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BSc Politics and Sociology

Why choose this course?
  • Sociology at Aston is 9th overall in the Guardian University Guide 2013
  • Politics & International Relations at Aston has been rated between 101-150 institutions globally for 2012-13, in the QS World University Rankings
  • Internationally recognised research, backed by the Aston Centre for Europe (ACE)

3 years full time or 4 years with integrated placement year

UCAS Code: LL42

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.

Subject guide and modules

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.

The Sociology strand of the course will provide you with an in-depth understanding of social processes, organisational dynamics and inter-group relationships. 

They combine an introduction to specific skills such as research design and use of comparative method, with an emphasis on social change. Strengths of the programme include its focus on key contemporary social issues, social policy and decision making, and international comparisons of social structures and policies.

Sample module options

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

Year 1

This module will introduce the major sociological traditions, focusing on the works of Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Simmel. Special focus will be given to the role of structure and agency, of economic and cultural factors, and of methodology.

Assessment method: 2 hour closed book examination (100%) at the end of TP1.

This module follows on from Classical Social Theory I and reviews some well-known and some not so well-known social theorists from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course examines the preoccupations of sociologists working in different times and contexts and considers the relationship between social theory and wider popular debates. Students will be expected to read original writing by key theorists and to link discussion of this material to a consideration of key themes in the course.

Assessment method: Assessment is by essay.

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 the first term, these tasks encourage students to evaluate their own interests, ideas about research and how you actually carry it out. In the second term, 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 the second term 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 module seeks to introduce students to sociological thinking around two key and overlapping areas; ‘social identities’ and ‘social inequalities’. During the first term, the emphasis will lie on learning how to develop critical analytical skills and introducing concepts of social class, ‘race’ nation. During the second term, the module will focus more on gender and sexuality. The aim with all of these sets of identities is to establish the ways in which they are constructed, and the maps of social inequalities on which they can be located.

Assessment method: Class test In Teaching Period 1 (10%); Assessed essay in Teaching Period 2 (40%); 2-hour exam in summer exam period (50 per cent each).

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%)

The module covers the period from the Industrial Revolution to Blair’s election victory in 1997 and concentrates on the experiences of ordinary people as they respond to events unfolding around them.  It gives considerable emphasis to the relationship between contemporary society and the events which shaped it, in addition to considering the global impact of Britain’s history. 

Assessment method: 50% exam, 50% essay.

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).

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 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 method: two examinations, 1x 2 hour (January), 1x 3 hour (May). 
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 method: A Take Away Paper at the end of the Teaching Period.

Year 2

This module offers an introduction to key concepts and debates in contemporary social theory, helping students to build a theoretical ‘toolbox’ and an understanding of how theory can be both applied and created. The first half of the course paints a broad picture of the relationship between intellectual and social change during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The second half focuses thematically on ‘big questions’, including problems of global capitalism; post-modern notions of identity, emotion and ‘the body’; and the relationships between culture, economy and social change.

Assessment method: essay (50%), exam (50%).

This module equips student with the skills they need to carry out qualitative research.  Those skills are also necessary to interpret effectively research done by other scholars.  Teaching combines theory and practical workshops, culminating in a group research project. 

Assessment method: An exam in January counts for 50%, the group project accounting for the remaining 50%
This module seeks to enable students to acquire a competent understanding of the ways in which different social inequalities intersect with ‘race’, and the complexity of social inequalities. In doing so, they will be able to conceptualise the social (i.e. dynamic) rather than natural character of ‘race’ using specialist literature, and demonstrate a critical understanding of the key debates around racism. The concepts explored in this module include; ‘race’, racism(s), racialisation, and ‘intersectionality’. The substantive areas through which these are then developed are migration into the UK from 1948 to the present; the impact of the European Union on British migration policy; the politics of immigration in Britain; and responses to Asylum-seeking in the Contemporary UK.


Assessment method: Assessed essay (2,000 words).

This module explores competing feminist theories through focusing on topics within the sociology of the body. It uses empirical studies to explain and explore theoretical issues and assist the understanding of a number of key feminist theorists. The empirical studies will also introduce sociological understanding on a range of social and political issues including the aging society and the growth of cosmetic surgery. It will also explore the social construction of bodily issues such as love and sexuality.

Assessment method: essay (30%), exam (70%).
This module introduces debates about the city, urban sociology and how we live together. We take Birmingham and the West Midlands as a focus of discussion, in order to explore wider debates about changes in the urban landscape, representations of urban life, the place of cities in society and the impact of globalisation. Course aims include: to understand key debates in urban sociology and to be able to apply these debates to local and regional contexts; to consider key themes in the development of sociology through an examination of local and regional examples; to apply key concepts from the field to local and regional examples, including through the formulation of research questions and projects; to become familiar with influential examples of social research that have been based in the locality and region.

Assessment method: coursework in the form of 100% essay.

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. 

Assessment method: Students are expected to produce two research papers (one per teaching period) and sit a cumulative final two-hour exam.   

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 method: A 2-hour exam at the beginning of Teaching Period 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 method: An assignment or assignments to the equivalent of 1,800 words in TP2.

Year 3 - Placement Year

Final Year

This module offers students the opportunity to undertake an independent project of social research. The topic and methodology are chosen through consultation with an academic supervisor, and may address any sociological problem using appropriate method(s). The module is an advanced exploration of designing, conducting and presenting social research; undertaking independent intellectual work; and extending critical and organisational abilities. There are six taught sessions during the first term which outline the research process and strategies for organising independent work. The remaining time is spent on independent study in cooperation with individual supervisors.

Assessment method: Viva of work in progress, during term (10%, TP1), written dissertation of 6,000-8,000 words, due during exam period (90%, TP2)

This module examines the social and cultural relations of human reproduction. It outlines the ways in which ideals about femininity, masculinity, gender relationships and ‘normal’ families are present in debates about who should and should not have children. It introduces a range of feminist theories on human reproduction and draws on empirical studies to explain and explore theoretical issues. It shows the interrelationship between social structures and controls over human reproduction, and how studying the way that society understands human reproduction helps to understand these wider social structures.

Assessment method: essay (100%).
Through the systematic examination of a series of theoretical perspectives underpinned by relevant empirical examples, the module explores corporations as social actors, paying particular attention to their ability to shape the world according to their interests. Case studies include Rupert Murdoch and News International, and the Oil Industry. 

Assessment method: exam.
In this module students will develop an understanding of the specialist literature relating to the topics taught, and the skills required to critically engage with the three key terms in the module’s title both in relation to a variety of subject areas, and as intersecting lines of identity.

The field of study is drawn from the scholarship on racism, and we note the many overlaps and connections between the three systems of inequality; ‘race’, class and gender. There is a deliberate attempt to mix historical and contemporary subject matter, as well as to use international points of comparison. The range of substantive areas addressed includes; ‘race’ and science; slavery and its legacy; eugenics & Social Darwinism; segregation; white identities; mixed-ness, and anti-Nomadism.

Assessment method: Assessed essay (3000 words).

This module looks at changes in society brought about by campaigning groups and protest.  It combines theory and case studies in order to examine the relationship between social movements and social change.  Case studies range from the US civil rights movement to the current “Occupy” protests. 

Assessment method: The module is assessed by exam

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 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%)

The Placement Year is optional for students studying Politics and Sociology. 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.


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 fro 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.

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
  • Warwickshire County Council - Political Group Assistant
  • Journalist for Tatler Magazine
  • Birmingham City Council – Project Assistant
  • European Union/European Parliament Officers/Assistants
  • London Borough of Bexley – Policy and Planning Officer

  • Marks and Spencer – Finance and Commercial Managers

  • Trainee Accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers 
  • Case Worker - Crown Prosecution Service
  • Birmingham City Council – Organisational Development Officer

  • PhD Research in Public Sector Management, Sociology and Society

  • MSc Human Resource Management, King's College London
  • Tenancy Support Worker, Midland Heart  

Professor John Gaffney - Professor of Politics

John Gaffney

“I became interested in politics because, when I was younger, I realised everything was political in some way – whether you could afford to go to university, for example – or whether you could afford not to! I became particularly interested in how leaders persuaded us of what we should do about injustices in the world, and how to make things better. All my teaching and research are about leadership and persuasion and how the world works politically. One really fascinating thing to do is to compare different countries to see similarities and differences between their histories and political cultures. My favourite place (outside the UK!) is France, and I often appear on British and French TV and radio, and I blog, and write in letters to The Guardian and do opinion pieces for New Statesman, Cnn.opinion, huffington post etc to try and persuade people I am right!”

Dr Chrissie Rogers - Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Chrissie Rogers

“Sociology enables us to understand the personal and private lives of individuals and engage with the messy nature of everyday life. All of this can then be viewed in the context of the public sphere. For example, one of my areas of research is around the impacts of inclusion and exclusion for children and young people and in the UK ‘Every Child Matters’ promotes a meaningful sense of well-being for all children and ‘Education for All’ positions a global inclusive education strategy. These are just two of the policy contexts that address education as a means to promote inclusion and meaningful learning. But do they? Large numbers of pupils are not included, have poor educational experiences and are either marginalised or demonised. Education is failing children and young people. Not least of all because they are disengaged, alienated and excluded from a meaningful learning process. League tabling and competitive schooling is stifling. We need to address these divisions as sociologists. This focus is just one area that within teaching sociology we can really get to the heart of understanding difference and diversity. More broadly, as a sociologist I have written Parenting and Inclusive Education, Critical Approaches to Care (with Susie Weller) as well as working on Intellectual Disability and Social Theory.”

Contact Details

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

Student Profile

Student Profile

Michelle Lee

BSc Politics and Sociology

My placement year was spent in one of the busiest cities in the world, Central London. This gave me an incredible insight into the Consulting world and a fantastic opportunity to network across the globe. IBM sets their standards well above the average and gave me challenging roles that truly provided me with an invaluable life experience.

 

Graduate Profile

Graduate Profile

Chloe Piper, Graduate 2013

BSc Sociology

During my Placement Year I worked full time in a homeless centre in Central London. I worked as a fundraiser and also helped to run activity sessions in creative writing, ICT and art. My Placement Year helped me discover what field I want to go into after I graduate.

 

Download the course brochure

Download the course brochure

Fees & funding

Fees & funding

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Accommodation

Accommodation

Outstanding graduate career prospects

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