Key Issues in Comparative Social Policy - SO877

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
(version 2)
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7 20 (10) DR J Kendall







This course focuses on key challenges for International Social Policy through systematically differentiating and analysing key fields and issues. In this way, the student is provided with a systematic overview of some of the main spheres in which international and national social policy agendas co evolve. Individual social policy fields include extended working life and retirement; health; social security, migration policy and social care; with related issue areas including social exclusion and urban policies. While many policy domains are under pressure to change in the context of common socio-economic and processes – including population ageing, globalisation, and international migration -the response to these pressures will vary depending on a number of internal and external socio-economic and political factors, whose configuration will vary markedly by country and policy field.

The course follows and complements the first core module of the International Social Policy MA (SO872 International Social Policy). The two modules together form a cohesive and coherent approach to social policy from an international and comparative perspective, although the Key lssues module is also self-contained and accessible in its own right to students of other MA programmes


This module appears in:

Contact hours

24 hours. The module will be composed of 12 lecture hours and 12 seminar hours.



Method of assessment

Students will be assessed, primarily, through their performance on an essay of 4000-5000 words, to be handed in at the end of term, and worth 70% of the final grade.

Each student will also develop a brief (1,500 word) book/article review of one reading for one seminar and will prepare a handout of this review for colleagues in the seminar. This review, which will highlight the main points of the reading and include questions for discussion, will serve as one guide to discussion – along with the instructor – and will count for 30% of the final grade.

Preliminary reading

There is no single ‘course text’ for this module, but understanding is built up by drawing on a range of resources, including both key book chapters and journal articles. Students are also encouraged to use the internet for further sources – although always with caution and discrimination (see below).
Books and book chapters
Key book materials are available via PDFs uploaded to the course Moodle site, as indicated by . The core readings are all available electronically in this way – as are many of the additional readings. Some sources are also available via ebooks

Clasen, J. (1999) Comparatie Social Policy: Concepts, Theories and Methods Oxford: Blackwell

Cochrane, A.; Clarke, J.; Gewirtz, S. (2002) Comparing Welfare States 2nd Edition Open University Press & Sage.

Cousins, M. (2005) European Welfare States, Sage Pub.

Esping-Andersen, G. (1999) Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Giddens, A. (2007) Europe in the Global Age, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Hall, P.A. and Soskice, D. (eds) (2001) Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional foundations of comparative advantage, Oxford University Press.

Hill, M. (2006) Social Policy in the Modern World, Blackwell Publishing

Leibfried, S. and Pierson, P. (eds) (1995) European Social Policy: Between Fragmentation and Integration, Brookings Institute, Washington.

Pestieau, P. (2006) The Welfare State in the European Union Oxford University Press

Powell, M: Hewitt, M. (2002) Welfare State and Welfare Change Open University Press.

Schierup, C.U. ; Hansen, P. & Castles, S. (2006) Migration, Citizenship, and the European Welfare State. A European Dilemma Oxford University Press

Taylor-Gooby, P. (2005) (ed.) Making a European Welfare State? Convergences and conflicts
Over European Social Policy Blackwell Pub.

Tsoukalis, L. 2005 What Kind of Europe? Oxford University Press,

( indicates this option) However, additional readings will generally need to be accessed via conventional library borrowing or inter-library loan

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module successful students will be able to:
1. Interpret social policy developments in general, and at the level of key fields and issue areas, using relevant international and comparative analytic frameworks
2. Understand the role of International Organisations in policymaking in social policy broadly and in key fields and issue areas
3. Analyse national differences and similarities across key social policy fields and issue areas in terms of institutions, welfare mix configuration and policy outcomes, using relevant theories and approaches
4. Identify and evaluate the salience and significance of major boundary-spanning processes for comparative social policy, including globalisation, Europeanization and migration
5. Describe, evaluate and apply different approaches to collecting, analysing and presenting social and technical information.
6. Assess the value of a range of research methods appropriate to a range of social policy issues and fields.

The module is intended to contribute to students’ ability to support students learning in the following ways:
• Communication enhanced, in terms of organising information in a clear and coherent way, responding to written sources and presenting information orally.
• Skills in the application of theory ad research evidence to understanding of key issues in welfare and social policy.
• Development of working with others by co-operating on seminars and expressing reasoned arguments orally.
• Argumentation: students will develop logical arguments based upon sound reasoning and understanding of the material and express these arguments in a written format.
• Desk-based research. Students will be able to gather library and web-based resources, make critical judgements and develop evidence-based arguments

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