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Postgraduate Courses 2016

Political Sociology - MA

Canterbury

Overview

The Political Sociology MA combines the perspectives of sociology and political science to address key issues of social and political change in modern societies.

It examines the interaction between, and interdependence among, social and political institutions, processes and action, especially collective action. The MA is distinctive in its focus on social and political movements, protest, and the less conventional and less institutionalised forms of political action and participation. It also gives particular opportunities to study environmental politics and globalisation, and to choose from the wide range of optional modules in sociology, social policy and politics and international relations.

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. Our submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 received excellent ratings, including 2nd for research power and 3rd for research intensity

Our faculty staff are world authorities in their fields. Members attract large research grants from bodies such as the ESRC, the British Academy, Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), European Commission, Anglo-German Foundation, NATO, Equal Opportunities Commission, National Probation Service and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). We take part in international symposia and research projects, and act as consultants and advisers to a wide variety of government departments, professional organisations, research funding bodies and learned journals.

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

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.

SA803 - Politics and Sociology of the Environment (20 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.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SO823 - Social Change & Political Order (20 credits)

Much thinking about political order in the modern world has taken the state for granted as a “normal” feature of political life. It has been common to assume that

1) Political order can be observed by observing a set of rules for how government is supposed to operate.

2) Political institutions are entirely separate from social relations, or: political institutions are a direct reflection of broader society.

3) Social change happens in one direction and change is always for the better.

4) Order is the opposite of disorder.

The sociological tradition offers many resources for examining empirically a) how government actually works b) how the relationship between “the social” and “the political” is imagined and institutionalized in different ways c) how change can be specified as a change in social form before it is evaluated and d) what the order of disorder and the disorder of order might be. In the last two decades, the changes associated with globalization have given new impetus for a historically grounded and empirically rich comparative sociology of political forms.

In this course, we will compare political orders across history and across geographical areas or scales, mostly focusing on “the west” within “modernity”. We will discuss some of the conceptual tools others have found useful in such an exercise We will try to specify different ways political orders can vary and change and the different social factors that may make one outcome or other more likely. On that basis, we will be able to assess some of the common claims about the changing political order in times of globalization.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SO832 - Critical Social Research: Truth, Ethics and Power (20 credits)

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?).

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SO833 - Design of Social research (20 credits)

Module Summary:



This module aims to provide students with the skills to develop a research idea and to turn this into a coherent, achievable – and interesting! – research proposal. The course will be particularly useful for those doing empirical research in their MSc or PhD dissertation, or who will use social research after their studies.

In developing these skills, the course also provides an introduction to research methods and methodological debates. It will cover:



1. Key skills in research design – developing a research question; writing a research proposal; and ‘real-world’ considerations like ethics, cost, and feasibility;



2. Qualitative research design – an overview of different types of qualitative methods and the logic of qualitative design; when to apply qualitative methods; and key design issues such as choosing cases and planning qualitative analysis;



3. Quantitative research design – an introduction to the logic of quantitative research, and key issues such as turning the social world into numbers; when to apply quantitative methods; issues surrounding generalisation; how to interpret quantitative analysis results, and an introduction to the most common form of quantitative analysis;



4. Mixed-methods designs, which combine qualitative and quantitative research.

This course is complementary to the specialist courses in doing qualitative (SO817) and quantitative (SO819) research, and the course ‘Using Social Research – Advanced Critical Skills’ (SO832).

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SO838 - The Idea of Civil Society (20 credits)

The module provides an up to date overview of how key social science thinkers from across the social sciences have understood and analysed the relevance and contribution of civil society in their models and theories. It explores how contemporary scholars have continued to use their ideational frameworks to explore current social, political and economic problems and issues. It starts by acknowledging some of the key antecedents to contemporary notions of civil society in classical and pre-modern thought, and then systematically reviews how leading theorists of, and commentators on, post Enlightenment social and political developments have defined this sphere, and accounted for its roles and contributions in their formulations. Most of these writers have crossed what we now think of as disciplinary boundaries In each case, their basic socio-political models are reviewed, their accounts of civil society explicated and critiqued, and the applications of their contemporary interpreters to civil society issues explored.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SO876 - Organised Civil Society and the Third Sector (20 credits)

The module provides an up to date overview of the range of contributions of the third sector to economic, social and political life. It includes analysis of definitions and categorisations, and the problematic boundaries between OCS, the third sector, the State and the market; foundational theories of third sector existence, organisation, functioning and behaviour; attention to the historical and current public policy agenda in relation to OCS and the third sector, in the UK and internationally; and reviews important approaches to ‘evaluation’ in the third sector.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SA806 - Social Science Perspectives on Environmental Issues (20 credits)

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.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO817 - Resistance and Alternatives to Capitalism andDemocracy (20 credits)

This module is situated at the interface of political theory and political economy. It seeks to explore the complex and multi-faceted links between democracy and capitalism in the period from 1848 to the present day. The particular focus is on relations between the state and the market as well as the evolution of different democratic regimes and market economies. Similar emphasis will be on conceptual issues and empirical evidence (though no statistical or econometric skills will be required).



The first part of the module examines the formation of ‘market-states’, beginning with a critical discussion of this concept in recent scholarship. This will be the starting point for a wider engagement with Smithian, Marxist, Keynesian and neo-liberal accounts. The focus will be on those who theorise the conditions for the convergence of state and market, including Smith, Marx, Keynes and Friedman but also some contemporary theorists. Emphasis will be on strategies of resistance and alternatives to capitalism (e.g. Karl Polanyi, Catholic Social Teaching, civil economy).



The second part turns to the evolution of democracy in relation to capitalism. A brief survey of the recent post-democracy literature will be followed by a discussion of key concepts. Examples include the work of the Frankfurt School on capitalism and democracy as ‘‘quasi-religions’’ and various arguments that formal democratic representation and abstract capitalist exchange engender a ‘‘society of spectacle’’. Just as the first part focuses on the state and the market, so the second part puts emphasis on the interaction between the politics of democracy and the economics of capitalism.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO824 - International Relations Theory (20 credits)

Whenever we make a statement about international affairs, we rely on certain (often implicit) theoretical assumptions: about power, interests, identities, norms and how they relate to the behaviour of international actors. Whether we like it or not, we are ‘doomed’ to rely on theories. The starting-point of this course is not that theories are the only possible and all-encompassing approach to the study of international affairs, but that they are helpful to understand, compare and critically evaluate interpretations of international issues: if we all use theoretical assumptions, we better make them explicit and understood, to make sure what exactly we are claiming.



International Relations theories are not approached as strict categories with clear boundaries, but rather as a continuously evolving debate. The course does not attempt to give an encyclopedic overview of all theories of International Relations, but rather to confront different views. The main objective is to understand the core differences between different theoretical approaches.



The course starts by discussing the nature of theorizing in international relations, pointing out how ‘theories do not simply explain or predict, they tell us what possibilities exist for human action and intervention, they define not merely our explanatory possibilities, but also our ethical and practical horizons (Smith, 1996: 113). Some of the core dividing lines underlying theoretical debates (explaining/understanding, positivism/post-positivism, rationalism/constructivism, etc.) are also introduced..



After that, different theories are studied in depth.

The course proceeds through successive phases of IR theory. The first phase, that of liberal internationalism (also referred to as ‘inter-war idealism’ emerged in the aftermath of WW1. We will engage with the leading authors of that tradition and find in their works the foundations of our modern world: international law, economic interdependence and international organization. In the third week we turn to the second phase of IR Theory, ‘classical’ Realism, who responded to the failure of inter-war idealism by reasserting the nature of the political in IR as being predicated on clashing interests. The English School, who focus on the idea of International Society, are the focus of the fourth week. In week 5 and 6 we move to the first epistemological break in IR, with both Neorealism and Neoliberalism breaking decisively away from the ‘classical approach’ championed by Hedley Bull. Running in parallel with ‘mainstream’ IR, Marxist theorists were also developing Methods designed to adapt and apply Marxism to global politics, their work is examined in week 7. In week 8 we encounter another epistemological break: this time between positivism and post-positivism, a debate about the nature and limits of theory that continues to shape the discipline. In week 9, Critical Theory’s focus on human emancipation is brought to the fore. In week 10, the leading challenger to Neorealism and Neoliberalism, social constructivism, will be examined. In week 11, the classes will revolve around two major ethical positions in IR, cosmopolitanism and Realism. The course will conclude in week 12 with a revision session.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO859 - Human Rights in a World of States (20 credits)

Emerging from the ashes of World War II and the Holocaust, human rights have become a critical part of international law and diplomacy in the world today. This course is designed to provide an overview of issues central to the theory and practice of human rights in international politics. In this course we will consider contemporary debates surrounding the meaning, role, and the universality of human rights and examine explanations of violations of, as well as adherence to, human rights principles through a focus on the role of the UN system, states, and NGOs, and processes of norm socialisation and domestic change. We will use case studies to highlight the effectiveness of different theories and processes concerning the role of human rights in international politics. Students will conduct in-depth research into the human rights of a chosen country and further gain practical experience in human rights reporting by writing a shadow report of that country’s adherence to international human rights law.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO866 - Federalism and Federal Political Systems (20 credits)

The focus of this module is on the study of federalism and federal political systems. It introduces students to the main theoretical and methodological approaches to the subject and addresses the conceptual distinction between federalism and federation, encouraging them to explore the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the distinction. Analysis of the conceptual basis to federal systems is followed by a detailed examination of the origins, formation, evolution and operation of the major federations that span two distinct federal traditions, namely, the Anglo-American and the Continental European. The federations examined are: the United States of America; Canada, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. Students are expected to appreciate the historical specificity of each case study and to grapple with the subtleties and complexities inherent in the peculiar circumstances of the origins, formation and evolution of each federation. The module concludes with a brief look at the British tradition of federalism and a more detailed analysis of federalism and European Union. This is a module deliberately designed as a required module for the overall MA programme and is intended to run in the Autumn term as a pre-requisite for the following module, Comparative Federal Political Systems, that will run in the Spring term.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO885 - Decision Making in the European Union (20 credits)

This module provides an advanced understanding of the decision-making process in the European Union, across its three main levels of governance: Union, states and regions. It focuses on the key institutions involved in the process and analyses their interaction from a theoretical, empirical and normative perspective. At the theoretical level, the module familiarises you with competing theoretical approaches to key aspects of decision-making such as preference formation, coalition formation, bargaining, policy implementation and delegation and accountability. At the empirical level, it applies these theories to the decision-making process of the European Union such as preference formation at the state level, coalition bargaining in the Council, legislative bargaining between Commission, Council and Parliament and policy implementation by state and regions. At the normative level, it evaluates these issues against key normative principles and relates them to the debate on institutional reform of the European Union with particular attention to questions of legitimacy and accountability.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO917 - Terrorism and National Security (20 credits)

The purpose of the module is to develop an understanding of the complex relationships between terrorism, counter-terrorism efforts, and human rights, both at home and abroad. Central to the module is the role of the state in responding to terrorism, in attempting to prevent terrorism, and in itself using and sponsoring terrorism. In this regard students are encouraged to re-evaluate assumptions about the state and its place in domestic and international politics, focusing particularly on crimes by the state. Students will be introduced to competing approaches to the study of terrorism, many of which are grounded in wider theories and approaches common to International Relations and Security Studies. One of the challenges of the module is to think critically about the implications and consequences of those various approaches. The module will begin by looking at the various methodological, theoretical, and definitional challenges associated with the study of terrorism. Building on this grounding, students will then begin analysing terrorism, counter-terrorism and the role of the state through a number of case studies drawn from the 20th and early 21st Centuries. They will be encouraged to relate each of the case studies to the broader methodological and theoretical debates explored in the first few weeks of the module.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO918 - Regional Conflict & Security Analysis (20 credits)

This module will introduce students to the study of regional security and conflict analysis, a subfield of security studies. The first part of the module covers the main theoretical approaches to the study of regional security and the role of regional security organisations. These theoretical approaches will be contrasted to approaches focused on international security, and we will ask why it is valuable to study security at the regional level of analysis. Theoretically and empirically, the course will investigate the processes of regionalisation of security that have taken place since the end of the Cold War’s global superpower rivalry. It will also discuss how regional security integration can be achieved, and indeed whether such an achievement would be desirable from the perspective of promoting peace and security.

After this general introduction, we concentrate on the security dynamics of four specific regions. The regions covered will be the Middle East, Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Thus, the empirical focus of the course is on regionalism in the developing world. The region-specific seminars will all have an empirical focus, but will combine this with the theoretical approaches discussed in the first part of the module. The aim is to understand the causes of conflicts in each region, through analysing the interrelationship between local, regional and international factors. One important task in that regard is to determine the relative importance of the regional level vis-à-vis those of the domestic (state) and international levels. In the case of each of the three regions we will also investigate the role played by regional organisations in exacerbating or alleviating conflicts and insecurity.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO926 - Designing Democracy (20 credits)

One of the most prominent political trends during the twentieth century has been the global expansion of democracy. Over the last one hundred years, the number of countries labelled ‘democratic’ has quadrupled, concentrated in successive ‘waves’ of democracy. This module examines the reasons for, and processes by which, countries move from authoritarian to democratic conditions. It considers the meaning and measurement of democracy and the nature of democratic transitions. It examines the evidence, drawn from a well established comparative literature, on which factors – social, cultural, political and economic – underpin the global shift to democracy. It also considers how far the trend towards democracy might have come to an end, manifested in the growing number of countries that are only partially democratic.



Having reviewed these broad trends and factors, the module turns to consider the process of democratic building or ‘consolidation’. A major challenge to this process occurs in societies marked by social or ethnic cleavages. In such societies, the desirability and nature of democratic government is often hotly contested, and special mechanisms are often required to encourage distinctive social groups to submit to democratic authority. One means by which this can be done is via appropriately designed political institutions. Such institutions – in particular, electoral systems, presidential and parliamentary executives and federalism – can be selected, or ‘designed’, to promote certain patterns of behaviour among citizens, potentially overcoming deep-rooted social cleavages and tensions, encouraging cooperation between groups and reducing the incentives for corrupt activities. For this reason, much attention has recently focused on the role that constitutional design can play in democratic transitions in Eastern Europe, Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq.



Throughout, the module focuses both on key theoretical arguments within the democratisation literature (eg. definitions of democracy, the nature of democratic transitions, and the role of political institutions in dealing with entrenched social divisions) and on case studies of recent and ongoing democratic transitions.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO936 - Resistance in Practice (20 credits)

This module will look at how ideas of resistance are translated into political action. What are the modalities, costs and consequences of this process? We will look at specific instances of resistance to political authority and examine the techniques of resistance employed, the assumptions that underpin these techniques, and the tensions and problems that arise as ideas are actualised in political reality. Studying historical examples of resistance will help us reflect on the complex relationship between theory and practice in political reality.



As part of the Resistance in Practice module, students can choose between submitting an academic essay on a historical instance of resistance and performing a practice of resistance. We envision that such practices of resistance could involve poetry, theatre, painting, sculpture, video, film, photography, music and other forms of artistic expression. The practice has to be a documented practice, which means that students have to submit not just the performance but also a portfolio in which they reflect on what they did and why. Early on in the module, students interested in submitting a documented practice for assessment discuss their ideas with the module convenor, and they will continue to work on their projects with the help of a supervisor.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO937 - Resistance in Theory (20 credits)

This module will address the relationship between theories and practices of resistance from the perspective of theory. As such, it will focus on specific ideas and models that conceptualise and theorise resistance to political authority with a view to examining the following: the philosophical and political bases of resistance; the presuppositions that underpin theories of resistance; the appeal to alternative ideas and arrangements; the tensions and possible contradictions that characterise such theories.



There are two dimensions to this module. First of all, the theme of resistance will be explored in the history of political ideas, from Plato via patristic, medieval and modern thinkers to contemporary writings such as those of Alain Badiou. Secondly, the theme of resistance will be related to different conceptions of the political and rival accounts of alternative arrangements to the prevailing order. As such, this module provides a strong grounding in theories of resistance that prepares students for the second core module on practices of resistance.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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PO942 - Resistance and the Politics of Truth (20 credits)

‘The truth will set you free’ is a maxim that is central to both theories and practices of resistance. It is a claim that has, nonetheless, come under fire from a wide array of critical perspectives not the least of which are those of the poststructuralist and post-foundational political philosophies that have emerged during the second half of the twentieth century and that continue to inspire admiration and condemnation in almost equal measure. In this module, poststructuralist will refer to a body of work produced primarily in France since the 1960s that challenged our understanding of truth by developing the critique of humanism in ways that emphasised the contingent nature of meaning generating structures. The main representatives of this perspective in this module will be Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. By post-foundational is meant a body of work that critically questions poststructuralist approaches to contingency while reinvigorating the concept of truth as a political force. The primary representative of this approach is Alain Badiou. Both perspectives have developed event-oriented philosophies – that view the category of the event as ontologically primary – but they have conceived of this in competing ways. A main theme of the module will be how to understand the relationship between truth and politics as an event. In other words, what happens in practices of resistance?

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SO998 - Dissertation (60 credits)

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.

Credits: 60 credits (30 ECTS credits).

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Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is by coursework and the dissertation.

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

Our graduates go on to work for a range of organisations across the public, private and third sectors, and typically pursue careers which involve specialist research and data analysis skills. Recent graduates have worked for Government, NGOs, charities and think tanks as well as global media organisations.

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: Theory and Society; Sociology; European Journal of Social Theory; The Sociological Review; and International Sociology.

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 sociology, politics, history or a related social science discipline, or substantial experience in social or political research, journalism or another relevant profession.

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

English language entry requirements

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

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

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 Analysis of Social Movements

Social and political changes have stimulated new forms of political participation and mobilisation, including waves of protest, new social movement organisations focused on old as well as new issues, new political parties and global social movements. Staff interests include environmental movements, humanitarian NGOs, elite networks, and the ‘postmodern’ politics of anti-communist movements in Eastern Europe.

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.

Crime, Culture and Control

The School has a long-established tradition of conducting criminological research. The group covers a diverse range of topics, employs both qualitative and quantitative methodologies and draws upon different theoretical traditions. We have particular expertise in the following areas: cultural criminology; crime, punishment and social change; drug use; gender, crime and criminal justice; penology and imprisonment (especially of female offenders); policing; quasi-compulsory treatment for drug-using offenders; race, crime and criminal justice; restorative justice and young offenders; crime and the ‘night-time economy’, terrorism and political crime; violence; youth crime and youth justice.

Present and current research has been funded by the ESRC, the Home Office and the Youth Justice Board.

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.

Gender

Research at Kent addresses how gender is constructed and how it operates in a variety of social realms. Some of our recent projects have focused on gender in prisons, on women working as door staff in nightclubs and on how women are addressed in advice on pregnancy. Our research on social policy also includes a focus on gender, examining how men, women and families are affected by legislation and service provision.

Globalisation

At Kent, research in this area includes the role of global civil society, critical analysis of terrorism and responses to it, globalisation and everyday life, migration, the role of communication technologies, and the global expansion of capitalism and responses to it in social movements.

The Individual and the Social

Within this area, staff have worked on the ‘culture of anxiety’ and the ‘therapy culture’, the impact on individual lives and experiences of masculinity, gender, race and ethnicity, parenthood and nationality. Other interests include the social context in which attributions of mental illness are made and managed, the meaning and construction of pain in late modernity, and the sociology of crime and deviance.

Media

Staff share a research interest in the social role of the media, how media are used and how they are changing. Research at Kent has included work on the role of the media in constructing social problems and moral panics, media and crime, new media, media and subcultures, and the role of media in representing space and identity.

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.

Sociological Theory and the Culture of Modernity

Staff working in this cluster study issues such as classical social theory, the impact on social theory of the fall of communism, and the theoretical implications of the changing boundaries of social life. This has further entailed work on the integrity of auto/biography as a form of social information and its impact on diverse disciplines of feminist perspectives.

Sociology of the Body

In this research cluster, staff seek to understand the complex relationships between embodied subjects, and the social and cultural forms, relationships, institutions and structures that shape and are shaped by these actors. This includes research on clothing and fashion, the embodiment of age, and the body in health and social care. Thesis topics within this cluster have included female binge drinking, female body builders, tattooing and piercing, and the embodied sociology of private spaces.

Visual Sociology

Staff share an interest in the visual dimension of social life. How is life seen; how are images created, stored and used? In various research projects, we also explore the use of images in innovative forms of research design and in sharing our findings.

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.

Research centres

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 Parenting Culture Studies (CPCS)

Based in SSPSSR, the Centre is inter-disciplinary, with associates in other Schools at the University, including Law and Psychology, and at other universities in the UK and internationally.
While CPCS associates have diverse research interests, the common view is that child-rearing as a social activity needs to be distinguished from ‘parenting’ and the culture that surrounds it. The work seeks to show how the role and meaning of parenthood has changed in recent years. The expansion of the child-rearing role has also encouraged the belief that ‘parenting’ is a problematic sphere of social life. Indeed, ‘parenting’ is almost always discussed as a social problem. Many social factors have sought to turn child-rearing into an object of policy making, encouraging the emergence of the activity ‘parenting’. The causes and effects of this policy turn is another central area of the Centre’s research.

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.

Q-Step Centre

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.

Tizard Centre

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.

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. 

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Professor Frank Furedi: Professor of Sociology

The different manifestations of contemporary risk consciousness; the relationship between the diminishing of cultural authority and society’s capacity to manage risk and change; the sociology of rumour and dissident knowledge; the sociology of fear. 

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Professor Chris Hale: Professor of Criminology; Director, Methods of Social Research MA

Criminological research (the application of econometric techniques to various topics, including the relationship of both crime and punishment to social and economic change and to the study of fear of crime). 

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Professor Christopher Rootes: Professor of Environmental Politics and Political Sociology; Director, Political Sociology MA

Environmental protest, environmental movements, the interactions between environmental campaigners and industry, government and governmental agencies; cross-nationally comparative research on protest, social movements and political participation; the formation and implementation of environmental policy, particularly in respect of climate change.

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Professor David Shemmings: Professor of Social Work

Adult attachment theory; safeguarding children and child protection; contemporary quantitative research methods.

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Professor Chris Shilling: Professor of Sociology; Director of Graduate Studies (Research)

The body; embodiment; body pedagogics; religion; social, sociological and cultural theory. 

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Professor Tim Strangleman: Professor of Sociology

Work identity and meaning; nostalgia; heritage; industrial decline; masculinity and age; historical sociology; oral histories; life histories; visual methods and approaches. 

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Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby: Professor of Social Policy

Risk; comparative cross-national work on European social policy; theoretical developments in social policy.

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Professor Julia Twigg: Professor of Social Policy and Sociology

The body, and temporal and spatial ordering; age and ageing; disability; medicine and health care; food, diet and health; home care; public and private space; care work and the care workforce; the sociology of food.

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Professor Sarah Vickerstaff: Professor of Work and Employment; Head of School

The relationship between paid work and the life course; the employability of older workers; the apprentice model of vocational training and intermediate skills acquisition; and the transition from school to work.

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Professor Adam Burgess: Professor of Sociology

Contemporary understanding of risk in Western societies; the impact of health risks and neuroses upon individuals and society; the spread of generic risk assessment and management to every walk of professional life; precaution and the study of rumours and urban legends.

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Dr Derek Kirton: Reader in Social Policy and Social Work

Child welfare policy and practice, and especially the areas of adoption and foster care; remuneration for foster carers; the later life experiences of people growing up in the care system.

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Dr Ellie Lee: Reader in Social Policy

Health policy, in particular reproductive health and parent-child relations; contraception; abortion; assisted conception; ‘designer babies’; maternal mental health; infant feeding.

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Dr Kate Bradley: Senior Lecturer in Social History and Social Policy

History of social policy; charities; youth crime, justice and welfare.

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Dr Caroline Chatwin: Senior Lecturer in Criminology

Patterns of illegal drug abuse; drug markets; criminological theory.

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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.

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Dr Anne Logan: Senior Lecturer

History of feminism; history of criminal justice; gender, voluntary work and professionalism.

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Dr Dawn Lyon: Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Sociology of work; migration; visual sociology; gender relations; comparative cultural sociology (especially France and Italy).

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Dr Vince Miller: Senior Lecturer in Sociology; Director, Sociology MA

Urban sociology; theories of urban social change and fragmentation; social theory of space; the information society; media and new media; digital culture and in particular social media.

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Dr Balihar Sanghera: Senior Lecturer in Sociology; Director of Graduate Studies (Taught)

Ethics, moral economy and sentiments; political economy; philanthropy; post-soviet Kyrgyzstan.

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Dr Joanne Warner: Senior Lecturer in Social Work

Risk; mental health; social work; documentary analysis; gender.

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Dr Iain Wilkinson: Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Social theory; sociology of risk; sociology of health; sociology of mass media; the ways people experience and respond to their knowledge of risk, crisis and disaster.

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Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger: Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy

Disability; the workplace; inequality; the benefits system; addictions policy; Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); the relationship between evidence and policy; stratification across the lifecourse; new ideas for the welfare state.

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Dr Phil Carney: Lecturer in Criminology

Media representations of crime and punishment; photographic theory; contemporary social and cultural theory; poststructuralist philosophy.

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Dr Heejung Chung: Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy

Employment insecurity perceptions; work-family conflict and gender gaps; flexible working time arrangements; support for child care in Europe; youth in the labour market after the crisis; relative importance of social life and the role of the welfare state; gender norm dimensions.

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Dr David Garbin: Lecturer in Sociology

Transnational religion; African and South Asian diasporas; migration; globalisation; diasporic processes; popular culture; the politics of identity and ethnicity in urban settings.

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Dr Jonathan Ilan: Lecturer in Criminology

Ethnography of crime; youth crime and justice; street culture; disadvantaged communities; class culture; policing; cultural criminology; urban music; media and crime.

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Dr Lavinia Mitton: Lecturer in Social Policy

Government tax and social security policies, and how they affect people, in particular with respect to the family and income inequality; the history of social policy and long-term change in economic and social conditions.

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Dr Joy Zhang: Lecturer in Sociology

Transnational governance of scientific uncertainties; cosmopolitanism and cosmopolitanisation; Chinese- European co-operation; Chinese civil societies; art-science interface.

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Professor Larry Ray: Professor of Sociology

Sociological theory; postcommunism, social memory and the emergence of new Jewish cultures in Europe; globalisation; race; ethnicity; violence.

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Resources

Contacts

Admissions enquiries

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Fees

The 2016/17 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Political Sociology - MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £5430 £13340
Part-time £2720 £6690

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

The University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that the information contained in its publicity materials is fair and accurate and to provide educational services as described. However, the courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Full details of our terms and conditions can be found at: www.kent.ac.uk/termsandconditions.

*Where fees are regulated (such as by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills or Research Council UK) they will be increased up to the allowable level.

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