Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)

Module EDUC40630: Policy Studies: Educational Reforms in Britain and Abroad

Department: Education

EDUC40630: Policy Studies: Educational Reforms in Britain and Abroad

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To have critical understanding of ways in which educational policy relates to the organisation of education.


  • In the twentieth century, a series of crises including a breakdown of a consensus on education and its purposes, the challenge of unemployment, the continued stratification of society and credentialist spiral has provoked a number of responses. These include the marketisation of education, state-mandated reforms and standardisation, inspection, accountability and consumer satisfaction, re-emphasis on standards and competitiveness for a world economy and the need for lifelong learning. These responses raise questions about the State and civil society, the relationship between the policy and the economy, control and freedoms, human rights, representation and empowerment.
  • The Policy Studies module offers an analytical study of these policy issues, paying particular attention to theories of human, social and cultural capital, the New Right and the Marketisation of education, issues of equality, social justice, social exclusion and educational access, and the examination of alternative value systems in education and their implications for practice.
  • Theme One - Perspectives on Policy - establishes the context for considering policy, by setting out several theoretical lenses to examine policy:
  • 1. Crisis tendencies in capitalism and the State;
  • 2. Theories of human, social and cultural capital;
  • 3. Modernism and post-modernism;
  • 4. Credentialism and the credentialist spiral;
  • 5. Ideology and ideology critique.
  • Theme Two - The New Right and the Marketisation of Education - unravels the principles and growth of the New Right in education and its influence on policy formation. In particular it examines such issues as:
  • (i) The roots of the New Right;
  • (ii) Public choice theory;
  • (iii) Breaking 'producer capture' and state-enforced entrepreneurialism;
  • (iv) Governments 'steering at a distance';
  • (v) Markets and quasi-markets;
  • (vi) Competition versus education as a public good;
  • (vii) Centralism and control.
  • Theme Three - Beyond the New Right - updates and extends the analysis to include alternative value systems in education and their implications for practice. These implications return to, and reinterpret, the opening agenda of the Unit, for example - (a) human, social and cultural capital theory; (b) meeting the demands of late modern and post-modern society and econmoies, (c) reawakening issues of equality and social justice and analysing the effects of social exclusion and access to education. In education terms these debates focus on:
  • (i) Social exclusion;
  • (ii) The internationalisation of educational policy;
  • (iii) The cultural contextualisation of policy;
  • (iv) The learning society and lifelong learning;
  • (v) The push for excellence and quality.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Critical understanding of theories to examine policy; the influence of the New Right on educational policy; alternative value systems in education.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • critique and evaluate education policy drawing upon policy studies literature
  • relate the study of education ploucy to its social context.
Key Skills:
  • Demonstrate the ability to research literature, including for example: searching, synthesising, summarising and critiquing literatures;
  • Demonstrate the ability to evaluate educational research;
  • Use ICT when presenting assignments;
  • Organise and plan;
  • Formulate, analyse and solve problems;
  • Learn independently.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Through lectures and seminar teaching supported by Study Guide resources. The Study Guide includes preperation for and follow up on teaching activities. This directed independent work is an important part of the module. Lectures enable the ideas of the module to be considered. Seminar work enables students to develop their understanding of the ideas and consider them in a range of professionally relevant contexts. Activities in seminars include a variety of active learning approaches including discussion, group work, presentations, question and answer sessions, individual tasks. A Bulletin Board on DUO enables staff and students to continue their interaction between teaching sessions. Preperation for the assignment involves students in wide reading and critical reflection on ideas of the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 7 1.5 hours 10.5
Seminars 7 2.5 hours 17.5
Preparation & Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Presentation (individually or as part of group) of readings on one of the seminar themes. verbal feedback is given to students' contribution during class teaching sessions. Staff can be contacted for individual help. Written formative feedback is provided for the academic outline of the assignment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University