IR4002 - Democrats and Dictators

What will I learn on this module?

How can we distinguish between democratic and non-democratic regimes? How does the nature of the political system affect the dynamics of rule, representation, accountability and participation in democratic regimes? Similarly, how can we differentiate between non-democratic regimes and how do we explain their existence? How and why do some countries seek to democratise? Why do these efforts succeed in some cases but fail in others? These are the core questions that you will consider on this module, which is organised around four main topics: the conceptualisation of democratic and non-democratic regimes; political systems in democratic countries; the categorisation and governance of non-democratic regimes, and democratisation, paying attention to the role of domestic and international forces. Each of these topics is further underpinned by the themes of rule, representation, accountability and participation, which you will also explore in modules at levels 5 and 6.

How will I learn on this module?

Weekly lectures will outline and discuss core concepts, theories and debates, as well as introducing relevant country examples. In this way, they will provide an opportunity for critical understanding of the material and critical reflection too. Seminars will follow a more student-led, workshop format. Building skills in information retrieval and analysis is central to the approach taken in seminars. Developing your confidence in synthesising, explaining and discussing information from a range of sources is also a key aim of the approach taken in this module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The module is designed to foster your intellectual curiosity about the nature of political systems around the world and the debates about rule, accountability, representation and participation to which they give rise. You will be able to use your understanding of relevant concepts and theories to develop your own skills as an independent thinker and to inform your ability to reflect upon and discuss ‘real world’ cases and events. Particularly in seminars, there is an emphasis on creating a learning environment that gives you the opportunity to get to know your colleagues and hone your teamwork skills. In this way, the module seeks to develop a culture of peer support as well as support from the module tutor in the classroom and in designated office hours outside of it.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Appreciate how the nature of the political system, specifically the institutions of government and mechanisms of participation and representation such as the electoral system and party system affect the politics of rule, representation and accountability in democratic regimes.
2. Identify the main theoretical approaches to explaining democratisation; use these theories to ask pertinent questions and to discuss the success and failure of democratisation efforts in empirical cases.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. To collaborate with others to research, devise and present a case study that shows clear awareness of the need for well reasoned and supported argument.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. To have respect for the opinion of others and to listen and reflect when your own opinions are challenged.

How will I be assessed?

Two essays will assess all learning outcomes for this module. To ensure students achieve the learning outcomes across the module, students have to answer one question from part A (LO 1) and one from part B (LO 2). Each answer should be 1000 words in length. Students will submit their answers via Turn It In.

Each essay carries equal weight and is worth 50% of the final mark for this module. Both essays are submitted on a single submission date at the end of the module.

Formative work in seminars will support the achievement of Learning Outcomes 3, 4.





Module abstract

The module explores the differences between democratic and non-democratic regimes. It will help you to explore how political systems work, including the nature of representation, accountability and participation in democratic and non-democratic political systems. We will also examine how countries become democracies and processes of democratisation. Your learning will be supported via the e-learning platform, Blackboard. Seminars will offer opportunities to work with peers, building skills in communication and team-work that are important for your employability. Lectures support skills development in active listening, note taking and retention of information. Throughout the module, information retrieval and reading will help you to develop your skills as an independent researcher. The assessment will be two essays, each essay will be no longer than 1000 words and its purpose is to examine your knowledge and understanding of democratic and non-democratic regimes, as well as to develop skills in analysis, referencing and reflection. Each essay is worth 50% of your final mark. Both essays are submitted on a single submission date at the end of the module.

Course info

UCAS Code L2L2

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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