Rhodes University Logo
Rhodes > Political & International Studies > About


Welcome to the Department of Political and International Studies

As the late philosopher Charles Frankel once said, it is through the Humanities that a society talks to itself about things that matter most. In the study of Politics, as with other disciplines in the Humanities, we are interested in learning about the best that has been thought, said and written about human beings living in social and political relationships. We are interested in learning how these thinkers have grappled with, and continue to grapple with, life’s most enduring, fundamental questions: What is justice? What should be defended? What is the appropriate nature of our relationship to the state? Where should the limits of state power over our lives properly lie? What is the nature of our moral obligation to the state and to fellow citizens? What do we mean by ‘democracy’ and what are the conditions under which it flourishes and declines? These questions touch on what it is to be human. They are the subject over which wars have been fought and lives have been lost.

The answers to the questions which we ask in Political Studies are the subject of uncertainty and debate. To study Politics is to learn to argue and defend positions, to critically evaluate the nature of the evidence that people provide for what they believe to be true. Because our graduates emerge out of three years of studying Politics as articulate critical thinkers who can read widely with insight and understanding and who are capable of coming to reasoned independent judgments, they are sought-after in business, industry, NGOs, government and academic settings. To study Politics is to learn to be an analytical thinker in possession of the complex, higher order literacy capacities that are a requirement in every facet of a world that is increasing driven by the need to interact critically, thoughtfully and knowledgeably with large quantities of information.

The Politics Department at Rhodes is a high quality teaching and research environment. All our permanent members of staff have doctorates from top institutions. Two of our seven staff members are recipients of the prestigious Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Our research is published in national and international journals. Our graduates have gone on to distinguish themselves at universities which include Cambridge, Oxford, the London School of Economics, SOAS and many others. We welcome our students into an environment in which debate is encouraged and interaction between students and lecturers including those at the most senior level is frequent and ongoing. The Department prides itself on being informal and friendly while at the same time being exceptionally demanding of our students. We believe that these dual aspects of our practice are what makes us special in the higher education environment.

For more information on the various research and teaching projects that the department undertakes, please explore the site, or click on one of the links below:

Engaged Academics

Our Mission Statement

The Department of Political and International Studies aims to provide an interactive and creative environment which develops graduates whose analytical and critical skills allow them to pursue academic careers or otherwise positively contribute to problem-solving tasks in either the private or public sector of wider society. Our mission is -

  1. to provide an undergraduate curriculum with a wide ranging introduction to analysis and theory in political studies that equips learners with an ability to think critically and express themselves competently and further pursue Political or International Studies.
  2. to offer post-graduate programmed in both Political and International Studies relevant to South African, African and other students in the context of current regional and international intellectual debates.
  3. to produce Master students who can be recognised for the contribution they are able to make to the analytical and critical talent that makes up the intellectual resource base of this country, its continent and the world at large.
  4. to promote a level of higher education and independent research which strives to set standards of excellence in Africa and, in doing so, achieves international recognition.
  5. to encourage the promotion of future academic leadership by seeking out opportunities offered to the Department by way of student exchanges, tutorships, teaching, research and financial support for all South African students, particularly those with a background of social and historical disadvantage.
  6. to make available to learners with different backgrounds and needs the kind of environment in teaching and support necessary to allow each one to achieve optimal study outcomes.
  7. to create a working environment in the Department which is professional, gender and culture tolerant and conducive to the academic and personal growth of the individuals who work in it.

Last Modified: Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:06:42 SAST