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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Policy

Undergraduate Course: Social Policy and Society (SCPL08004)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course explores how welfare issues are constructed and debated in contemporary society. It revolves around three main themes: social needs, social problems and social rights, and how different debates about welfare have been influenced by these themes. It focuses on the implications of social change for debates about welfare, considering some of the major contemporary issues in social policy. This half course is complementary to Politics of the Welfare State.
Course description In Social Policy and Society we look at how social policy issues are constructed and contested in contemporary society. Social Policy is broadly concerned with how contemporary societies recognise and manage social change. Social policies embrace a wide range of activities, from employment and health programmes to family support and child protection. In all these areas, social policies are hotly contested with regard to the role of the state and the kind of policies it should pursue.
This course revolves around three current theoretical concerns in debates over social policy: arguments over needs, rights, and responsibilities. The main focus is on the development of social policies in the UK, in particular with regard to employment, disability and poverty. One module then considers the UK as a whole and asks whether uniform provisions should apply across the country or whether, in an era of devolution and localism, geographical variation is acceptable.
The course aims to deepen your understanding of contemporary social issues and problems. Social policies impinge on many aspects of our lives. The course gives you an opportunity to examine different social policies and perspectives, and the impact these have on social conditions and problems.

The course has three main academic objectives.
First, we want you to think about some of the main social issues and problems facing societies and the role of social policies in shaping and responding to them.
Second, we want you to acquire some of the skills that are integral to studying social policy, such as understanding and assessing arguments and using evidence.
Third, we want to enhance your awareness of the social values and institutions that shape our lives, and of the choices we have to confront as socially aware members of our societies.
In addition to these objectives, we also want you to acquire a range of good study habits and skills, which will help you to realise your academic potential. The tutorials contain a study skills component that will help to equip you for your University career.
The course is designed as an introduction to Social Policy, both for those going on to specialise in the subject, and those who are looking for an interesting and topical outside subject. It will introduce students to some key concepts in the study of social policy, such as needs, rights, and responsibilities, and the relationship between those three concepts. It will also introduce students to how the UK makes its public spending decisions, how the UK budget works, what we spend money on, why we spend it, and how various actors play a role in the shaping of public policy in the UK.

The course is split into five parts. The first part of the course introduces students to some of the basics of public policy decision-making in the UK, including how different government departments work, how budgets are set, and how the UK's welfare state has evolved historically (especially since 1945). It then gives students a firm grounding in the key concepts of needs, rights, and responsibilities.
The following three parts of the course each focus on a specific area of/issue in UK public policy. Illustrative examples include: disability and employment; lone parents and employment; poverty; devolution and policy differentiation between Scotland and the rest of the UK; education policy; and children and youth policy.
The final part of the course brings the threads together, considering once again the relationship between needs, rights, and responsibilities, and preparing students for the final component of assessment.

The course will be taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials. Each week there will be two 50-minute tutorials and one 50-minute tutorial. Tutorials are very interactive and students will be encouraged to develop their debating and critical thinking skills. Furthermore, each tutorial will have a specific study skill component helping students to develop broader skills such as: how to interpret data graphically and in tables; how to construct an argument; how to read critically; how to evaluate evidence; and how to interpret written documents and discourse. The course is very suitable for students looking for a multi-disciplinary experience. It is historically informed and will complement other courses in sociology, politics, economics, law, and social policy.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  196
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 9, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 163 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1500-word Essay 40%. Timed Assignment 60%
Feedback Assessment is via a 1500-word essay (40%) and a take home assignment (60%). Each tutorial features a study skill component, which will allow students to gain feedback from their tutors about how well they construct arguments, evaluate evidence, and interpret data. Students can also submit an essay plan to their tutor for comment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. have an understanding of the main social issues and problems facing societies
  2. have an understanding of how social policy issues are constructed and contested in contemporary society
  3. have an understanding of some key concepts in social policy debates, such as needs, rights and responsibilities
  4. have an understanding of these concepts contrasted with utility-driven approaches in classical economic analyses of policy
  5. be aware of different perspectives in relation to debates on these concepts
Reading List
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information Plus tutorials.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserMr Richard Brodie
Tel: (0131 6)50 4278
Course secretaryMs April Workman
Tel: (0131 6)51 5197
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