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BSc International Relations and Sociology  

Why choose this course?

  • International Relations at Aston is currently ranked Top 20 in the UK for Employability in the latest Guardian University Guide and Sunday Times University Guide.

  • International Relations at Aston achieved 95% Overall Satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey.

  • Sociology at Aston is currently ranked Top 15 in the UK for Employability in the 2015 Complete 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: LL2H

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.

Our BSc in International Relations and Sociology offers a fascinating insight into the sociological and political challenges facing our society in the 21st century. This multi-disciplinary programme provides a comprehensive understanding of social and political processes, the sociology of inter-group relations and the relationships between states. You will examine the roles played by organisations, international institutions, multi-national corporations and NGOS. You will also benefit from teaching staff who are internationally recognised researchers in fields such as ethnic and gender equalities, global change, theories of social change, relations between the European Union and its eastern neighbours, as well as the politics and governance of Poland and the Ukraine. Strengths of the programme include its focus on key contemporary issues, policy and decision making, and international comparisons of structures and policies. The placement year is an optional feature of the programme and is designed to give you real life experience and to act as a springboard for your future career. Our International Relations and Sociology graduates are in demand from a wide range of employers where a sound understanding of societies, organisations, institutions and communication skills are required.

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

 

Number of credits: 10

Module content: 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.

Method of learning and teaching: The seminars develop discussions and debates on matters raised in lectures informed by reading specified. Thus prepared students will have the opportunity to discuss critically theories and themes arising from the texts and relate them to contemporary issues.

Assessment method: 2 hour closed book examination (100%).

 

Number of credits: 20

 

Module content: 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 offers an introduction into world politics and international relations. We inhabit a world of rapid change and solid knowledge of the underlying structures, dynamics and processes of international relations will be essential for your future professional (and private) life. During Teaching Period 1, we will focus on the pillars of the state system, introduce some key concepts, the theoretical traditions of realism and liberalism and examine the causes of cooperation and conflict. During Teaching Period 2, our emphasis will be on international law and international organisations such as the UN and the EU. We will also look at the structure of the global political economy, analysing the global financial system, international trade and development. We will also investigate topics such as environmental issues, terrorism and religion in international relations.


Assessment method: Two-Hour exam at the end of each Teaching Period (50% 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 method: 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 method: two examinations, 1x 2 hour (January), 1x 3 hour (May). 

Year 2

 

Number of credits: 20

 

Module content: 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.

Method of learning and teaching: Lectures will introduce new authors and concepts, place them in historical context and illustrate how they can be used to analyse contemporary social problems. Lectures hence offer a general framework for discussions and independent study. By reading and writing independently, students will work to understand complex ideas. They will also develop skills of thinking more critically about how the material they learn is connected to other ideas and to their own beliefs and experiences. Class discussion provides space for students to explore their reading and reflections in more depth, raise questions, offer critiques and apply concepts to concrete examples.

 

Assessment method: Essay of 2000 words (50%), exam (50%).

 

Number of credits: 10

Module content: 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.

Method of learning and teaching: Lectures and seminars. Materials include journal articles, reports, film, YouTube, music.

 

Assessment method: Essay (2,000 words) (100%)

 

Number of credits: 10

Module content: 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.

Method of learning and teaching: This module will be taught via prescribed reading and weekly classes. Students need to attend all classes, but the reading is the central element for student learning. The classes will have an element of lectures which to introduce concepts and theories and place the prescribed reading in context. They will also allow students to explore the reading in depth and develop their critical thinking around the issues through discussion. 

Assessment method: essay (30%), exam (70%).

Number of credits: 20

Module content: 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. 

Method of learning and teaching: Lectures will present theoretical and methodological aspects of the module and earth these in practical research. Seminars will allow students to present and discuss key issues in the research process.  

Assessment method: Coursework (50%), exam (50%)
Analysing  dynamics and events in world politics does not happen in a conceptual and theoretical vacuum. Theoretical approaches provide us with the tools to make sense of the complex and colourful reality that is contemporary international relations. In this 20-cr module we will look at the various competing theoretical frameworks of international relations. We will learn how international relations has developed as an academic discipline through the analysis of four theoretical debates that constitute international relations. We will also discuss how political philosophy has influenced the way we view contemporary world politics.

Assessment method: Essay in Teaching Period 1 (50%), Exam in Teaching Period 2 (50%)

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 introduces students to key debates in security studies. The course is a mix of theoretical inquiry and empirical application. First, the module introduces students to the development of key theoretical perspectives in security studies., such as the traditional schools of realism and liberalism, through to critical security studies, constructivism and human security amongst others. After this, the module moves on to a range of traditional and non-traditional security challenges, and using the theoretical frameworks introduced, discusses issues including warfare, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, organized crime, human trafficking and the defence trade.   
  

Assessment method: exam (50%) and 2,000 – 3,000 word group report (50%)

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)

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: exam.
Ethics and international politics asks students to engage both theoretically and practically with contentious issues of contemporary world politics.  The first half of the course is dedicated to ethical theories of international politics which are then used in the second half of the course to engage with themes which involve, but are not limited to, violent conflict, humanitarian intervention, torture, human rights and the just war tradition.  Throughout the term students are ask to produce a weekly reflective diary to be submitted for both formative and summative evaluations prior to producing a final research paper reflecting on the wider themes of ethics and morality within the structures of international politics.  
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 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 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.

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 International Relations and Sociology graduates include:   

  • Campaign Assistant, Conservative Party

  • Graduate Trainee, Tesco

  • Research Executive, Info Group / Orc International

  • PR Graduate Trainee, Lidl

  • Project Coordinator, International Bridges to Justice

  • Junior Publicist, Warner Bros Pictures

  • Worcestershire County Council, Project Support Manager

  • Graduate Trainee, BAE Systems

  • Project Assistant, Birmingham City Council

  • Orphan Support Officer, Islamic Relief

  • Trainee Probation Officer, National Probation Service

  • Political Group Assistant, Warwickshire County Council

  • Project Officer, Worcester City Council

  • Support Worker, Future Homecare

  • Graduate Management Trainee, Lloyds Bank

  • Theatrical Marketing, Warner Brothers

  • Case Worker, Crown Prosecution Service

  • Management Trainee for the NHS

  • Graduate Trainees for: Warwickshire County Council, Nestlé, Deloitte and Touche

  • Postgraduate Degrees at a range of institutions (e.g. Aston, University of Birmingham, Warwick University, University of Durham, King’s College London, SOAS and LSE).


You will participate in lectures, tutorials, seminars, group and individual project work. The courses deal with many topical issues, and as a result we try to incorporate current media coverage and public debates into class discussions and to link these to academic research and commentary wherever possible.

You will be require expertise in critical reading, writing, research and presentation. For his reason, many of our courses are designed to help you develop skills in these areas. You will undertake a range of different kinds of course work and research, from informal interventions into issues of concern to formal research dissertations. Modules are assessed through essays, written and oral exams, project work and presentations.

For further information, see the International Relations Joint Honours programme specification and the Sociology Joint Honours programme specification.

Dr Chrissie Rogers - Senior Lecturer in Sociology

“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.”

Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations 

Read what the staff have to say about their courses:

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.”

Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations 

Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik

“My research focuses on post-conflict societies and their democratisation and reconciliation, drawing on Serbia and Kosovo as specific cases. Throughout my research, I also collaborate with other scholars, and therefore the issues that I look at can be quite wide ranging. For instance, I’ve recently investigated how Serbia as a society deals with war crimes and legacies of the past, but also how Serbia and Kosovo – previously at war – interact in peacetime. Much of this feeds directly into my teaching. I teach a module called ‘Conflict and Politics in Contemporary Balkans’, where I include insights from my research and trips to the region. On a module called ‘Conflict, Intervention and Reconciliation’, there are sessions dedicated to post-conflict justice and prosecuting of war crimes, so Serbia and Kosovo often feature as examples which we compare to other parts of the world. Most recently, I spent some time at the Centre for European Studies, Harvard, as a visiting scholar, where I worked on a new research project on social movements in Serbia. There is a rich tradition of protest and social movements in the Western Balkans more generally, so this will be the basis of one of the lectures I will teach next semester.”

The placement year is optional for students studying International Relations 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.

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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Download the course brochure

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