APSA Statement on Political Science Discipline Standards

7 April, 2011

The Political Science discipline standards statement is structured as follows.

  • Section One describes the nature and extent of the discipline.
  • Section Two provides a brief summary of the career outcomes for which a Bachelor degree graduate with a major in Political Science would be equipped.
  • Section Three sets out a detailed description of the threshold (core/minimum) skills, knowledge and capabilities of a Bachelor degree graduate with a major in Political Science.

Section 1. Nature and extent of Political Science

Political Science is the study of political behaviour, governance and power and how these are shaped by institutional settings, and by the ideas, interests and resources of political actors. It is about the authoritative allocation of resources and values, and the negotiation of conflict and difference. Political phenomena happen at all levels: personal, local, sub-national, national, regional, and global. Politics is about who gets what, when, how and why.

As a sub-discipline of Political Science, International Relations shares similar concerns but its focus is on politics at the transnational or global level. Other important sub-disciplines of Political Science include comparative politics, public policy, political economy, and international political economy. Political science and its sub-disciplines are informed by political theory.

Reflecting the breadth of the discipline, Political Science in Australia may be taught in organisational units with a variety of names, including Government, Politics, Political Studies or Political Science. In some cases, Political Science is taught in organisational units of International Relations. Different names may reflect different emphases in programs.

The discipline of Political Science embraces a diversity of approaches and different theoretical and analytical traditions. It draws on a broad range of research methods and strategies to investigate, analyse and interpret political phenomena. The qualitative methodologies practised in the discipline include textual analysis, process tracing, historical analysis, discourse analysis, structured and semi-structured interviews, focus groups, ethnographic techniques, action research, and case study strategies. The quantitative methodologies employed include surveys and opinion polls, statistical analysis, and various forms of modelling.

Section 2. Graduate careers

An undergraduate major in political science develops the ability of students to understand, investigate, and analyse political phenomena. The study of Political Science equips students with transferable generic skills in:

  • Political & Social Analysis
  • Policy Analysis
  • Research Methods
  • Communication (oral and written)
  • Problem-Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • The ability to work independently and in teams

The study of Political Science will equip students with the transferable skills for careers in areas such as:

  • Foreign & international affairs
  • Secondary and Tertiary education
  • Intelligence and security
  • Journalism & the media
  • Government organisations (local, state, national & international)
  • Civil society organisations
  • Business
  • Policy advocacy
  • Policy research
  • Policy design & analysis
  • Political and social research
  • Political advisors
  • Politics
  • Public communication
  • Public relations & lobbying
  • Public service
  • Speech-writing

Section 3. Threshold Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of a Bachelor degree with a major in Political Science, graduates will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the nature and significance of politics and governance.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of differences in political systems and the contexts in which they operate.
  3. Apply concepts and theories used in the study of political science to the analysis of interests, ideas, institutions and political behaviour.
  4. Critically evaluate different interpretations of political phenomena.
  5. Demonstrate knowledge of the different research methods used to investigate political phenomena.
  6. Demonstrate the capacity to use the different research methods used to investigate political phenomena.
  7. Demonstrate the capacity to develop evidence-based argument and evaluation.
  8. Gather, organise and use evidence from a variety of secondary and primary sources.
  9. Identify, investigate, analyse, formulate and advocate solutions to problems.
  10. Communicate effectively in oral and written work.
  11. Recognise the importance of ethical standards of conduct in the research and analysis of politics.

7 April 2011
Final APSA Executive endorsed version, revised after member consultation process and Heads of Department meeting, 25 March 2011.

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