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Unit information: Key Concepts, Theories and Ideologies in Social Policy in 2021/22

Unit name Key Concepts, Theories and Ideologies in Social Policy
Unit code SPOL10033
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Eroglu-Hawksworth
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

The unit seeks to provide an introduction to the major concepts, theories and ideologies that have shaped social policy and perspectives on welfare and welfare states. It also introduces a range of theoretical perspectives that provide a critique of the welfare state and/or an alternative vision of welfare society. It highlights the socio-economic, political and historical contexts of these theories to illustrate their relevance to and impact upon policy making and welfare provision.

It is organised into four main parts. The first part introduces key social policy concepts, such as needs, citizenship and community, the mixed economy of welfare, equality and risk. The second part considers ideologies of welfare, such as Conservatism, Liberalism, Socialism, Social Democracy, and Neo-Liberalism and their evolution. The third part examines critical perspectives on social policy, such as marxism, feminism, environmentalism, post-modernism and anti-racism. The fourth part brings these concepts, ideologies, and perspectives into focus with analysis of current policy issues in order to illustrate their utility in contemporary analysis in matters such as fiscal crisis, poverty and inequality; diversity, migration, health and aging, and other policy issues as appropriate.

  • To introduce students to key concepts and theories relating to social need and welfare systems together with consideration of the contexts in which they operate.
  • To explore the main features of different perspectives on social policy
  • To consider how differently placed communities and individuals, and current policy issues, are perceived in social policy debates

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:

  • Use established theories and concepts of social policy to analyse how social needs, social problems and policies themselves are constructed and understood
  • Distinguish among, and critically evaluate, different theoretical, conceptual normative, moral and political approaches to social policy issues

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities involving weekly lectures, small group discussions and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Information

Summative assessment has two components:

Part 1 (50%): learning journal Part 2 (50%): essay of 1500 words max


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. SPOL10033).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.