Graduate Courses


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Our courses introduce students as researchers 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 thesis and 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.

Course Listing 2019-20


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

Instructor: Gerald Baier (

This is the graduate ‘core’ course in Canadian politics. Its mandate is to familiarize students with both contemporary and enduring themes, methods and controversies in the study of Canadian politics and government. The course will consider institutions and processes as well as Canadian political culture and behaviour. As the core course, it is necessarily broad in focus, but some attempt will be made to identify patterns in the study of Canadian politics. Topics discussed will include; federalism and the constitution, parliamentary government, political parties, electoral behaviour, regionalism and nationalism, interest groups and social movements, bureaucracy, courts, rights and Canadian political thought. The course will help students to identify possible research and thesis topics as well as prepare for comprehensive examinations in Canadian politics.



(Counts towards a Canadian Politics or a Comparative Politics field requirement)

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

Instructor: Allan Tupper (

POLI 504 examines changes in the structure, role and processes of public management in modern countries.

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

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

The 2019 course will also probe the emerging impact of artificial intelligence and new forms of advanced computer technologies on governments. And extra attention will be paid to comparison of controversies about “politicization” of senior civil servants in Ottawa and Washington under the Trudeau and Trump governments.

We will focus primarily on advanced democracies including EU countries, Canada, US, and Australia. Canadian examples are drawn from federal, provincial, municipal and Aboriginal governments.


POLI 504B      TOPICS IN CANADIAN POLITICS – Urban Governance and Policy in Canada

(Counts as a Canadian Politics field requirement)

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

Instructor: Carey Doberstein (

Major political, economic, environmental, and social challenges in Canada intersect in cities; economic development, housing and homelessness, transportation planning, and environmental sustainability are all subject to the policies and investment priorities of city governments. Though municipalities in Canadian federalism lack independent constitutional status and confront limits to their legal, fiscal, and political autonomy, increasingly they are critical actors in major policy debates and are generators of policy innovations and governance reforms.

This course will provide students with the theoretical and analytical tools to understand and explain the politics and policy activities of Canada’s metropolitan governments within their unique historical, institutional, and constitutional frameworks and within the political economy of cities. We will examine different theories of urban power and governance, and the ability of different theoretical approaches to explain the emergence of urban policy problems and their various solutions. The focus of the course is on cities in Canada, with a particular focus on Vancouver in the second half of the course when we examine various urban policy issues. Our fundamental aim will be to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how, why, and with what consequences, urban governments and their partners develop and implement policy.



Section 001   2nd Term   TUE 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 over the decades, as well as more recent 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.


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

(Counts towards a U.S. Politics or a Comparative Politics field requirement)

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

Instructor: Paul Quirk (

This seminar investigates national institutions and policymaking in the US.  Topics include:  presidential decision making and leadership; representation and the legislative process in Congress; bureaucratic policymaking; and the influence of interest groups, experts, communications media, public opinion, and the electorate.  We will analyze policymaking in selected policy areas—for example, business regulation, climate change, health care, trade, immigration, gun control, foreign policy, and/or others—with selections partly dependent on student interest.  We will make comparisons between the US and other countries, especially Canada, and assess the barriers to constructive action in an increasingly polarized political system.  Finally, we will examine the Trump presidency as a critical period for American political institutions.

The course does not require prior academic work on US politics.

Research papers may use quantitative or qualitative methods, may deal with an institutional or policy topic (including foreign policy), may focus on the U.S alone or in a comparative context, and may focus on earlier or more recent periods (including the Trump administration).  Students whose main interests are in comparative politics, international relations, or political theory are encouraged to select paper topics that relate to those interests.  Students are encouraged and assisted to design their papers, if they wish, as first stages of potential MA- or PhD-thesis projects.

Requirements:  Regular class participation; several brief writing assignments; several oral presentations; a research paper; and a take-home final exam.

(This course does not does not duplicate Poli 514B, the Core Seminar in US Politics; students may take both courses for credit.)


POLI 516C     ISSUES IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS: Migration and Citizenship

(Counts as a Comparative Politics field requirement)

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

Instructor: Antje Ellermann (

Human mobility has become one of the most contested issues in contemporary politics. This seminar surveys key scholarly debates in the study of migration and citizenship in political science and cognate disciplines. We comparatively examine in both historical and cross–national perspective the ways in which states and societies (particularly in the Global North) have responded to, and have become transformed by, immigration. The course covers a wide range of topics: theories of international migration and immigration regimes, theoretical approaches to migration studies, immigration and settler colonialism, the ethics of borders, migration control, public opinion on immigration, voting behaviour and populist radical right parties, the making of immigration policy, national identity and citizenship, immigrant inclusion, and multiculturalism and religion.


POLI 516D     ISSUES IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS – The Comparative Political Economy of Development

(Counts as a Comparative Politics field requirement)

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

Instructor: Yang-Yang Zhou

This course provides a graduate level introduction to the comparative study of development. Why do some regions of the Global South seem to do better at “development” than others? While Asia is often viewed as developing rapidly, sub-Saharan Africa is often treated as a failure, and Latin America is commonly perceived as a mixed case. The first part of this course begins with a brief overview of how development is conceptualized and measured. We then consider and discuss existing explanations of developmental success and failure such as the influence of historical legacies, the role of the modern state and political institutions, markets and globalization, structural adjustment, and democracy versus authoritarianism. The second part of this course explores contemporary development initiatives such as democratic governance, information campaigns, and other channels for citizen participation.


POLI 523B      Political Thought – Ethics in Democratic Politics

(Counts as a Political Theory field requirement)

Section 002 2nd Term      MON  9:00-12:00         

Instructor:  Maxwell Cameron (

The subject of this course is Ethics in Democratic Politics. We will examine this subject through an approach known as “Virtue Ethics,” in which the highest virtue, or virtue of virtues, is Practical Wisdom (Phronesis, in the Greek). Throughout the course, we will be investigating five questions:

  • What is ethics, specifically “virtue ethics,” and what is practical wisdom?
  • When and why do we need ethics or practical wisdom in our everyday lives?  Why do we as citizens, public servants or elected officials need ethical practices and practical wisdom in politics to sustain a working liberal, constitutional democracy?
  • When and how do we acquire ethical knowledge and practical wisdom?
  • What institutional forces threaten ethical practices and practical wisdom?
  • What institutional arrangements encourage and nurture ethical practices and practical wisdom?

We will investigate these questions in several important domains of life—friendship, education, work, medicine, law, family, and especially politics in democratic societies.  We will also investigate these questions more theoretically, in the hope of developing a solid understanding of what makes wisdom or judgment a crucial component of our lives.  Throughout the course, we will be contrasting decision-making that depends on practical wisdom, or judgment, with decision making that depends on following various kinds of rules or responding to external rewards and punishments.


POLI 533A         Topics in Public Policy

(Counts as a Canadian Politics field requirement)

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

Instructor:  Kathryn Harrison (

The objective of this course is to provide students with tools and experience for conducting policy analysis in support of public sector decisions.  Through analyses of real-world policy issues, students will gain experience in problem definition, crafting policy alternatives, and identifying tradeoffs among alternatives. The course is more applied than most senior undergraduate and graduate seminars in the department.  Emphasis will be placed on developing practical research, analytical, and communication skills to generate and present clear and useful analysis for a client or supervisor. The course will integrate in-class case studies of organ transplant shortages, graffiti, and distracted driving. The course mark will be based on class participation, three papers (each of which builds on the previous ones), and a class presentation.


POLI 540A        Core Seminar in Political Theory              

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

Instructor: Mark Warren (

This core political theory field seminar introduces political theory as a mode of inquiry within political science. The seminar is organized into three parts. The first part of the seminar surveys the kinds and categories of questions political theorist address in the course of structuring their insights into political reality: ontological questions, having to do with necessary presuppositions about the entities we seek to know; epistemological questions, having to do with the authority of our judgments about these entities; and ethical questions, having to do with what we should or should not do or prefer. The second part of the seminar introduces generic social ideas, processes, and mechanisms. We will borrow from social theory (e.g., Giddens) and philosophy (e.g., Winch, Searle, and Habermas) to examine several of these as signalled by the concepts of human agency, society, institution, power, and language. Because political theory is most often practiced as an academic field within political science, political theorists should be able not only to think about the kinds of the questions they pose, but also the interdependence of political theory with empirical investigation and explanation, a topic we examine in the final week of the seminar. The seminar develops these fundamentals through combining basic social theory and some philosophy with reconstructions of Hannah Arendt’s and Immanuel Kant’s political theories.


POLI 547A        TOPICS IN POLITICAL THEORY – Interpretation and Criticism in Political Theory

(Counts as a Political Theory field requirement)

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

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 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. Accordingly, some commentators have suggested that Marx wrongly counterpoised 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.


POLI 551A       Elections: Parties and Voters – Designing and Analyzing Public Opinion Surveys

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

Instructor: Matthew Wright (

This course, the first of a two-course sequence that also includes POLI 574, focuses on the design and analysis of sample surveys, which are both the cornerstone of a large (and growing) industry devoted to public opinion polling, and far and away the most commonly used evidence in studies of political behavior. In taking it students will: 1) become familiar enough with survey methodology to be intelligent consumers of work that uses it; 2) develop the ability to design, field, and analyze their own survey, as well as report on its result; 3) learn to think critically about whether and how to employ these methodologies in their own research, and; 4) learn to think both appreciatively and critically about specific examples of social scientific research that uses one or both of these designs.


POLI 552A  Political Psychology and Public Opinion

(Counts towards a Canadian Politics, a U.S. Politics, or a Comparative Politics field requirement)

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

Instructor: Andrew Owen (

This course surveys the mainstream literature on citizens’ political opinions and actions. It covers many of the central questions that animate a very large scholarly literature. Topics include: both foundational and current studies of citizen vote choice, general theories of political opinion formation and change, debates about the quality of democratic choice among individuals and the public as a whole, claims about the role of the mass media, and the relationship between public opinion and public policy. Discussion of the assigned reading material will consider the theoretical perspectives employed and the assumptions inherent in these theories, the strengths and weaknesses of the research design and methodologies employed, and the implications of these empirical results for democratic theory.


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

(Counts as an International Relations field requirement)

Section 001   2nd Term   THUR 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 563A       INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION – The Role of Law in International Politics

(Counts as an International Relations field requirement)

Section 002 2nd Term      WED 9:00-12:00

Instructor: Michael Byers (

This interdisciplinary seminar examines the role of law in international politics. It does so across a range of issues areas, including human rights, armed conflict, climate change, and international trade. Students will be exposed to the theoretical literature as well as case studies of actual practice—which they will research. No prior legal training is required.



(Counts as an International Relations field requirement)

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

Instructor: Katharina Coleman (

This seminar examines some key debates about the role(s) of international organizations in international relations and provides an empirical introduction to several contemporary intergovernmental organizations. It is designed to allow participants to deepen their understanding of the various theoretical perspectives on international organizations, gain empirical knowledge about a range of organizations, and think critically about whether, how, and under what conditions international organizations affect world politics.



(Counts as an International Relations field requirement)

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

Instructor: Erin Baines

This class considers the politics and policies stemming from Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (2000) and related UN Resolutions. It examines the historical evolution of SCR 1325, as well as debates surrounding its strengths and limitations. It introduces gender and inter-sectional analysis and how these can be applied in practice. We consider some of the methodological and ethical concerns of research/policy on gender in volatile or politically charged settings, and larger geo-political critiques regarding SCR 1325?s normative framework. Finally we will examine four themes in conflict affected settings&~ : i. Forced Marriage and Sexual Slavery; ii. Gender based Violence against Men and Boys; iii. Children and Youth; iv. Resilience and Agency.


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

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

Instructor: Alan Jacobs (

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 a statistics course before or while taking POLI 571.



Section 001   1st Term   TUE/THU 12:30-2:00

Instructor: Andrew Owen (

This course introduces basic statistical methods used in the study of political science, and the social sciences at large. Statistics are an efficient and accepted way of communicating ideas; they are a means of bridging the gap between implication and inference. Contemporary political science research in all subfields utilizes statistical techniques and, consequently, a basic understanding of these methods is crucial if one is to be a sophisticated consumer of political science literature and to become a producer of such research. The lectures, homework, and exams are designed to instruct you in the understanding and proper use of social science methods and promote your critical analysis of statistical findings. Students will learn to describe data, understand the impact of randomness in statistical research, conduct statistical tests, and most importantly learn to evaluate the implications of quantitative results. Students will learn to compute most of the techniques discussed in class both “by hand” and “by computer”. We will also devote portions of the course to the use of statistical software and commonly used archival sources of political science data.



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

Instructor: Michael Weaver (

This course covers the basic principles of ordinary least squares regression as a tool for statistical analysis. Because the primary reason for using regression is to make causal claims, this course focuses on both the mechanics of regression, the assumptions required to make causal claims, and interpretation. The course is broken into four parts. First, we cover the Neyman causal model (potential outcomes) framework and discuss how to understand regression in this framework. Second, we cover the fundamental matrix algebra behind least squares and its interpretation as a way of estimating the conditional expectation function. Third, we bring these two concepts together to derive the key assumptions required to draw both statistical and causal inferences using regression. Finally, we cover violations of these mathematical assumptions frequently faced in empirical research and discuss solutions. This course assumes completion of POLI 572A (or similar course in basic mathematical statistics) and a familiarity with using the R statistical programming language. While we will engage in some basic matrix algebra, the course does not assume prior knowledge of this topic and the course will focus on practical applications of linear regression models.



(CANCELLED for Summer term 1  2020)

Instructor: Xiaojun Li (

The objective of this course is to expose students to survey experimental research in political science and international relations. The course will explain the general methodological logic behind experiments, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of survey experiments, and introduce methods in analyzing experimental data. As part of the course, students will develop, in consultation with the instructor, their own research design using survey experimental methods for a substantive question of interest to them.


-POLI 572A, 572B and 551A