This section will address how to select which program you should attend.
MOTIVATIONS FOR DEGREE
If you are interested in understanding modern-day politics and controversies and analyzing them through historical and philosophical lenses, an undergraduate degree in Politics is definitely for you. Through this degree, you will be able to learn various things like how governments function; or how the conflict between different groups and states is resolved; or how concepts of freedom, equality, justice and hierarchy conceptualized in the modern world.
Some of the skills you can expect to gain through this degree are listed below:
- A comprehensive understanding and knowledge-base on political systems (within the UK and globally)
- How to assess ideas and arguments, and debate in a constructive manner
- Transferable skills like:
- Research, writing and oratory skills
- Time-management and self-motivation skills
- Teamwork skills, adaptability, open-mindedness
- The ability to articulate in a clear and sensible manner
What the degree will entail
Since this is a three-year degree, the first year of study will usually be an introduction to international politics and the history of political thought. The second and third years of study will be more specialized: you will have the chance to study specific subjects in detail (e.g. the politics of the European Union, post-war history, the effect of politics on mass media etc.).
Some universities may also give you the opportunity to finish a dissertation in your third (i.e. final) year of study. Some universities will also give you the opportunity to spend a year abroad studying. If you are interested in traveling and want to study in different cultural settings, this is an option you can consider. If your degree is more vocational, your university may also give you the opportunity to spend a year gaining work experience (‘placement’). (Oxford Royale)
If you choose to do a study-abroad/placement or a joint-honors degree (more information on this can be found in the Types of Degree section), your degree will usually require an additional year of study -- making your complete study four years in length.
Graduates of Politics have a number of career pathways available to them. According to UK-based sources, after finishing a degree in Politics, you can choose to enter the civil or diplomatic service; you can work in think tanks, charities or politics; you can even try your hand at journalism or teaching or even law. Some graduates also choose to go into areas that are not directly related to Politics, like business, marketing etc. Keep in mind this information has been extracted from UK-based sources; opportunities in Pakistan or other countries may differ. If you are interested in working in Pakistan (or some other country), it is recommended that you get in touch with your teachers/other experts/UK Politics graduates based in Pakistan and ask them about the possible career opportunities available here.
A significant number of graduates choose to pursue a Master’s or PhD degree, after they have wrapped up their undergraduate study. It is an option that will also be available to you when you have completed your degree.
TYPES OF DEGREE
- Bachelor of Arts
- Bachelor of Science
Degrees may also be categorized into Single Honours and Joint Honours degrees.
How to select the best option for yourself (among degrees/programs within this field)
BA vs BSc
Most Politics courses will lead to a BA (Bachelor of Arts) degree in the UK. The BA program is typically 3 years long outside Scotland; in Scotland, it may go up till 4 years.
In a Single Honours degree, you will study one main subject, i.e. Politics. You may be able to study subsidiary modules in other subjects alongside Politics - but you will graduate with a degree in Politics only.
Single vs Joint Honours Degree
Some schools might offer Joint Honours Degrees, in which you can combine your study of Politics with a second subject area (meaning you will be doing a degree in Politics and Subject X). Popular choices for the second subject area are History, Economics, Philosophy, Business etc. Schools that offer Single Honours degrees allow students to take a couple of subjects outside of the discipline.
Do visit your prospective course website to find out: a) if you can do a joint degree, b) which other subject/s you can study alongside Politics at that particular university, and c) the amount of time you will spend studying each subject.
If you are interested in Politics, you might also like:
- International Relations/International Development
How to select the best option for yourself (among allied fields)
- International Relations/International Development
- A degree in International Relations will focus more on foreign policies and development. If you opt for this course, you can expect to cover contemporary topics like the United Nations, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, country relations and rivalry etc. If you are fascinated by international events and relations between different countries, International Relations would be the most fitting for you.
- A degree in International Development will focus more on issues pertaining to global inequality, how these problems are currently being tackled and what can be done to confront them even further. As the name suggests, this area of study focuses more on developing countries and the issues that affect them (like poverty, famine, corruption, low employment etc.). If you find yourself interested in third world countries and the problems they face, International Development might be the right program for you.
A politics degree is considered to be the ‘parent discipline’ and will contain some elements of the two aforementioned fields since it allows its students to study ‘a little bit of everything’ (Study International). You will have the opportunity to take optional modules (that specialize in IR or ID) in the later years of your undergraduate degree.
- History and Economics, as mentioned above, are popular options for Joint Honours degrees in Politics. But if you are more interested in studying about events from a historical or economic standpoint, degrees in these subject areas may be more relevant for you. It is also recommended that you go through the tip sheets we have developed for these fields to help you decide which option is most suitable for you.
You should also go through course outlines (which should be available on the university webpage) to see how each course differs from the rest. Apply for the course that seems to focus most on your specific areas of interest, and seems aligned with your future goals (career or educational).
- No. of Universities to Apply: you will be allowed to apply to 5 universities of your choice on UCAS (you cannot apply to Oxford and Cambridge both).
It is recommended that you go through the following links when deciding if an undergraduate degree in Politics is appropriate for you:
- This is an excellent resource by University of Cambridge that provides insight into Politics and the study of Politics. It also contains links to additional pages to help you explore the discipline further.
- This is a great resource by Which? University that gives an overview of what it is like to study Politics at the undergraduate level in the UK.
- This is another comprehensive resource, developed by Oxford-Royale, that gives you insight into studying Politics at the undergraduate level.
Here are some links that could help you with selection:
Note that the ranking of a university should not be the only factor considered when choosing universities. Though the rank is an important thing to keep an eye out for, there are many other things that you should consider when choosing amongst universities/programs (some of which is explained above in the ‘Program Selection’ section).
- UNISTATS: you can go through this link to compare different universities and their courses in Politics (based on overall student satisfaction, work placement etc.).
- Make sure to check the ranking of programs based on their specialty subfield in Politics.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on program selection (under the tab of ‘selection’).
A lot of our tips talk about how you can strengthen your application, but you can build a stronger application when you’ve done the things this program values in the years prior to the application. The application itself is the communication part (in which you communicate what you've done to the admission committee); but this section gives guidance on the substance part (what you can actually do before you apply). In this section, we talk about what you can do in the years leading up to applying that can make you an ideal candidate. Supplement the following tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘Pre-Application’) to become a competitive applicant.
Generally, universities are not too specific when it comes to subject requirement -- meaning, as long as you can display a focused and informed interest in Politics, your high school subjects will not matter. There are however some facilitating subjects you can consider taking: History, English Literature, Religious Studies, Geography, Mathematics, Languages -- these have proven to be valuable for some students in the past. But this list is not exhaustive and students can gain admission with a different combination of subjects as well (Oxford Royale).
You are advised to visit your prospective university website(s) to find out if there are any required/recommended subjects that you should try to study in your final two years of high school.
Since Politics is a popular degree choice, grade requirements can be relatively high.
While the exact requirement will vary by university and specific course, you can expect requirements for top-tier universities to be somewhere between AAA and ABB. The most competitive schools might also add an A* to your condition. The middle and low-ranked universities will have more lenient requirements. However, it is advised that you aim for the best grades possible -- since your internal transcript is very important for the admissions committee. Although some universities may be willing to accommodate students whose results are a grade or so lower than their conditional offer, you should aim to meet your condition.
The typical IB requirement is 30-38 points. If you are hoping to apply to the more competitive places, you should aim to get a score between 38-42 points. Low ranked places will accept lower scores whereas the most competitive universities will require the highest score. Please visit your prospective university websites to find out what the exact IB requirement is (including HL score requirements).
If you have done something other than A-Level or IB, contact your prospective university to find out what their requirements for your system are, or visit the international qualifications page. Note: some universities may not accept or list the HSSC as an acceptable requirement. In this situation, please contact the admissions department to find out how you can meet the university entry requirements.
In case you do not meet the entry requirements or have not studied the right subjects, do not worry. A number of universities offer foundation courses, which you can apply for if you do not meet the entry requirements. Foundation courses are typically one-year long and require full-time study. Once the foundation year has been successfully completed, students can usually move directly into the standard course.
Note: if you opt for a foundation year, it will take you an extra year to complete your degree (3 years of original degree + 1 year of the foundation course). Refer to the UK country profile for more information on foundation years.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on transcripts (under the tab of ‘transcripts’).
Admissions committees at universities usually want evidence of a “developing interest in Politics”.
- You should try to read quality newspapers, news magazines and stay up-to-date with current affairs.
- You can also consider following the news on television and radio, or follow some online blogs on politics or podcasts.
- Try to extend your reading and research beyond your course books: read research articles, magazines, or books that are focusing on the specific strand of Politics you are interested in studying in your undergraduate. If you are well-acquainted with even one book, you can refer to it in your personal statement.
- This resource from Cambridge University will allow you to learn more about a number of topics, while also giving you more questions to think about and suggestions for further reading. Note: this resource has been developed by one university, and although it can be useful irrespective of where you apply, you should definitely go through your prospective university’s reading lists as well - and extend your reading.
Professional work is usually not a requirement for applying, but it could help your overall application. Doing an internship in a research firm, NGOs or other relevant settings could add positively to your application. Do check your prospective university websites to find out if any specific experience is recommended.
Volunteer work is usually not a requirement for applying, but it can help you gain important transferable skills which you can refer to in personal statements later. Again, do check your prospective university websites to find out if any specific experience is recommended.
Try to get involved in public speaking activities: participating in debating competitions or Model UN conferences (or other similar activities) will not only add positively to your overall application but will also help you get better acquainted with current affairs and global issues. You will also be able to learn how to analyze issues from different perspectives or how to understand both sides of each argument. You can comment on these skills in your personal statement as well.
Other extracurricular activities may not be as relevant, but they might still give your application an advantage. For instance, captaining a sports team can equip you with strong leadership skills or attending music lessons thrice a week can show that you are a committed and disciplined learner. If you have such experiences, you will be able to talk about them in your personal statement.
This section provides an overview of general guidelines pertaining to the application process. It also delineates the key components of the application process.
While your application will be reviewed holistically, some components like your transcripts and statement may be evaluated with more scrutiny. You may or may not have an interview or assessment but if you do, you should be extremely well-prepared for those as well.
Refer to the Program Selection Section for further information.
Is this component required?
How important is this component (in the overall review of the application for admission)?
Standardized tests or entry exams
Standardized tests: Required
Written tests: Written assessments (required by some universities)
Standardized tests: Important
Written tests: Very important when required
Transcripts (past academic records)
Letters of recommendation
Resume or CV
Required by some universities
Additional Assessments by some universities
Very important when required
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on overview (under the tab of ‘overview’).
Pakistani applicants suffer most because of inadequate information -- or wrong information -- about essays and personal statements. This section will address those inadequacies specifically in relation to applying for this program. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘essay’) to craft a stellar personal statement.
The personal statement is an important component of your overall application, and it is recommended that you give yourself enough time to write it. You will be required to submit one personal statement to the 5 universities you are applying to via UCAS. In your essay, you will need to display your enthusiasm for and knowledge of the subject in just 4000 characters -- meaning you will have to be economical and to-the-point in your writing. There are specific guidelines you should try to follow when writing your personal statement, and those are elaborated on in the sections below.
Which resources should I make use of?
- Read the following links before you start planning your personal statement:
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD STATEMENTS
Information from this section has been taken from the following resources: ‘How to write a personal statement for politics’ by Rowena Hammal (Politics Teacher at The Portsmouth Grammar School, Online Editor of POLITICS REVIEW); ‘How to write a personal statement for politics’ by Clare Stansfield (Head of History and Politics, St. Francis Xavier College, London); and Which? University - Personal Statement Advice
What is essential in the statement:
- The most important part of your personal statement is your intellectual engagement with Politics. Make sure you show your academic interest in Politics: most admissions committees want to see that you have developed a strong interest in this field and are willing to develop it further.
- You need to show that you have a sense of what the academic study of politics is actually about (and it is not just current affairs). Talk about specific books/articles/journals that you have read that have sparked an interest in you or motivated you to apply for this degree. Try to display that you have engaged with the subject beyond the A-Level (or it's equivalent) syllabus.
- While it is important to not come across as arrogant or overconfident, you need to ‘sell yourself’ through your personal statement. Make the most of your abilities, and do not indulge in ‘false modesty’.
- You need to be completely honest: admissions committees are made up of experts and veterans in the field. They will have read through and evaluated a number of statements before reading yours -- so they will be able to see through exaggeration or false claims. You should not claim to have read a specific book if you have not read it or claim to be interested in a certain area of study if you are not really interested. This could especially work against you if you are invited for an interview: in interviews, the interviewer can refer to anything you have talked about in your personal statement and ask you questions about it. If an interviewer asks you about a book you claimed to have read but have not actually read, it will reflect poorly on you.
- If you have any relevant extracurricular activities or volunteer experiences, you can reflect on those too. Talk about what skills you have gained from these experiences or how they have contributed to your interest in Politics.
- Even if you have not studied Politics/Government in your final years of high school, you can link other subjects (History/Religious Studies/Literature/Languages/Economics etc.) to Politics. Go through the first page of Clare Stansfield’s article (link above) for more information.
What are some things to avoid:
- Make sure you are not using pretentious or unnecessarily complex language. Keep your tone formal but simple. Short and clear sentences are better than wordy, convoluted ones.
How can applicants manage the process of writing:
Rowena Hammal, in her article ‘How to write a personal statement for Politics’, recommends that you plan your personal statement well in advance of the deadline. A comprehensive plan will make the process of writing significantly easier.
- Start by creating a list of things you have done (experiences, extracurriculars, research etc.) that are relevant to politics, and try to incorporate these points in your statement.
- After planning your statement, come up with a raw structure. Hammal suggests structuring it in the following way:
- The first paragraph should focus on why you wish to study Politics at university. You should then talk about specific areas that you have researched yourself that have intrigued you. Do not give a list of books you have read -- instead focus on 1-2 books or articles that significantly impacted your decision, and talk about how and why you found them interesting. Showing the admissions committee that you were able to read a book in your proposed area of study can make you come across as a self-directed learner (and that could work in your favour).
- In the second paragraph, you can talk about your academics, i.e. the specific subjects you studied/are studying in high school. Start with the more relevant subjects (Economics, World History, or Politics etc.) and talk about particular modules or areas of study that interested you the most in these subjects and try to link them to politics. You can also identify the skills you have gained as a result of studying these subjects. After this, you can move on to writing about the less relevant subjects: do not spend too much time writing about these; instead just focus on the transferable skills you have gained from studying them and how those could be relevant to Politics. For instance, you could say that studying English has enabled you to look at things in a more critical and analytical manner. (Note: Hammal points out that you should ‘try to sound enthusiastic about all your subjects; even if you have found a subject very difficult or boring’, avoid mentioning it.
- Use your third paragraph to focus on extracurricular activities. Begin with the most relevant ones, i.e. the ones that can be easily tied to Politics -- e.g. Model UN or debating. After this, you can move on to the less relevant activities like sports, music, science competitions etc. Once again, you should comment on the transferable skills you have gained from these experiences, and how they have contributed to your overall development.
- This can be your final paragraph: you can write about your dedication to the subject, and passion for it, and your overall ‘eagerness’ to be fully involved in the university.
- Note: the last two paragraphs would most likely be shorter in length as compared to the first two.
- Remember: this is just one structure you can use. If you think a structure of five paragraphs would suit you better, you can follow that too. As long as the statement is coherent and has a logical flow, it is up to you to choose its structure.
- After you have finished planning your statement, write your first draft. You will most likely have to revise it a few times to make sure it is not exceeding the word limit. After you have reduced the words, you need to read it with scrutiny and make sure ‘it reflects you’. Ask yourself: if I receive an interview call, will I be able to talk at length and with confidence about everything in this statement? If you are unsure, you may need to alter the content of your statement accordingly.
- Make sure you have your statement reviewed by someone who is qualified or well-informed about the discipline, e.g. a Politics teacher -- or even a History, Sociology, Economics teacher. Try to share a draft with them a few weeks before your final deadline so that they have ample time to review your statement, and you have ample time to incorporate their suggestions.
- Keep revisiting and revising your statement: make sure that it is following a logical and coherent structure, and is representing you and your abilities adequately.
- Check your spelling and grammar carefully. Such errors can affect the admissions committee’s opinion of your application. You could even have a friend or family member or teacher review your statement for you. Often, applicants become so involved in the writing process that they are unable to notice small errors in their statements.
This section will cover the basics about recommendation letters, which are one of the most important parts of the application process. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘recommendations’) to ensure you have strong letters of recommendation.
You will be required to submit 1 letter of recommendation when applying for a degree in this field. Your reference should ideally know you academically and should be able to speak to your work ethic, how you interact with other students, and your ability to fare well in university (in a Politics course). Keeping this in mind, you should try to request your high school (A-level, FSc, IB) Humanities (History, Literature, Languages, Sociology etc.) teacher to write you a recommendation letter.
- Before requesting your recommenders for LoR, go over the following links carefully:
What is essential in the LoRs:
- Your teachers will mainly have to comment on your overall academic ability, and your motivation/attitude towards study (through attendance, class participation, assignments etc.)
This section will cover everything else related to the application process; including transcripts, interviews, resumes, and standardized tests.
Some universities will have interviews for shortlisted candidates; others will only evaluate applications to make admission decisions. To find out the procedure your prospective universities follow, please visit their specific websites.
- Before your interview, make sure you re-read your personal statement. The interviewer can ask you about anything you have mentioned in your statement, so make sure you are adequately prepared for that.
- If you have talked about certain books or texts in your statement, you will need to be well-acquainted with them. Try to do as much reading for that literature as possible. Chances are the interviewer will bring those up in the interview, so you should be ready to reflect critically on the literature and how it was important in helping you decide to pursue this degree.
- While the same personal statement and reference letters are sent to your universities through UCAS, the interview is university-specific. Try to do some preliminary research into the university, your prospective course and course modules. If you can show an informed interest in the university, the admissions committee will value it.
Some universities may ask you to submit a resume. If your university requires this, please follow the instructions given.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on building a resume (under the tab of ‘Resume/CV’).
As an international applicant, you will be required to take English language proficiency tests. Most universities will allow you to choose between the TOEFL and IELTS -- websites will also state the minimum score you require (in individual reading, writing, speaking and listening components; and overall) to be considered for admission.
It is advised that you take the test well before your application deadline, to ensure that your score is sent to your prospective university at the required time.
Some courses at certain universities (Cambridge and Oxford usually) may require applicants to take admission tests. If you are asked to take a test, make sure you are well-prepared as it will be fundamental to your selection. For more specific information, visit the university-specific websites.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on preparing for standardized tests (under the tab of ‘tests’).
These tips were compiled with the valuable help of SHAHEEN volunteers.
We thank our volunteers for their contribution and hope their tips and advice help you in your application.
The following sources were also consulted in developing this tip-sheet: MyHEPlus, Which? University Personal Statement, Which? University Politics, DLD College, Oxford Royale, Hodder Education how to write a personal statement, Hodder Education Politics at University, Telegraph, The Guardian, StudyInternational, Politics and International Relations - University Strathclyde, Course choice and the personal statement: Politics