Public Service FdA

Full-time undergraduate (2 years)


September 2018

Owing to visa restrictions, this course is not available to international applicants

code: L460

Apply via UCAS


From the uniformed services to Revenue and Customs, through work placements and disaster planning, our foundation degree will give you the first-hand experience of the public services that you need to move ahead in your chosen career.

Full description


You’ll develop skills and knowledge that can be used in many different careers. Our past students have gone on to work with the police (as analysts and researchers as well as constables), the fire service, all branches of the military, the Prison Service, HM Revenue & Customs, public and private sector organisations as managers, and primary, further or higher education.

Most of our students go on to top up their foundation degree to a BA (Hons) Public Service.

Modules & assessment

Year one, core modules

  • Understanding Public Service
    This module will help you develop an understanding of the origins and nature of public service work in the broadest sense, including the social and political environment within which public services emerged and currently operate. You'll reflect on your current role or potential roles within the work sector. You’ll also look at how and why public services developed and explore the cultural and political ethos behind public services, the legal and ethical frameworks that inform the sector, the demands placed on public services and employees, and possible developments in the future. Your understanding will be grounded academically through an introduction to the meaning of work, identity and society.
  • Introduction to Social Science
    This module will introduce you to the ideas of some of the key thinkers in Sociology, including Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Goffman and Becker, and the continuing relevance of their ideas to the analysis of contemporary societies and to an understanding of public services. You'll explore the significance of the sociological study of aspects of society such as the individual, groups, inequality, conflict and social change to understanding the social context within which public services are delivered.
  • Basic Criminalistics
    Criminalistics is the core discipline of forensic science; in many uses, especially North America, it's synonymous with forensic science. The study is built on one basic premise: that every contact or action leaves some trace (Locard's Principle). As scientific methodologies have improved over the years, so the nature of what constitutes a trace has changed considerably. This module will introduce you to the main categories of trace evidence (finger and other body prints, fibres, hairs, glass and paint fragments, impressions of tools, gun discharge residues, and body fluids) and will emphasise the importance of rigorous crime scene management and proper methods of evidence recovery. You'll also learn about recent developments in enhanced evidence recovery, and evaluate the relative evidential value of various kinds of recovered trace material. This will lead on to a brief introduction to the statistical interpretation of such evidence.
  • Working in Public Service
    This module will introduce you to the work environments and current operation of a range of uniformed public services. Typically, examples will be chosen from the military, fire, police, prison and ambulance services, but this range may be adapted according to your needs. Building on the material studied in the module 'Understanding Public Services', you'll focus on the historical origins of these services and your current specific operation. You'll analyse the work environments (including entry, initial training, conditions of service, professional development, career development, occupational cultures and relevant wider issues) from a range of critical perspectives. In particular, you'll be asked to make some critical assessments of some of the dominant views of these services.
  • Work Based Learning 1
    Learning in the work place is an integral part of your foundation degree. The work environment provides a rich setting for you to discover and explore a range of knowledge, skills and understanding. You'll undertake three strands that form an integrated approach to your studies: learning about work (further developing your knowledge and understanding of the workplace), learning through work (examines the acquisition of practical skills in a real working environment), learning for work (your knowledge and skills will be developed in a way that is directly relevant to the workplace). You'll reflect on your work practice, critically appraise your own performance and report on the experience of learning at work. You'll be expected to demonstrate information gathering and descriptive skills, as well as an awareness of ethical issues relevant to your practice and studies.
  • Researching Social Issues
    This module will introduce you to the range of research instruments available to social scientists. Through sustained consideration of one issue - the policing of ethnic minorities - you'll learn the value of empirical research as a means to understanding social issues. You'll discover how police-minority relations can be analysed using a variety of methods, including observation, experiment, quantitative surveys, official statistics, qualitative interviewing, ethnography, archive research, case studies and life histories. By discussing these approaches, you'll develop an understanding of the potential strengths and limitations of each method, the practical issues around effective data gathering, sensitivity to cultural difference, and the ethical and political dimensions of the research process. Throughout the module, you'll develop skills and knowledge that will enable you to locate, use and evaluate research findings appropriately.
  • Political Ideologies and Social Controversies
    This module will give you a grounding in major political ideologies and key political concepts for your future study in practical and theoretical aspects of social science. By studying the core elements of ideologies, you'll have the opportunity to engage in basic comparative study and some degree of historical analysis. You'll then use this understanding of key political ideologies to explore different political environments. You'll reflect on forms of classical political thought and locate these in contemporary political settings. Your assessment will be in the form of a 1,000 word critical analysis and a 2000-word essay.

Year two, core modules

  • Resilience and Emergency Management
    Bringing together all the skills you've learned on the Public Service Foundation Degree course, this module will task you with identifying and understanding how the emergency services prepare for and operate at major disasters. You'll look at the ways government and emergency services prepare for and react to major disasters, and consider the advantages and difficulties of the multi-agency approach. Working in teams, you'll solve problems and come up with innovative preparations for, and take part in, major disaster exercises. You'll need to take a reflexive and critical view on the work of government and the emergency services to identify strengths and weaknesses in the current preparation for disasters.
  • Leading Public Service
    This module will develop your critical view of public services in a broad sense, through an understanding of current perspectives on leadership and management in public service and how these relate to the ever-changing political, social and economic contexts in which they operate. You'll discuss the importance of effective management and leadership, along with the influence of the structures of public services and the impact of these on an organisation. You'll also evaluate different perspectives and styles of leadership, developing your understanding of the complexities and debates around this topic.
  • Equality and Cultural Diversity at work
    This module will develop your knowledge of equality and cultural diversity issues. Through a series of lectures, seminars and workshops (or the equivalent for online delivery), you'll study equality legislation, and the social causes and outcomes of prejudice, bullying and harassment. You'll also consider the institutional practices that have reduced service delivery and led to internal bullying, as well as the public services' reaction to this.
  • Research Design and Project Preparation
    This module will provide you with guidance, support and information to help you prepare for your major project (or part thereof) in your final year. You will look at research methodologies including interviewing, focus groups, ethnography, and quantitative analysis. Weekly sessions will also guide you on practical issues/skills such as: appropriate use of supervisor; selecting a suitable topic and researching research problems; literature surveys and reviews on chosen topics; how to develop research aims and objectives; research ethics and writing a research proposal. You will be taught in the form of lectures and seminars, and assessed through a 3,000-word research proposal.
  • Work Based Learning 2
    Building on your experience in Work-Based Learning 1, you'll continue your exploration of professional/occupational practice as a source of learning along the strands developed previously. You'll need to demonstrate a greater degree of autonomy in the management of your learning, and more detailed knowledge of relevant theoretical underpinning. You'll also be required to analyse and evaluate both information and argument, and demonstrate the application of theory to practice.

Year two, optional modules

  • Policing and Crime Control
    Laws don't have an impact unless they're enforced, or unless there is an anticipation of enforcement. The Police is the most visible of enforcement agencies and organisations, and debates and controversies about their role in society are never far from legal, political and public attention. On this module, you'll reflect on some of the key sociological and political issues surrounding the maintenance of social order. You'll consider the development of the police and their contemporary role, and examine continuities and changes in public attitudes and expectations of the police, as well as the impact of technological and organisational changes in styles of policing and maintaining social order. You'll consider the growth of paramilitary-style policing, as well as community policing initiatives. You may take part in a local field trip to see an element of police training that will form the basis of one of your assessment tasks. Your assessment will take the form of a patchwork submission comprising five elements: a review of a key text; a critical analysis of policing styles; a summary of a documentary; an observation/reflection on an element of police learning and development; and an in-class test.
  • Theories of Deviance, Crime and Social Control
    On this module, you'll explore explanations of deviant behaviour throughout the 20th century and theories of crime that are of both historical interest and contemporary relevance, identifying and policing the parameters of 'normality' in late modern, Western society. You'll also look at specific questions relating to the transgression of social norms and whether it is the result of specific environments. You'll not only gain a historical understanding of social explanations, but also learn to demonstrate the relevance of these theories to contemporary understandings of deviance and social control. You'll also explore Labelling Theory and Radical or Marxist Criminological theories, as well as more practical or policy oriented views of both Right and Left Realism, before going on to look at two recent and very influential approaches to understanding crime. You’ll then focus on the role of "power" and social control, and the role of "culture" and the recent work of cultural criminologists. Your assessment will comprise of a test and an essay.
  • Cultures of War
    The media is saturated with reports of war, ethnic and political conflict. Whilst there are rules of engagement for war, crimes are still committed during conflicts. On this module, you'll consider and evaluate the concept of 'war', through the conduct of governments and international bodies as well as combatants and non-combatants. You'll examine the causes of war and crimes committed in conflict-torn environments. Is war a natural consequence of human interaction? Is there a difference between a 'terrorist' and a 'freedom fighter'? Are there effective methods for resolving global conflicts? You'll explore some historical, political, legal and sociological explanations of combat, conflict and political unrest, agendas as well as the impact of patriotism, nationalism and fanaticism. You'll examine theories of war, rules of armed conflict and the roles of international courts and tribunals, as well as representations of war in the media (including the 'war on drugs' and 'war on terror'), conflict prevention and effective peace processes. You'll be encouraged to draw upon contemporary materials, and to keep up with recent media coverage of events. You'll be assessed through essays, one of them time constrained.
  • Contemporary Work and Organisational Life
    This module will give you an in-depth analysis of contemporary theories and key issues related to work and organisations from a sociological perspective. You'll focus on major organisational and technological changes in industrialised societies such as McDonaldization, debureaucratisation, delayering, the information revolution, post-Fordism, de-skilling and professionalisation. These are linked to broader social transformations: the decline of manufacturing industries and the rise of the service sector in the West, the rationalisation of public services, and the global triumph of capitalism. You'll investigate the impact of these changes on workplace structures, experiences and opportunities at work, and the relative strength of work identities. You'll also consider whether individuals in industrialised societies now have a greater potential to choose, map out, and control their work biographies. You'll be assessed through a mid-semester class test and a case study.
  • Contemporary Issues in Prisons and Penology
    On this module, you'll examine the proper aims and objectives of punishment and the role of rehabilitation in correcting criminal behaviour, focusing on the three core ideas of retribution, rehabilitation and restoration. You'll discover how, by taking a specific theoretical line, certain public policy measures are implied, and explore the roots of the sanctions we take for granted, such as the birth of the prison and the demise (in some countries) of the death penalty. You'll consider the impact of penal direction-changes, the emergence of rehabilitation as a 'model' and the growth of the 'penal industry' throughout the western world. You'll also examine some of the theories that have been generated to understand and direct various responses to unruly behaviour: the utilitarian tradition, the retributive tradition, just deserts, proportionality, rehabilitation, deterrence, restoration and reparation. You'll be assessed through an essay and a report in an agreed area.
  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme allows you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You'll take one language module in the second semester of your first year in order to experience the learning of a new language. You must select a language you've never learnt before from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.
  • English Proficiency: Analysis and Genre
    If your English language skills are at B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, this module will help you develop the linguistic skills required to study effectively in a university context, increasing your confidence in the use of the written English language and embedding your readiness for academic study. You will develop the accuracy, precision and fluency of your reading, writing, speaking and listening through a series of tasks that integrate the use of these four language skills, as well as enhancing your awareness of the grammatical and lexical (vocabulary) systems of English. You will increase your ability to understand longer spoken discourse, improving your listening strategies through a variety of tasks requiring you to understand both general messages and implicit meanings. In class, you will work extensively in small groups and pairs to discuss and produce responses to the texts you hear or read: this will include working collaboratively to plan, structure and edit a variety of written output. You will produce structured, detailed written texts with a variety of purposes; feedback on your work will help you improve both the grammatical accuracy and communicative effectiveness of your written English. The topics covered will encourage you to use the general communicative skills typical of an educated user of English, and will include, for example, global citizenship, sustainable development and the impact of environmental, social and economic actions. You will be assessed on the basis of your portfolio of coursework, with particular emphasis on your listening, writing and grammatical skills: this will include listening comprehension and grammar exercises, and a variety of writing tasks. Feedback on exercises completed early in the module will help you improve your performance on the later tasks, which will carry most of the marks.
  • English Proficiency: Text and Discourse
    If your English language skills are at B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, this module will help you develop the linguistic skills required to study effectively in a university context, increasing your confidence in the use of the spoken English language and embedding your readiness for academic study. You will develop the accuracy, precision and fluency of your reading, writing, speaking and listening through a series of tasks that integrate the use of these four language skills, as well as enhancing your awareness of the grammatical and lexical (vocabulary) systems of English. In class, you will work extensively in small groups and pairs and will be expected to contribute to discussions and give short presentations based on your preparatory reading. You will study a wide variety of texts, extending your range of reading strategies in order to process written English, identify evidence or ideas and evaluate content effectively. The associated discussions, presentations and oral response tasks will provide you with practice and feedback to help you improve the accuracy and fluency of your spoken production. The module will also help you develop the ability to cooperate with others using English as a tool of negotiation and persuasion. The topics covered will encourage you to use the general communicative skills typical of an educated user of English, and will include, for example, global citizenship, sustainable development and the impact of environmental, social and economic actions. You will be assessed on the basis of your portfolio of coursework, with particular emphasis on your reading, speaking and vocabulary skills: this will involve a variety of tasks including reading and responding to texts and making short presentations on general topics. Feedback on tasks completed early in the module will help you improve your performance on the later tasks, which will carry most of the marks.
  • Sociology of Education
    This module will introduce you to key sociological perspectives on schooling and education. Schooling systems and strategies are instrumental in shaping individual and collective identities, and in reflecting and reinforcing dominant societal values. On this module, you'll engage with the central scholarly and political debates that surround these issues. More specifically, you'll explore how experiences of schooling are shaped by social dimensions such as class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality. You'll consider the basic functions of education, before exploring topics such as the micro-politics of everyday school life; higher education; employability and the knowledge economy; schooling and the negotiation of masculinities and femininities; schooling and sexuality; and schooling, ethnicity and whiteness. Your assessment for this module will be a 3,000 word essay.


For a full breakdown of module options and credits, please view the module structure.

We use a variety of ways for you to show your knowledge and understanding. These include presentations, essays, case studies and reports. You will focus on coursework, and will not need to sit any end-of-year exams.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences is an academic community of nearly 800 students and teaching staff. Our students are supported by leading practitioners, so you'll always have access to the latest theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as invaluable career advice. Subjects in the Humanities and Social Sciences lead to work in many roles you might not have considered, maybe as a politician, chief executive – or even an inventor.

We organise many activities to help our students prepare for their future, like work placements, study abroad opportunities, talks by acclaimed guest speakers, and research conferences.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

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

Work placements

You’ll undertake work placements in both years of the course. In the first year you’ll work with disadvantaged groups, such as homeless people, young offenders and people with drug and alcohol addictions. In your second year you’ll work with a public service or related organisation, like the Special Constables, Prison Service, Cambridge University Officer Training Corps, the City Council, the Probation Service, Cambridgeshire Emergency Management Team, Marshall Aerospace, Cambridge University Air Squadron and regional police forces, fire and rescue services and ambulance services.

Special events

You’ll also have the chance to take part in our annual public service presentation day, which is attended by representatives from regional public services, visit institutions like HMP Whitemoor, Cambridge Crown Court and the local fire services, or help with the training of riot police.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2018/19 (per year)


Fee information

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?

You can pay your fees in the following ways.

Tuition fee loan

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

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

Funding for UK & EU students

Most new undergraduate students can apply for government funding to support their studies and university life. This includes Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans. There are additional grants available for specific groups of students, such as those with disabilities or dependants.

We also offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

From September 2018, EU students starting an undergraduate degree with us can access an £800 bursary.

Meanwhile, our £400 Books Plus scheme helps with the costs of study. There's no need to apply for this: if you're eligible you can simply collect a Books Plus card when you start your course.

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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Get more information

UK & EU applicants

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