nl en

Thematic Seminar: Applied Political Philosophy


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
The number of participants is limited to 24.

Please note that passing a Thematic Seminar (10 EC) in the second year, second semester, is an entry requirement for starting your thesis in academic year 2023-2024. You need to have passed a minimum of 100 EC of year 1 and 2 of the International Studies programme as well in order to start your thesis.


This course is an introduction to political philosophy applied to some of the most pressing issues confronting our world today. Each class will be devoted to a different topic, such as liberty, democracy, equality, multiculturalism, feminism, human rights, borders and the environment. The course aims to acquaint students with how political theory has contributed to thinking of these real-world issues, but also how such topics have, in turn, brought essential insights to political philosophy.

Course objectives

The Thematic Seminars for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the multidisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. Academic skills that are trained include,

Oral and written presentation skills:

  1. To explain clear and substantiated research results.
  2. To provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation; in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria; using up-to-date presentation techniques; using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques; aimed at a specific audience.
  3. To actively participate in a discussion

Collaboration skills:

  1. To provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position.
  2. To adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

  1. To collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques.
  2. To analyse and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability.
  3. To formulate on this basis a sound research question.
  4. To design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved.
  5. To formulate a substantiated conclusion.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Seminars are held every week, on Thursdays, except for the Midterm Exam week. These will be combined lecture/tutorial classes and include supervised research. The first part will be an (informal) lecture, and the second half will be devoted to an in-depth discussion, mostly related to the main text of that class (GP) made available on Brightspace.

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
Presentation 30%
Research Outline 20%
Final Paper 50%
  • Class attendance is obligatory for all sessions. See Attendance Policy below.

a) Presentation Students will be expected to present a key text (GP) once during the semester. These presentations should be about 10-15 minutes. The students should identify, explain and critically engage with the main points/arguments at stake in the text. Students are also encouraged to propose questions for discussion. Helpful texts will be available on Brighstpace, such as ‘How to Read a Philosophical Article or Book’.
b) Research Outline Students will be asked to write a 500-word research outline. The plan should include a well-formulated claim relating to the readings/topics of the course, a motivation as to why the claim is interesting, and a plan of how to defend it. The chosen statement should be related to the course, and the student should engage critically with it rather than just describe someone else's position on that question. A week before the deadline, the student will have time to discuss the gist of their idea in the classroom with the instructor.
c. Final Paper The final exam will be a 5,000-word essay, excluding references. The students are welcome to develop their previous research outline or propose a new line of research. In either case, the student will communicate the plan to the instructor beforehand, at least one week earlier, for the instructor's approval. The final essay submission deadline is Friday, 9 June 2023. Students must submit the final graded assignment with reasonable effort in order to be able to pass the course. The lecturer may grant extensions of a week or less. For more, please refer to the Study Advisors.

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the End Grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Students who score an insufficient grade for the course are allowed resubmit a reworked version of the Final Essay. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the Final Research Essay and subsequent feedback. In case of resubmission of the Final Research Essay the final grade for the Essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.

Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, but still within 5 working days of that deadline, will receive a grade and feedback on their essay. This will be considered a first submission of the final essay, however, the grade will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion. Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, and also fail to hand in their essay within 5 working days of that deadline, get 10 working days, counting from the original deadline, to hand in the first version of their final essay. However, this first version counts as a resubmitted essay with consequential lowering of the grade, and there will be no option of handing in a reworked version based on feedback from the lecturer.

Retaking a passing grade is not possible for this course. Consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2022 – 2023.

Exam review and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

The general background reading is 'Issues in Political Theory' (4th edition) by Catriona McKinnon, Robert Jubb, and Patrick Tomlin (henceforth, Issues in Political Theory). Other helpful background literature is Jonathan Wolff's An Introduction to Political Philosophy (OUP) and Will Kymlicka's Contemporary Political Philosophy (OUP). Additionally, the students will work through Booth et al., The Craft of Research, 4th edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 16 December 2022:

  1. On 16 December 2022 you will receive a message with a link to the survey.
  2. Indicate there which are your 5 preferred Thematic Seminars, in order of preference.
  3. Based on preferences indicated by 2 January 2023 the course Coordinator will assign you to one specific Thematic Seminar by 23 January 2023.
  4. Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.

Students cannot register in uSis for the Thematic Seminar courses, or be allowed into a Thematic Seminar course in any other way.



The deadline for submission of the Final Essay is Friday 9 June 2023.