The study of welfare arrangements is a fundamental part of what we do. Welfare states, and other institutions seeking to meet human need, everywhere face enormous challenges from population ageing, changes in family life and work-patterns, migration and the economic crisis. In a globalised and interdependent world, these issues can only be understood from an international perspective which accounts for these common pressures and processes, but which also recognises and engages with the diversity of national traditions and institutions for delivering welfare.
Welfare states, and other institutions seeking to meet human need, everywhere face enormous challenges from population ageing, changes in family life and work-patterns, migration and the economic crisis. In a globalised and interdependent world, these issues can only be understood from an international perspective which accounts for these common pressures and processes, but which also recognises and engages with the diversity of national traditions and institutions for delivering welfare.
The International Social Policy programme takes a policy analytic approach to provide you with an advanced understanding of current debates, theories and concepts relevant to international social policy. You learn about the common features of social policy arrangements internationally and the variety and differences that characterise welfare across the countries and regions of the world. Drawing on the research-based expertise available at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research which relates to countries ranging from China, South Korea and Singapore in South East Asia to the UK, Germany and Sweden in Western Europe, you are equipped to understand how national and global forces interact to shape trajectories of welfare system development.
The programme enables you to apply theories and methods of social policy in exploring enduring cross cutting themes in social policy, including the prioritisation of equality and capabilities, as well as to drill down to how and why policy unfolds in key welfare fields. You develop policy analytic skills in relation to such areas as health, migration, pensions, education, social care, and children & family related policy. You acquire expertise in the use of primary and secondary data collection in areas pertaining to all these aspects of social policy, and are thus equipped to think critically about the development of social welfare systems in a global age across the full range of national contexts and policy situations.
About the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR)
SSPSSR has a long and distinguished history, and is one of the largest and most successful social science research communities in Europe.
Academic staff specialise in research of international, comparative and theoretical significance, and we have collective strengths in the following areas: civil society, NGOs and the third sector; cross-national and European social policy; health, social care and health studies; work, employment and economic life; risk, ‘risk society’ and risk management; race, ethnicity and religion; social and public policy; sociology and the body; crime, culture and control; sociological theory and the culture of modernity.
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Dr Heejung Chung from the University of Kent explores the benefits of flexible working and the potential negative effects it can have for workers, especially in the context of increased competition, high unemployment and the decline of worker and union power.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research was ranked 2nd for research power in the UK. The School was also placed 3rd for research intensity, 5th for research impact and 5th for research quality.
An impressive 94% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 99% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research, gaining the highest possible score of 100%.
We place considerable emphasis on structured, interactive seminars with a high degree of student participation. You also join the staff/graduate seminars which allow MA and research students to become involved in a professional research culture.
The programme gives you a clear and confident grasp of social policy in developed and developing countries. You gain an advanced understanding of the relevant debates, theories and concepts of international issues alongside skills in research design and data collection.
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year. Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. Current compulsory modules for this programme are: Critical Social Research: Truth, Ethics and Power; Design of Social Research; Key Issues in Comparative Social Policy.
You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.
|Modules may include||Credits|
SO832 - Critical Social Research: Truth, Ethics and Power
This course provides students with the understanding and skills necessary to use research, whether within a research career or outside of it. Building on other training in the details of specific methods, it focuses on two sets of broader questions. Firstly, it looks at uncertainty in social research – how confident are we about what we know? In answering this question it looks at issues of quality in qualitative and quantitative research, the difficulties of causal inference and generalisation, coming to conclusions from research reviews, and philosophical issues around ‘truth’ and values. Secondly, it looks at the link between research and action. In doing this, it goes from the very practical (how to ensure that your research is used by policymakers and/or practitioners, and to deal with the political pressures on researchers) to the conceptual (in what ways does evidence get used by wider society?) to the normative (should researchers be ‘critical’, and if so, what are their ethical obligations in doing this?).Read more
SO833 - Design of Social research
This course introduces students to the logic and methods of social research. The course aims to familiarize students to central topics in research design, the methodological choices necessary to address in designing social research and the ethics of social research. The module introduces students to both positivist and critical/interpretive approaches and the debates behind their selection for conducting research. Students will be versed in the scientific approaches to social research, including both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The module aims to provide students a robust understanding of social research methods and the decisions needed to write up a research proposal.Read more
SO872 - Comparative Social Policy
The approach of the course, like its subject matter, is inter-disciplinary, drawing on sociology, political economy and policy studies.
- The value of a comparative approach to social policy and some of the problems in carrying it out
- The main theoretical approaches
- The way welfare states have been categorised
- Welfare in the less-developed world
- Migration and the welfare state
- EU and the Europeanization of social policy
- Globalisation and the welfare state
- Likely future developments in social welfare
The course will equip you to understand the ways in which scholars have approached the subject of the welfare state and also convey knowledge on some of the major issues in welfare.Read more
SO877 - Key Issues in Comparative Social Policy
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 programmesRead more
SO998 - Dissertation
The aims of this module are twofold:
First, to provide students with the opportunity to independently carry out an in-depth inquiry to investigate a research question(s) of their choice, producing a coherent review of the relevant literature, a logical discussion and a clearly communicated set of conclusions in the form of a dissertation.
Second, to prepare students to become ‘research-minded’ practitioners in order that they have the capacity to undertake research in practice settings and/or take a lead role in supervising others in such work.
The following represents the likely format for curriculum delivery:
In mid-November, there will be a two-hour workshop, which will outline the aims, the structure, the process of the dissertation. During the spring term, the students will finalise their proposal with their chosen supervisor. If the dissertation requires ethical research approval, an application will be submitted to the school research ethics committee by the beginning of the summer term. During the summer term and vacation, students will meet their supervisor every fortnight to discuss the progress of their dissertation. The supervisors will provide feedback on written work and will set monthly work plans and targets for the students. The dissertation topic will relate to a key question, issue and problem within social science.Read more
Teaching and Assessment
Modules combine various forms of coursework; a research dissertation also acts as a modular component of the course in its own right.
This programme aims to:
- provide you with an advanced understanding of current debates, theories and concepts relevant to international social policy
- impart country-specific as well as cross-national empirical and theoretical knowledge of current challenges and processes of transformation of welfare systems
- enable you to apply theories and methods of social policy in exploring specific policy fields such as health, migration, pensions, education, social care, poverty and social exclusion, urban development, and family policy
- develop your skills in research design and data collection in areas pertaining to social policy
- familiarise you with using primary and secondary data to develop cutting-edge research in the field of international social policy.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- comparative approaches to social policy
- research design and methodologies for studies of social policy
- theories and ideologies of welfare provision in a global world
- the impact of post-industrialisation and globalisation to the study and understanding of social policy
- an understanding of social policy developments in Europe and across the world
- implications and challenges of social policy programmes for gender, class, age, ethnicity and race
- an understanding of the relationship of international actors to national social policy systems
- the use of qualitative and quantitative research methods and their critical application in the scholarly literature and in policy papers.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- the ability to develop reasoned arguments, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement
- the ability to use theoretical concepts and frameworks to gain a sophisticated understanding of the challenges and dilemmas of international social policy
- the ability to reflect on and manage your own learning and seek to make use of constructive feedback from your peers and staff to enhance your performance and personal skills
- general research skills: how to gather data from secondary sources, especially large international data sets and web-based resources
- seminar presentations and discussions will encourage you to present information verbally.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- the ability to identify and understand key issues in theory and research on international social policy from a multidisciplinary perspective.
- the ability to identify current debates and challenges for specific policy fields using a comparative framework
- the ability to research and access the main sources of information relevant to international social policy
- the ability to understand the logic behind applied research, from research design to data collection and data analysis
- the ability to present results in a meaningful way to international academic forums, as well as to more varied audiences.
You will gain the following transferable skills:
- the ability to undertake research from a diverse range of sources, including data compiled by international and national policymakers, transnational agencies and governmental data, as well as existing survey and interview data
- the ability to summarise detailed and complex bodies of information concisely and accurately
- the ability to formulate arguments in verbal presentations, using social science language and terminology, and defend these against opposing views
- the ability to present information and arguments in written form, in accordance with academic conventions, and appropriately to the intended readership
- the ability to evaluate personal performance.
Building on Kent’s success as the region’s leading institution for student employability, we place considerable emphasis on you gaining specialist knowledge in your chosen subject alongside core transferable skills.
We ensure that you develop the skills and competences that employers are looking for including: research and analysis; policy development and interpretation; independent thought; writing and presentation, as well as time management and leadership skills.
You also become fully involved in the professional research culture of the School. A postgraduate degree in the area of social and public policy is a particularly flexible and valuable qualification that can lead to many exciting opportunities and professions.
SSPSSR consistently ranks highly for student satisfaction and teaching quality, ranking 2nd in the UK for our Social Policy students' graduate prospects (The Complete University Guide 2017).
Recent graduates have pursued careers in academia, journalism, local and central government, charities and NGOs in roles which utilise their wide range of skills and are often found in managerial positions.
The atmosphere in the School is informal and friendly and has at its centre a lively and diverse postgraduate community. The weekly staff/postgraduate seminar series is designed to introduce you to the work of major scholars from the UK and abroad, and there is also a wide range of other seminar and workshop series each academic year.
Our postgraduate students have access to dedicated office space within the department and are able to take advantage of excellent library and computing facilities. Where appropriate, research students are encouraged to expand their experience by teaching part-time in the School.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of Social Policy; Journal of European Social Policy; Voluntas; Social Policy and Administration; and Social Policy and Society.
Global Skills Award
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
A 2.1 or higher university degree in a social science or related discipline.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Academic staff at Kent share a number of interests, grouped here for your guidance. However, there is often a degree of overlap between groups and your research project does not have to fall neatly within any one of them. The School also has several research centres that bring together experts in the field, co-ordinate research, organise talks and offer opportunities for postgraduate students to get involved in discussions and research projects.
The Civil Society
Staff in this research cluster seek to: understand the social forces and cultural interests that move people to take moral responsibility for responding to/caring for the needs of others; document and explain the institutional organisation of charitable behaviour and its social impacts; the socio-cultural dynamics of philanthropic behaviour and its effects on society. They also perform research into contemporary humanitarianism and its powers of influence over social policy and political process; and the character of the social ties and cultural values that structure the interrelationships between humanitarian action, charitable endeavour and philanthropic intervention; as well as the bearing of government policies and governmental processes upon the charitable sector and philanthropic activity.
Cross-National and European Social Policy
Using the framework of studying different welfare regimes, academic staff research a wide range of topics, while postgraduate students conduct research projects in every part of the world. Many of these projects involve overseas students making comparative studies involving their own country and European or UK services. The work of academic staff has resulted in a wide range of policy research related to Europe. Recent cross-national work has included projects examining home care services for older people, formal and informal social care systems, institutional change and the future of welfare reform, industrial relations, housing and community activism. Other interests include globalisation and welfare, and subsidiarity and convergence. Current or recent thesis topics include: democratisation and social policy in Korea; youth homelessness in Greece and the UK.
Health and Social Care
Present studies cover a range of issues within the fields of health services, social work and health policy. Particular interests include health care organisation and policy; risk assessment and management; primary care; public and user views of health care; health inequalities; occupational therapy; care work in health and social care; adoption; foster care; adult attachment theory; mental health; child protection; body work; psychoanalysis; race, ethnicity and health. Current or recent thesis topics include: women’s health in Uzbekistan; improving men’s health: the role of healthy living centres; women, the body and madness.
Migration and Ethnicity
Though socially and discursively constructed, ‘race’ continues to be a key basis of social division and identification in British society, across Europe, and globally. Not only do many disparate ethnic minority groups continue to identify along ethnic, racial and religious lines, but ethnicity and race continue to shape a variety of outcomes, such as employment, educational attainment and senses of ‘belonging’. In this sense, ‘race’ and the recognition of difference continues to matter and is a key element in the School’s research interests.
Risk and Uncertainty
The critical analysis of risk and perceptions of risk have become central issues in the sociology of the ‘risk society’ and this is an important focus of activity in the School. Staff research includes work on health risks and their management, the implications of attitudes and behaviour concerning risk for the welfare state, the development of a culture of risk and anxiety, moral panics, risk and crime, risk and the life course, suffering, and the perceptions of new communications technology.
Work and Economic Life
Interest in the issues surrounding work stretches across SSPSSR and current projects focus on work identity and meaning; work/life balance; age, generation and employment; visual representation of work; deindustrialisation; organisational sociology; gender, ethnicity and class at work; historiography of work sociology; moral economy; workplace ethnography and oral histories.
The School also has several research centres that bring together experts in the field, co-ordinate research, organise talks and offer opportunities for postgraduate students to get involved in discussions and research projects.
Centre for Child Protection
The Centre for Child Protection is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and is the first centre of its kind in Europe. Combining research with distance learning programmes and a range of innovative serious training games, the Centre for Child Protection is leading the way in building knowledge and training opportunities for professionals working in this area.
We aim to:
- develop innovative techniques for professional training and support
- translate and apply the latest research and knowledge to inform best practice
- create diverse and flexible learning programmes
- address gaps in post-qualification training provision and opportunities
- facilitate safe and realistic environments in which child protection professionals can develop and enhance their skills and professional practice.
The Centre is led and informed by a team of experts in the field of child protection. With many years of experience in both research and practice, we are committed to improving the provision of continued professional development to enhance the skills of those involved in child protection.
Centre for Health Services Studies (CHSS)
The Centre for Health Services Studies has a strong record in attracting research grants from the National Institute for Health Research, European Union Framework Programme, ESRC, Department of Health, as well as local health authorities and trusts. It is a designated NIHR Research Design Support Service. Particular areas of expertise include pragmatic trials, risk assessment and management, care of vulnerable adults including older people, and public health.
Centre for Philanthropy
Dedicated to an understanding of the social processes and cultural experiences by which people acquire moral dispositions to care for others, the Centre for Philanthropy offers a focal point for much of this work. Research is conducted into the ways in which our capacity for feelings are socially cultivated, corporately structured, politically mediated and economically expressed. The School is also linked to the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), collaborating with the University of Birmingham on third sector theory and policy analysis.
Centre for Social and Political Movements
The Centre was established in 1992 in order to consolidate Kent’s leading position in the study in Britain of social and political movements. The Centre is actively involved in international networks of social movement researchers through its participation in the Erasmus network on ‘Social movements, conflict and political action’ and through its members’ activity in the relevant research committees of the International Sociological Association, the European Sociological Association, and the European Consortium for Political Research.
Centre for Social Science and Risk
The Centre conducts research into the concept of risk and uncertainty: how and why risk is manifested and how it is experienced in today’s society. Staff take an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing upon sociology, law, social psychology, and history. The Centre’s research seeks to understand causal issues from the perspectives of both individuals and organisations while considering the wider political and social context.
Personal Social Services Research Unit
The PSSRU is the largest social services research unit in the UK, and operates at three sites: the University of Kent, the London School of Economics and the University of Manchester. Facilities include the Griffiths Library of Community Care, a reference library of more than 10,000 books, journals and other literature linked to the Unit’s field of study. Research focuses on needs, resources and outcomes in health and social care: major concerns are resourcing, equity and efficiency from the perspective of users, agencies and others. The Unit has developed a distinctive analytical framework called the ‘production of welfare approach’ to illuminate this research.
The University of Kent is one of 15 universities in the UK to have a Q-Step Centre, significantly funded by HEFCE, the Nuffield Foundation and ESRC, to provide students with advanced training in quantitative methods in social sciences.
The Centre is based in SSPSSR and incorporates teaching from Politics and International Relations, Law, Business and Liberal Arts. At its heart is the delivery of quantitative skills training in a subject context, a community-based project and professional placements. Quantitative Methods (QM) training, which greatly enhances employability and provides a deeper and more secure grasp of the quantitative skills needed to evaluate evidence and analyse data within a discipline, is delivered in a practical and engaging manner.
The Tizard Centre is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and has excellent links with health and social care organisations, and other relevant establishments. The Centre is at the forefront of learning and research in autism, intellectual disability and community care, and in 2013 received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of its outstanding work in these areas.
Our primary aims, through research, teaching and consultancy, are:
- to find out more about how to effectively support and work with people with learning disabilities
- to help carers, managers and professionals develop the values, knowledge and skills that enable better services
- to aid policymakers, planners, managers and practitioners to organise and provide enhanced services.
The Tizard Centre is recognised as leading the field in deinstitutionalisation and community living, challenging behaviour, quality of staff support, sexuality and autism, and has had a significant impact on national policies in these areas. We are committed to addressing issues arising from social inequality.
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Jeremy Kendall: Senior Lecturer in Social Policy
The voluntary sector in the UK; the welfare mix, particularly the motivations and behaviours of providers of care for older people in the UK; British social policy in general; the European dimension of public policy, particularly social policy, towards organised civil society.View Profile
Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger: Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy
Disability, the nature of work and the benefits system; the relationship of evidence, policy and critique; attitudes to tax/benefits; theorising inequality; alcohol (and other addictions) policy, especially pleasure and corporate social responsibility.View Profile
Professor Michael Calnan: Professor of Medical Sociology
Diffusion and innovation in health care and technology; trust and health care; dignity and the provision of health and social care for older people.View Profile
Dr Heejung Chung: Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy
Welfare state and labour markets; gender; work-life balance and work-family conflict; labour market flexibility; working-time flexibility; employment insecurity.View Profile
Dr Tina Haux: Lecturer in Quantitative Social Policy
Family policy, parenting, family separation, lone parents, welfare-to-work, social justice, evidence-based policy-making and, increasingly, longitudinal research methods, comparative social policy.View Profile
Dr Trude Sundberg: Lecturer in Social Policy
Research methods and comparative welfare issues.View Profile
The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
|International Social Policy - MA at Canterbury:|
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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