Applied Social Science 

Child Well-Being - a child smiling [Photo (cc) flickr.com/zitona

Applied Social Science: specialist study branching from the welfare state - crime, justice, children, youth work, front-line services, social enterprise

What is Applied Social Science?

The social sciences have a long and rich tradition within British universities with key subjects such as political science and economics well established by the early years of the 20th century.

However, it was following the creation of a new wave of universities in the 1960s, including the University of York, that the social sciences gained a strong presence in British universities. At this time, combined social science degrees that facilitated the study of a range of social science disciplines in a singe programme were commonplace. But, as the 1960s universities grew in size there was a tendency for each subject to branch off in its own direction as scholars were keen to emphasize their own specialisms. Combined social science degrees became less common as consequence.

Applied social science allows for specialist study in other areas of interest that were outside of the original purview of the welfare state.

During the 1990s and 2000s, this ‘compartmentalisation’ of social science knowledge into different disciplines was subjected to increased criticism. Many scholars argued there was a need for different subjects to work together more effectively, particularly on applied social issues where it made little sense to ignore useful insights from rival subjects. Reflecting this view, multi-disciplinary programmes became more common once again and many universities established broadly based ‘Applied Social Science’ or ‘Applied Social Studies’ programmes. Often these programmes emerged from Social Policy departments where there had always been a concern to address applied issues from a multi-disciplinary background, but while social policy maintains a core focus on the ‘welfare state’ the focus of applied social science is less fixed, allowing for specialisms in other areas of interest that were outside of the original purview of the welfare state.

Degree programmes

Our applied social science degree courses are multi-disciplinary in nature – drawing on insights from sociology, politics, social psychology, economics, social policy and demography for example – but with a clear focus on applied social issues.  Our programmes allow you to choose where to specialise during the course of the programme itself.

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