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Unit information: Social Policy Past and Present in 2023/24

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name Social Policy Past and Present
Unit code SPOL10034
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Lart
Open unit status Not open
Units you must take before you take this one (pre-requisite units)


Units you must take alongside this one (co-requisite units)


Units you may not take alongside this one
School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Unit Information

The unit will provide students with an introduction to the history of British social policy from the Poor Law, through the establishment of the post-war Welfare State, to the end of the Coalition government of 2010-15. It will focus on key areas of social policy such as poverty and social exclusion, health, housing, education and social care. The first part of the unit provides an overview of the evolution of the British Welfare State, following the historical narrative from the debates around pauperism in the early nineteenth century, through to the end of the Coalition government of 2010 – 15. The second section returns to look in detail at the key areas of social policy, and will explore significant points in their histories, and set the scene for understanding current policy.

Specifically, it will introduce students to:

1. The history of British social policy

2. How and why we have the social institutions of welfare that we do.

3. The ways in which ideology has informed the development British social policy

Your learning on this unit

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of the history of British social policy from the beginning of the 19th century, including the origins and development of UK welfare institutions, and the social and demographic contexts in which they have operated
  • An understanding of non-governmental sources of welfare in that period, and of the relationship between different sectors of the mixed economy of welfare
  • The ability to distinguish and critically evaluate different approaches to understanding social problems and issues in that period, and how these are reflected in policy

How you will learn

Teaching will be delivered through blended learning by a combination of asynchronous and synchronous sessions. Asynchronous delivery will include narrated powerpoints providing an overview and framework for the topics delivered each week, and strctured exercises to be undertaken either individually or in pairs or groups. Synchronous teaching will be in a seminar format with a mixture of presentation by students from prepared work, and discussion.

How you will be assessed

Essay 1000 words (25%) Essay 2000 words (75%)


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. SPOL10034).

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.