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

Undergraduate Course: Education and Social Justice (PLIT10158)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course focuses on an ethical analysis of the demands of social justice concerning education. Students will be introduced to a range of contemporary debates regarding topics such as equality of educational opportunity, markets in education, university funding and admissions. This course invites students to analyse the moral principles that should inform the policies and practices governing education in our societies.
Course description Education is one of the most significant social institutions, and as such is central to concerns of social justice. This course addresses important ethical questions regarding the appropriate relationship between education and social justice. It will consider the demands of justice in both schools and universities.

The course content will likely vary from year-to-year as academic debates and educational policy develop, though persistent questions include: how should we understand equality of educational opportunity? Who should pay for university education? What is the appropriate role for markets in education provision from the point of view of social justice? Should schools aim to educate children for citizenship? Are faith schools ever justified?

Students will be introduced to a comprehensive range of theories and debates in moral and political philosophy that address issues of education and social justice. No prior knowledge of education policy or moral and political philosophy is expected, as all relevant theories and cases will be introduced accessibly as encountered during the course.

The course will relate theoretical debates regarding education and social justice to concrete cases to demonstrate the importance of rigorous ethical understanding in the evaluation of education policy.

The course will be taught primarily through discussion of assigned texts, with an emphasis on relating debates in moral and political philosophy to practical concerns in the field of schooling and universities.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Although there are no formal requirements, some background in one or several of the fields of political theory, political philosophy, moral philosophy, or education would provide a good foundation for this course.
An indicative list of courses suitable as preparation for this course includes: Children, Education and Social Justice (EDUA08092), Children's Rights: Policy and Practice (EDUA10204), Morality and Value (PHIL08015), Political Philosophy (PHIL10093), Education Politics and Policy (SCPL10005), Social Inequality and the Life Course (SCPL10020); and What's Wrong with Inequality? (PLIT10110).
Please contact the course organiser for further advice on whether previous study is a suitable preparation for this course.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 4, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Critical Response Assignment: 30% 1,500 words
This short-form essay requires students to analyse the relationship between one of the moral theories regarding education and social justice studied on the course, and an education case study (e.g. a relevant education policy or practice). The goal of the assessment is to apply a theory to an empirical case, and evaluate implications for both theory and practice through close analysis.

Long essay: 70%, 3,000 words
Students will be asked to write an academic essay from a list of pre-assigned topics, or on a topic of their own choice with the prior approval of the course convenor.
Feedback Following best practice around assessment literacy, each tutorial session will include dedicated activities supporting completion of the two elements of summative assessment with tutor-led and peer-feedback provided on these activities. These activities will be aligned closely to the assessment criteria.
Further, the Critical Response Assignment will be formative for the Long Essay. It will require students to engage in ethical analysis of theories and educational practice. Consequently, feedback on the mid-term assignment will be delivered in a timely manner, with cohort-level feedback provided in an accessible manner (e.g. through comments posted on the course Learn site), focusing on common areas for improvement for the Long Essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Describe moral principles relevant to the field of education and social justice.
  2. Apply principles of social justice to cases in education policy and practice.
  3. Distinguish alternative conceptions of justice regarding education provision.
  4. Organise principles of social justice in education in appropriate relations, including contrasts and comparisons.
  5. Evaluate principles of social justice in education from the point of view of moral, practical, and political justifiability.
Reading List
Brighouse, H, and D. Schmidtz. (2019). Debating Education: Is There a Role for Markets? Oxford University Press

Jencks, C. (1988). Whom Must We Treat Equally for Educational Opportunity to be Equal? Ethics, 98(3), 518-533.

Martin, C. (2022). The Right to Higher Education: A Political Theory, Oxford University Press

Satz, D. (2007). Equality, Adequacy, and Education for Citizenship. Ethics, 117(4), 623-648.

Schouten, G. (2012). Fair Educational Opportunity and the Distribution of Natural Ability. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 46(3), 472-491

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Mindsets
Enquiry and lifelong learning
This course provides structured support for combining theoretical and applied analysis of a central social problem: education and social justice. The emphasis on developing skills of 'application' will support students in their ability to bring a critical approach to issues of social equality whatever their future personal and career choices. This approach is informed by David Boud's 'Sustainable Assessment' approach where the goal of assessment is in part to promote life-long, sustained learning by the student.

Aspiration and personal development
The pedagogy of this course is strongly informed by Carol Dweck's research into 'Growth Mindsets' which are shown to strongly correlate to higher attainment, positive personal development, and greater internal motivation.

Outlook and engagement
This course exemplifies engaged rigorous ethical analysis of theories and practices in an area of wide social concern: education. The emphasis on normative reasoning skills will emphasise to students the importance of regarding social problems as challenges that demand an informed and principled ethical analysis and reform, rather than subject of empirical analysis alone.

Research and enquiry
Analytical political philosophy is characterized by demanding standards of conceptual and logical analysis of social problems. Though this course will include a range of 'methodological' approaches, the central body of literature is analytical in form and so the embedded study skills and assessment (especially the 'Critical Response Assignment') support developing students' skills in this mode of reasoning.

Personal and intellectual autonomy
The highest-level learning outcome ('Evaluate principles of social justice in education from the point of view of moral, practical, and political justifiability') requires students to develop their own analysis of principles of social justice in education. Students will be introduced to 'independent analysis' skills, where they develop original criticisms/justifications of others' arguments, and will be encouraged to think creatively as they develop original responses to the literature considered. This will promote their general ability to reason individually, independently, and creatively.

The course will provide opportunity to consider effective communication, especially as an associated quality of clear and rigorous analytical reasoning. We will study exemplars of excellent academic prose, and train students to articulate their thoughts logically in verbal and written communication
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Philip Cook
Tel: (0131 6)51 1577
Course secretaryMr Ian McClory
Tel: (0131 6)50 3932
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