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School of Social and Political Science: Undergraduate study


Year 1 and 2

Students take six courses in their first year (three in each semester), including Social Policy and Society , Politics of the Welfare State, plus the full year non-credit course Fundamentals: Social Policy 1.

In the second year students again take six courses, including European Social Policy, Evidence, Politics and Policy*, plus the full year non-credit course Fundamentals 2: Social Policy.

*(Evidence, Politics and Policy replaces Social Policy Enquiry.)

First and Second  year core courses

  • Social Policy and Society 1
  • Politics of the Welfare State 1
  • Fundamentals: Social Policy 1 (non-credit)
  • European Social Policy 2
  • Evidence, Politics and Policy
  • Fundamentals 2:Social Policy (non-credit)

Social Policy Year 1 Programme Handbook 2017-2018

Social Policy and Society (SCPL08004)

The course aims to deepen your understanding of contemporary social issues and problems by looking at how social policy issues are constructed and contested. Social policies impinge on many aspects of our lives and embrace a very wide range of activities, from educational and employment policies to family support and child protection. In all these areas, social policies are hotly contested with regard to the role of the state and the kind of policies it should pursue. This course revolves around three main issues in debates over social policy: arguments over needs, rights and responsibilities. The main focus is on the development of social policies in Britain with regard to families and children. The course gives you an opportunity to examine different social policies and perspectives, and the impact these have on social conditions and problems.

The Politics of the Welfare State (SCPL08005)

The course explores the politics and institutions of the welfare state. It begins with a look at the institutional and political factors which have shaped the development of the welfare state (in the UK and in other countries) in the past and currently. A detailed overview of how the welfare state works, how it is delivered, how it is paid for and who benefits from it is examined next. This is followed by a closer look at changing welfare agendas in three key policy areas: health policy, housing policy and employment and social security policy. The course concludes with an examination of changing ideologies of welfare and helps you understand isssues regarding the future of the welfare state.

Fundamentals: Social Policy 1 (SCPL08007)

This course equips students with a variety of general and subject-specific skills that will be relevant to their degree while helping build a personal portfolio of transferable competences.

European Social Policy (SCPL08006)

The course explores the role of social policy in the European Union and the way the welfare state has developed in different European countries. There are three sections. The first offers a critical perspective on the emergence of European welfare states, the models used to classify them, and the general challenges they now face. In the second section the differing structures of social provision in Germany, Italy and Scandanavia as examples of Bismarckian, Mediterranean and Nordic approaches are examined in more detail. Finally the significance of the "social dimension" for the European Union, and the problems facing attempts to promote common EU social policies are assessed within the context fo the future of social policy in an enlarged EU.

Evidence, Politics and Policy (SCPL08010)

This course illustrates how social research can shed light on topical social and political debates.
The specific aims are:
to understand how academic enquiry can be used to understand public political debates and public policy
to understand how evidence informs debates, and how it is sometimes distorted and misused in these debates;
to understand how social and political theory can be brought to bear on understanding topical debates;
to develop the skills of engaging in topical debates in a rational and evidence-based way while also taking account of the important role of ideology and emotion.
After an introduction which ask general questions about evidence and policy, the course looks at four current policy issues that are prominent in political debate. In 2015-16, these will be:
Migration: what are its effects on the UK, and how do people-migrants as well as non-migrants - react to it?
Unemployment: how have people across Europe responded to the rise in unemployment since the beginning of the recession in 2008?
Crime: why are crime levels so controversial while levels of crime in the UK are at all-time lows?
Student finance: what are the effects on educational opportunity of different ways of funding students in higher education- including different approaches to student fees

Fundamentals 2: Social Policy (SCPL08008)

The aim is to build upon Fundamentals 1 and to complement the two compulsory second-year courses in Social Policy European Social Policy (semester 1) and Social Policy Enquiry (semester 2).

Fundamentals 2 complements European Social Policy and Social Policy Enquiry by following the same structure of debates. In semester 1 (complementing European Social Policy), Fundamentals has, for example, sessions on comparing social policies across countries (in general), on finding information about policy debates and policy developments in other European countries, and on investigating policy making at EU level. In semester 2, Fundamentals follows the sequence of policy issues that is dealt with in Social Policy Enquiry, for example enabling drafts of blog entries to be discussed, and (as outlined below) different kinds of evidence to be explored. In each Fundamentals session, the focus is on developing skills appropriate to serious debate, embedding these skills in substantive discussion of actual current issues.

Social Policy