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10 cp from 100-level units in Politics and International Relations

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit investigates the nature of democracy from a variety of theoretical, historical and global perspectives. Starting with an exploration of the state of democracy in contemporary Australia, the unit examines democratic configurations from ancient Athens through to twenty-first century examples in the United States, Europe and even China. It explores key conceptions of democracy, including liberal democracy, participatory democracy, representative democracy, deliberative democracy, agonistic democracy and monitory democracy, as well as key challenges to democracy, such as populism, extremism and authoritarianism. Through this, the unit will enable students to embrace their roles as citizens in a world where democracy is increasingly seen as "the only game in town."

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe the nature and significance of democratic politics and governance and the contexts in which they operate (GA 5). 

LO2 - debates around democracy, particularly with respect to marginalised, disadvantaged, and vulnerable peoples and communities (GA1). 

LO3 - democracy in a way that informs students’ own practices of engaged citizenship (GA 6). 

LO4 - Demonstrate the capacity to gather, analyse and advocate ethical solutions to political problems through evidence-based argument and evaluation of primary and secondary sources (GA 4, 7, 8, 9). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

  • Democracy in Australia 
  • Athenian Democracy 
  • Liberal democracy 
  • Participatory and representative democracy 
  • Deliberative democracy  
  • Agonistic democracy 
  • Monitory democracy 
  • Democratic innovations 
  • Democratic backsliding and democide 
  • Challenges to democracy: populism, extremism and authoritarianism 
  • Democracy in the United States and China  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit employs two formal ways of learning and teaching. Lectures are structured to promote case-based learning, a format that involves collaborative deep learning. Students will explore real world challenges and problems, a process that requires them to demonstrate their investigative, problem-solving and decision-making skills. Case-based learning requires learning specific theories and concepts that will complement the conceptual tools and theoretical knowledge critical to analysing divergent approaches towards understanding democracy.  

Tutorials for this unit provide students opportunities for active learning. Students will engage in activities including reading, writing, interrogating ideas, exploring case studies, doing role plays, debating, and giving presentations. These activities, as well as promoting analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of lecture content, are designed to build skills appropriate to the second year study in Politics and International Relations. 

This 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for second year study in politics and international relations.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Descriptive Task 

Online Quiz Component 

Students are required to demonstrate an understanding of diverse political perspectives in debates around democracy, as well as the context in which these debates operate, through a series of 3 online quizzes throughout the semester. 


LO1, LO2 

GA1, GA5 

Written Analytical Task 

When asked: “How can we make Australia more democratic?” students are required to research and write a report that puts forward compares the different ways aa practical proposal about how democratic participation can be increased. democratic state can be arranged. Exact topics will change each year. 


LO3, LO4 

GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9 

Major Written Task 

Students are required to research and write a substantive essay critically discussing what they perceive to be the biggest threat to democracies today, and drawing on the theories discussed in this unit, what should be done about it. Exact topics will change each year. 


LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA1, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9 

Representative texts and references

Chou, M. (2013). Theorising Democide: Why and How Democracies Fail. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Crick, B, (2002). Democracy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Crouch, C. (2005). Post-democracy. Cambridge: Polity. 

Dahl, Robert. 1998. On Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press. 

Dryzek, J. and Dunleavy, P. (2009). Theories of the Democratic State. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 

Goodin, R.E. (2008). Innovating Democracy: Democracy Theory and Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Keane, J. (2009). The Life and Death of Democracy. London: Norton & Co. 

Keane, J. (2017). When Trees Fall, Monkeys Scatter: Rethinking Democracy in China. Singapore: World Scientific. 

Mouffe, C. (2005) On the Political. London: Routledge. 

Saward, M. (2010) The Representative Claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

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