Politics is about power, conflict and ideas. The study of politics involves analysis of the ways in which individuals and groups define and interpret political issues and seek to shape government decisions. It encompasses a broad spectrum of activities relating to public affairs, from elections and bureaucracies to wars and terrorism. Because it is at the junction of power and morality, politics has always attracted the attention of philosophers and historians, and its study, originating in Athens in the fourth century BC, is the seed bed of all the social sciences.
Features of LSE courses
The LSE Government Department, which brings together staff from many parts of the world, covers almost all areas of political studies, and represents a comprehensive range of academic approaches and expertise.
In studying for one of the degrees offered by the Department, you will follow courses from a range of subfields in political science: comparative politics, rational choice theory, political economy, public administration and public policy, European politics and political theory. You will learn about the concepts and theories which underpin the study of politics, including ideas such as justice, democracy, liberty, sovereignty and rights. You will compare political phenomena in a variety of cultures and countries, learning about the diversity of political processes and using empirical analysis to answer broad theoretical questions about the political world.
You can study government in a single honours BSc degree, or in joint honours degrees with economics, history, international relations or philosophy. There is also a joint honours degree with social policy and a four-year Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) degree. All degrees (with the exception of PPE) involve studying 12 courses (as well as LSE100) over a three-year programme of study and all have some compulsory courses covering topics in political science, political thought, comparative politics and public policy. In the joint degrees, students are also required to take a minimum number of economics, history or philosophy courses respectively.
This list gives you an idea of the range of subjects available. There are some restrictions on the combinations of options and the order in which you can take them. In the joint degrees fewer government courses can be taken than in single honours.
What the selectors are looking for in an application
The selectors are looking for academic students with a genuine interest in and enthusiasm for the social and political sciences. There is no one ‘ideal’ subject combination, however, as with all degree programmes at LSE, at least two traditional academic subjects are preferred. If you are applying for the Government and Economics degree, Mathematics at A level (or equivalent) is required.
For Government, we are looking for an original and well-written personal statement which demonstrates your awareness of, and genuine interest in current political issues, and we are interested in your own views and opinions. You should also mention whether there are any aspects of particular interest to you, how they relate to your current academic programme and what additional reading or experiences you have had which have led you to apply. You could also include information on any relevant work experience and extra-curricular activities.
For the combined degrees an equal interest in both subjects is essential, and your personal statement should demonstrate this.
Personal characteristics and skills that will be useful to students in their study of government at LSE (as either a single or combined degree programme) include the abilities to read extensively, evaluate and challenge conventional views, communicate effectively, show initiative, and analyse data. In addition, you should possess intellectual curiosity and have the motivation and capacity for hard work.
Please visit lse.ac.uk/ug/apply/gov for further information on admissions criteria.
Teaching and assessment
Teaching involves lectures and classes. Classes usually focus on more detailed discussion of the issues arising from lectures, and learning how to present and critique arguments. Classes are held in small groups of at most 15 students. You will also have an academic adviser who will meet you at regular intervals to discuss your work and offer guidance and assistance with both academic and, where appropriate, personal concerns.
Assessment usually involves a written examination in each subject at the end of the academic year. For some courses, assessment will also involve an assessed essay or a dissertation.
If you wish to gain further insight into the subject we suggest that you look at one or more of the following books:
The general character of politics
I Katznelson and H Milner (eds.) Political Science: state of the discipline (New York: Wiley, 2002)
R Goodin The Oxford Handbook of Political Science (Oxford University Press, 2009)
J Colomer The Science of Politics: an introduction (Oxford University Press, 2011)
Many classic texts of political thought are readily available in a variety of editions, eg
Machiavelli The Prince
J S Mill Considerations on Representative Government
D Miller A Very Short Introduction to Political Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2003)
Political analysis and political institutions
G Almond, G Bingham Powell, R Dalton and K Strøm Comparative Politics Today: a world view, 9th edn, (Longman, 2009)
P Dunleavy and J Dryzek Theories of the Democratic State (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)
W R Clark, M Golder and S Nadenichek Golder Principles of Comparative Politics (CQ Press, 2009)
There are preliminary reading lists relevant to the joint degrees with Economics or History in the relevant subject sections.
Politics graduates have a range of skills and can fit into a variety of positions in modern life. Our former students have followed careers in business and banking, in law, in central and local government, in teaching and research, in public and university administration, and in journalism and television.