Important notice – campus change This course will move to the Belfast campus in September 2019. Students will change campus part way through this course. Find out more
Students have rated our Social Policy courses at Ulster with 100% 'overall satisfaction'in the NSS three times! - in 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Our Social Policy course focuses on key contemporary social policy issues and problems facing modern society. The course critically analyses how (and why) social policies are formed and implemented in the UK, and international social policy analysis considers the EU and beyond. A strong research methods component runs throughout the first two years of the course, as do historical and contemporary perspectives of underpinning theories and concepts, equipping the student for a synthesis of knowledge and understanding to inform the final year specialist modules. We maintain a strong focus on employability, practical social research skills, and a range of soft skills, necessary for employment in a range of jobs in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
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About this course
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The course critically analyses how and why social policies are formed and implemented in the UK and internationally: how key issues and problems of poverty, inequality and social need are impacted by the theories, politics, governance and delivery of welfare. The course maintains a strong focus on employability and provides a robust combination of theoretical and applied knowledge and understanding, practical social research skills and a range of soft skills, necessary for employment in the public, private and voluntary sectors. Social Policy at Ulster has recently three times received 100% 'overall satisfaction'in the annual UK National Student Survey; in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Social Policy at Ulster was rated 2nd place in the UK for student satisfaction in the 2016 University Subject League Tables of 'The Complete University Guide'.
Course duration, part-time mode, is typically five years.
Our full-time Social Policy degrees comprise 18 modules: six at year 1 (level 4), six at year 2 (level 5), and 6 at year 3 (level 6).
Full-time students are required to study six 20-credit modules at level 4 (year 1), six at level 5 (year 2), and six at level 6 (year 3),totalling 180 credits at each level. Each module will normally involve two hours of lectures plus a one-hour seminar each week, for the 12-week teaching period. For each module, students are required to undertake a further 168 hours of directed independent learning, totalling 200 effort hours for each module. Attendance at lectures and seminars is compulsory.
Part-time studentsare required to complete a minimum of one module per semester but can chose to study a maximum of two modules per semester if they prefer. This means a minimum of two and a maximum of four modules per year in part-time study mode. The Course Director will work with you at the beginning of your studies to discuss and agree an appropriate choice and sequence of modules studied, based on how many modules you wish to complete per year.
Opting to study this degree programme on a part-time basis affords flexibility both in the speed at which you wish to learn and in being able to juggle paid work and other activities alongside your part-time study.
- September 2017
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
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The Subject Committee will consider a range of qualifications, experience and other evidence of ability to complete the course satisfactorily when considering applications for part-time study.
You must satisfy the General Entrance Requirements for admission to a first degree course and hold a GCSE pass in English Language at grade C or above (or equivalent). The Faculty of Social Sciences will accept Essential Skills Level 2 Communication as equivalent to GCSE English Language.
English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
Additional Entry Requirements
This course is a 'regulated and/or care position' within the meaning of the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (NI) Order 2003 (POCVA) and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007. It may involve access to children and/or vulnerable adults and is therefore subject to an Access NI criminal history check, the fee for which is £33.
Teaching and learning assessment
The overall aim of the undergraduate provision is to produce policy-literate citizens, as well as graduates with a range of intellectual, professional and transferable skills appropriate to the personal and employability demands of a competitive labour market. These aims of the provision are all in line with the QAA Social Policy Benchmark Statement.
For knowledge and understanding
Learning and Teaching Methods -Lectures, seminars, supervised group-work sessions, directed reading, blended learning using Blackboard Learn, case study work, directed electronic information retrieval, independent learning, and a work-based-learning six-week placement (and a shorter placement for combined degrees) will be used to impart knowledge and understanding of the subject.
Assessment Methods -A broad range of assessment methods are used to measure knowledge and understanding of the subject, including academic essays; report writing; policy analysis/policy brief-writing; directed seminar discussions, small-group project work; writing and delivering seminar papers; class tests; online tests; the dissertation, the placement (Placement Supervisor’s assessment), and unseen examinations.
Development of intellectual abilities
Learning and Teaching Methods -The importance of understanding, recognising and developing intellectual qualities is emphasised to all students at the start of their level 4 studies; and is reiterated at level 5 and especially at level 6. In line with this, and throughout all undergraduate levels, the staff team will actively encourage the development of intellectual abilities and sensitivities through all teaching and learning methods, where possible.
Assessment Methods -The value of scholarship-led and research-led teaching towards developing intellectual abilities will be primarily assessed through the traditional academic essay. This assessment method allows students to clearly demonstrate achievement of the learning outcomes against detailed assessment criteria. Self-reflectivity and the ability for the students to critically reflect on their own performance, attitude and intellectual understanding and development, will be assessed through Reflective Learning Logs, simulation activity and through self-assessment of their submitted work. Informal assessment of students’ developing intellectual abilities will be carried out – and encouraged – through directed seminar discussions at all undergraduate levels. Assessment of intellectual abilities will also be carried out through unseen examinations and completion of the final year dissertation.
Building professional and practical skills
Learning and Teaching Methods -The teaching and learning methods used to build professional and practical skills will build on the methods used in teaching knowledge and understanding of the subject, but are enhanced by a strong element of rigorous research methods training at all levels of the undergraduate provision, and an emphasis on independent learning and engendering a professional attitude, including time-management and meeting deadlines.
Assessment Methods -A broad range of assessment methods will be used to measure professional and practical skills, underpinned by the encouragement of self-motivation, initiative, managing and meeting deadlines, cooperative and respectful team-working skills, respectful tolerance of competing viewpoints, and timely submission of coursework.
Developing transferable skills
Learning and Teaching Methods -Teaching and learning methods to develop transferable skills, including information technology skills, will be used throughout all levels of the provision, and will be delivered via lectures, student-led seminars, hands-on computing workshops, project group-work, blended learning using Blackboard Learn, and subject-specific library sessions on effective literature searching.
Assessment Methods -Assessment methods used to measure transferable skills are class tests, individual and/or group oral seminar presentations, practical tasks and exercises within set timeframes, essay writing, project group-work, project reports, critical reviews, the dissertation, and placement reports. Assessment types include staff assessment, self-assessment and peer assessment.
All assessment is governed by the University’s Criteria for Assessment, separately expressed for levels 4, 5 and 6; and of which all students are informed.
In accordance with SENDO (NI) 2005 and the University’s ethos of inclusion, the facilitation of alternative arrangements for students with disabilities will be applied in relation to assessment schemes. A flexible approach will always be taken, using the guidelines from both the Examinations Office and/or Student Support to ensure that disabled students have the same opportunity as their peers to demonstrate the achievement of learning outcomes.
Exemptions and transferability
If you reach the required standard in a relevant Diploma course in Further Education, you may apply to enter the second year of the programme. Those who have reached an approved standard in a relevant Dip HE or Foundation or Associate Bachelors degree programme may be permitted to enter the final year. We also welcome students through the APEL route and grant exemptions accordingly.
Careers & opportunities
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Graduates from this course have gained employment with a wide range of organisations. Here are some examples:
- Civil Service
- Voluntary Organisations
- Consumer Council for N Ireland
- Belfast City Council
- NI Housing Executive
- N Ireland Equality Commission
Graduates from this course are employed in many different roles. Here are some examples:
- Voluntary Agency Manager
- Research Officer
- Policy Analyst
- NGO Worker
- Campaign Manager
- Voluntary Agency Worker-Manager
- Research Assistant
Our Social Policy courses will provide you with a knowledge and understanding of contemporary social policy, a training in social research methods, the ability to apply theoretical perspectives and concepts to real-life problems, and an appreciation of the complexity and diversity of social problems and society. The degree equips graduates for employment in a range of careers in the statutory, voluntary and private sectors.
You will gain the skills and ability to carry out independent research, to assess the merits of competing theories and explanations, to work as part of a team, and to effectively engage in policy debate with sensitivity to the views of others – all transferable and 'soft' skills that are highly attractive to employers.
Social Policy graduates have high employment rates, pursuing careers in the public sector, working in local or central government helping to formulate policy or manage key services. Some build careers in the voluntary sector and in campaigning organizations with a focus on social issues, and are also equipped with the skills to work in other areas such as management or research consultancy. Our graduates also proceed to postgraduate studies at PhD level or to a range of master's degrees including Criminology, Social Research Methods, and Health Promotion. Social Policy is a very relevant qualification for admission to postgraduate fast-track Social Work training, and may give exemption from some aspects of study for those seeking professional qualifications in housing and health service management.
Work placement / study abroad
A valuable, highly-praised and long-standing feature of the Social Policy degree programme is a full-time six-week Work-Based-Learning ‘placement’ at the end of second year. This constitutes one of the six modules taken at level 5 by both part-time and full-time students. Students will be assisted by the Placement Coordinator in securing their preferred work-based learning experience with one of a range of voluntary and statutory agencies based in Northern Ireland. An excellent ‘employability’ component of the course, the work-based-learning period offers students the opportunity to apply (and reflect on) their knowledge and transferable skills in the workplace and to gain new ‘soft’ skills and valuable practical experience in the field.
Social Policy Staff include an academician of the AcSS, and Chair of the Editorial Board of Sociology. All staff are members of the UK Social Policy Association (SPA); two staff are members of the UK SPA Executive Committee (one is Vice-Chair of the SPA, and one is Chair of the SPA Teaching and Learning Committee). One staff member was a member of the QAA Subject Benchmarking Panel, which drew up the revised 7-yearly Social Policy Benchmark Statement, published in 2015, and operative from 2015 to 2022.
Members of the Social Policy staff team hold the following positions, all of which directly relate to teaching, course content and curriculum development:
- Oversight Commissioner for prison reform in Northern Ireland, and
- former Chief Commissioner, N Ireland Human Rights Commission.
- Chair of the Board for N Ireland Youth Action.
- Chair of the N Ireland Anti-Poverty Network.
- Policy Director, and Deputy Policy Director, of ARK.
- Organisers of the 2015 & 2016 SPA Annual Conference in Belfast.
- UK Convenor for Social Policy.
Fees and funding
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Fees (total cost)
Important notice - fees information
Please note fees displayed are for 2017/18 Academic Entry. Fees are correct at the time of publishing. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
View Ulster University’s 2017 fees policy
- Northern Ireland & EU:
Scholarships, awards and prizes
We actively encourage our students to compete for a number of prizes and awards: The annual 'Dean's List'recognises excellence in years 1 and 2 for students attaining a year average of 70% or above. The 'Extern Annual Award'for Best Placement is awarded at a special pre-graduation ceremony on Graduation Day, as is The 'George Mitchell Memorial Award' for the best final year Dissertation. Many students work closely with the Northern Ireland Science Shop in producing their Dissertation, duly rewarded by certification and a ceremony, including an Annual Science Shop Awardfor the best projects across the University.
Additional mandatory costs
Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.
Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.
We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.
There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.
Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.
Please contact the course team for more information.
Faculty Office - T: +44 (0)28 9036 6184
Social Policy Subject/Course Director
Dr Wendy Saunderson
T: +44(0)28 9036 6512
Student Case Study - Part-time BSc Hons Social Policy
Grosvenor Grammar School was where I gained my GCSE and A-Level qualifications, and my first employer was the Northern Ireland Civil Service in 2002, working in Knockbreda Jobs and Benefits Office. I gained promotion and moved to several different posts within the NICS before resigning and moving to Bournemouth in 2006 to train as an Air Traffic Controller. Several months into the training I felt this was not the career path for me. I moved to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, met my husband, and worked as an Office Manager for England Athletics, North East branch, mainly responsible for Coach Education. When the North East branch of England Athletics closed, I was made redundant and returned with my husband to Northern Ireland, securing employment with Sport Northern Ireland, where I still work today. I commenced my part-time Social Policy degree just 3 years ago and, during this time, have managed to start a family (two daughters aged 7 months and 2 years), and to continue working full-time.
Case Study Questions
Why did you choose Ulster?
Having studied previously at QUB, I contacted both Queens and Ulster to enquire about the completion of a previously commenced degree. The encouraging response and helpfulness I received from Ulster and the support I received with my application was overwhelming and instantly attracted me to the university.
How do you think studying at Ulster has prepared you for your future career?
The outstanding support, encouragement and knowledge I have gained while studying the part-time Social Policy degree at Ulster has given me the confidence to re-examine my future career and I certainly intend to put my degree and experience gained to good use in my future endeavours.
Describe the support you have received at Ulster.
The support I have received at Ulster has been overwhelming. I have never encountered the level of dedication, encouragement and genuine friendship from any educational institution or workplace that I have received from the lecturers and staff at Ulster. I have also made many good friends in my Social Policy course; I always find fellow students helpful, friendly and welcoming.
What university facilities or resources do you find most useful and why?
As a part-time student, I find the Student Portal indispensable. It is my lifeline to keeping up-to-date with my course when off campus. The online library facility is a goldmine for accessing a wide range of journals and online literature relevant to my studies. I also make good use of the private study rooms and library.
Why would you recommend Ulster?
The friendly atmosphere, extremely supportive and encouraging culture of the university and all the teaching staff, make this the number one university in Northern Ireland. Having had experience of studying at another university within Northern Ireland, I can genuinely recommend Ulster as a leader in supportive education: a university that genuinely cares for the welfare and education of its students.