SLSP2650 Key Debates in Social Policy

Reading List
  • Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 View timetable
  • Credits: 20
  • Class Size: 150
  • Module Manager: Prof Mark Priestley
  • Email:
  • Pre-Requisite Qualifications: Normally, 40 credits of social policy modules at Level 1 (or equivalent).
  • This Module is approved as a Discovery Module
  • This module has the following Pre-requisites:
    • SLSP1190 Identities, Inequalities and Policy in Contemporary Society

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

Module Summary

This module will engage students in an exploration of key areas of social policy concern, encompassing ideological debates, comparative questions and the policy making process. Students will be able to apply theoretical and ideological ideas with approaches to qualitative and quantitative data to better understand how social policies operate in the real world, both in the UK and internationally.


By exploring key debates and perspectives relating to social policy, on completion of the modules students should be able to:

  • - better understand how social policies are formulated and developed
  • - think about social policies in comparative perspective, showing a critical understanding of welfare models and theory
  • - understand the social policy landscape across key areas both in the UK and internationally
  • - use data (both quantitative and qualitative) to examine how far and in what ways social policies are being designed and implemented to address particular social problems
  • - think critically about how these social problems are framed, and use a social policy understanding to consider whether the policy approaches are proving effective
  • - understand the strengths and weaknesses of various data sets in illuminating the extent and dynamics of particular social issues


The module will consist of four blocks:
Block 1: Ideologies of welfare and social policy

  • - Discussing key perspectives on 'welfare' and considering how these different ideological viewpoints shape social policy delivery. This block will encompass analysis and discussion of perspectives including communitarianism, social democratic approaches and neo-liberalism
  • - Exploring critique to Anglo-Euro-centric understandings of 'welfare', such as thorough gendered and de-colonial counter-narratives and resistance to historically dominant welfare ideologies.

Block 2: The social policy making process

  • - Applying models of policy making process including: how social problems become public and policy concerns; the role of parliament and other bodies in policy making; top-down and bottom-up examples of policy making; and policy evaluation and impact.
  • - Extending knowledge of how social issues become laws in the British Parliamentary system, including the role of Parliament, the civil service and the courts.
  • - Examining policy implementation as a key problem in the literature, considering the influence of micro as well as macro-level and institutional constraints.

Block 3: Comparative social policy

  • - Introducing key theoretical debates, methods and evidence in the field of comparative social policy
  • - Explore welfare regime theory as the key comparative framework for the analysis of social policy
  • - Discuss the different models of welfare regimes, with a focus on (a) the political dynamics involved in the development of their institutional mix (state, market and family), (b) the structure of their social expenditure, and (c) the extent of decommodification and social stratification they produce.

Block 4: International Social Policy

  • - Exploring key factors shaping the present and future of social policy and welfare states across the world such as globalisation, political attitudes, migration or economic development, amongst others.
  • - This block will apply the knowledge and understanding gained also in Blocks 1-3 to conduct an analysis of a broad UK policy area in systematic comparison with other developed welfare states using literature and empirical data.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module, students should be better able to:

  • - Demonstrate a familiarity with and critically assess key ideological and theoretical concepts in Social Policy, encompassing perspectives on welfare from the UK and internationally
  • - Systematically explore and analyse social policy problems and processes in practice
  • - Apply newly acquired conceptual and methodological skills to research social policy issues, and make use of international data sources to explore and demonstrate cross-national comparisons
  • - Apply theoretical social policy concepts to particular case studies from a range of social policy approaches, in different parts of the world.
  • - Understand and deploy the different forms of data available to social policy researchers
  • - Work independently as social researchers, applying concepts, theories and evidence to understand social policies.

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching


Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
Reflective log approx 2,000 words 50
Reflective log approx 2,000 words 50
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 100

Private Study

66 hours preparation for lectures and tutorials (approx. 3 hours per week during term time)
46 hours preparation of assessed wiki/blog (Blocks 1-2)
46 hours preparation of assessed wiki/blog (Blocks 3-4)

Progress Monitoring

Contribution at tutorials
Progress in developing a personal learning log/wiki
Ongoing feedback, encouraged and facilitated through open door meetings

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Workshop 10 1 10
Lecture 22 1 22
Tutorial 10 1 10
Private Study Hours 158
Total Contact Hours 42
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 200

Reading List

Reading List
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