Political Science & Public Policy

Political science seeks to understand how politics shapes our world and how we can use politics to create a more socially just and environmentally sustainable world. Because politics impacts on all aspects of society, political science is the ultimate interdisciplinary subject. Political scientists borrow from a wide variety of disciplines ⁠— including history, sociology, psychology, economics, and philosophy — to tackle big questions that affect lives around the world: How can we prevent international conflicts? How do we collectively address climate change? How do we ensure equity and justice across gender, race/ethnicity, class and other societal divides?  What role do governments, the public, and media platforms have in addressing political extremism? The study of politics at Waikato emphasises the link between theory and action, encouraging students to develop innovative approaches to current and emerging local, national and global challenges. Through critical reflection and active problem-solving, our students prepare to become knowledgeable, intellectually engaged citizens and leaders in government, law, business, the media or the nonprofit sector.

Study Political Science

Political science at Waikato examines the institutions and processes that shape politics in Aotearoa New Zealand and other countries. Students learn not only how a variety of actors ⁠— including governments, political parties, and the media ⁠— influence political outcomes, but also how citizens engage in political life, for example through voting, protest or social media. In addition, political science raises normative questions about what democracy should entail and what role the government should play in our daily lives.

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Study Public Policy

The study of public policy explains, and looks to improve, the efforts of governmental and non-governmental actors in addressing a wide range of social problems. While individual action can make a difference in the world, many of our most pressing social issues ⁠— such as climate change, poverty, social inequality, and healthcare, to name a few — are best addressed collectively. At Waikato, we equip students with knowledge about how the policymaking process works as well as with tools to critically evaluate the impact and implications of public policies on society.

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Career opportunities

A degree in political science opens doors to a broad range of careers.

  • National government ministries
  • Parliament
  • Local government
  • Iwi and Māori governance bodies
  • International organisations
  • Political parties
  • Trade unions
  • News media
  • Nonprofit organisations
  • Public relations
  • Market research
  • Law and business


Hannah Huggan

Bachelor of Social Sciences majoring in Political Science and Māori and Indigenous Studies

"As the climate crisis continues to demand urgency and action, I hope to turn the knowledge from my study into action for climate justice."

What is your background and what did you want to be growing up?

Tēnā koe, my name is Hannah Huggan and I whakapapa to Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Rongowhakaata. My dad is also from the borders of Scotland. I have an older sister, Eilidh, who is also studying at Waikato and a twin sister, Molly, who is studying medicine in Auckland. I was born in Dunedin but I spent most of my childhood in Australia, Scotland, and Singapore. Growing up, I wanted to study at the University of Edinburgh to be a doctor but I changed my mind as my fight for climate justice continued to grow. This ultimately led me to make the decision to go to university a year early so I could pursue further education on politics and social change.

Can you explain why you chose to study your specific qualification?

I came to choose this area of study during my penultimate year at high school. As my passion for climate action and social justice began to grow in years 11 and 12, it became exceedingly important to me to develop a career in social change. This has allowed me to pursue knowledge and truth so that I can move forward with a greater understanding of the change I hope to lead in the future, particularly in a political space. The decision to study Māori and Indigenous Studies is to support me and my whānau as we reconnect to our Māori whakapapa and to ensure I understood the impact of colonisation and how that relates to the climate crisis. My Māori identity is at the core of who I am and continues to guide me in the path I am forging today. I'm incredibly grateful for all the support I have received to be attending university and I hope to honour my tīpuna, whānau, and community by translating my values into action.

What were some of the highlights for you while studying? Have there been achievements or experiences throughout your studies that stood out for you? (E.g. scholarships, awards, student exchanges, travel opportunities?).

Some highlights for me whilst I have been studying include the people I've met and the events hosted by the University of Waikato. Though there aren't as many opportunities to interact with other students due to COVID-19, I have still met a lot of great friends. University life makes it much easier to engage with people who are like-minded. Another highlight has been the events hosted by the University. The lunchtime concerts display the incredible talent of our music students and even attracts other phenomenal musicians. There was also the COP26 event and He Pū, He Pūoro, He Pūrakau.

What are you really enjoying about your study?

Some highlights in my first year has been the quality of education I have received. Several of my papers have pushed my thinking and understanding so that I can think more critically about the world around me. I have enjoyed exploring complicated subjects to investigate their nuances and depth. The opportunity to learn te reo Māori, along with all my other FMIS papers, is incredibly significant to me and my whānau's reconnection to Te Ao Māori. I'm honoured to be surrounded by other Māori students and hear their stories, along with all the encouragement and support from staff.

What was the student experience like on campus? (E.g. class sizes, interactions with lecturers, group work, the campus itself?).

The student experience has drastically changed with COVID-19. It's been harder to interact with other students as class sizes are smaller and there aren't as many clubs running. However, panopto still offers high quality information that we can access at our own pace.

If you’re still studying, when you finish your study what is the plan? How do you want to use what you have learnt for the next stage in your life?

I will finish studying in 2023 and will hopefully continue on with some postgraduate study. As the climate crisis continues to demand urgency and action, I hope to turn the knowledge from my study into action for climate justice.

What is the most important/valuable thing you’ve learnt so far?

The most valuable thing I have learnt so far is how important it is to have people around you to support you. I am able to continue to pursue further education with the support of my family, friends, and community. It's an incredibly new, turbulent, and fast-paced time of your life but I'm grateful for the people around me who have continued to guide and assist me.

Do you feel your degree has put you in good stead professionally? If so, how?

I feel my degree has put me in good stead professionally as I will be able to begin my career with a wide breadth of study and understanding around what I will be pursuing. Particularly with a political career, I will be pushing and fighting for change with a foundation of evidence and knowledge supporting me.

What advice would you give to someone from home or another prospective student, wanting to follow the same study path as you?

There’s always a ‘noise’ that surrounds an issue that we can hold close to our heart – everyone’s opinions, feedback, and criticisms. But it’s not these people who are going to be celebrated or rejoiced, it’s going to be the people who show up and are brave. If you’re willing to fight for a cause then cut through the noise and step into your power.

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