Study Politics & International Relations with our Oxford Summer School 2018 | Students aged 13-15

Also available for students aged 16-18.

Class Summary

This Politics and International Relations course introduces students to the methods of social scientific enquiry and contemporary issues which dominate the two disciplines. Each class, students are progressively exposed to the principles of liberal democratic politics and the contemporary issues dominating world politics. The course is suitable for both those seeking general exposure to the subject and those who aim to pursue further education in the field of politics and international relations. Classes are structured so as to offer the greatest opportunity for discussion, which is provided by a combination of lectures, issue debates, written assignments and class activities.

The aim of the course is to familiarise students with key concepts in the study of Politics and International Relations (IR) through the discussion of principles of liberal democracy as well as contemporary issues of national and international importance. The course introduces dominant features of democracy,  encourages students to discuss their importance, and includes many debates on contemporary issues in world politics such as globalization, human rights and nuclear proliferation.

The first week of the course is dedicated to politics, providing a broad introduction to politics on Monday and then zooming in as the week goes on, focusing on democracy in general and the British political system in particular. The assessment for this week is a piece of written work about the political system in students’ native countries. This course takes advantage of the wide variety of countries of origin that students come from (students of 65 different nationalities attended the New Perspectives course in 2014) to discover and share a plethora of valuable perspectives.

The second week of the course introduces students to the most accessible parts of international relations, namely international law, security and human rights, focusing on outcomes rather than theory. Students deliver a presentation on a detailed case-study as their assessment for international relations.

Students are strongly encouraged to engage in discussion and debate on contemporary global issues, their causes, consequences and effects on our lives, and will be aided in developing and expressing their views on these subjects as they do so. Analytical awareness will be fostered in students’ written and verbal arguments as a crucial skill for the discussion of politics and international relations, and indeed for future studies in general.


No prior knowledge of politics or international relations is required for the course. For the duration of the course, students are expected to fulfil their daily assignments and readings, so as to enable class participation and discussion. It is also expected that students be respectful and tolerant of other faiths and cultures, particularly during discussions of the controversial issues that form an important part of any Politics and IR course.

Suggested Reading

There is no compulsory reading, but if students want to do some reading around the subject ahead of the course, the following texts are recommended:

  • For the Politics component of the course: Modern Politics Analysis by Robert Dahl and Bruce Stinebrickner, specifically Chapter 4: ‘What is a Political System? A Government? A State’ and Chapter 10: ‘Individuals’ Participation in Politics’.
  • For the International Relations component of the course: The Globalisation of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations by John Baylis, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens, specifically Chapter 4: ‘International History 1945-1990’ and Chapter 5: ‘The End of the Cold War’.