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Introducing Social Policy - SPY00002C

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Zoe Irving
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23 to Summer Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are to:

  • Familiarise students with social policy as a field of study
  • Introduce students to the key domains of social provision and the role of the state, market and other actors in the production and distribution of welfare
  • Enable understanding the origins of contemporary social policy challenges while placing them in the broader context of their social, political and economic development
  • Equip students with the foundational knowledge necessary to engage in current debates in social policy and present arguments with reference to a range of theoretical perspectives and empirical sources


Module learning outcomes

On Completion of the module students will:

  • Be able to identify the disciplinary focus of social policy and appreciate its interconnections with other social science disciplines
  • Be familiar with the key domains of social provision, and understand the social, political and economic context in which current policy challenges develop
  • Understand the operation of the state, the market and other policy actors, and the ways in which social, political and economic interests are articulated in the shaping of social questions and social policy
  • Be able to critically analyse the distribution of resources and the organisation and delivery of benefits and services, in response to societal demands
  • Be able to identify, evaluate and employ a range of theoretical and empirical sources relevant to the study of social policy
  • Be equipped with academic integrity skills and understand ethical values in all activities related to learning, teaching and research

Module content

Topics covered will include: 'What is Social Policy?'; the emergence of the welfare state; the mixed economy of welfare; the scale of welfare provision; examination of specific policy domains e.g. Social security; criminal justice; housing; education; social care; children and families; employment and health care.




Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Introducing Social Policy
2 hours 50
2500 Word Essay
N/A 50

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Introducing Social Policy
2 hours 50
2500 Word Essay
N/A 50

Module feedback

For the essay component, written feedback will be provided to students according to Departmental policy using the standard marking and feedback matrix. Students are given the opportunity to discuss exam performance through arrangements for personal supervision.

Indicative reading

Key Reading

  • Alcock, P., Haux, T., May, M. and Wright, S. (Eds) (2016) The Student’s Companion to Social Policy. Fifth Edition, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Gamble, A. (2016) Can the Welfare State Survive? Cambridge: Polity.
  • Hudson, J., Kühner, S. and Lowe, S. (2015) The Short Guide to Social Policy. Second Edition. Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • Spicker, P. (2014) Social Policy: Theory and Practice, Bristol: Policy Press

Supplementary Text Books

  • Baldock, J., Mitton, L., Manning, N. and Vickerstaff, S. (Eds) (2011) Social Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Dean, H. (2012) Social Policy. Cambridge, Polity.
  • Hill, M. J. and, Irving, Z. (2009) Understanding Social Policy. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Lavalette, M. and Pratt, A. (2005) Social Policy: Theories, Concepts and Issues. Third Edition. London: Sage.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.