Graduate Courses

Course outlines will be made available to students by the first day of class. All course outlines should provide a clear written statement of purpose, course requirements, mark breakdown, and a discussion of the criteria the professor will use to evaluate student performance. When there is more than one component to the grade, students should be informed of their performance on each component.

One purpose of courses collectively is to introduce students to a wide variety of ideas, theories, and methodologies in Political Science. We are proud to offer our graduate students a wide range of courses in five subfields, offered by faculty who are thought leaders and whose cutting-edge research continues to garner awards and accolades.

Students are expected to make use of our regular graduate courses in designing their individual program. While course selection does not require the approval of the Department before registering, students should discuss their program with the Director of Graduate Studies and their initial academic supervisor during the first two weeks of September to ensure their program meets the Department’s requirements and lays a strong foundation for undertaking dissertation research.

In certain circumstances, and with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, arrangements can be made for students to supplement their Political Science course work with:

  • courses taken outside of the Department
  • modified senior undergraduate courses*
  • POLI 580 -Directed Studies course

*Normally students are expected to take only graduate courses; undergraduate courses will be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies only in cases where the student is seeking to supplement the course with substantial work at the graduate level (in which case, students usually register for a 580 Directed Studies course).

Beyond Political Science Graduate Courses

Enrolling in courses outside the Department’s graduate program is permitted, but requires the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.
For MA students, up to six credits may be taken in another department or at the senior undergraduate level*, as long as a minimum of 12 credits of graduate course work are taken within the Department. PhD students may take courses outside of the department pending approval, and ensuring that at least eight graduate seminars in Political Science are completed.

Directed Studies

POLI 580 is an open-ended course inserted in the Calendar to provide flexibility for those students whose academic needs cannot be satisfied by the regular courses, and is only available for use in exceptional circumstances. A student seeking Directed Studies in a particular field must find a Faculty member willing to direct his/her readings. Since the normal graduate seminar offerings cover the basic fields in Political Science, and since Faculty members have full teaching loads, there can be no assurance that every request will be met. If an arrangement is made, the decisions on readings, on the frequency of meetings, essay requirements, etc., will be decided on by the student and professor concerned. In all cases, students must complete the Political Science 580 Directed Studies Course information and application form (available from the Department) and obtain the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Previous graduate level coursework:

Previous graduate level coursework up to a maximum of 18 credits may be accepted for PhD program credit to the extent that it fulfills UBC Political Science PhD course requirements. Students are encouraged to consult with their initial academic supervisor as well as the Director of Graduate Studies to see whether courses taken elsewhere might be counted toward fulfilling PhD coursework requirements. This allows MA students in Political Science to enter our PhD program without having to repeat coursework and to reduce their coursework requirements from the two years normally required of our PhD students.

Students cannot get credit for the core subfield seminars of our graduate program. Credit for previous graduate courses are generally for Political Science courses, normally taken as part of a Political Science MA program. Other courses may be allowed, but the presumption is that they are functionally equivalent to Political Science courses, provide students with preparation essential for success in the discipline of Political Science, and fit with the student’s overall program of study, all of which will be determined by the Director of Graduate Studies.

To apply to have previous coursework count as credit towards for program credit (up to 18 credits), students must submit the following to the Director of Graduate Studies:

  1. a letter which requests the specific courses to be accepted as fulfilling UBC PhD coursework requirements, and which identifies the Political Science PhD program requirements that are to be satisfied;
  2. a syllabus of each course for which credit is requested.

Below find all courses that will be offered in our Department for 2017-2018 (updated June 7, 2017).


POLI 504A    TOPICS IN CANADIAN POLITICS: Comparative Public Management

Section 001   1st Term   WED  2:00-5:00

Instructor: Allan Tupper (

This course examines the profound changes in the structure, role and processes of public management in modern countries.

Among the topics examined are the power of civil servants, the status of the Weberian welfare state and public management reform.

These themes are examined through comparative analysis of such topics as accountability, government ethics (including dirty hands and many hands problems), alternative service delivery (the delivery of government services by NGOs and/or private firms) and public private partnerships. Other important topics are secrecy, data collection for security purposes, and citizen privacy.

The course focuses on advanced democracies notably EU countries, Canada, the US and Australia. Canadian examples are derived from federal, provincial, municipal and Aboriginal governments.

POLI 405/504 is a seminar with limited enrolment. Student obligations include presentations, short papers and a substantial research essay.



Section 001   2nd Term   WED 9:00-12:00

Instructor: Lisa Sundstrom (

This course is designed to: (1) assist doctoral students prepare to write the comprehensive field examination in comparative politics; (2) provide doctoral students with a sense of the breadth of the field, its intellectual history, and the frontiers of knowledge; (3) equip research-oriented students with the background necessary to assess the state of the art in comparative politics as a precursor to developing their own theses or thesis proposals; and (4) provide doctoral students with the background necessary to teach comparative politics.  Master’s students are welcome, but the workload and academic requirements are commensurate with the needs of doctoral students.

Comparative politics is a broad, evolving, and dynamic field of study, with ancient roots.  The course examines current scholarship in light of the evolution of the field, and in relation to knowledge in other disciplines. Major topics will include: research approaches in comparative politics, collective action, the state, democratization, institutions (both formal and informal), and culture, ideas and identity.  Research will be discussed for both substantive findings and methodological contributions. Students will read some of the great books produced by the field in recent decades, as well as more cutting-edge books and journal articles.  The course has a programmatic intent: it is designed to encourage reflection on where research comparative politics as a field should move in the future.



Instructor: Alan Jacobs (

Section 001   2nd Term   FRI 9:00-12:00 

For the last four decades, economic inequality has been rising across much of the advanced democratic world. In this seminar, we will examine both the causes of rising inequality and its consequences for democratic politics. The course will begin by unpacking of the concept and measurement of economic “inequality” and taking a comparative and historical view of how the distribution of income and wealth has evolved in industrialized countries since the 19th century. We will inquire into the role of globalization and technological change as causes of rising inequality in recent decades, and will examine the role of public policy, including tax and social policies, in contributing to or dampening income and wealth differentials. We will consider the relationship between elections and inequality, asking why voters do not consistently punish governments for allowing increasing concentrations of wealth and income “at the top.” We will examine how changes in the relative political influence and bargaining leverage of labor (as compared to capital) has affected the distribution of income as well as whether and how inequalities in material resources distort democratic processes, generating inequalities in political influence. Finally, we will consider what can be done: what sorts of policy or institutional changes might help reduce economic inequality and how politically feasible these responses might be.


POLI 514D   COMPARATIVE WESTERN GOVERNMENTS: Seminar on the Politics of Policymaking in the U.S.             

Section 001   1st Term   THU 2:30-5:30   

Instructor: Paul Quirk (

This seminar investigates national institutions and policymaking in the US.  Topics include:  Presidential decision making and leadership; the legislative process, representation, and decision making in Congress; the administrative process and bureaucratic policymaking; and the influence of interest groups, experts, public opinion, mass media, and the electorate.  We will analyze policymaking in several policy areas, such as economic management, regulation, health care, trade, immigration, gun control, and foreign policy—with selections partly reflecting student interest.  For context, we will consider general theories of policymaking and some leading works in comparative public policy, and we will make specific comparisons between the US other countries, especially Canada.   A major concern will be to assess the barriers to constructive action in an increasingly polarized political system.  We will use some journalistic sources to undertake some preliminary exploration of policymaking in the Trump presidency.

The course is intended for both MA and PhD students, primarily (but not exclusively) in political science; for those with and without prior work in US politics; and for those interested in comparative politics or international relations, as well as those mainly focused on the US.   Despite some overlap in topics with the core seminar in US politics, we will cover mainly or exclusively literature that is not treated in that seminar.  (Students may take both seminars for credit.)   Students who have not previously studied US politics will receive adjusted reading assignments in the first few weeks to provide the essential introductory material.



Section 001   2nd Term   MON 2:00-5:00      

Instructor: Maxwell Cameron (

This research seminar will focus on contemporary problems of democracy. A survey of democratic theory will provide the platform for a discussion of comparative studies of democratization. Topics include the meaning and measurement of democracy; the development or evolution of democratic regimes; democratic transitions and consolidation; the quality and diversity of types of democracy; defective and hybrid regimes and democratic reversals; civil society and social movements; participatory innovations; constitutional and legal foundations of democratic regimes. At the end of the course we will examine the fate of liberal democracy in the current era of populism and anti-system politics.


POLI 516B     ISSUES IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS: Seminar on the Politics of US Foreign Policymaking

Section 001   1st Term   MON 9:00-12:00  

Instructor: Gyung-Ho Jeong (

This is a course on the politics of US foreign policy. We will examine the policymaking process of the U.S. foreign policy: policymaking procedures and the interactions among President, Congress, bureaucrats, political parties, and the public. This course is not a course on international relations. We will not study specific US foreign policies, such as US nuclear policy or US policy toward the Middle East or any region. The class discussion will focus on the readings extensively. Discussion not based on the readings is not encouraged by the instructor. In addition to heavy reading assignments (10 articles per week), graduate students should do a number of assignments: 1) Each PHD student is required to do two replication projects, using statistical methods. You need to replicate the results of two published work. Each MA student is required to do one replication project, using statistical methods. 2) Each PHD student is required to write three critical literature reviews (10 pages each). Each review should discuss at least 15 journal articles in-depth. MA students will do one critical literature review. 3) Each graduate student will present one of the graduate readings in class every week. For this assignment, you need to assume that you are the author of the article, presenting the article in an academic conference (including Q&A). 4) Each PHD student should review three research papers by undergraduate students in the class and provide very constructive feedback because your grade for this assignment will be proportional to the average grade of the research papers you reviewed. MA students will do the same. 4) Each graduate student should submit a research proposal by the end of the term. It should include a puzzle, literature review, research methods (including the discussion of the data and models you will be using), and preliminary outcomes. For this assignment, you should build on the datasets that you used for the replication project. It should be 25-30 pages.



Section 001   2nd Term   WED 2:00-5:00  

Instructor: Kathryn Harrison (

Public policy can be broadly defined as what governments do – the choices they make concerning whether and how to address societal problems.  As empirical political scientists, we seek to understand why governments make the choices they do, though of course with the hope that such an understanding can inform better policy decisions.  This course will explore this question at two levels.  First, we will consider broad theories about the influence of different factors – self-interest, ideas, and institutions – on policy choice through examination of the neomarxist, rational choice, feminist, ideational, neo-institutionalist, and varieties of capitalism literatures.  Emphasis will be placed on the value of the comparative method, both across policy fields and across jurisdictions, in gaining analytical leverage and, ultimately, insight.  Second, we will consider different aspects of the policy process in greater detail, including agenda setting, instrument choice, and implementation. Reading will draw heavily, but not exclusively, from the public policy reading lists in the department’s comparative politics and Canadian politics subfields. Each student will write a comparative research paper on a policy topic of their choice (subject to instructor approval) and will formally present their paper to the class.


POLI 547A        TOPICS IN POLITICAL THEORY: Interpretation and Criticism in Political Inquiry

Section 001   2nd Term   TUE 2:00-5:00  

Instructor: Bruce Baum (

Karl Marx famously said, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” In so doing he pinpointed a central point of contestation for students of politics and political actors: the tension between seeking to understand the political world and aiming to change it, particularly with respect to its oppressive and unjust aspects. Marx also set the tone for one approach to political criticism when he said that religion “is the sigh of the oppressed … the opium of the people.” This remains a provocative challenge to how prevailing beliefs are shaped by prevailing relations of power; but it also remains at odds with how many people understand and enact their religious convictions.

In the background are larger questions about the appropriate methods with which to study politics as opposed to, say, biology or physics. Arguably, the concepts and practices constitutive of politics are distinctive from concepts basic to the natural sciences insofar as the former are integrally bound up with our interpretations of them. Moreover, according to political analysts such as Gramsci and Foucault, prevailing accounts of key political concepts (e.g., power, freedom, justice, democracy, domination) are themselves value-laden and bound up with political struggles rather than readily amenable to a-political, value-neutral renderings.

Accordingly, some commentators have suggested that Marx wrongly juxtaposed interpreting the world and working to change it. They contend that the aim of changing the world is integrally connected to that of adequately interpreting or understanding it. From this perspective Marx’s criticism of religion fails to address sufficiently religion’s meaning and significance.  Interpretive social scientists emphasize that political activity is thoroughly embedded in and shaped by people’s everyday languages and conceptions. From a hermeneutical interpretive perspective, efforts to explain political phenomena must be joined with efforts to comprehend what political agents understand themselves to be doing. That is, political inquiry must take account of the self-understandings of political agents. This does not mean, however, that political analysis comes to an end with agents’ self-understandings. Arguably, Marx was right that prevailing relations of power, including forms of domination, shape people’s beliefs and self-conceptions.

This course will survey major interpretive and critical approaches to political inquiry, including hermeneutics & interpretive social science, Critical Theory, Foucauldian genealogy, deconstruction, critical realism, and feminism. Substantive topics will include gender, racism, and Indigenous politics.



Section 001   2nd Term   MON 1:00-4:00   

Instructor: Glen Coulthard (

This upper-level undergraduate/graduate seminar will explore the relationship between Western political theory and settler-colonization through four lenses: liberalism, Marxism, feminism and anarchism.  In doing so, we will attempt to answer, in a provisional manner, the following two questions: in what ways have these diverse traditions within Western political thought served, either implicitly or explicitly, to justify the dispossession of Indigenous peoples’ lands and self-determining authority, on the one hand, and in what ways have Indigenous peoples and their allies been able to critically appropriate and transform these theoretical frameworks to support Indigenous struggles for land and freedom on the other?


POLI 562A       TOPICS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Topics in IR: Global Environmental Politics

Section 001   2nd Term   MON 9:00-12:00

Instructor: Peter Dauvergne (

This seminar reflects on the politics of global sustainability and justice, striving for critical thought that integrates both rigorous analysis and ethical reflection. The focus is on the consequences of political discourses, institutions, and power struggles for global ecological change, taking an interdisciplinary approach that does not assume a background in international relations. How, in what ways, and to what extent is global environmental politics making a difference for advancing global sustainability and justice? How and why is this changing over time? What does this suggest for the future? To answer these questions, the course analyzes topics such as the causes and consequences of unsustainable development, the ecological shadows of consumption, the power of environmentalism as a social movement, the social justice consequences of climate change, the contradictions of technology, the effectiveness of international agreements, the rising importance of city-level governance, the eco-business of multinational corporations, and the value of certification and eco-consumerism. The course concludes by assessing the merits of various pathways toward environmental sustainability and social justice.


POLI 562C         TOPICS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Norms and Ethics in Global Politics

Section 001   2nd Term   FRI 2:00-5:00    

Instructor: Richard Price (

This seminar will engage with scholarly theory and research explaining the development and effects of global norms. In addition to scholarly attention regarding the extent to which global norms matter and how, the study of global norms raises the question of their normative status: for example, calling a global advocacy campaign for a norm a success presumes that it is a good thing. By what standards do we make such judgements? The seminar will therefore also engage with the normative as well as empirical dimensions of global ethics though the emphasis in readings is on the latter.



Section 001   1st Term   THU 9:00-12:00   

Instructor: Katharina Coleman (

This seminar examines contemporary peace operations, including UN peacekeeping operations, UN special political missions, and peace operations led by NATO or African regional actors. The purpose is to 1) highlight the diversity of contemporary peace operations; 2) introduce some of the major conceptual and policy debates surrounding these operations; and 3) allow participants to explore several contemporary operations empirically.



Section 001   1st Term   TUE 1:00-4:00

Instructor: Erin Baines (

The course focuses on the question of remaking the social and political after mass violence, atrocity or periods of repression. We will take our cue from Bronwyn Leebaw’s Judging state sponsored violence: Imagining political change. Leebaw argues that state-led transitional justice processes, including trials, truth commissions, national inquiries, memorials and archives, have focused narrowly on singular issues, failing to address the complexity of violence and problematically reiterating a victim-perpetrator framework. Other critics of the field argue that it also fails to address structural forms of violence. Recognizing these limitations, we will consider the myriad social and political processes of resistance, refusal and repair during and after mass violence and loss. Working in an interdisciplinary fashion and engaging scholarly work, political art, poetry, documentary and creative non-fiction we will work towards an understanding of how people remake/reclaim their worlds in the context of genocide, mass displacement, conflict, disaster, settler-colonialism and slavery.


POLI 571A        QUALITATIVE METHODS OF POLITICAL ANALYSIS: Qualitative Research Methods and the Problem of Causal Inference 

Section 001   1st Term   WED 9:00-12:00 

Instructor: Arjun Chowdhury (

This seminar will prepare graduate students to be both thoughtful designers of their own qualitative research projects and careful consumers of other scholars’ work. The course revolves around the following question: How can the intensive analysis of a small number of cases help us draw inferences about causal relationships in the social world? We will focus on two broad, complementary strategies of qualitative research: comparison across a small set of cases and process-tracing within one or more cases. In addition to considering these general strategies, the course will examine a set of specific tasks and challenges that qualitative researchers face as they design and carry out their projects, including case selection and the assessment of qualitative evidence. A key aim of the course is to help students make informed choices among alternative methodological approaches in their own research and to assess the tradeoffs made by other scholars. To that end, we will consider the ways in which the logic of qualitative research may both resemble, and depart from, the logic of quantitative work. We will pay close attention to the tradeoffs that analysts confront when choosing among qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. What is gained, and what is lost, when we choose to study a small number of cases (or even just a single case)?

The themes of this course span subfield boundaries. The course will be useful to most students of international relations and comparative, Canadian, or U.S. politics as well as to students of political theory who are interested in empirical causal relationships or in critically assessing empirical work. Alongside methodological texts, we will read and critique substantive works of political science drawn from across the discipline. Over the course of the term, students will develop their own qualitative research designs, which might later form the basis of a dissertation prospectus or thesis proposal.

N.B: While a course in qualitative methods, POLI 571 makes some use of basic statistical concepts for the purposes of comparing and contrasting the two methodological traditions; it is thus recommended that students enter the course with some understanding of basic statistical principles, including some basic familiarity with regression analysis. Students who have not yet taken a course in basic statistics or do not feel comfortable with their command of the subject may find it helpful to work through a readable introductory text or to sit in on an undergraduate statistics course (i.e. POLI 380) before or while taking POLI 571.



Section 001   1st Term   TUE/THU 1:00-2:30

Instructor: Xiaojun Li (

This course presents basic mathematical concepts that are essential for quantitative analysis in political science research. It prepares students for more advanced courses offered in the department’s quantitative methods sequence (POLI 572B and POLI 574). The course is divided into four subject areas: mathematical foundations, probability theory, statistical inference, and fundamentals of data science. The course is aimed for both students with little exposure to mathematics and those who have taken some courses but wish to gain a more solid foundation.


2016-2017 Graduate Courses: Download Now