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Prof. Alistair Cole

Head of Department ; Professor




Public Photos / Files - buScholar


Prof. Cole is involved in teaching at the undergraduate and taught post-graduate levels, as well as being lead supervisor of one Ph.D. (HKPFS) student (Vincent Akow Arkorful). In Academic year 2021-2022, he taught the following courses:

POLS4236 / POLS7129 Theories of International Relations

POLS4246 Topics in European Politics

GCAP3197 GE Capstone Interdisciplinary Independent Study (GIS)


Prof. Cole is principal supervisor for Vincent Akow Arkorful, who is writing his thesis on “Fiscal decentralisation, poverty reduction and local economic growth: A case study of Ghana”. He has been internal and external examiner for several Ph.D. theses since his arrival in Hong Kong in 2019.


There ensues a statement of Prof Cole’s teaching and learning philosophy.

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Teaching and Learning

I have taught a very wide range of courses since taking up my first position in 1985-86 at Merton College Oxford, mainly in the fields of Comparative Politics, French Politics, European Politics, Territorial Politics and International Relations. At Sciences Po Lyon, I mainly taught through the medium of French (vie politique française, politiques publiques, politiques europeennes comparées). I have administered several masters' programmes and courses, centred on Europe, International Relations and Globalisation. As an example of my geographical reach, in Summer 2019 I taught a course on European Politics in crisis at the Summer Institute, Hokkaido University, Japan.


While at Cardiff, I played an active role in the School's Teaching and Learning committee as head of Post-graduate programmes and defended this dossier in the Quality Progress Review audit in 2008. I have acted as an external expert on teaching and learning issues on several occasions: at LSE and Aston notably. In 2002, I negotiated the joint degree-diploma scheme between Cardiff and the Institute of Political Studies, Bordeaux, and I coordinated this innovative scheme until 2014. In 2003, I was placed on the European Commission's list of SOCRATES experts. From 2004 to 2009 my major administrative responsibility at Cardiff was as Director of Postgraduate Studies, involving overall coordination of six Masters schemes and around 50 PhD students. I wrote the School's successful submission for ESRC recognition in 2005 and coordinated the School's contribution to the AHRC Block Grant Partnership in 2008. I secured recognition for an ESRC pathway in Language-Based Area Studies in the All Wales Doctoral Training centre (2011).


During my period in Lyon (2015-19), I was engaged in teaching at all levels, notably Masters (coordination of the Cities and Regions in Europe course; participation in the University-wide Cities and Urban Environment course); 4th Year Sciences Po Diploma (Politiques publiques comparées en Europe - Comparative European Politics); 2nd Year (Vie politique en Europe -European politics and society); 1st Year (La vie politique française contemporaine – Contemporary French Politics). I participated fully in the Diploma of French and European Studies, with courses on French Politics and Society and Emmanuel Macron's Political Leadership. I led negotiations on creating new programmes with the Hong Kong Baptist University and the University of Loughborough, UK, and associated with similar initiatives in the US (University of Virginia).

Teaching Philosophy

In addition to teaching experience, my practice has been guided by several overarching principles:


Research-based teaching. Good teaching is based on good research and vice versa. In my case, students have fully participated in refining perspectives that have subsequently been developed in publications. My French Politics and Society textbook, for example, was based on courses initially delivered in Keele (1989-94). More recent work on territorial governance and political trust has been embellished by student feedback. Students have been beneficiaries of my research into French and comparative politics, and my own perspectives have been greatly developed because of student involvement and feedback.


International-based learning. I have been full professor of politics in three very different systems of higher education, the British, the French and now that of Hong Kong. Combining the strengths of these systems, with their different methodological and ontological foundations, provides a useful challenge. The advantages of the British system lie in student-based learning, in small group teaching and in openness to new technologies as part of teaching practice; the downside, in the difficulty of grasping issues of methodology and the occasionally excessive formalism with quality regimes. The advantage in the French system lies in a degree of formal rigour, the disadvantage being that of limited creativity. Students on dual degree schemes can experience the best of both systems and I hope to infuse this international perspective in students of HKBU.


Beyond my own teaching practice, I have consistently developed student exchange and inter-change. At Keele and Bradford, I oversaw ERASMUS students. While at Cardiff, I established the Cardiff-Bordeaux joint degree-diploma, one of the first of its kind in the UK (running since 2002). I have continued this activity in Lyon (and the proposed schemes with Hong Kong BU and Loughbourough). Rather than converge towards a unified set of teaching approaches and philosophies, the value of these schemes (and their Franco-German equivalents) is to train students to prosper in very different societal, political and economic contexts.


I value Language-based Area Studies, especially for doctoral students. While at Cardiff, I obtained recognition for the Language Based Area Studies as a pathway of the ESRC-funded Welsh Doctoral Training Centre, as well as contributing to the successful collective effort to obtain recognition for Politics and International Relations. LBAS signifies not only being taught or trained through the target language, but also encouraging ab initio language training as part of a professional project. Sciences Po Lyon (and the Sciences Po in general) excel in this dimension; the proposed Sciences Po Lyon/HKBU joint programme will incorporate this philosophy.


In terms of pedagogical practice, I am able in practical terms to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of two leading systems of higher education, hence to propose elements of best practice. From the UK practice, I would identify as a strength a mainstream approach based on competencies and learning outcomes, rather than restitution of learned facts; from French practice, the engagement of policy practitioners in class discussions and in situ project-based learning.  Drawing on the best practices involves a preference for mixed methods teaching, involving: collaborative projects, role-play, group discussions, as well as the more classical lectures and seminars.

External Examining

I have also been involved in extensive external examining, mainly in UK based institutions:

  • 2015-2019. External Examiner, Aston University, UK
  • 2015-2018. External Examiner, Bradford University, UK
  • 2015-2018. External Advisor, Dual degree-diploma between Sciences Po, Lille, France and University of Kent, UK
  • 2011-2015. External Examiner, French and European Studies, University College, London, UK
  • 2010-2013. External Examiner, French and Politics, Bristol University, UK
  • 2009-2012. External Examiner, Msc (econ) in Public Administration, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
  • 2007-2010. External Examiner, French and European Studies, University of Reading, UK
  • 2007-2010. External Examiner, Politics, University of Aberystwyth, UK
  • 2001-2005. External Examiner, Politics and European Studies, Aston University, UK
  • 1999-2003. External Examiner, European Studies, Keele University, UK
  • 1997-2000. External Examiner, Politics Department, Leeds University, UK