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Governing by Numbers (Level 5)


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: Professor Deborah Mabbett
  • Assessment: a 2000-word data analysis project (45%), data exercises (10%) and 2000-word essay (45%)

Module description

Information is power, and statistical information is often more powerful than other types of information, even though it is often presented misleadingly. This module is ideal if you do not have a background in mathematics or statistics and would like to be able to understand the statistical data used in public debate, and find data relevant to questions you are interested in.

You will find out how to look up data relevant to politics and international relations from authoritative sources, and learn 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.

This module is a great opportunity to improve your numeracy skills for other studies in politics.

Indicative syllabus

  • Introduction to topical statistics in everyday use (COVID-19, climate change)
  • GDP and welfare
  • Inequality and poverty
  • Demographic change; demography and democracy
  • Flows in the global economy
  • Voting behaviour: class, gender and ethnicity
  • Political geography of deprivation in the UK

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • have knowledge about the wealth of authoritative statistical information available on a range of social, economic and political subjects, and some understanding of how to judge the quality of statistical sources
  • be able to find relevant statistical information and use it in your own work
  • be able to interpret simple statistics, use a spreadsheet and create and read graphs
  • have an understanding of how statistics are used in political science to advance and test hypotheses.