Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2016-2017 (archived)


Department: Health


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2016/17 Module Cap None. Location Durham


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Excluded Combination of Modules

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  • To introduce students to the history of neoliberalism, the idea of neoliberalisation as a multi-dimensional process, and the political choices and changes that led to neoliberalism’s current hegemonic status
  • To familiarise students with the disciplines and bodies of evidence relevant to assessing neoliberalism’s consequences for health and making interjurisdictional comparisons, with an emphasis on the connections between health and economic and social policy (the social determinants of health)
  • To stimulate students to assess the political prospects for (and the health implications of) alternatives to neoliberal economic and social policies


  • Seminars and readings will begin with an examination of the underpinnings of neoliberalism in history and political theory. They will continue with consideration and comparison of the processes that drove adoption of neoliberal policies both in the high-income world and elsewhere, recognising the unevenness of the process of neoliberalisation whilst identifying key common elements. There will follow an examination of the evidence in support of – and in opposition to – the concept of neoliberal epidemics, which also serves as a way of understanding the social production of scientific knowledge and consensus. Specific topics addressed will include the health consequences of un- and under-employment and labour market policy; how social protection under different welfare state regimes influences health; neoliberalism, place and health; human rights critiques of neoliberal economic and social policies, relying heavily on the work of UN thematic mandate holders; the anthropology of neoliberalism; and the politics of evidence in assessments of how economic and social policy affect health. Special attention will be directed to transformations in conceptions of (and distributions of) risk and responsibility – ‘the great risk shift’ (Hacker, 2008) - and to the politics and health consequences of post-2008 ‘austerity’ policies. The module will conclude with an assessment of the political prospects for alternatives to neoliberalism, and the implications for population health. *Hacker, J. (2008). The Great Risk Shift. New York: Oxford University Press.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Advanced understanding of the history of neoliberal ideas and the political processes that led to their incorporation in economic and social policy both in the high-income world and elsewhere
  • Advanced understanding of the multiple disciplines, methodologies and bodies of evidence (e.g. economic and social history, epidemiology, understandings of physiological mechanism) required for assessing the health consequences of neoliberalism
  • Understanding of the relation between science and politics in studying the health consequences of public policy (the social production of scientific knowledge)
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Advanced ability to locate relevant sources in multiple disciplines, drawing on both academic and other literatures
  • High-level ability critically to evaluate claims and to present arguments regarding neoliberalism and its health and social consequences
  • High level ability to develop effective comparisons and evaluations of contrasting or opposed positions on neoliberalism and health, and on attributions of risk and responsibility in that context
Key Skills:
  • Comprehension of complex ideas, propositions and arguments
  • Advanced ability to seek out and identify appropriate sources of evidence and information, and to use them in reasoned argument in support of a position • Understanding the importance of history and historical sources
  • Ability critically to assess how interests can drive or bias arguments and the selection of evidence (the social production of knowledge)

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

  • The module will be taught in 22 two-hour seminars. Most will be introduced by the module leader, but some will feature academic guests.
  • Seminars will be based on a list of core and supplementary readings. In some cases, students will be tasked with locating additional relevant sources in advance of the seminar, and explaining their relevance.
  • Seminars will provide students with the opportunity to present their own work in progress, to test their understanding of the course material, and defend and debate different positions presented in that material.
  • Independent reading will deepen understanding of concepts and arguments in existing literature whilst allow also enabling students to research their particular interests within the module content.
  • A presentation to the class, which is the first assignment, will engage students in communicating evidence and argument effectively, communicating across disciplinary boundaries, and learning one another’s disciplinary languages.
  • Written assignments will allow students to extend critical understanding of key concepts, synthesise material across disciplines, argue coherently, and reflectively assess their proficiency in thinking and communicating effectively in writing.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminarsâ–  22 Weekly 2 hours 44
Reading, independent study and assignment preparation 156
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Presentation: critical discourse analysis or health equity impact assessment* In-class Powerpoint presentation** and reference list 20% Powerpoint presentation and reference list
First essay 2500 words 35% Essay
Second essay 3500 words 45% Essay

Formative Assessment:

Feedback on assessment topics will be provided during relevant seminar sessions

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