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Home>Study at York>Undergraduate>Courses>Social Policy, Children and Young People (BA)

Overview Real-world social science with a focus child and adolescent development

UCAS code


Typical offer

BBB (full entry requirements)


3 years full-time

Do you want to explore how different social, cultural and family circumstances impact upon child development and youth transitions? How and why things go wrong for young people? What policies can best support them?

This degree enables you to consider such questions in depth and explore how the lives of children and young people at home and abroad can be improved. You will receive a broad and balanced introduction to a range of social sciences and apply these perspectives to our understanding of the lives of children and young people.

A fundamental part of the degree is the work placement, offering you a chance to learn from professionals working with children and young people.

Graduates are well equipped for careers in local authorities, charities, education and research.

There's good support from lecturers and great facilities on campus. It's a great city to move to from home: not too big but not too small.

Understanding Social Policy

Our academics explain how their research influences social policy at a national and global level.

Course content What you’ll study


You will receive a thorough grounding in social sciences, including sociology, social policy, economics and politics. You'll also study the development of policies for children and young people and the welfare state.

You'll study core modules designed specifically for this course and choose from a selection of over 20 optional modules developed specially by the Department, or choose from a wider range offered by other departments such as Politics or Sociology.

Between Years 2 and 3 you will undertake a placement, shadowing a professional working in a field relating to children and young people.

Year 1

In your first year you are introduced to a broad range of social sciences and undertake training in key academic skills essential to your degree-level study.

  • Introducing Social Policy: key areas of government policy such as education, health and employment, with central concepts and analytic frameworks. It explores trends in the development of social policy around the world, with a particular emphasis on high income nations.
  • Introducing Social Psychology and Sociology: key theories and concepts in sociology and social psychology. You will develop an awareness of the analytical frameworks used to understand social problems and inequality.
  • Politics and Economics of Social Policy: the exercise of power, political ideas and policy outcomes in the context of British political institutions. It will introduce you to key concepts in economics and their application to social policy problems.
  • Exploring Social Policy and Society: key concepts that underpin the analysis and practice of social policy and their relationship with social, economic and political change. You'll actively engage in problem-solving processes and develop group work skills.

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module. This covers some of the essential skills and knowledge which will help you to study independently and produce work of a high academic standard which is vital for success at York.

This module will:

  • define academic integrity and academic misconduct
  • explain why and when you should reference source material and other people's work
  • provide interactive exercises to help you to assess whether you've understood the concepts
  • provide answers to FAQs and links to useful resources.

Year 2

In your second year you'll study three core modules as well as choosing one of our other second year modules.

Core modules

Our core modules cover key aspects of exploring children and young people's lives alongside a broader look at the process of policy development and social research methods:

  • Understanding Childhood and Youth
  • Social Research Methods
  • The Policy Process

Optional modules

Module options change on a regular basis to reflect the teaching and research interests of staff, as well as to ensure the degree is up-to-date. Examples of past modules for the second year include:

  • Citizenship, Difference and Inequality
  • Comparative Social Policy
  • Debates in Criminal Justice
  • Victimisation and Social Harm

Year 3


In the summer holiday before the third year starts you will undertake a work-shadowing placement that lasts around 80 hours. This will allow you to learn from professionals in a field related to children and young people. Examples of previous placements include:

  • working in Special Educational Needs units in mainstream schools,
  • working with youth offending teams,
  • shadowing a local authority worker helping vulnerable teenagers,
  • working in a residential home in Uganda,
  • working in a pupil referral unit.

Watching professionals at work is a completely different learning experience which many students find useful in developing their dissertation and follow in the development of their own careers.

Note about placements: To undertake a placement, you may be required to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Having a criminal conviction is not an automatic bar to entry but failure to disclose relevant information may result subsequently in termination of the placement.


You'll choose three modules from our third year modules, these change regularly to reflect the teaching and research interests of our staff. Previous modules include:

  • Criminal Justice and Policing
  • Death and Policy
  • Gender, Citizenship and Welfare States
  • Gender and Youth Cultures
  • Housing Policy
  • Illicit Drug Use
  • Prisons and Penal Policy
  • Sustainable Development and Social Inclusion
  • The Wellbeing of Children and Young People
  • Understanding Families and Family Life
  • Vulnerability, Deviance and Social Control
  • Welfare States in Crisis
  • Youth Justice.


The third year dissertation is a great opportunity to apply your knowledge and understanding in independent supervised research on a topic of your interest that relates to children and young people. Previous dissertation titles include:

  • Approaches to ‘inclusion’ of children with special educational needs: a contrast between mainstream and special schools
  • A qualitative study of teenage pregnancy and parenthood
  • Media Images of ‘youth’ and young people’s responses to these
  • Parents perceptions of ‘Positive Parenting’ techniques
  • Combining work and childcare: factors affecting parents decisions and choices
  • Child health issues in debt reduction programmes in Uganda and Tanzania
  • A qualitative study of professional perceptions of child sexual exploitation

Study abroad

There are many international opportunities for students to get involved with, including Worldwide Exchange at partner universities, Erasmus+ study placements in Europe, International Study Centres, Summer Schools and Travel Awards for independent projects.

Another good part of studying at York is that the people leading our modules are also doing research in the kind of subjects that I want to work in after graduating. My tutor in particular has been great and helped to guide my direction of study and how it might relate to work outside of university.
Becky, BA Applied Social Science (Children and Young People)

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework the Department of Social Policy and Social Work was placed third in the UK for research activity, with 100 percent of its research impact rated at the highest rank of 4*.

Teaching and assessment How you’ll be taught and assessed

Teaching format

We emphasise small-group working: you'll mainly be taught in lectures of 50-100 students and take part in seminars of 12-15 people. In the second and third years the lecture groups will be smaller as you begin to specialise.

You'll also take part in group-based workshops and hear from external speakers about the latest issues in policy and practice.


You'll be assessed in a variety of ways, with emphasis on continuous assessment. The most common form of assessment is by essay, and you'll be supported with seminar sessions on writing academic essays. You may also be assessed by presentation, group workshop reports, data analysis exercises and portfolios of work. There is minimal use of closed examinations.

Your dissertation will be 10,000 words long and you'll be supported by a supervisor who specialises in the subject you're interested in.

York is a great student city with lots of activities to take part in on and off campus. The teaching is very engaging and there’s an overall friendly atmosphere.
Lindsey (2016)

Careers Where you’ll go from here

A high proportion of our graduates are employed within six months. The nature of our degree means you can pursue career-related interests throughout your study and the work-based placement is a useful opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to future employers.

We also offer an optional series of workshops at the end of the Summer Term where you can undertake a group multimedia project, using social media to promote awareness of a social policy issue or campaign. This gives you a chance to use creative and communication skills that will be relevant to a number of socially-orientated organisations.

Career opportunities

  • Graduate trainee with a national children's charity
  • Work for a local authority
  • Child protection coordinator
  • Children's outreach family work
  • Applications officer to a fund for families with disabled and seriously ill children
  • Resource worker to a multi-agency partnership
  • Curriculum enrichment coordinator for a college
  • Housing management trainee with a housing association

Transferable skills

  • Communications skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Data analysis
  • Time management
  • Project management
  • Independent study and research
  • Teamwork skills.

Entry requirements How to get here

Course entry

All applications must be made through UCAS.

We pay particular attention to your personal statement and we look for students who have an academic interest in society. This could come through family circumstances, employment or other contribution to society such as school clubs or volunteering.

You will not be invited to interview, but we invite you to attend a visit day in Spring term to give you an opportunity to learn more about us.

A-levels and GCSEs


  • BBB (A level General Studies and Critical Thinking are accepted)

Other UK qualifications

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers
AABBB at Higher level

Cambridge Pre-U
M2, M2, M2

Access to Higher Education
30 credits achieved from units awarded Merit or higher

BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF)

International options

International Baccalaureate
31 points overall

Irish Leaving Certificate


European Baccalaureate
75 percent overall

English language

Applicants whose first language is not English are normally asked to provide evidence of English language ability. Exceptions may be made where an applicant's other qualifications provide sufficient evidence of ability to use English in an academic setting at degree level.

  • IELTS: score of 6.5 overall, with 5.5 or better in each section
  • Pearson PTE Academic: 61 overall with no less than 51 in all components
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): grade A

Other accepted tests and qualifications

Unistats for this course

Enquire Contact our admissions tutors if you have any questions