also providing students with the opportunity to acquire knowledge of core ideas in Sociology and Political Science.

General Description

BuildingDespite the challenges of global diversity and the pervasiveness of conflict, human beings are also disposed to act co-operatively and collectively, seeking solutions to problems. A core theme in sociology and political science concerns how and why societies change, and what alternatives might be possible? This course encourages students to explore the links between sociological and political perspectives in relation to real world issues and puzzles.

Key ideas about social and political processes of power and influence at the level of state, society and individual are introduced. The social and political forces of conformity and conflict, of regulation and resistance are examined. Sociological and political ideas concerning modernity, democracy, freedom, culture, capitalism, identity, diversity, religion and the many problems that beset modern societies, such as crime and deviance, inequality and poverty are introduced. Students will have the opportunity to study how the social and political landscape is formed and transformed, not only in regard to political parties, government and state, but also in terms of gender, race, class and religion in Ireland and elsewhere. The impact of social movements and ideologies in the context of key challenges in the 21st century are also considered, such as cultural pluralism, the politics of climate change, and conflicting conceptions of globalisation. Students critically and practically engage with these and other debates about the personal, political and global challenges of living in modernity and searching for the ’good society’. The course is taught by a wide range of School staff committed to linking research and scholarship to teaching.

Course Modules:

The First Year Programme in Sociological and Political Studies is composed of three modules of equal weighting. Two modules are lecture based and one is based on weekly seminars of small groups of students working on assignments, presentations and essays. The lecture based modules are examined by end of semester MCQ examinations and the seminar module is examined by continuous assessment.

All Students take the following Lecture-based Modules

Semester 1: SP158 Introduction to Politics and Sociology (5 ECTS)
Semester 2: SP159 Concepts and Practices in Politics and Sociology (5 ECTS)

In addition students take one of the following Seminar-based Modules

BA Joint Honours (1BA1), BA History (1BA11) BA Psychology (1BA7), BA Child, Youth & Family: Policy and Practice (1BYF1)
Semester 1 and 2: SP1100 Practising Sociology and Politics (10 ECTS)
Lecture course: 3 hours per week
Seminar Course
: 2 hours per week
Independent Study hours
: 8 hours per week

BA Public and Sociology Policy (1BA6), BA Connect
Semester 1 and 2: SP160 Problems in Politics and Sociology (5 ECTS)
Lecture course: 3 hours per week
Seminar Course
: 1 hour per week
Independent Study hours
: 6 hours per week

Signing up for First Year Seminars

The registration for SP1100/SP160 Seminars is in the period Sept 7th-Sept 16th. The seminar registration deadline is 16th September 2016 at 12 noon.  Registration details will be available in lectures and on Blackboard.

Programme Handbooks

First Year Handbook 20 ECTS for 1BA1 BA Joint Honours, 1BA11, 1BA7, 1BYF1 2017 BA1 20ECTS
First Year Handbook 15 ECTS for 1BA6, BA Connect 2017 BA 15ECTS


First Year School Mentoring System

Mentoring Registration date tbc:  Registration details will be available in lectures and on Blackboard

Contact Details:

Brendan Flynn
First Year Co-ordinator
Office Room 301, Tower 1, Arts Science Concourse
Tel: +353 91 493160
Email: brendan.flynn@nuigalway.ie

Second Year

Second Arts in Sociological and Political Studies

The Second Year programme in Sociological and Political Studies builds on the work on political and social processes and ideas laid down in First Year. It establishes a core understanding of traditions of social and political ideas; examines current political developments in Europe; and lays the foundations of methods for social and political scientists. This year also broadens its scope by introducing choices for students, who select one of two options each semester.

General Description

The course on Classical Social Thought critically examines theories put forward in the history of sociology which are still influential today – notably those by Marx, Weber and Durkheim – in seeking to comprehend social change and profound questions about human behaviour. Topics range across the study of society itself, class and the division of labour, the state and democratic politics, and the nature of culture, religion and ideology. The course on European Politics interrogates strategic changes since the end of the Cold War, the re-unification of Germany, then some forms of European nationalism; it goes on to examine what different European countries show about developments in democracy and threats to it.

One optional course in Semester I concerns ’Comparative Themes’ connected with international inequality, migration and labour, especially in Latin America. Beginning at a household level, how do people confront challenges arising from the social production of inequalities, and how does this relate to the growth of ’informal’ labour in different political contexts? The alternative option is a course on International Relations, comparing explanatory frameworks dealing with relations between and across states and other organisations and groups, against a background of ’globalisation’. Topics include security, conflict and war, human rights, the global sex trade and the question of humanitarian intervention.

In Semester II, the course on Modern Political Thought analyses the political philosophy that has shaped, and is shaping, the modern world. It concentrates in particular on the themes of political obligation and justice, especially in the work of Hobbes, Rousseau, Mill and Rawls. The Methods course explores qualitative approaches such as participant observation, interviewing, visual methods, or focus groups; students are encouraged to take a critical and creative approach to issues surrounding the interpretation and writing of research. In the quantitative section of the course, students are introduced to the basic requirements of survey research, including issues of operationalisation and sampling.

One optional course in Semester II is Political Sociology, which introduces both classical and contemporary issues in the study of the relations between society and politics, and politics and society. Questions of socio-political order are addressed, with theories of the state and of political cultures, as well as war, violence, legitimacy, authority, ideology, civil society and citizenship. The other option is the course on Social Issues and Policy Responses. This examines the history, current state and possible future direction of policy responses to issues such as childhood, adolescence, youth and one-parent families. The course also explores the practice implications of policy provision and the role of social work and community interventions with respect to issues such as health, housing, and the asylum system.

In these courses, students are encouraged to acquire and use central ideas in their subject, understand links between political science and sociology, and approach pressing issues related to understanding and addressing problems in the social and political world.

Staff teaching these subjects are all working in research relevant to their courses, and encourage active and critical engagement by students.

Course Modules and Delivery

The Second Year Programme in Sociological and Political Studies is composed of six modules of equal weighting. These are all delivered via a combination of lectures (two per week) and seminars, in which students discuss key questions relating to lecture topics and write essays connected with each of their lecture courses. Assessment thus combines examination and coursework, including work in computer labs for the SPSS component of the Methods course.  Recommended student independent study hours: 5 hours per week per course.

Second Year Core Modules

Semester 1
SP216 European Politics
SP212 UPDATED Classic Social Thought
SP234 International Relations
SP 226. Comparative Themes in Society, Politics and Culture

Semester 2
SP215             Modern Political Thought
SP220            Methods for Social and Political Science
SP219         Political Sociology
SP235.         Social Issues and Policy Responses

Programme Handbook and Timetables

2BA Handbook 2017-18.Updated 06/11/2017

2nd Year Core Timetable 17-18

2nd Yr Timetable Semester 1 2017-18

BA2 Seminars Semester 1 2017-18

 2BA Sem 2 Timetable 2017-18

2BA Seminars Sem 2 2017-18

Contact Details

Gerard Fitzpatrick
Second Year Co-ordinator
Office 327 Aras Moyola
Tel: +353 (0)91 493075
Email: socpol2BA@nuigalway.ie

Third Year

In the final year of the undergraduate programme, we offer students in the School of Political Science and Sociology four Core Courses and a large number of Option Courses to choose from. 3BA1 (Arts), 4BA4 (International) and 3BSY3 (Youth and Family Studies) students are required to take 2 Core courses and 1 Option course per semester, a total of 6 courses over the year.

The Core Courses contribute to a more in-depth understanding of society and politics in both the Irish and international contexts. By combining theoretical and empirical perspectives on a wide range of issues, students are encouraged to critically evaluate the themes, topics and questions built into each course (i.e. development and change, political and social theory, and public and social policy).

With respect to Option Courses, we offer approximately twenty courses per semester, and these courses provide an ideal opportunity to acquire specialist knowledge in a range of subject areas, as well as providing the opportunity for a more active approach to learning than is possible in the large lecture format.

Registration for the Options is available only via Registration's on-line service (which they should have already advised you on).  For the Option Timetable and module descriptions see the 3rd year handbook below.  You must register for one only such option for your 1st Semester.  Later, in January, you will be afforded an opportunity to register your choice for the 2nd semester.

More detailed information on courses (including timetables) as well as option registration forms are available in the downloadable final year booklet.

Programme Structure and Requirements

Core Courses

Semester 1
SP 404. Development and Change

SP405 Contemporary Social Thought

Semester 2
SP305   Comparative Public Policy
SP406  Principles of Political Theory

Programme Handbook and Timetables

Final Year Handbook 2017-18 Updated

Final Year Introductory Lectures Week 1 2017-18

3BA Semester 1 Options Timetable Updated

Final Year Optional Modules Semester 1 2017-18

3BA Core Timetable Sem 2 2017-18

3BA Optional Timetable Sem 2 2017-18

Form to apply for Optional Module   ‌SP692 Minor Dissertation Form.

Contact Details

Eilis Ward
Final Year Co-ordinator
Office: 317 Aras Moyola
Telephone: 353 (0)91 492108
Email: eilis.ward@nuigalway.ie