Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Environmental Social Science - MSc

2019

The Environmental Social Science programmes are interdepartmental and benefit from expertise found across the Faculty of Social Sciences.

2019

Overview

Social science perspectives are crucial to understanding and solving environmental problems. Human behaviour produces many elements of the ‘natural’ environment, from landscapes to floods and famines. Local and national policies and international agreements regulate the environmental practices of corporations, governments and households. The social sciences have a great deal to contribute to understanding what have become defined as environmental issues, and what measures can most effectively tackle them.

The multidisciplinary Environmental Social Science programmes draw on the contributions of Conservation and Ecology, Law, Social Policy and Sociology. In each of these disciplines, Kent is very active in research. The programmes therefore build upon a strong base.

Think Kent video series

Drawing on her 2012 book ‘The Cosmopolitanization of Science’, Dr Joy Zhang, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent, uses China’s experience in stem cell research as an example to demonstrate how actors from the Global South can assume a more contributory role in steering global scientific norms.

National ratings

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%.

Course structure

This interdisciplinary programme introduces you to social science perspectives on environmental issues. It draws on sociology, politics, social policy and law. The dissertation is a chance for you to make a specialised study of a topic that interests you, and we encourage first-hand research. The programme is suitable for graduates with a wide range of first degrees.

Modules

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 in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. 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

This module is particularly concerned with the forms and outcomes of the political contention and mobilisation around environmental issues, ranging from pressure groups, formal environmental movement organisations and Green parties to local environmental activism and radical environmental protest. It also considers the relationship between democracy and the environment: is democracy good for the environment? Would more deliberative forms of democracy improve matters? The approach is cross-nationally comparative and will also consider issues of global environmental politics.

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This module aims to widen students' knowledge of a variety of topical and/or scientifically important or controversial environmental issues, to encourage students to look at environmental studies from the perspectives of the several social science disciplines (anthropology, law, political science, social policy, and sociology), to make connections between questions stimulated by their own individual disciplinary backgrounds and those raised in the course, and to reflect critically upon the advantages and limitations of the various perspectives. The module covers a variety of topics which are likely to include: the nature of environmental issues; the social construction of risk and the precautionary principle; global warming, climate change and energy policy; the rise of environmental consciousness and environmentalism; food and agriculture; environmental policy and regulation; environmental policy and law; ecotourism; ecology and development; traditional societies and sustainability.

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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?).

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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.

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This module provides an up to date overview of current academic knowledge about philanthropy. Students will gain an understanding of historical and contemporary issues relating to philanthropy, the various theories and ideologies regarding the existence of philanthropic behaviours and the role of government and policy-makers in shaping the legal, fiscal and cultural context for philanthropy.

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1. Introduction: The Sociology of Risk

2. The Social Semantics of Risk in Historical Perspective

3. Ulrich Beck and the ‘Risk Society’

4. The ‘Cultural Theory’ of Risk

5. Governmentality and Risk

6. Reading / Essay Writing Week

7. The ‘Perception of Risk’ in Sociological Perspective

8. The ‘Management of Risk’ in Sociological Perspective

9. Risk in Mass Media

10. Risk, Subjectivity and ‘the endangered self’

11. Transnational Risks and Civil Society

12. World Risk Society: Retrospect and Prospect

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Social theory is a nebulous field of inquiry with fuzzy boundaries. Some of the most significant contributions to it in terms of ideas and concepts have historically originated in the work of thinkers diversely identified with a wide range of disciplines - such as psychoanalysis, philosophy, anthropology, literary and aesthetic theory, historical and cultural studies, as well as with sociology. This module approaches contemporary social theory by exploring a set of themes through close readings and analyses of several texts by 20th and 21st century theorists whose work has been to varying degrees appropriated across the social sciences and the humanities, but yet whose contribution to ‘social theory’ per se is still open to question, in any case far from canonical.

In working through these selected primary texts within a seminar group, the aim is to critically investigate and evaluate what they offer to social theory, and to critically assess their usefulness for understanding various social and political phenomena characteristic of contemporary life and society in a globalised world. During the course of such detailed discussions, we will also, no doubt, reflect on the distinction between modern and postmodern social theory; the ‘linguistic turn’, the ‘cultural turn’, the ‘ethical turn’, the shift from narrative to image based culture, and other general parameters of social theorizing in recent times.

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In summary, ‘social suffering’ calls for a new project of social science. It involves researchers in the attempt to understand how social and cultural conditions moderate the experience of suffering. It also brings a critical focus to the ways in which such experience serves to expose the moral character and structural force of society within people’s lives. Whilst attending to the particular ways in which individuals struggle to make ‘the problem of suffering’ productive for thought and action, it also works to understand how, through to the level of collective experience, this contributes to wider dynamics of social change. This course examines these cross-disciplinary issues and debates with the aim of assessing their sociological significance and political implications.

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This module examines the way work shapes society and in turn how society shapes work. Drawing on the fields of sociology, cultural sociology, social policy as well as other disciplines this module explores work in a variety of competing and complementing ways and in doing so offers students a chance to appreciate different themes, issues, methodologies and approaches. These include work identity and meaning; age, generation and class; visual methods and approaches; the cultures of work; work/life balance and the end of work.

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The module will explore the following indicative topics:

• Sociological analysis of the term 'parenting'

• The social history of debates about 'the family' and the sociology of privacy

• The changing meaning of childhood, motherhood and fatherhood

• The meaning of the term 'intensive parenthood' and its relation to expertise and risk culture

• The sociology of identity, as applied in studies of the experience of parenting

• The relationship of policies linking family life to broader social policy

• Critiques of state intervention in family life and of particular contemporary parenting policies

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This module will give an advanced level overview of the current state of fundraising in the UK, including the evidence-based techniques and strategies endorsed by the professional bodies (the 'science' of fundraising), and the latest research on the personal attributes of fundraisers that are understood to lead to successful outcomes (the ‘art’ of fundraising). Aimed at those working in - or seeking to work in - careers that involve generating voluntary income, it will cover a range of topics that will facilitate a detailed and critical analysis of the role of fundraising in practice, and in its wider societal context. It will allow students to explore this knowledge through its application in situations that are encountered in professional practice. We will cover academic approaches to fundraising from a range of disciplinary viewpoints and how these help us understand topics such as donor motivation, propensity to give, charitable decision-making in terms of amounts, methods and destinations of donations, as well as why some people/institutions do not give, and the implications for recipient organisations.

To enable this advanced level knowledge to be used in practice, we will explore the current debates in fundraising management, debates on policy relating to fundraising and philanthropy, legal and regulatory requirements and relevant ethical issues. Students will gain from all of this a critical understanding of fundraising and its role in society.

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This module focuses on the theory and practice of qualitative research. It explores the various aspects of using and collecting qualitative data. The aim of the module is to illustrate a range of practical techniques while considering related problems of evidence and inference in qualitative analyses.

Students will be versed in a range of techniques and will have the opportunity to practice some of them, this includes:

• the theory and practice of interviewing and different varieties of interview;

• focus groups;

• oral history;

• case study methods;

• ethnographic theory and method;

• action research;

• critical discourse analysis;

• narrative analysis;

• visual methods.

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The module will provide an introduction to the use of Statistical Analysis within the Research Process. It will begin by introducing and discussing different types of measurement and the practical problems of data entry in SPSSW. After discussing basic data description and transformation the focus will shift to Exploratory Data Analysis and the need to examine the data carefully. Simple approaches to summarising data and distributions will then be examined. This will then be followed by methods to test research hypotheses through bi-variate and multivariate methods that are used extensively in the Social Sciences. The final part of the module will look at various issues surrounding the practical issues of quantitative data analysis, such as how to find appropriate data and about presenting research outcomes.

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The module is designed so that, as well as covering a core of central concepts and theories, students will have the opportunity from selecting from among a range of optional topics.

i) Core Topics (These will be covered every year):

? Introduction: questions of definition – protest, collective action, social movements, social movement organisations. NGOs, pressure groups

? Collective behaviour or political action? The question of rationality; mass society theory; relative deprivation

? Resource mobilisation theory and its critics

? Political opportunity structures

? Ideas, values and knowledge in the making of social movements

? Mass media and social movements: framing and its consequences

? New communications media and social movements

? Structure, context and process in the development of social movements

? Prospects for the development of global social movements

? The impact of social movements: how do social movements matter?

ii) Optional Topics (These will be offered subject to student demand)

? Making sense of violence: riots; terrorism

? Political participation: rationality and resources

? Peace movements: reactive protest?

? Student movements: leading edge of the new politics or pathologies

of troubled youth?

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This module examines how postcommunist, transition and developing countries respond to the liberal democratic political order, critically exploring the economic, social and moral aspects of neoliberalisation in the southern hemisphere. Notions of power, the state, class, agency and morality are central to considerations of social and political change. Several key topics, including gendered politics, state corruption, international aid, global finance and fraud, slums and migration, will be discussed. The module is interdisciplinary, giving students the opportunity to engage with key ideas and studies from sociology and political science to development studies and ethics. Each week students will explore a broad range of literature, spanning from political sociology to moral economy, so that students gain a deeper appreciation of people' politics and values in emerging and newly liberal societies.

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This module will examine the ways in which violence is understood in social science research, and will provide advanced discussion of the major theoretical and research themes involved in the analysis of violence. It will critically examine data on the prevalence, nature and effects of violent crime, and will consider issues of violence, aggression and masculinity. This will be done with particular reference to examples, such as racist crime, homophobic crime and domestic violence. The module will approach violence from both interpersonal and societal perspectives and will include consideration of collective violence and genocide. It will further examine solutions to solutions to violence and conflict resolution, the effects of intervention strategies and non-juridical responses to violence.

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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.

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Teaching and Assessment

The programme is assessed by coursework (normally one 5,000-word essay per module) and the dissertation.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • introduce you to the differing perspectives on environmental issues of the various social science disciplines
  • develop your knowledge and understanding of environmental issues from a social science perspective
  • acquaint you with the methods and procedures of social scientific investigation
  • give you a practical introduction to research design so as to enable you to conceive and execute a social scientific research project on an environmental topic, whether as part of further academic work or in the course of non-academic employment with any of a variety of public agencies and private corporations.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the theoretical problems of social scientific inquiry and their relationship to research on environmental issues
  • a basic grounding in the procedures (quantitative and qualitative) used to investigate a wide range of practical and substantive environmental issues
  • the opportunity to develop transferable employment-related skills through groupwork, presentations and the use of information technologies
  • socialisation into the research community through close working relationships between staff and students
  • practical research-related skills
  • a capacity to undertake independent research.

Careers

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 Environmental Social Science is a particularly flexible and valuable qualification that can lead to many exciting opportunities and professions.

Recent graduates have gone on to pursue careers in environmental law, community projects, research, education, advocacy and social policy at both local and central government levels.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

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: Environmental Politics; Global Environmental Change; Human Organization; Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; and Sociology of Health and Illness.

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.  

Entry requirements

A good honours degree in a relevant subject or equivalent vocational experience.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.  Please note that international fee-paying students cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.

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.

Research areas

We offer research supervision across a broad range of topics. We are especially interested in applications that include proposals to investigate the social dimensions of environmental issues in the countries in which we have area expertise, and topics in environmental politics and environmental movements.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Professor Adam Burgess: Professor of Risk Research

Communications; mass media; risk.

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Professor William Howarth: Professor of Environmental Law

Environmental law; conservation of aquatic environment and ecosystems.

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Dr Jeremy Kendall: Senior Lecturer in Social Policy

NGOs, charities, voluntary organisations and civil society.

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Dr Rajindra K Puri: Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology

Historical ecology; knowledge transmission; adaptation to climate change; wildlife trade; protected areas; South-east Asia; Borneo.

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Professor Christopher Rootes: Professor of Environmental Politics and Political Sociology

Environmental politics; protest, social and political movements; environmental citizenship; politics of climate change. 

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Dr Joy Zhang: Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Sociology of science, medicine, the environment and globalisation, especially in China.

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Fees

The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Environmental Social Science - Taught MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7500 £15700
Part-time £3750 £7850

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 information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: