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Session: 2022/23

Last modified: 04/07/2022 11:33:08

Title of Module: Contemporary Social Issues & Policy Responses

Code: SOCY09054 SCQF Level: 9
(Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework)
Credit Points: 20 ECTS: 10
(European Credit Transfer Scheme)
School:School of Education & Social Sciences
Module Co-ordinator:L  Poole

Summary of Module

This module explores in detail the idea of social policy as a contested terrain. Students engage with a problem-solving approach to present-day social issues by focusing on dominant constructions and discourses and identifying the assumptions that underpin them. The module explores the links between explanations of social issues, powerful constructions/discourses and the shape and focus of the policy responses of government policymakers. Students will be asked to deconstruct ‘social issues’ and policy responses, critically assess them and consider alternative ways of conceptualising, understanding and tackling these ‘problems’ in society, with reference to competing constructions and counter discourses. In doing so, they will also be asked to consider the strengths and weaknesses of particular approaches and the barriers to adopting new ones.

The issues that are explored vary from year to year depending on what is of contemporary interest and the focus of public debate as well as staff research and expertise.  Examples of possible topics include:

·       asylum and refugee policy

·       models of disability and disability policy

·       young people, youth policy and discourses of care and control

·       unemployment and welfare to work strategies

·       policy responses to benefit fraud and tax avoidance

·       food poverty, food insecurity and the rights-based approach to food

·       constructions of ‘crises’ and policy responses to the politics of austerity


Each topic/case study example is examined with reference to the concepts of social divisions, inequality, power and contestation with a view to widening the student’s critical gaze


Module Delivery Method
Face-To-FaceBlendedFully OnlineHybridCHybridOWork-based Learning
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Term used to describe the traditional classroom environment where the students and the lecturer meet synchronously in the same room for the whole provision.

A mode of delivery of a module or a programme that involves online and face-to-face delivery of learning, teaching and assessment activities, student support and feedback. A programme may be considered “blended” if it includes a combination of face-to-face, online and blended modules. If an online programme has any compulsory face-to-face and campus elements it must be described as blended with clearly articulated delivery information to manage student expectations

Fully Online
Instruction that is solely delivered by web-based or internet-based technologies. This term is used to describe the previously used terms distance learning and e learning.

Online with mandatory face-to-face learning on Campus

Online with optional face-to-face learning on Campus

Work-based Learning
Learning activities where the main location for the learning experience is in the workplace.

Campus(es) for Module Delivery
The module will normally be offered on the following campuses / or by Distance/Online Learning: (Provided viable student numbers permit)
Paisley:Ayr:Dumfries:Lanarkshire:London:Distance/Online Learning:Other:
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Term(s) for Module Delivery
(Provided viable student numbers permit).
Term 1check markTerm 2


Term 3


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Learning Outcomes: (maximum of 5 statements)

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

L1. Develop knowledge about a range of current social issues.

L2. Understand the processes through which certain issues are defined as social problems in particular societies at particular times.

L3. Understand the relationship between how a social problem is defined and understood, and the policy responses that may follow.

L4. Critically assess the policy responses to these problems, including financial and other constraints, and identify alternative responses that may be available to policymakers.

L5. Engage with the idea that social policy is a contested terrain that can be understood and analysed through the lenses of social division, inequalities and power.

Employability Skills and Personal Development Planning (PDP) Skills
SCQF Headings During completion of this module, there will be an opportunity to achieve core skills in:
Knowledge and Understanding (K and U) SCQF Level 9.

A broad understanding of social policy debates in present-day Britain.

Specific knowledge about of key areas of current social policy.

Practice: Applied Knowledge and Understanding SCQF Level 9.

Analysing documents relating to social issues and policy critically.

Retrieving a variety of secondary sources on social policy.

Generic Cognitive skills SCQF Level 9.

Analysing academic and government policy documents and interpreting issues relating to social policy.

Communication, ICT and Numeracy Skills SCQF Level 9.

Present complex arguments and data in seminars settings; engage in critical debate about policy options; word process; use the internet for research purposes; interpret and understand statistical information; write essays and précis complex academic analysis.

Autonomy, Accountability and Working with others SCQF Level 9.

Demonstrate a capacity for independent research using internet and library sources of data.

Demonstrate a capacity for time management in meeting formal deadlines for the submission of written work.

Pre-requisites: Before undertaking this module the student should have undertaken the following:
Module Code:
Module Title:
Co-requisitesModule Code:
Module Title:

* Indicates that module descriptor is not published.

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Learning and Teaching
Weekly asynchronous lecture sessions (powerpoint slides with audio/transcription) across the teaching period with in-built activities and reflection exercises, supplemented by weekly
synchronous seminars delivered via the VLE (centring on core readings and questions for discussion) and skills and assessment-focused activities and Q and A forum sessions

Students will also be required to complete regular self-directed and lecturer-directed learning and research-focused activities which will include engaging with the relevant published literature and research on key topics. It is anticipated that students will also develop their group work and argumentation skills through their seminar participation and the self-directed learning tasks set by the teaching team.
Learning Activities
During completion of this module, the learning activities undertaken to achieve the module learning outcomes are stated below:
Student Learning Hours
(Normally totalling 200 hours):
(Note: Learning hours include both contact hours and hours spent on other learning activities)
Lecture/Core Content Delivery24
Tutorial/Synchronous Support Activity12
Independent Study164
200 Hours Total

**Indicative Resources: (eg. Core text, journals, internet access)

The following materials form essential underpinning for the module content and ultimately for the learning outcomes:

Given the focus on contemporary issues, reading lists are provided for each individual topic. These are updated each year in line with topic changes and developments in the discipline, and are made available to students in the form of an integrated Module Outline. That said the following journals will be key:

Critical Social Policy

Journal of Poverty and Social Justice

Social Policy and Society

(**N.B. Although reading lists should include current publications, students are advised (particularly for material marked with an asterisk*) to wait until the start of session for confirmation of the most up-to-date material)

Engagement Requirements

In line with the Academic Engagement Procedure, Students are defined as academically engaged if they are regularly engaged with timetabled teaching sessions, course-related learning resources including those in the Library and on the relevant learning platform, and complete assessments and submit these on time. Please refer to the Academic Engagement Procedure at the following link: Academic engagement procedure

Where a module has Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body requirements these will be listed here:
All fulltime students (part-time and distant learning students should check with their programme leader for any queries) are required to attend all scheduled classes and participate with all delivered elements of the module as part of their engagement with their programme of study. Consideration will be given to students who have protection under the appropriate equality law. Please refer to UWS Regulations, Chapter 1, 1.64 – 1.67, available at the following link:

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Supplemental Information

Programme BoardSocial Sciences
Assessment Results (Pass/Fail) No
Subject PanelUG Social Sciences – Sociology & Social Policy
ModeratorV Fuertes(TBC)
External ExaminerA Tresidder
Accreditation Details
Version Number


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Assessment: (also refer to Assessment Outcomes Grids below)
Short Assessment Activity 1 (25 % Assessment Weighting)
Essay (50% Assessment Weighting)
Short Assessment Activity 2 (25 % Assessment Weighting)
(N.B. (i) Assessment Outcomes Grids for the module (one for each component) can be found below which clearly demonstrate how the learning outcomes of the module will be assessed.
(ii) An indicative schedule listing approximate times within the academic calendar when assessment is likely to feature will be provided within the Student Handbook.)

Assessment Outcome Grids (Footnote A.)

Component 1
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Learning Outcome (5) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Case studycheck markcheck markcheck markcheck markcheck mark250

Component 2
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Learning Outcome (5) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Essaycheck markcheck markcheck markcheck markcheck mark500

Component 3
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Learning Outcome (5) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Presentationcheck markcheck markcheck markcheck markcheck mark250
Combined Total For All Components100% 0 hours

A. Referred to within Assessment Section above
B. Identified in the Learning Outcome Section above

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  1. More than one assessment method can be used to assess individual learning outcomes.
  2. Schools are responsible for determining student contact hours. Please refer to University Policy on contact hours (extract contained within section 10 of the Module Descriptor guidance note).
    This will normally be variable across Schools, dependent on Programmes &/or Professional requirements.

Equality and Diversity
UWS Equality and Diversity Policy

Aligned with the overall commitment to equality and diversity stated in the Programme Specifications, the module supports equality of opportunity for students from all backgrounds and with different learning needs. Using Moodle, learning materials will be presented electronically in formats that allow flexible access and manipulation of content (part-time and distant learning students should check with their programme leader for any queries). The module complies with University regulations and guidance on inclusive learning and teaching practice. Specialist assistive equipment, support provision and adjustment to assessment practice will be made in accordance with UWS policy and regulations. The University’s Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Policy can be accessed at the following link:

Our partners are fully committed to the principles and practice of inclusiveness and our modules are designed to be accessible to all. Where this module is delivered overseas, local equivalent support for students and appropriate legislation applies.

UWS Equality and Diversity Policy
(N.B. Every effort will be made by the University to accommodate any equality and diversity issues brought to the attention of the School)

2014 University of the West of Scotland

University of the West of Scotland is a Registered Scottish Charity.

Charity number SC002520.