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Wits University Faculty of Humanities
Political Studies Develop your knowledge of political theory and enhance your understanding of the political landscape.
Political Studies Develop your knowledge of political theory and enhance your understanding of the political landscape.

Qualification: BA(Hons)

Faculty: Humanities

Duration: 1 - 2 years

School: Social Sciences

Study mode: Full-time; Part-time


There are four taught modular units, at least three of which must be completed within the Department. 

Ordinarily students will be expected to complete at least two essays of between 10 and 20 pages per unit.  Classes may alternate between lecture and seminar formats. Progress will depend largely on the student’s own reading and willingness to participate in class discussion.  All courses involve the use of web-based learning.

In the first semester, Honours students will also be expected to complete a research-based independently conceived research essay on an approved topic, usually between 10 000 and 20 000 words in length (the length varies from year to year). The student will work on his/her research project with the support of an individually assigned supervisor. A compulsory Research Methods component will form part of this module.

All students must attend compulsory proposal writing workshops which will be held in the first block.

POLS4036 - Democratic Theory

The relationship between existing liberal democracy and various visions for deepening and extending democracy is explored.

Attention will be given to critiques arising from various philosophical and ideological positions. These include liberalism, civic republicanism, Marxism, utopian socialism and feminism.

POLS4045 - African Politics: Natural Resources in Africa

This course investigates the issue of resource extraction in Africa. It aims to give students at the Honours and Master's level a critical overview of the debates surrounding natural resources on the continent. The political and economic impact of resource extraction is investigated.

POLS4044 - Justice and Democracy: Freedom in South Africa

The course analyses the origins of the notions of justice, democracy and freedom.

The first half of the course examines the history of justice, democracy and freedom. The second half of the course analyses the manner in which these ideas relate to the reality of the acquisition of freedom in Africa and South Africa. The course includes analysis of the ideas (and intellectual and historical contexts) of the following core thinkers, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, Fanon, Biko, Mandela, Sen and Geuss, amongst others.

POLS4047 - Politics and Utopia

This course will provide graduate students with an introduction to key ideas and theories in the development of political thought. Utopian visions, and their impact on political thought and practice are studied. The course explores the relationship between political theory and practice.

POLS4052 - Research Methods and Research Ethics in Political Studies

This course introduces a range of debates and approaches regarding the how's and why's of research methods. The course will also provide targeted instruction on how to develop a research proposal. Each session will examine prominent examples of methods while considering their strengths and weaknesses. Students will present their plans to their peers building upon ideas put together in a research proposal.

POLS4027 - Selected Topics in Political Studies: Afro-politics and Religion

The course examines religion's role in shaping African society. Part of the aim of the course is to critique contemporary conflict theories and narratives of nation-states in their failure to account for religion's influence on the development of the African state and society. The interaction between the various religious outlooks and the constant invention of new belief systems is explored.

POLS4033 -The State in Africa: Democratisation and Crisis

This unit draws upon debates about the birth and development of the African state. Furthermore, It explores the various views of the African state.

POLS4038 - Violence, Identity and Transformation

This is an interactive research seminar. It is intended to be a laboratory for mutual learning and collective transdisciplinary research. By accessing archives of the global South And North key questions regarding the politics of violence will be explored. One such question is, 'in which ways have progressive, inclusive and diverse new social orders been imagined and how could we or should we (not?) imagine them today?

POLS4054 - An Introduction to Biopower

This course begins by tracing the development of the concept of biopower in the work of Foucault. It will also underline some of the sources of inspiration for his formulation. The ways in which the concept of biopower has been appropriated and developed by other important theorists will also be explored.

POLS4050 - Institutions, Governance and Violence in Africa

The course explores the way in which institutions shape the development of financial, social, political, and legal structures. Particular attention is paid to the impact of pre- and post-colonial institutions in Africa.

POLS4037- Debates in Feminism, Politics and Society

The ideas explored in this course introduce the challenges to political studies posed by feminist theory. The goal is to understand the role gender perspectives play in the analysis of the political world.



Applicants to Honours will normally have a BA major in Political Studies and have achieved at least 65% in this major.

Please check with School

  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

For more information, contact the Student Call Centre +27 (0)11 717 1888, or log a query at

Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees site also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.