Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module SOCI59630: Social Policy and Society

Department: Sociology

SOCI59630: Social Policy and Society

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of:
  • The major theories, concepts and principles that inform the academic study of social policy;
  • The nature of comparative analysis in social policy, particularly as this relates to current understandings of welfare regime types;
  • Key themes in politics and political economy of particular relevance to social policy analysis;
  • Core issues relating to the nature of policy-making and implementation in the context of the changing shape and nature of social policies;
  • The 'experience' of welfare as this relates to the impact of social policies on a range of social groups.


  • ‘Theory and Concepts’:
  • Introduction, module overview and module approach;
  • Dominant post-war ideological perspectives;
  • Critical perspectives; Marxism, feminism, anti-racism and environmentalism;
  • Post-Fordism and postmodernism;
  • Social control, regulation and resistance;
  • Social constructionism;
  • Needs;
  • Citizenship and community;
  • Liberty, equality and social justice.
  • ‘Applying the Concepts’:
  • The World of Welfare Capitalism;
  • Healthcare;
  • Education;
  • Social security;
  • Social care;
  • The care and protection of children;
  • Housing and housing policy;
  • Crime, justice and punishment;
  • Overview and conclusion.
  • Reading:
  • The key books will be:
  • Lister, R. (2010), Understanding Theories and Concepts in Social Policy, Policy Press;
  • Spicker, P. (2008) Social Policy: Themes and Approaches. Policy Press;
  • The key readings will be distributed on DUO in advance of the lectures and seminars.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module students will be able to:
  • understand key concepts in the context of the provision of welfare and health services by the state, the market and the occupational, voluntary and informal sectors.
  • apply explanatory frameworks in understanding social and health policy and practice;
  • understand the causes and experiences of social and health problems;
  • explain the role of institutions and institutional mechanisms in the delivery of policy and practice;
  • understand relationships between social trends and policy and practice;
  • be aware of relationships between economic, social and health policies;
  • understand the impact of politics on policy and practice;
  • to understand the origins and impacts of discrimination and oppression.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module students will be able to:
  • evaluate key concepts and contribute to key conceptual and practice debates in social policy;
  • be aware of and able to apply cross-national and comparative perspectives as well as national perspectives;
  • to apply an advanced knowledge in the subject to specific research contexts, including investigating concepts and issues in depth.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module students will be able to:
  • evaluate critically evidence and ideas at the forefront of research and thinking in the subject;
  • deal with highly complex issues and communicate conclusions to specialist and non-specialist audiences;
  • demonstrate a high degree of self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems;
  • work autonomously in planning and implementing tasks, exercising initiative and personal responsibility;
  • continue to advance their knowledge and understanding at an advanced level.

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

  • Lectures: allow staff to introduce designated topic areas in a systematic manner. At MA level, students are encouraged to engage with lectures more proactively than is normally the case at undergraduate level - to this end, lectures act both as a 'point of departure' for knowledge accumulation, but also as a means of encouraging students to engage either with new ideas, or with familiar ideas buy at a more advanced level of debate.
  • Seminars: enable staff and students to explore and evaluate social policy issues arising from lectures and from independent reading. Students are encouraged to develop their own questions about the nature and role of social policy and the core concepts and principles relevant to the academic study of social policy. They also are required to present complex scholarly work both orally and in written form, in ways that are clear and understandable to others, thus enhancing not only subject knowledge but also key communication skills.
  • Directed Reading: module study guides provide students with information about core and further reading. Students are expected to read for seminar and written work. 'Directed reading' relates to books and other texts relevant to a particular seminar topic, Seminar presentations will provide students with opportunities to distil a range of complex information from core texts (some of which will be research monographs) and present this information orally and visually in ways understandable to others.
  • Independent Reading: provides students with the opportunities to read widely, particularly in preparation for formative and assessed essay work. Independent reading enables students to draw on debates within scholarly journals and research monographs, in ways that enhance a critical understanding and engagement with key issues in social policy.
  • Summative work - summative essays test students' understanding of the major issues discussed in the module. They also test capacities to draw out the implications of particular arguments and the ability to apply theoretical and conceptual perspectives to specific issues which arise in defined areas of welfare;
  • Formative work - The optional formative essay provides an opportunity for students to receive feedback on these capacities and understandings prior to completing their summative work.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 18 weekly 1 18
Seminars 18 weekly 1 18
Preparation & Reading 264
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 words 50%
Essay 3,000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

An optional formative essay of 1,500 words.

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