Social Policy BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)


September 2017


Social Policy takes you right to the heart of some of the most hotly debated social issues of our time and addresses the controversial questions discussed by the media, the public and he government. Our course was ranked 4th in the UK in terms of student satisfaction with teaching (Guardian league tables 2017) and will open up a range of rewarding careers in areas such as the criminal justice system, housing, NHS authorities, the police, local or central government, social enterprise and the voluntary sector.

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When you graduate, your wide-ranging skills will help you to better understand, and have an impact on, many aspects of society.

Graduates from this course have gone into a wide range of interesting and enjoyable careers in the public, private and third sectors, including:

  • community development and outreach work
  • disability rights and advocacy work
  • housing administration and management
  • NHS administration and management
  • AIDS/HIV organisations
  • care management and carers' organisations
  • charity management
  • the Citizens Advice Bureau
  • civilian branches of the police
  • drug-related work
  • homelessness agencies
  • lecturing
  • HM Prison Service
  • social research
  • social services
  • teaching

You may also choose to study further, for example you could undertake further training in Social Work or consider a career in teaching.

Modules & assessment

Year one, core modules

  • Comparing Welfare Systems
    This module examines meanings of 'welfare' in different parts of the world. You’ll focus on contests in meaning and experience of welfare and learn about a number of models or regimes in welfare. Comparative welfare developments will be studied in the context of debates about globalisation, diversity and choice. You’ll examine a problem and try to solve it in a group or teams. You’ll also choose an area of social policy and prepare a comparative study on this area of interest.
  • Controversies in Criminal Justice
    You’ll be introduced to the workings of the English Criminal Justice System and lively ongoing debates about policy implementation. You’ll gain a clear overview of the Criminal Justice System and its impact on individuals and communities. This module starts by unpicking the notion of crime, then examining statistical data on its prevalence in contrast to public perceptions of levels of crime, as well as media reporting on crime. You’ll also explore the causes of crime, the concept of social control and the different forms the latter takes within the Criminal Justice System. You’ll then follow the various stages of the Criminal Justice System - detecting crime, enforcing the law and processing offenders. This will include critical discussions challenging the effectiveness of both punitive and welfaristic approaches. You’ll also explore the impact of punishment on the offender, the victim, and their families, and to what extent it achieves its aims.
  • Living in Contemporary Societies
    This module provides an insight into life in the UK from a socio-political and sociological perspective. You’ll start with an overview of case studies of selected social groups such as children, youth, homeless people, rough sleepers, migrants and single parents. The second part of the module explores the nature and diversity of contemporary society by introducing you to the forces promoting cohesion and driving change. You’ll consider different sociological and political theories and will apply some of these to important themes of modern society. You’ll study themes such as: identity, the local and the global, social divisions such as social class, gender, 'race' and ethnicity, inequality, power and the state.
  • Research in Health and Social Studies
    This module provides you with a basic understanding of research methods in the context of health and social studies including areas such as social care, social policy, social work and/or youth work. You’ll explore the role of research by reviewing the implications of research for policy and practice. You’ll gain a basic understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods and learn how to critically evaluate existing research. Ethical issues will also be discussed. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in small-scale exercises such as conducting interviews and/or formulating questionnaires and focus group schedules.
  • Social Problems, Politics and Policy-Making in the UK
    You’ll consider the view that social problems are not necessarily 'out there' in society but that they are socially constructed. This module examines the processes of how social problems are socially constructed and how power is distributed and used in society as an important part of this process. Successfully addressing social problems requires an understanding of the social, economic and political system within which such problems arise and are responded to with policy. You’ll discover how, in respect of policy making, traditional forms of government have given way to systems of modern governance. This favours more of a participative form of democracy, allowing different groups to be consulted and involved in decision making.
  • The Changing Context of Social Policy
    This module looks at key developments in social policy over the last century in the UK. You'll look at a different period each week and the reasons behind developments will be explored.

Year two, core modules

  • Citizenship and Migration in a Global Context
    The concept of citizenship has always been important in social policy and has close connections with welfare. You’ll explore three models of citizenship (liberal, republican and communitarian) in order to compare normative prescriptions for citizenship to manifestations of citizenship action. The second part of the module will look at citizenship and belonging in the context of migration. You’ll be introduced to different types of citizenship developed by nation states and the consequences these definitions have upon social, economic and political rights of migrants. You’ll also study a number of theories of immigration to understand factors which influence migration on different levels.
  • Health and Social Care
    This module begins by exploring changing ideas about health and social care; it then examines the historical development of health and social care provision. You’ll consider the challenges and priorities faced by policy makers in respect of health and social provision. Key issues now include areas such as: choice, personalisation, patient-led care, service-user involvement, independence, managing risk together the need to safeguard vulnerable adults. You’ll gain an understanding of how the different sectors work and you’ll examine the range of agencies in the provision of health and social care services - increasingly in the independent sector. You’ll use case studies to explore changing agendas and the reasons behind them, such as: childhood obesity, risk-taking and what constitutes a healthy lifestyle.
  • Review of Research Processes in Health and Social Studies
    This module will develop your awareness of the need to support professional practice with published and up-to-date evidence. You’ll gain theoretical and practical knowledge about the research process within the health and social studies context. This module will give you an understanding of the research process and methods, including exploring qualitative and quantitative research approaches, different research designs, and ways of collection and evaluating data.
  • Sexuality, Family and Childhood: Universal Dilemmas
    Personal relationships, childhood and families have becoming increasingly politicised subjects seen as requiring policy intervention or support. You’ll examine the prescriptions for parenting, interventions in so-called problem families in communities, the problematisation of young people and generational care as an element of work/life balance. You’ll also explore the following key topics: family conflict, domestic violence, child abuse and human rights legislation. Sexual rights and sexual wrongs will be explored in relation to particular settings, actors, taboos and transgressions. Rights and responsibilities in UK policy will be compared to a selection of international policies, highlighting differences and similarities. This module will enable you to trace the connections between the real life dynamics of the individual, normative prescriptions of family life, the political landscape and creation of specific policies.
  • Youth Offending: Policies and Practice
    This module looks at young people's place in society and how they are viewed by adults, contrasted with their own experiences and understanding of their place in society. You’ll explore explanations of the situation and concentrate on the ethnic, religious and economic diversity of youth in Britain today. Next you’ll study youth offending and the perception that a high proportion of young people engage in anti-social behavior and crime. You’ll have a detailed discussion of the many social explanations for youth crime and examines their implications. Ranging from welfare-based activities by governments to help offending youth, right through to the wide range of punitive policies, you’ll consider the effectiveness of these policies. You’ll gain a clear overview of the youth justice system, including the activities of the police, the judiciary, the youth service and youth offending teams.

Year three, core modules

  • Crime and Community Safety: Global Perspectives
    This module provides you with a detailed exploration of the issues surrounding community safety. Since the early 1990s, British and European governments have been shifting resources away from responding to crime in favour of crime prevention. This is achieved through a combination of neighbourhood policing; funding of community projects to improve social capital; innovations in architecture; mediation and community justice programmes. These innovations have radically changed the nature of crime control and provide a wide and varied range of job opportunities. You’ll study the most recent policy and theoretical manifestation of community safety and the emergence of the concept of anti-social behaviour.
  • International and Community Development: Institutions, Policy and Practice
    The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) represent a collective responsibility to uphold the values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance and respect for nature and address the uneven consequences of globalisation. They have become central to global policy making and to the work of international development agencies and their partner organisations across the world. This module will introduce you to international development work, the ideas and theories that support it and the skills required to work in this field.
  • Working with Communities and Groups
    Working with communities and groups across the voluntary, statutory and community sectors is a key tool in promoting inclusion and empowerment. 'Personalisation' of services requires a sharper focus on connecting service users, communities and service providers in order for individuals to access services better and influence how those services are developed (Home Office, CRU 2004). You’ll develop an understanding of the skills and knowledge needed to facilitate effective community and group work. By the end of the module, you’ll be able to evaluate examples of community and group work in a variety of contexts and appreciate the contribution of community and group work to effective practice.
  • Undergraduate Major Project
    The undergraduate major project enables you to raise and address significant questions relating to your chosen topic/issue. You'll be supported by a tutor with similar interests and research profile. This module requires autonomous study and it is your chance to demonstrate that you have met our University’s expectations and are ready to graduate.

Year two, optional modules

  • Social Policy Internship
    The Internship gives you the opportunity to broaden your work experience and understanding of the workplace as a site of social action. You’ll investigate a particular agency or organisation which operates in the large and diverse sector of social welfare. You’ll get the opportunity to link different theories and perspectives covered in the course to organisations that are engaged with solving social problems and to analyse the issues that emerge when policy is put into practice. Potential placements might be in the statutory, voluntary or private sectors. After discussion with the module leader, you’ll negotiate entry into an appropriate organisation. You’ll create an action plan at the start of the internship with activities including: shadowing workers, attending meetings, visiting points of service delivery and carrying out tasks at the appropriate level. You’ll also write a piece of research or an investigative report for the benefit of the organisation.
  • Advocacy and Group Dynamics
    The module helps you understand the different contexts and situations in which young people and vulnerable adults may need support and/or advocacy. You’ll also gain an understanding of the theories and models of advocacy, how and which type of advocacy to implement. Group work is a key notion for this module. You’ll study methods of planning, monitoring and evaluating group work sessions and ways to intervene which maintain a balance between group and individual needs.

Year three, optional modules

  • Violence and Harm
    Violence has long been a part of most societies, and part of the human condition is coping with the harm that it causes. You’ll begin by examining concepts of violence, and classifying violence into different broad groupings. These range from state-backed violence such as war, through organised criminal violence, to individual violent acts both outside and inside families. You’ll also study various ways in which harm can be caused. The module explores not only physical harm, but psychological and emotional harm - which can impact not only the immediate victim but also family, friends and the wider community. The third key element studies policy responses used to mitigate effects of violence and harm, and the ways in which the criminal justice system responds including retribution and rehabilitation. Having gained a broad understanding of concepts of violence and harm, you’ll then go on to examine different types of violence in greater depth. The emphasis at this stage will be on 'everyday' violence such as gangs, street crime, drunken violence, domestic violence, and child abuse. You’ll gain an in-depth understanding not only of the nature of violence and harm, but of how to analyse their causes and effects and how to formulate policy responses.

Modules are subject to change and availability.


We use a wide-ranging and creative mix of ways to measure your progress on this course. You might be assessed on a presentation you’ve given or a seminar paper you’ve written, or you may have to provide a report on an activity you’ve done. You may also be assessed on your essays, case studies, debates, mind-maps and portfolios. You’ll get advice on how to produce all of these.

Where you'll study

Your faculty

The Faculty of Health, Social Care & Education is the largest provider of health, social care and education courses in the East of England, with over 6,000 students from more than 20 countries.

With 95% of our students finding full-time employment within six months of graduating, you can be sure that our courses have been designed with your career in mind. We’ve been educating nurses, midwives and social workers for over 25 years.

At the cutting edge of research, we offer a range of internationally recognised undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses taught by friendly, supportive and experienced staff.With over 150 research students across our three doctoral programmes (PhD; DProf and EdD), we provide the multi-disciplinary perspective and potential for academic debate that reflects our position as a leader in practitioner-focused and practice-led research studies.

Designed to enhance your learning experience, our facilities include state-of-the-art simulated skills laboratories that mirror real-life clinical situations and UK hospital wards. Our students also benefit from our Early Childhood Research and Resource Centre; a space in which they can experiment with equipment and play activities.

You’ll study in an exciting, modern faculty which has strong links with regional, national and international organisations, including healthcare trusts, social services, local and regional authorities, schools and academic institutions.

Your enthusiasm. Our passion. Your best foot forward.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2016/17 (per year)


International students, 2016/17 (per year)


UK & EU students, 2017/18 (per year)


International students, 2017/18 (per year)


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For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

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Most English undergraduates take out a tuition fee loan with Student Finance England. The fees are then paid directly to us. The amount you repay each month is linked to your salary and repayments start in April after you graduate.

How to apply for a tuition fee loan

Paying upfront

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If you choose not to take out a loan you can pay your fees directly to us. There are two ways to do this: either pay in full, or through a three- or six-month instalment plan starting at registration.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments. You will also be asked for a deposit or sponsorship letter for undergraduate courses. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees
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Funding for UK & EU students

We offer most new undergraduate students funding to support their studies and university life. There’s also finance available for specific groups of students.

Grants and scholarships are available for:

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Funding for international students

We've a number of scholarships, as well as some fee discounts for early payment.

Entry requirements

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

We don't accept AS level qualifications on their own for entry to our undergraduate degree courses. However for some degree courses a small number of tariff points from AS levels are accepted as long as they're combined with tariff points from A levels or other equivalent level 3 qualifications in other subjects.

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International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

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English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for undergraduate courses.

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Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

UCAS Tariff calculator - 2017 entry

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Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

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International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

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