Politics: An Introduction (Online)


Politics and policy has an impact on us all, whether or not we choose to be politically active. An understanding of the key elements of politics is essential if we are to understand how and why political decisions are made, how governments work and make sense of national and global events.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

1. Introducing Politics.
• Politics as a social science subject
• Key elements of politics: ideas, behaviour, institutions and policy processes
• Identifying state forms and functions
• State-citizen relationships

2. Key Concepts in Politics.
• The relationship between power and authority
• Identifying and classifying rights and freedoms
• Equality as a key element of justice

3. Political Ideas and the State.
• Idea of the ‘social contract’ and rise of the liberal state
• Collectivism, social provision and the liberal-democratic state
• Marx and the capitalist state

3. Political Ideas and the State.
• Idea of the ‘social contract’ and rise of the liberal state
• Collectivism, social provision and the liberal-democratic state
• Marx and the capitalist state

4. Trends and Issues in International Politics.
• Theories of international politics
• The Cold War and its aftermath
• Conflict in the Middle East

5. Globalisation, International Institutions and the Idea of Global Governance.
• Theories of Globalization
• Globalization and its critics
• Institutes of economic governance
• The idea of global governance

6. Political Ideologies and Movements of the Left.
• Marxism and communism
• Social democracy and reformism
• Nationalsim and national liberation
• Collectivism and state intervention
• Feminism

7. Political Ideologies and Movements of the Right.
• Conservatism
• Fascism and National Socialism
• Neo-fascism
• Neo-liberalism

• Populism

8. Political Behaviour.
• Political identity and voting behaviour
• Political parties and interest groups as political vehicles
• Impact of the mass media on politics and government
• Comparison of electoral systems

9. Governmental Systems and Structures.
• Centralised and devolved systems of government
• Legislative systems and representation
• Constitutions
• Leadership in government

10. Policy-making and Implementation.
• The notion of ‘governance’ in public administration
• Models for decision-making
• Management processes and policy implementation

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
Course Fee £300.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Ian Taylor

Ian was awarded his doctorate from the LSE in 1977. Having taught previously at Bristol Polytechnic and Exeter University, he spent thirty years at Aston University, where he became Head of Public Policy in 2009. He has taught part-time for the Open University since 1985 and for the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education since 2011.

Course aims

This course aims to introduce participants to the study of politics. This course will enable participants to:

  • Gain an understanding of the principal theories, concepts and ideologies that have influenced the development of the contemporary state
  • Develop an understanding of political behaviour
  • Understand how legislative and governmental systems work
  • Appreciate the connection between the global and local through studying policy-making and implementation processes

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to analyse and discuss ideas criticallyli>
  • The ability to identify and compare the key characteristics of political and governmental institutions and how they function/li>
  • The ability to compare and contrast politics in different countries
  • The ability to research current political issues and relate them to the course material

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link: https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/english-language-requirements


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.