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Politics & Economics for Social Policy - SPY00003C

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

Module summary

Students of social policy need to be aware of the political institutions and the economic systems that underpin everything that happens in the public domain. This requires an introduction to two of the most powerful disciplines in the social sciences; ‘political science’ and ‘economics’. In reality, as shown by the events surrounding the global financial crisis of 2007-8, and the various policy responses that followed, it is often difficult to separate out the political and economic processes. In other words the social science disciplines are not mutually exclusive - far from it, and we will bring these two disciplines together, so that we can learn the habit of thinking ‘politically’ and ‘economically’ at the same time, that is, to think as ‘political economists’.Political science and economics nevertheless focus on different aspects of the ways our society functions, and it is useful to introduce key political concepts and key economic concepts separately. Political scientists focus on the concept of ‘power’ and the institutions and processes through which power operates. Economists are concerned with the production and distribution of wealth, and particularly with how markets operate.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2021-22 to Summer Term 2021-22

Module aims

  • To provide an overview of key concepts in political science and economics
  • To explain how political institutions work and how they differ between countries
  • To demonstrate the complex relationship between political institutions, the exercise of power, political ideas and policy outcomes
  • To introduce and explain key economic concepts and processes
  • To demonstrate how key economic concepts can aid the understanding of social processes and policies
  • To introduce the idea of ‘political economy’ and how it can be used to understand social policy processes and outcomes

Module learning outcomes

  • explain how political institutions and processes work
  • understand the unique features of the British political system as a foundation to comparative social policy studies
  • understand political processes as preparation for more advanced policy analysis modules
  • understand key economic concepts, especially as they relate to social policy
  • use economic arguments for and against public funding and/or regulation of certain goods and services
  • integrate their knowledge of political science and economics
  • utilise information technology to find reliable information


Task Length % of module mark
Essay (Politics)
N/A 30
Policy proposal
N/A 70

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay (Politics)
N/A 30
Policy proposal
N/A 70

Module feedback

Students will receive informal formative feedback in their seminar discussion work.

Written feedback will be returned to students on their summative assessed work according to departmental policy.

Indicative reading

Jones, B. and Norton, P. (2014) Politics UK (Eighth Edition), London: Routledge.

Hague, R., Harrop, M. and McCormick, J. (2016) Comparative Government and Politics (Tenth Edition), London: Palgrave Macmillan.

King, A. (2015) Who Governs Britain? London: Penguin.

Chang, H.J. (2014) Economics: The User’s Guide, London: Pelican.

Heilbroner, R. (2000) The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers, London: Penguin.

Le Grand, J, Propper, C and Smith, S. (2008) The Economics of Social Problems, fourth edition, London: Palgrave-MacMillan.

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.