Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

BA / MA Social and Public Policy

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In this Section:

If you want to ...

  • achieve both Bachelors and Masters qualifications
  • learn about why social problems and inequalities exist
  • learn how society cares for its most disadvantaged members
  • analyse the different theories and alternative responses to public issues and private problems
  • consider why some activities are seen as deviant or criminal
  • question what it means to be a ‘good citizen’ in today’s society
  • considers the effect of policy changes on different societal groups

... then BA/MA Social and Public Policy is the course for you.


BA/MA Social and Public Policy is a unique opportunity to study Social and Public Policy as an integrated Masters programme. 

Social Policy explores how governments deliver welfare to citizens, and examines how modern societies understand poverty, human need and equality.

When you choose to study social policy, you will immerse yourself in debates over how governments and other agencies make decisions that impact on people's day-to-day lives.

The public policy aspect allows you to apply this knowledge to issues of public importance and will enhance your ability and skills to analyse the different theories and alternative responses to public issues and private problems. It also considers the effect of policy changes on different societal groups.

Careers: opportunities to enhance employability are embedded within the programme through placement and project modules. Graduates from this programme would be ideally placed to work in higher level occupation in local or central government or to undertake study at PhD level.

Year One

Compulsory modules

Social Policy From the Poor Laws to the Present explores the social, political, economic, cultural and global influences that have shaped the United Kingdom’s welfare state. It shows how the Poor Laws influenced ‘Classic Welfare State’ of the 1940s which, in turn, rested upon false assumptions about the nature of the family, of work and of nationhood.

Formations of Modernity is concerned with the process of formation that led to the emergence of modern societies, and which stamped them with their distinctive character. It sees modern societies now as a global interconnected phenomenon and the modern world as the unexpected and unpredicted outcome of, not one, but a series of major historical transitions.

Understanding and Researching the City will allow you to engage in a sociological exploration of the city and urban spaces in which they live and learn. You will be able to think critically about your everyday lives in a social scientific way. Students will be introduced to a range of social issues and the local community and be given an opportunity to research areas of interest.

Understanding and Researching Contemporary Society introduces key knowledge and training in the social sciences by teaching you the underpinnings of social research, how to undertake ‘real world’ research and think critically about the social world around you and your own everyday life.

Identities, Inequalities and Policy is based around three strands of, identity, inequalities and policy. The content of the module will focus on specialist debates within these broad areas. In this way you will benefit from interaction with active researchers and contemporary agendas.

Discovery Modules

You also choose one Discovery module from across the university.

Year Two

Compulsory modules

Sociology and Social Policy Research Methods allows you to build bridges between big ideas and social problems. Drawing on the research skills developed at Level One, the module provides you with a thorough understanding of how to design and conduct your own social research, and interpret results in an accurate manner. We explore qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches to social research, providing for how these can be applied in routine and rare contexts.

Placement Module

Comparative Public Policy

Optional modules

You choose two of the following Sociology and Social Policy modules.

  • Drugs: Society, Politics and Policy
  • Disability Studies: an Introduction
  • Welfare and Crime: Continuity, Conflict and Change
  • Continuity, Conflict and Change
  • Crime, Law and Regulation
  • Debates in Childhood and Youth
  • Urban Disorders, Social Divisions and Social Control
Discovery Modules

You also choose one Discovery module from across the university.

Year Three

Compulsory module

Social Policy Dissertation brings together the conceptual and research skills developed over the course of your studies. It allows you to complete a significant piece of research on a policy topic of your choosing.  An academic expert will act as your supervisor mentoring through all stages of the research process. The dissertation will be between 10,000 and 12,000 words.

Optional modules

You choose three optional modules from the following list.

  • Governing Cultures, Identities and Emotions
  • Citizenship, Identity and Social Change
  • Disability Rights and the International Policy Context
  • State Crime and Immorality
  • Education, Culture and Society
  • Contemporary Children, Youth and Families
  • Understanding Interpersonal Violence
  • Protest and Social Movements

Year Four

Compulsory modules

Issues in Social Policy Analysis and Research will enable you to develop policy analysis skills and apply these to policy challenges in an international context. The module will introduce you to the key ideas and approaches that have motivated policy development for social welfare and social justice. You will learn about different approaches to the welfare state about the processes through which public policies are made. These principles are applied to specific social policy topic areas, such as child and family policy, youth transitions, health and long-term care, work and welfare. The module will encourage you to develop your skills as a policy analyst and entrepreneur, to apply theory to social problems and to innovate policy solutions.

Evaluation Research will enable you to develop policy analysis skills and apply these to policy challenges in an international context. The module will introduce you to the key ideas and approaches that have motivated policy development for social welfare and social justice. You will learn about different approaches to the welfare state about the processes through which public policies are made. These principles are applied to specific social policy topic areas, such as child and family policy, youth transitions, health and long-term care, work and welfare. The module will encourage you to develop your skills as a policy analyst and entrepreneur, to apply theory to social problems and to innovate policy solutions.

Qualitative Research examines qualitative research design, practice and analysis and features a series of practical workshops on qualitative data analysis, using software packages such as QSR NUD*IST or NVivo. The module will also develop your skills for generating qualitative research data, such as interview technique, biographical and narrative approaches, focus group approaches, ethnography and observation, non-verbal and visual methods, and give you a critical appreciation of the appropriateness of particular methods to different research scenarios. The module also explores the relationship between qualitative and quantitative research, and between qualitative research and policy.

Quantitative Research introduces you to the skills required for the generation, analysis and management of quantitative data. Using concrete research problems, the module investigates a wide range of quantitative research issues and gives you the opportunity to develop a critical understanding of the discipline. Practicalities covered include survey design, computer-based 'hands-on' workshops with SPSS for Windows, using data from one or more large scale data sets, creative data analysis linked to theory development, data modelling using regression techniques, effective use of secondary data sets and ways of linking data, including the scope for linking quantitative and qualitative data.

Project

Optional modules

You choose one of the optional modules from the following list.

  • From Conception to the Grave: Health in a Global Context
  • Debates on Disability Theory and Research
  • Researching Care in Comparative Perspective

Learning across the social sciences

Our School always features highly in league tables for Social Policy but more importantly our aim is to provide every student with an outstanding experience. We are a large School which means we can offer a wide range of module choices built around the research interests of academic staff. We have strong support structures to enable you to achieve your potential.  We can help you to develop your employability and entrepreneurial skills.

Developing an international perspective

You will learn from global, as well as national, contexts. Our academics work with researchers, politicians, policy makers, welfare practitioners and service users around the world, and study different locations. You will learn about social policy using research into the Middle East, South America, North America, Eastern Europe, ‘Middle’ Europe, Northern Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and Canada.

Taught by experts

Academic experts working at the cutting edge of social policy research will supervise your studies. All academics in the School of Social Policy and Sociology are involved in the development of nationally and internationally recognised knowledge, publish their work in books and journal articles and ensure their findings have an impact on the real world.

Importantly for you, fresh knowledge from research, publications and ‘impact’ activities feed directly back into teaching as all our course modules are ‘research-led’. This means that the very people who are developing fresh ideas about social policy will introduce you to their cutting edge knowledge.

Peer support

Undergraduate students in the School of Sociology and Social Policy run a group that offers advice and support, and can help you with course choices, module options, careers advice and employability. The group acts as an official link between students, academic staff and the School’s dedicated Student Experience Manager.

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