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BSc Politics and Social Policy  

Why choose this course?

  • Politics at Aston is currently ranked Top 20 in the UK for Employability in the latest Guardian University Guide and Sunday Times University Guide.
  • Social Policy at Aston has been ranked 6th in the country in the Times Good University Guide 2013.
  • Politics at Aston achieved 95% Overall Satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey.

3 years full time or 4 years with integrated placement year

UCAS Code: L201

Typical Offers
A-levels
: ABB from 3 A-levels. General Studies accepted. 
IB: 33 points in the IB diploma including TOK/Bonus points. Standard level Maths and English 5 required.
Access: Pass Access to HE Diploma with Merit in each module.  Humanities or Social Sciences Access course preferred, but other courses considered on an individual basis.
BTEC: National Extended Diploma DDD.  Mix of Diploma/ Subsidiary Diploma/A-levels acceptable.

We accept a wide range of UK, EU and International qualifications: please contact us for further advice.

Specific subject requirements:
GCSE English Language and Maths Grade C.

Tuition fees 2014/15: £9,000 (£1,000 during placement year) for UK/EU students. More on fees

Applicants receiving offers are invited to an open day.

The Social Policy strand of the course examines the major economic and social issues facing governments across the world, and the policies developed and delivered by governments and other organisations. It builds upon various A-levels, including Politics (e.g. the role of the Government), Sociology (e.g. modern forms of power), Economics (e.g. market failure), Geography (e.g. globalisation) and Business Studies (e.g. Government support for enterprise). 

The Politics strand of the course is concerned with the study of government and political action. In year one you will study introductory modules in Politics, the European Union, and governance. At the core of your second year are modules dealing with the history of political thought, as well as a focus on British, foreign and domestic policy. In your final year a politics research dissertation on an agreed topic of your choice counts for a substantial and challenging part of your programme.

Sample module options

The following module descriptions are indications only - the modules on offer and the content of the modules is subject to change.

Click on the module titles to find out more.

Year 1

The module provides an introduction to the changing ways in which British governments and political parties have responded to the changing domestic and international environment, from the post-war period to date. Particular reference is made to the link between politics and economics, including industrial relations, and to British membership in international organizations. In Teaching Period 1 the main focus is on Domestic Politics, while in TP2 the main focus is on Britain’s Foreign Relations.

Assessment method: 2x 1,500 word essay (one for each Teaching Period, counting for 50% each).  
This module seeks to provide you with a good introductory knowledge of politics. We concentrate upon some of the basic elements of political study:  Power and Authority, Legitimacy, The State, Nationalism, Democracy, Representation, and Voting Systems. During Teaching Period 1, the emphasis is upon understanding these key political concepts and issues, and some of the key political thinkers. During Teaching Period 2, the module’s focus changes significantly. Here, you form research groups, focusing on a mutually agreed topic: Feminism, Capital Punishment, The Labour Party, The Euro zone Crisis – these are just four examples. Over the term, you organise the group’s research, meet up, plan your project, research it, present draft findings to the whole group, and submit a full research dossier at the end of term.

Assessment method: A 2-hour exam at the beginning of Teaching Period 2, and a (group) Research Dossier at the end of Teaching Period 2. (50 per cent each).

This module provides you with a good knowledge of formulating and analyzing research questions and presenting sources in an academically relevant way. Students will be able to learn to research, plan and structure an essay; acquire language specific features of essay writing; identify the research tools in the library; work into a virtual learning environment; and use electronic resources to polish their work.

Assessment: A Take Away Paper at the end of the Teaching Period.

This module provides an analytical and substantive overview of European history from 1789 to the present, with a focus on the post-1945 period. The module is structured thematically. Students will analyse and interrogate certain critical junctures in European history that have determined the shape of both the European continent and the contemporary world. The primary aim of the course is to provide an empirical background for students in the international history of Europe from the 19th to 21st centuries that will allow students to apply, contextualise and better understand the political science and international relations theories that form the focus of the other core modules.

Assessment: two examinations, 1x 2 hour (January), 1x 3 hour (May). 

This module seeks to provide you with a good understanding of the drivers for change in welfare and public services in recent years and in historical and comparative perspective.  You will gain knowledge of the theoretical and ideological basis of welfare and public services reform.  In the first term we focus on key theoretical concepts and explanations of welfare states and welfare state change.  In the second term we analyse processes of change in key public services.  The programme is delivered through lectures, student presentations and class discussion. 

Assessment method: two class tests during teaching period 1 (40%); a 2,500 word assignment in teaching period 2.

The module introduces students to public policy and the many forms it can take. It examines in detail the institutions of policy making.  Particular attention is paid to Westminster models of government compared with other models of government and policy – notably European and US models– and the ways in which the Westminster model has come to be challenged, both internally and externally.  Finally, the module examines various models of policy making and analysis, including those which see policy making as an exercise in more or less rational decision-making and those which place much greater emphasis on values, beliefs and meanings.

Assessment method: short essay (5%), exam (45%) in TP1. Essay (50%) in TP2.

This module introduces students to a variety of methodological approaches to social science research, and develops students’ research skills by giving them small tasks relating to these approaches. In Teaching Period 1, these tasks encourage students to evaluate their own interests, ideas about research and how you actually carry it out. In Teaching Period 2, they move from qualitative to quantitative methods, learning the basics of SPSS (a popular software package designed specifically for social scientists) and using an actual live database (the National Child Development Study) to do a project. This ‘Mixed Methods’ project requires the students to combine the qualitative skills they learned and developed in the first half of the module, with the statistical ones they learned at the beginning of Teaching Period 2 in order to analyse the database.


Assessment method: Portfolio in Teaching Period 1 (50%); Mixed methods project in Teaching Period 2 (50 per cent).

This course offers an introduction to the sociology of culture through the study of ‘popular culture’ (film, television, virtual media, popular music and art, advertising and informal education). The first part outlines sociological definitions of ‘culture’, illustrating how sociologists study culture and the methods we use to analyse cultural practices and products in a critical way. The second part interrogates different theoretical approaches to popular culture – culture as meaning-making in everyday life, culture as an instrument of domination and culture as a form of resistance – using case studies to explore the politics of culture in contemporary society.

Assessment method: Portfolio of coursework, due during exam period (100%)

Year 2

This module seeks to provide you with a broad understanding of the design and conduct of research into political and social topics. Students learn about the basic concepts related to the design and conduct of research, such as ontology and epistemology. They also learn about the main schools of political and social enquiry and the tools that are utilised in social science research. There is analysis of the main traps and pitfalls in the way that data is collected, manipulated and presented, so that students avoid these traps and are alert to abuses by others.

Assessment: An assignment or assignments to the equivalent of 1,800 words in TP2.

This module seeks to provide you with a strong understanding of the institutional configuration of the EU and how these institutions have been shaped by the relations between member states of the European Union. The module introduces you to the theories of European integration, and challenges you to assess competing views on the dynamics of the integration process over time. In the second part of the module, we explore a core set of policies areas of the EU, and students are asked to relate the politics and institutional make-up of the EU to developments in those policy fields. 

Assessment: A 2-hour exam at the beginning of Teaching Period 2.

This course introduces students to a variety of texts in the canon of political philosophy.  It begins with an account of ancient political philosophy taking into account the writings of Greek and Roman philosophers (Plato, Aristotle and Cicero) before delving into significant pre-modern authors; namely, Aquinas and the scholastic movement.  The second half of the course examines enlightened and modern themes of political philosophy through a thematic investigation of the social contract tradition, utilitarianism and modern criticisms of these ideas. 

Students are expected to produce two research papers (one per teaching period) and sit a cumulative final two-hour exam.   
This module introduces students to the contemporary issues and challenges facing governments in managing public expenditure, with particular reference to a number of policy arenas and experiences in European countries. This includes analysis of the political, historical and social factors influencing government expenditure decisions, international comparisons of government expenditure regimes, and public expenditure and welfare Services. Particular focus is also placed on the contemporary public deficit in many Western countries, including discussion of how such a situation has arisen and the various efforts to reduce deficits. 

Assessment menthod: The assessment is via a two-hour closed book examination. 
This module introduces students to the comparative method in public policy analysis; demonstrates its advantages and disadvantages; and enables students to undertake comparative analysis in practice, through examining case studies. It also deepens students’ knowledge of the influence of key international/transnational and domestic pressures on policy-making, and how these might differ in their impact between nations. Finally, it also provides students with an in-depth knowledge of a number of important policy case studies.    


Assessment method: 10% participation (assessed by module tutor), 90% written exam following end of module

This module provides students with a thorough grounding in the most influential approaches to explaining social policy development across nations. It examines traditional approaches to welfare state development and critiques of these approaches. The module also examines theories concerning welfare state retrenchment (those claiming there is a ‘new politics’ of welfare), and examines different core areas within social policy. Each area is chosen both for its overall importance within the mixed economy of welfare provision, and because it highlights differences in social policy-making and implementation between nations, and the challenges of social policy reform. 

Assessment method: 10% participation (assessed by module tutor), 90% written exam following end of module

This module seeks to introduce students to the key environmental challenges facing policy makers and their responses to these. We examine key theories such as risk society, ecological modernization and environmental economics and instruments of policy implementation, comparing regulatory, market and voluntary approaches.  We explore these in relation to specific areas of environmental policy, but with particular emphasis on climate change and climate change mitigation.  We examine policy making at the local, national and supranational level. The programme is delivered through lectures, student presentations and class discussion.  

Assessment method: a class test (20%) and a 2,500 word assignment.

Year 3 - Placement Year

Final Year

This module looks at the role of intellectuals in political life. It is historical and thematic, looking, for example, at intellectuals in the Dreyfus Affair, or during the 1920s and 30s, or today – their role in the Arab Spring, for example; or at specific individuals as expressions of the phenomenon: e.g. Orwell, and de Beauvoir. The module also examines the role of culture in the creation of intellectuals in a range of countries and epochs – why, for example, are intellectuals viewed so differently in different countries? The module also widens our focus to discuss whether other activities and roles should also be considered: artists, inventors, singers? Do these play a social and political role comparable to that of intellectuals? And what today is the role of celebrity culture in the creation of iconic individuals who affect the political process?


Assessment method: 3, 000-word essay

This module examines theories of leadership, and looks at the evolution of the phenomenon, in Europe and the United States, in Latin America, and beyond. We focus particularly upon the rhetoric and styles of particular leaders, and the ways in which they persuade and generate allegiance. How they ‘perform’ and what are the historical, cultural, and institutional conditions of their performance. We look at a range of leaders, often comparing them – Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, for example, or Churchill and de Gaulle. Some leaders we look at in minute detail: JFK’s press conferences, MLK’s March on Washington speech, X’s The Ballot or the Bullet, etc. We also look at particular issues, such as the changing conditions of leadership style, women in politics, political rhetoric, the role of culture, and the role of the media.

Assessment method: 3, 000-word essay

The module offers an introduction to central and east European politics. It begins with an overview of the events that led up to the collapse of communism, before considering the key themes that have dominated politics in this region since 1989. These include economic reform, democratic transition, institutional design, nationalism, security questions, accession to Nato and the EU and so on.

Assessment method: 1x 3000-word essay to be submitted at the end of the module.
This module considers the countries of the Western Balkans (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo) on their path to European integration and efforts in dealing with legacies of conflict and transition.  The module begins by looking at the recent past of the area – the 1991 collapse of Yugoslavia, 1992-1999 conflicts – and how these events have influence the subsequent political development of the successor states.  The module then considers the region’s various challenges including  post-conflict governance, statehood, intervention, ethnic tensions, war crimes, Kosovo independence and EU integration.

Assessment method: 3,000 word policy brief (100%)

This course aims to enable students to research in significant depth a topic in Politics, and address and elaborate key concepts used in the analysis of historical, political, social and cultural institutions and processes. This knowledge, and drawing upon previous modules studied in levels 1 and 2 form the conceptual, methodological and analytical bases for research into their topic. Students will produce an independently researched piece of work, supervised by a lecturer from Politics and International Relations.

Assessment method: 4,000-6,000 word dissertation (100%)

Extended Politics Dissertation (LP3006): 10,000 word dissertation (80%) and oral exam (20%)

This module introduces students to the contemporary issues and challenges facing governments in managing public expenditure, with particular reference to a number of policy arenas and experiences in European countries. This includes analysis of the political, historical and social factors influencing government expenditure decisions, international comparisons of government expenditure regimes, and public expenditure and welfare Services. Particular focus is also placed on the contemporary public deficit in many Western countries, including discussion of how such a situation has arisen and the various efforts to reduce deficits. 

Assessment method: The assessment is via a two-hour closed book examination. 
This module provides students with a thorough grounding in the most influential approaches to explaining social policy development across nations. It examines traditional approaches to welfare state development and critiques of these approaches. The module also examines theories concerning welfare state retrenchment (those claiming there is a ‘new politics’ of welfare), and examines different core areas within social policy. Each area is chosen both for its overall importance within the mixed economy of welfare provision, and because it highlights differences in social policy-making and implementation between nations, and the challenges of social policy reform.
 

Assessment method: 10% participation (assessed by module tutor), 90% written exam following end of module

The module has three core functions. First, it introduces students to the concept of ‘governance’, and indicates how this differs from traditional conceptions of ‘government’. It examines how ‘governance’ can be deployed in a variety of different ways, by considering the various governing functions. The module then considers in detail new governing methods such as the use of agencies, markets and networks. Finally, the module examines how governments have attempted to control these various types of governance, through the use of performance management and self-regulation.


Assessment method: 10% participation (assessed by module tutor), 90% written exam following end of module

This module introduces students to different types of economic development policy, the environment in which such policies arise, and the interaction between different organisations in the development and delivery of policies. This includes topics such globalisation, city marketing and community economic development. Particular focus is placed on the examination of different types of economic development policy through the exploration of contemporary case studies in a range of countries. Through such an approach it is possible to examine the complexities of creating and delivering policies.

Assessment method: The assessment is via a two-hour closed book examination. 

Placement Year  

The Placement Year is optional for students studying Politics and Social Policy. If you choose to take a placement year, this will take place during your third year at Aston and is worth 10% of the final degree result. Unlike some other universities, the placement year at Aston is not a ''bolt-on'' year, it is an integral part of your degree for which you are prepared in your second year.

A distinctive feature of our placement year is the flexibility that we offer. You will be able to choose between undertaking a paid work-experience placement with a company or working as a teaching assistant in a school (either in the UK or abroad) - you might even choose to combine two of these options.  

We are extremely proud of the high level of preparation, orientation and support that we provide before and during your year abroad. We have a full-time Placements Team who will give you plenty of individual help and advice, and even come and visit you during your time away.  

Find out more about the Placement Year.

Learning, teaching and assessment   

You will be involved in lectures and seminars, small group work projects and independent study. Many of your modules will be in workshop format, alternating theoretical input with practical analysis, and allowing you to test out your understanding in discussion with other students and your tutor. There are also opportunities for group and collaborative work. Students undertake a major piece of independent research in Final Year.

You will be allocated an academic supervisor for this work and a Personal Tutor who can provide you with help and advice throughout your studies.

Assessment is through a combination of exams, project-based course work, essays, presentations and an extended dissertation during your Final Year.

Career prospects   

Aston is ranked 5th in the UK and 1st outside London for graduate employability - beating Oxbridge (2012 Sunday Times University Guide).

Our graduates are in demand from a wide range of employers who value their understanding of different cultures and societies, their communication skills and motivation for team work.   Recent destinations for our Languages and Social Sciences graduates include:   

  • Graduate Trainee Managers for British Airways, Aldi Stores, John Lewis Partnership and Selfridges
  • Journalist for Tatler Magazine
  • European Union/European Parliament Officers/Assistants
  • Marketing Assistant at Beiersdorf (makers of NIVEA amongst other products) 
  • Trainee Accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers 
  • Case Worker - Crown Prosecution Service
  • PhD Forensic Linguistics - Aston University
  • MSc Human Resource Management, King's College London
  • Tenancy Support Worker, Midland Heart  
  • Islamic Relief – Orphan Support Officer

  • Worcestershire County Council – Project Support Manager
  • MA Political Thought & Theory

  • BAE Systems – Graduate Trainee (Finance)

  • Birmingham City Council – Project Assistant

  • Department of Constitutional Defence – Administrative Officer
  • National Probation Service – Training Probation Officer
  • Warwickshire County Council , Political Group Assis

Facilities & equipment

The School of Languages and Social Sciences has a dedicated Learning Support Team and excellent facilities including:

  • 70 computers in 4 rooms
  • Free DVD library (French, Spanish, German, English)
  • Audio and video-editing tools
  • corpus linguistics tools (Wordsmith and Antconc)
  • research software (NVIVO and PASW/SPSS)

Dr Nathaniel Copsey, Head of Politics and International Relations, Co-Director of the Aston Centre for Europe (ACE)

Nat Copsey

"Politics and international relations at Aston offers a fascinating insight into the challenges facing our societies in the 21st century. It is also home to the Aston Centre for Europe, a world-class research facility for the study of Europe which provides access the most up-to-date new thinking on all matters relating to Europe. We aim to prepare our students thoroughly for demanding, often international, careers and the placement year gives our students a distinct advantage on the graduate labour market.''

 

Contact Details

Tel: 0121 204 3777
Email: lss_ugadmissions@aston.ac.uk

Student Profile

Student Profile

Katrina Rattu

BSc Politics with International Relations

During my Placement Year I participated in the Erasmus scheme and it is the best thing that I have ever done! Studying in Turkey has so much to offer socially, culturally and academically. I visited Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and traveled within Turkey.

 

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Download the course brochure

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