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Studying Political Science in Germany

Political scientists deal with political processes and institutions
An article by Antonia Kelloms

Studying Political Science in Germany
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Political Science / Social Sciences

That is what it’s about

Are CDU and SPD still popular parties today? To what extent is democracy threatened by right-wing populism? Political scientists deal with such questions. In addition, they compare the political systems of different countries, deal with political theories, political economy or peace and conflict research. "We deal with the rules of living together - from domestic politics to the organization of the world," says Manuel Fröhlich, professor of Politics at the University of Trier and chairman of the German Association for Politics. Political studies are not limited to theories - for example, students also learn to analyse election results or social trends using statistical methods. They increasingly use approaches and ways of thinking from different fields. The most important neighbouring sciences include sociology, ethnology, international law, law and history.

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This is how the course runs

The study material of the first semester at most universities is based on three pillars: Comparative government, international relations and political theory. In these areas, the students first learn the basics, in higher semesters they deepen their knowledge in one of the three areas. In addition to the introductions, the method courses and the specialization modules, the universities also offer elective courses. This can be peace and conflict research or European integration - but also a very different focus, depending on the institute. Some are mainly concerned with Europe or Asia, others focus on domestic politics or international comparison, while other institutions are particularly concerned with methods and statistics. One should inform oneself before the beginning of the course. Internships are compulsory at most universities. For example, students can gain work experience at party associations or in editorial offices. As the course becomes more international, internships abroad become more and more frequent. At the end of the course, usually in the sixth semester, the students write their bachelor thesis. They choose the topic themselves, in many places there are accompanying seminars. During the Master, graduates can specialize in international relations or policy management.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • What defines a state?
  • How are the tasks and roles of Prime Minister and President different in different governmental systems?
  • How is the European Union structured - and what is its future?
  • Is increasing nationalism threatening coalitions like the EU or UN?
  • How is political communication being changed by new media?
  • What influence does China have in Africa?
  • How is the Trump Presidency changing international cooperation?

The subject suits you,...

...if you read a lot, also in English, and if you are interested in the political events of the day. "Studying politics is not training to be a politician," says Manuel Fröhlich. Having a political opinion is one thing, analysing politics scientifically is something completely different. "It is not enough just to be interested in politics," says Armin Schäfer, professor of Political Science at the University of Münster and Chairman of the German Association for Political Science (DVPW). Political scientists are later often active in policy advice, as a research assistant to members of parliament, as journalists or in industry, where they provide lobbying, for example. It is advisable to do an internship in the Bundestag, at an association or a party.

Is there a numerus clausus?

Around two-thirds of the programs in politics have an NC. In some places you have to pass a selection test.

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