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Introduction to Political Systems and Power in the UK and USA

Learn about who is more powerful in theory and in practice – the UK Prime Minister or the US President.

No10 Downing street door and the White House in Washington
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Explore the political power structures of the United Kingdom and United States

One of the most interesting political debates of recent years is who is more powerful – the UK Prime Minister or the US President.

On this four-week course, you’ll answer this question by examining the political structures of each country and their impact on POTUS and the PM’s agendas.

Examine the role of parliament and congress in relation to both world leaders

The power that the President and Prime Minister wield is built on a complex foundation of political structures.

On this course, you’ll explore the differences between the UK and US systems and how the constitutions of each country impact the passing of laws and policies.

With this knowledge, you’ll learn the limitations of each leader’s role and how leaders have used or abused these systems to try and further their own agendas.

Compare the role of the judicial system in each country and see which is more powerful

Both the US and UK supreme courts have been accused of acting increasingly politically in recent years.

On this course, you’ll explore the powers of each court and how this affects the power of both leaders.

You’ll be able to explain connections between the supreme courts and the governance of each country and how this affects political strategies in each government.

Develop your debating skills by investigating current political issues

Using recent political events as case studies, you’ll form opinions on each leader’s level of power and learn the skills to argue in political forums.

By the end of this course, you’ll understand the political structures within the UK and US. With this understanding, you’ll have developed your debating skills and be able to form a cohesive answer to the question, ‘Who is more powerful in theory and in practice, the UK Prime Minister or the US President?’

Syllabus

  • Week 1

    I have the right to do whatever I want, I am the President of the UK.

    • An Introduction to Politics in the UK and USA

      Welcome to the course! We will start by finding out what we will learn over the next few weeks.

    • Constitutions - how do they impact on Prime Ministerial and Presidential power?

      We will start, this week, by looking at what a constitution is, the differences between the constitutions in the UK and the US and most importantly what this means for Prime Ministerial and Presidential power.

    • Is the UK Prime Minister now a President in all but name?

      Using what we have learnt about the UK constitution, we will now learn more about the US constitution and explore recent debates about whether the UK Prime Minister has become too much like the US President in relation to power.

    • How Prime Ministerial power has changed recently with the evolution of the UK constitution

      Since 1997, the UK has seen an unprecedented number of constitutional changes. These changes have, to varying degrees, had a significant impact on the power of the UK Prime Minister.

    • Does the UK constitution mean that the Prime Minister is more powerful than the US President?

      This final activity brings this week to a close and gives you the opportunity to reflect on what you have learnt about the UK and US constitutions and their impact on Prime Ministerial and Presidential power.

  • Week 2

    I will not say sorry, I will not resign and you cannot remove me.

    • Who sleeps easier at night - the UK Prime Minister or the US President?

      Who do you think is more secure in their position (and therefore harder to remove from their post) - the UK Prime Minister or the US President?

    • The Prime Minister and their power to determine the timing of a general election

      We will start, this week, by looking at how the Prime Minister can use the UK constitution to enhance their power by determining the timing of a general election.

    • How secure is the Prime Minister in their position?

      Consider how easy it is for a Prime Minister to be removed from office. Who do you think could remove them from power? Why do some Prime Ministers serve for much longer than others?

    • Impeachment and the US President

      Learn about how the US President can be removed from their position by impeachment. Consider to what extent this really is a check on Presidential power and if this makes the US President less powerful than the UK Prime Minister.

    • Who is more secure and therefore more powerful - the Prime Minister or President?

      Use what you have learnt this week about elections and security in post to re-evaluate who you think is more powerful in theory and in practice - the UK Prime Minister or the US President.

  • Week 3

    Congress says no, Parliament says aye.

    • Parliament and Congress and the power of the Prime Minister and President

      This week we will learn more about the role that Parliament and Congress play in relation to Prime Ministerial and Presidential power.

    • The fusion of powers in the UK versus the separation of powers in the US

      We will learn about how the UK and US constitutions determine the relations between the branches of government in the UK and US and what this means for Prime Ministerial and Presidential power.

    • Parliament and the power of the Prime Minister

      We look at a series of articles that explore the Prime Ministers relationship with Parliament before evaluating whether the UK Prime Minister is too powerful.

    • Congress and Presidential power

      We will now look the impact that Congress has on Presidential power in the US so that we can then compare this to Parliament and Prime Ministerial power in the UK.

    • A re-evaluation of Prime Ministerial and Presidential power

      Reflect on what you have learnt this week about Parliament and Congress to re-evaluate who is more powerful.

  • Week 4

    I am a (Supreme) judge and you will do what I say.

    • Supreme Courts in the UK and US

      This week we will learn more about the role that the Supreme Courts in the UK and US Parliament play in relation to Prime Ministerial and Presidential power.

    • Prime Ministerial power and the UK Supreme Court

      Find out how the UK Supreme Court affects Prime Ministerial power.

    • Presidential power and the US Supreme Court

      Find out how the US Supreme Court affects Presidential power.

    • Course conclusion

      This will bring the course to a close. You will reflect on what you have learnt over the past four weeks and decide who you think is more powerful in theory and in practice - the UK Prime Minister or the US President.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

Add to Wishlist to be emailed when new dates are announced

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Evaluate how the key political institutions work within the systems of government in the UK and US.
  • Explore the governmental systems in the UK and US through a series of fascinating case studies and examples.
  • Compare the systems of government in the UK and US.
  • Critique the systems of government in the UK and US.
  • Debate, in forums, which political system is more effective.
  • Discuss key current political issues in the UK and US.
  • Solve the answer to the question 'Who is more powerful in theory and in practice, the UK Prime Minister or the US President?' based on what you have learnt in this course.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone wanting to understand how the key political institutions work within the systems of government in the UK and USA.

It would be particularly useful for anyone considering a Politics related course at A-level or university as well as those already studying Politics who want to revise key topics.

What software or tools do you need?

To take part in this course you will need access to the internet and speakers (built within a laptop/ PC or phone would be fine) to listen to or watch the video content. This course could be completed on a smart phone or laptop or PC.

Who will you learn with?

I have taught A-Level Politics since 2010. I completed a PhD in British Politics at the University of Manchester in 2017 and have co-written a book titled 'US Politics Annual Update 2022'.

Who developed the course?

Manchester Grammar School

Our history dates back to the time of Henry VIII, when The Manchester Grammar School was founded in 1515 by Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, to provide ‘godliness and good learning’ to the poor boys of Manchester.

The School proceeded to build a reputation as one of the country’s leading educational establishments, a position it still holds today as an independent day school.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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