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Wits University Faculty of Humanities
Political Studies The Master of Arts in the field of Political Studies is a 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time degree.
Political Studies The Master of Arts in the field of Political Studies is a 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time degree.

Qualification: MA 

Faculty: Humanities

Duration: 1-2 years

School: Social Sciences

Study mode: Full-time; Part-time


The programme consists of three semester-length taught units, which should normally be completed within the Department, and a research report, which students are expected to work on throughout the year.

Students may select any unit from the range offered in this booklet, including, subject to the approval of the Co-ordinator of the Masters programme, a unit taught in another discipline.  Ordinarily, a minimum enrolment of five students is expected in a unit before teaching it.


Students will write an exam on each of the three units taken.


Unit work submitted during the year will count 25% towards the final mark and examinations 25%.  The research report counts 50% towards the final mark.

Research Report

All MA students have to submit for examination a research report on a topic of their choice. Students are expected to work on their research report throughout the year, and especially in the July and December vacations.

Students may choose to combine “empirical” and “theoretical” material. Other students may choose to write purely library-based dissertations.

MA students will be expected to present a fully developed proposal, which includes aims and objectives and a research question, background and rationale, chapter outline and bibliography,  to members of the Department before the mid-term vacation.

POLS7006 - Development Theory

The course introduces social, economic, and political assumptions. These underpin 'development studies'. Strategies that might best be adopted to 'promote' or 'manage' development are investigated. In this way, the 'problem of development' in three loosely defined and interconnected areas of social life - the market, the state, and the community - are explored.

POLS7044 - 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.

POLS7050 - 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.

POLS7049 - 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.

POLS7052 - 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.

POLS7052 - 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. Towards the end of the course students will present their plans to their peers and other members of the department, building upon ideas put together in a research proposal.

POLS7030 - 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.

POLS7036: 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.

POLS7072 - 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?

POLS7059 - 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.

POLS7055 - 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.

POLS7043 - 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 Masters should normally have an Honours mark of 70%; however, students with an Honours mark above 67% will be considered.

Additional entry requirements may apply.

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.