BSc Sociology and Social Policy  

Why choose this course?

  • Social Policy at Aston has been ranked 6th in the country in the Times Good University Guide 2013
  • Sociology at Aston is currently ranked Top 20 in the UK in the 2015 Guardian University Guide.
  • Sociology at Aston achieved 97% Overall Satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey.

3 years full time or 4 years with integrated placement year

UCAS Code: LL24

Typical Offers
: BBB from 3 A-levels. General Studies accepted. 

If your predicted grades are close to those stated in Aston's typical offers and if you are interested in Aston University and the courses we offer we encourage you to apply to us as one of your 5 UCAS choices. In addition to your predicted grades, when making offers we also consider your previous academic performance (eg AS grades, GCSEs), your school/college reference and the commitment and motivation you demonstrate for your chosen course via the personal statement. Applicants and their teachers/advisers are welcome to contact us with individual queries about entry qualifications via lss_ugadmissions@aston.ac.uk.

View our Admissions Policy. 

IB: 32-33 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

Sociology and Social Policy is a multi-disciplinary programme that 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).

You will investigate the economic, social and political forces which influence government decision-making, and which give rise to conflict between the achievement of economic, environmental and social objectives. You will also examine why governments take particular decisions in key policy areas and develop a detailed understanding of processes of policy making at a global, national and local levels of government.

You will also study the nature of policy delivery and management by various organisations, such as local governments, schools and businesses. Finally, and most importantly, the programme explores in depth the outcomes and consequences of various government policies on the economy and society.

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

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 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 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.

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: Short papers submitted during each term (30% overall) and a 2,000-word essay due during each exam period (70% overall)

This course builds on students understanding of research methods studies in year 1 and aims to expand and depend methodological understanding. It will expand alow the students to develop a greater understanding of how research methods shape what we know about the world and the strengths and weakness of different approaches. It will have a particular emphasis on undertaking analysis and ensure that students know who interpret data both through manual analysis and using software such as NVIVO. 

Methods of Assessment: 
Quantitative Methods task (Group work - Teaching Period One)        35%
Qualitative Methods task (Individual - Teaching Period Two)              35%
Exam    MEP                                                                               30%

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); 2-hour exam at the end of relevant Teaching Period (50 per cent each).

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: two pieces of coursework.

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 introduces students to sociological understandings of crime and examines criminal justice policy. It will explore what crime is and the ‘causes’ and consequences of crime. The module will also examine the construction of the criminal justice system and the implications this has ‘criminals’, ‘victims’ and wider society. The module will explore crime, subversion and injustice from a critical perspective which students will develop the tools to understand the social processes involved in defining crime and enacting punishment.

Assessment method: exam.

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)

The module is delivered through a mix of formal lectures, assessed, student-led tutorial presentations and individual tutoring support. The lectures are designed to inculcate basic understandings and contextual information. The tutorials are intended to hone students’ critical and evaluative skills, with specific reference to the application of performance review in the field of Local Economic Development.

Assessment method: The assessment is via a two-hour closed book examination.  The exam will focus on the key learning outcomes of developing the ability of students to explain and critically evaluate academic studies and actual policy decisions on economic development policy. 
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 use of economic, regulatory and informational measures). The module then considers in detail three relatively (if not entirely) new governing methods: 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: Summative assessment will be provided through a 3,000 word essay due in during week 12 (90%) and on student participation in class discussions, group presentations and production of article reviews (10%).
The regulation of risk has become a key element of government and the market, with important debates arising from the perceived failure of state and market regulation in the recent financial crisis.  Further still, we are witnessing major changes in the relationship between government and the market as the former implements new regulatory strategies in response to the financial crisis.  This module is intended to develop students’ ability to explain and critically evaluate theories, debates and real world practices of risk and regulation.  It will examine the differing explanations of the development, implementation and effectiveness of broad regulatory governance arrangements of the market.  This includes exploring the factors that influence regulatory governance and their success and failure. 

Assessment method:  

The assessment is through a 3,000 word coursework assignment.  The coursework requires students to display an ability to explain and evaluate theories of risk and regulation, and critically appraise debates on their effectiveness.  Students are also expected to be able to examine the relationship between theory and practice, particularly in terms of explaining and assessing key issues facing regulation, and the contribution of theory to understanding current regulatory arrangements. 

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 aims show how although rooted in biological issues health and illness are not reducible to them. It will begin by introducing key theories and empirical evidence to demonstrate a range of issues such as the relationship between social inequalities and health and the social construction of medical power. It will introduce students to some of the debates about medical uncertainty and changes in the relationship between health consumers/users and professionals. The second half of the module will examine in depth particular health policy issues including the ageing society, food and drug and alcohol policy. 

Assessment method: Seminar presentaion (10%), Seminar paper (10%), Exam (80%)
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: exam.

The Placement Year is optional for students studying Sociology 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.

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 organisations, 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  

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

For further information, see the Sociology and Social Policy programme specification.

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 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

Graduate Profile

Graduate Profile

Amy Leighton, Graduate 2012

BSc Sociology and Business

I undertook my first 12 month placement at a creative undergraduate agency, designing marketing campaigns for companies such Morgan Stanley, UBS and Nestle. My Placement Year strengthened my ability to communicate with others effectively and take on vast amounts of responsibility quickly. I now work as a Product Marketing Manager for Atos.


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