What are the New & Emerging Courses to Look Out For While Choosing the Right B.A. Political Science Programme?

The contemporary world is characterised by its interconnectedness. In this vastly bound global landscape, a political move in one country has the potential to impact another or many others in different parts of the world. Political decisions trickle down to the common citizen and cause ripples worldwide.

The new age of politics is a constantly evolving space in a complex web. To thrive—politically or as a responsible citizen—in the modern ways of the world, keeping up with its more recent mechanisms while upholding traditional foundations has become the need of the hour.

Indeed, amidst the uncertainty and unrest of the current global political climate, it becomes all the more important to grasp politics to begin to comprehend the world we live in. In a time when the future of politics—and the world at large—is reshaping itself in big ways, students keen on political science programmes have a lot to decipher about the best options in front of them.

Whether it is to simply understand or to affect change in this global dynamic through national politics, foreign policy, diplomacy and more, it is possible today only by having a handle on emerging aspects. A dated political outlook has no place in the modern world. The politics of the future calls for a contemporary cognizance.

For those who aspire to join the ranks of the political domain of this day and age, one has to combine traditional learning with new forms of knowledge to tackle the problems posed by novel and emerging issues.

When the very study of political science is taking on a new perspective, the responsibility rests on universities and institutions of higher education offering political science courses to evolve, to keep pace, to offer the most relevant training possible to students. As problems become more global, the need to study these new and emerging perspectives becomes not just an added advantage in political science programmes, but a fundamental pillar.

For students considering B.A. Political Science courses in India, this poses a serious question—how do you find the best degree among a host of options available?

“India has had political science programmes for decades, but they’ve not covered emerging fields and topics within this vast discipline which is the study of politics. These include things like political leadership, news media and politics, political marketing, political communication, election campaigning, the role of protest movements in bringing about change, the link between economics and politics, history and politics, the link between political actors and international phenomena such as foreign policy and diplomacy. All these have never been studied in the run-of-the-mill political science programmes,” explains Prof. Sreeram Sundar Chaulia, Dean, Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University.

It is in response to these shortcomings and gaps in political science higher education that JSIA, as India’s first global policy school, decided to launch a new three-year B.A. (Hons.) Political Science programme that is slated to offer students a contemporary take on a conventional discipline.

Identifying those courses which provide a contemporary curriculum and much-needed fresh perspectives can be a dauting task for young students in the midst of admission season, but it’s important to take the right call and invest in a cutting-edge programme that will help you understand politics in today’s world, and in the times to come.

So, what are some of the emerging subjects and pedagogical approaches to consider in a B.A. (Hons.) Political Science degree? We give you an insight into some of the distinctive features of a good undergraduate programme that will help you take an informed decision.

Diplomacy & foreign policy—an insight to international relations through the prism of politics

Facets of political science like diplomacy, international relations, foreign policy and comparative politics emerge as key aspects in a rapidly shrinking global context. The types and tools of this art have gained substantial importance in today’s world. Yet the study of diplomacy comes with its own set of intricacies. It may range from negotiations, co-operations, requests to even mild coercion. For students, understanding the reality of these textbook terms beyond closed classrooms, studying the real-world processes, analysing case-studies and deliberating diplomatic efforts across the globe holds value.

There is no substitute for learning from real-world experiences, and that’s why at JSIA, you will have the opportunity to acquaint yourselves with some prolific personalities who have worked in the field.

At JSIA, students will interact with virtuosos of politics. The internationally-trained faculty and advisors comprise professionals who’ve been diplomats and worked in foreign policy, researchers and scholars with diverse expertise, who lend their experiences to young minds. This also helps students build networks, understand industry reality and identify new areas to venture into.

To act as a diplomat between nations, it is important to understand a range of  political actions of countries around the world and even predict its effect on the country you represent. Consider the military, political and economic tensions between India and China—in such a scenario, diplomacy becomes a vital route to common well-being.

“We’re not just teaching you a discipline; we’re preparing you to keep up with a very quickly changing domain. Politics has changed substantially in the last two decades,” says Prof. Geeti Das, Assistant Professor, JSIA. These changes have brought about major restructuring of the political context worldwide, and only an up-to-date curriculum can keep students abreast with the latest in current affairs.

Rising interconnectedness also acts as testimony to the fact that the lines between global and national politics are blurred in many cases. In that context, solutions for even local political problems might as well be found in the larger domain, where similar scenarios are likely to have played out in the past, where there are best practices to be borrowed from good governance, or lessons to be learned from poor governance –giving rise to yet another urgent area of politics, one of comparison.

Comparative politics—tying local politics with the global context & learning from the bigger picture

Studying the key patterns and similarities between two or more regions, and identifying common concepts holds greater significance in today’s world. Be it different nations’ environmental agendas, the reasons for increased hate crimes, the rise of right-wing populism or mass political mobilisation, among a plethora of emerging trends across the globe, a thorough comparative investigation can not only illuminate common underlying trends, but can also provide the data and tools for predictive analysis, action, alignment of policy or even deeper political reform.

“We are blurring the distinction between looking at international affairs and domestic politics separately. So we will understand Indian politics within a regional perspective, an international perspective and a perspective that doesn’t just centre the theories and models developed in the global North, but takes into account East Asian politics, African politics, or the rising power of BRICS countries,” explains Prof. Das, highlighting the comparative approach to the B.A. Hons. Political Science programme at JSIA.

Though India has established itself as the world’s biggest democracy, there are many other successful cases of good governance, democratic process and politics that can reveal positive action suited to the Indian context. After all, considering India’s own Constitution developed at the time of Independence was a gargantuan effort that intelligently inspected governance across the globe and adapted the best practices to the local context, it is critical for politics to not stagnate, but constantly strive to be better. Nearly 73 years later, the calling to introspect, observe and learn from global politics is no less—for young people who are passionate to pave the future of Indian politics, a comparative approach holds immense value.

It’s important to mention that in more simplistic curricula or perhaps in a more traditional sense, comparative politics may not necessarily look at correlating different regions, but an immersive study of a specific region. Indeed, it is important for students who wish to specialise in certain domains and become area-experts. Yet today, the concept of comparative politics has evolved to a more nuanced, empirical process through research and analysis of different regions, political institutions, political developments, political actors, public opinion, identity, voting behaviour, conflicts, and other variables, to arrive at a greater political understanding of the world. It also sets the foundation to theorise these learnings for current and future application. It would do students well to keep in mind this difference, while evaluating different political science programmes.

News media & political communication—studying the impact of powerful forces of the modern world

Media and communication are powerful phenomena; ones that are ultimately integral to political systems. Termed as the fourth pillar of a democracy, media, ideally, ought to play the role of voicing the opinions of people and keeping those in power, in check. Yet a glance at many mainstream modern day newspapers or news outlets today often reveals a different truth.

Media can be a vehicle to spread information, provide the facts and truths of the world, or it can be a medium to spread propaganda. Simply put—media has been employed as a boon and a bane to politics across the globe. It has time and again been used for the good, the bad and the ugly. Political communication, too, has an intrinsically linked role to play here. The strategy of how political views are portrayed from speeches, campaigns and messaging to how information is disseminated and expressed within a political context—the communication between political parties and the masses is particularly interesting in the digital age, with a large quantum of data and means of communication at our fingertips.

What happened a few years ago with Cambridge Analytica, the political data analysis/consulting firm, and the US presidential elections of 2016, among other political campaigns across the globe, was a shocking alarm for how agencies hoodwink and influence voter behaviour. We all remember the breaking news of privacy breaches and a lot more troubling information about the inappropriate practices that were employed at the time. It is actions and agencies like this, in today’s data-driven world that have the potential to shape politics—for better or worse—even more strongly, from  behind the scenes. The right kind of political science degree can make a huge difference in creating political communication for the better.

Given the rise of controversies in political communication and news media, the need to study these domains to analyse how it influences people and politics has become undeniable today. It is as integral a piece of the political puzzle as leadership or political ideology. People trained with the necessary skills and nurtured with the much-needed integrity and ethics will hold critical places in the ranks of politics.

Political parties have recognised the reach of the news media and the ability to form the perception of the people by influencing media outlets. On the one hand, the art of maintaining this relationship between the political parties, the public and the media without compromising on ethics requires learning from industry leaders and practitioners, and that’s exactly what JSIA is prepared to offer its students. Meaningful, thoughtful, ethical and intelligent communication is key to successful political endeavours.

Conflict, war & peace—a deep understanding to resolve contemporary issues

Another emerging area of contemporary relevance is war, conflict and peace. The modern world, with its technological advancements is giving birth to more powerful defence capabilities among countries. As a result, difference between countries can escalate, and often these military powers function as a vehicle to show political dominance.

Take border disputes between neighbouring nations, for instance. The long-standing tensions between India and China or India and Pakistan have seen thousands of military personnel sweeping the affected regions for decades. Countries worldwide leverage military might to maintain peace—but sometimes, it goes devastatingly wrong. On 15th June 2020, military skirmishes peaked, and India lost 20 soldiers. Back in 1962, it led to the Sino-Indian War. An undergraduate degree in political studies is a stepping stone to futures in diplomacy—and one that includes courses on conflict, war and peace, will be a better option.

This emerging area attempts to study such mechanisms put in place by the states to exercise the two elements, conflict and peace. Reputed organisations such as the United Nations have shown extreme keenness to absorb individuals specialising in these fields of work for strengthening peace amongst member nations. As the domain of political science continues to innovatively ramify, so shall the way these subjects are dealt with.

Learning about the political evolution of different regions offers invaluable comparative perspectives that can help resolve regional issues and maintain friendly international relations in a world that is, unfortunately, riddled with conflict.

Strong foundation in other social science perspectives—economics, history, psychology, sociology, and more

Politics is inherently connected to a variety of other fields. Learning about political theories in isolation without the necessary reasoning from other social science perspectives will render a holistic training incomplete. Why do people vote? How do the ups and downs of the economy affect political decisions? What motivates political decisions in different areas? How have political trends evolved over the years in different societies? Which forms of governance are successful today and why? What makes a good political leader? The answer to many a question of politics often lies in a variety of interconnected realms.

A course in economics can help in understanding the relationship between market and democracy. Through sociology, you can analyse what shapes political thought and public movements, unrest, conflicts and changing social dynamics. Similarly, psychology as a subject holds immense relevance in politics by providing views on how people perceive political institutions and leaders, giving insights into public behaviour and the psyche as a voter. For political science students, these perspectives are very important.

A BA Political Science degree that gives due weightage to allied social science disciplines and provides a truly interdisciplinary perspective to politics will have a lot more to offer its students. Blended learning from various fields inspires young minds to not only tackle problems through different perspectives but also develop their own political imagination with a broader understanding.

Discussion, debate and dialogue—encouraging future change-agents to find their place in the world

In an atmosphere that promotes discussion, debate and dialogue where students are free to express their own unique opinions and learn from one another in the classroom, they begin to transform into critical thinkers and strong orators with a curiosity to learn and evolve. They grow into young leaders who base their thoughts and ideas on clear knowledge and concepts, on empirical findings and analysis. Though political science degrees are not a prerequisite for political leadership, such a programme indeed chalks out a clear-cut path for academic excellence and personal development—it is a place where the leaders of tomorrow can find the mentorship and guidance they need to succeed.

Through conversations amongst peers and internationally-trained faculty on different aspects of politics, students grow into young leaders with own political imaginations and visions for the future. A multidisciplinary environment becomes a place for students to discover their passions and find their place in the world—be it from the front as budding political leaders, or working in analysis, research, as political journalists, commentators, or as part of a host of other career avenues, from diplomacy, bureaucracy, think tanks, NGOs, and more.

JSIA—an institution that blends theory & practice

The pedagogical approach of the BA (Hons.) Political Science training at universities has to blend traditional frameworks with emerging areas in order to give students the practical dimension of learning.

After all, in the pursuit of knowledge and scholarship, one has to prepare for the professional roles they will hold in the future. Students determined to pursue political careers or capacities in allied fields will benefit from the hands-on opportunities and practical exposure through internships, guest lectures, seminars, conferences, and guidance from professionals.

A unique pedagogy goes a long way in striking a balance between theoretical adeptness and practical applications. At JSIA, the innovative pedagogy through role-play, simulations and first-hand experiential field trips help in achieving the right blend to equip a well-rounded scholar, and a highly skilled professional. The future requires multi-faceted individuals with diverse skill-sets as well as core specialisations—and that’s what you should be looking for while selecting B.A. Political Science programmes, the option to learn from diverse perspectives and take up interdisciplinary electives for a broad-based training.

The new political age is not just about consuming information but becoming decipherers and creators of it. In fact, at times, going a step further and influencing future political developments through present analysis.

Political studies, now, more than ever, requires an atmosphere of innovation. The right base to explore major political phenomenon across the world, to not only study politics but become capable leaders in a variety of careers, from politics to law and business. The renewed vision in how the art and science of politics is explored and imparted, starts with the first-of-its-kind programme at JSIA.

JSIA shows the way by incorporating the latest trends and themes in its undergraduate degree. For a young institution that was set up with the idea of revolutionising higher education and building up a body of capable scholars, researchers, and professionals who can contribute in a variety of domains, this is the choice for young BA Hons. political science aspirants today.

Research opportunities for students and research-active faculty

Contributing towards politics of the future calls upon analysis of the past and present. Even at the undergraduate level, students need to be trained with the skills for research. The very groundwork for understanding politics from different contexts lies in the thorough research of traditional and upcoming areas, and the evolution of politics.

Yet research at the undergraduate level is a rare opportunity in Indian universities. Particularly for those who want to pursue higher studies later on, or even enter academia, research, analysis-related avenues in their careers, strong training in research from a young age can go a long way.

At JSIA, the focus is on developing sound academic writing and research to achieve scholarly output through case studies, assignments, and exploratory, investigative study. A global faculty from reputed international institutions brings in experience and diversity from across the world, to equip students with the right tools and techniques. Faculty themselves are engaged in research work, which is a strong indicator of the contemporary conversations they add to enrich the learning experience.

Among the many mainstream BA Political Science degrees, a curriculum of international standards that is taught by internationally-qualified faculty really stands out. JSIA prepares students to be savvy to issues of a wider nature. This, coupled with a multidisciplinary approach contributes to the holistic growth of students, who can grow to be highly skilled scholars and researchers, change-makers and leaders of tomorrow.

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