Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

BA Social Policy

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In this Section:

If you want to ...

  • learn about why social problems and inequalities exist
  • explore why some groups of people experience discrimination
  • study what social unrest and protest say about society and power
  • consider why some activities are seen as deviant or criminal
  • question what it means to be a ‘good citizen’ in today’s society
  • examine education, housing and urban policies

... then BA Social Policy is the course for you.


BA Social Policy explores how crime, education, health, housing, and poverty amongst others come to be viewed as social problems.

In doing so, it involves an investigation of how modern societies understand human need, equality and social justice, and considers the ways in which the institutions of the modern state and supra-states address social problems and how they provide for people's welfare.

In short, the course introduces you to the people and institutions that develop and deliver social policies in practice.

You will expand your understanding of the historical, social and cultural dimensions of policy-making. You will learn about social policy by understanding the experiences of people who receive welfare services.

At the end of your course, you will know how to connect the issues and problems facing contemporary societies with the big ideas that shed light on their character.


BA Social Policy Year One invites you to start thinking sociologically about the nature of various social issues and problems. You will start to become and independent learner and gain knowledge of how to think critically through the range of modules listed below.

In partnership with us, you will discover some key concepts and debates within social policy, giving you a broad foundation for your studies at Years Two and Three.

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 a 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.

Optional modules

You choose three of the following optional modules:

  • Drugs: Society, Politics and Policy
  • Welfare and Crime: Continuity, Conflict and Change
  • Globalization: Equality and Diversity
  • Comparative Public Policy

You then choose one more optional module from the following list.

  • Urban Disorders: Social Divisions and Social Control
  • Crime, Law and Regulation
  • Welfare and Crime: Continuity, Conflict and Change
  • Drugs: Society, Politics and Policy
  • Racism and Ethnicity Studies: A Global Approach
  • Race, Gender and Culture
  • Debates in Childhood and Youth
  • Tourism and Culture

Discovery modules

You also take a Discovery Module from across the university.

Year Three

Compulsory module

The 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 two key debates 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

You then choose one more optional module from the following list.

  • Approaches to Social Exclusion in Later Life
  • Governing Cultures, Identities and Emotions
  • Disability Rights and the International Policy Context
  • State Crime and Immorality
  • Contemporary Children, Young People and Families
  • Postcolonialism and Critical Muslim Studies
  • Urban Regulation, Power and Difference
  • Education, Culture and Society

Discovery modules

You then choose a Discovery Module from across the university.

Further information

It is also possible to study this programme through a part-time route, the programme content is the same but you will study at a lesser intensity. For more information about how to apply, support available and the part-time student experience, please visit the Lifelong Learning Centre’s website.

For more in-depth information on BA Social Policy modules, please see our Programme and Module Catalogue.

Learning across the social sciences

BA Social Policy at the University of Leeds is an interdisciplinary course. You will learn about social policy from experts who draw on world-leading knowledge from sociology, gender, feminism, race and ethnicity, disability, queer, postcolonial, psychosocial, cultural, criminology, criminal justice, and urban studies.

In order to develop in-depth knowledge of social policy, we introduce you to social and political theory as well as themes such as human agency, citizenship, identity, governance, power and society.

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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