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Governing by Numbers


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Information is power, and statistical information is often more powerful than other types of information, even though it is often presented misleadingly. Our Governing by Numbers short course is designed for those with no background in mathematics or statistics who would like to be able to understand the statistical data that are used in public debate, and find data relevant to questions they are interested in.

The course will teach you how to look up data relevant to politics and international relations from authoritative sources, and how to present and interpret data using spreadsheets and graphs. Some basic statistical concepts (e.g. correlation) will be discussed but no grasp of advanced statistics will be required.

We will cover:

  • Population: what do we know about national, regional and global populations? Why do some countries know more about their population than others? Ways of calculating and portraying growth
  • Migration flows: what we know about legal and illegal migration and where refugees come from and end up
  • Enfranchisement and voting behaviour: when is an election 'fair'?
  • GDP/economy: GDP compared with 'welfare'; why do governments, international organisations, banks etc care about GDP and GNP?
  • Indicators of poverty and inequality; issues of cross-country comparison
  • Government spending and debt: why debt can explode or shrink
  • Health and mortality
  • Ageing populations: visualising population age distributions
  • Controversial statistics: e.g. why do some countries create/collect statistics about ethnicity while others don't?
  • Contested statistics: investigating an example of a topical issue with statistical content

Assessment is via a 2000-word data analysis project (50%), two multiple-choice and short-answer quizzes (40%) and data exercises (10%).

This can be taken as a standalone short course or as a part of:

30 credits at level 4

  • Entry requirements

    Entry requirements

    Most of our short courses have no formal entry requirements and are open to all students.

    This short course has no prerequisites.

    As part of the enrolment process, you may be required to submit a copy of a suitable form of ID.

    International students who wish to come to the UK to study a short course can apply for a Visitor visa. Please note that it is not possible to obtain a Student visa to study a short course.

  • How to apply

    How to apply

    You register directly onto the classes you would like to take. Classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis - so apply early. If you wish to take more than one short course, you can select each one separately and then register onto them together via our online application portal. There is usually no formal selection process, although some modules may have prerequisites and/or other requirements, which will be specified where relevant.