Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Two Year Master's in Methods of Social Research - MA

2018

Aimed at international students, this programme provides an introduction to high-level academic study leading to a recognised postgraduate qualification.

2018

Overview

You gain a clear, confident and advanced understanding of the subject while receiving coaching in academic study and writing. Language and study support are also given in the first year to help you achieve your full potential.

The skills you develop on this programme include critical thinking, data analysis and presentation of key findings as well as transferable skills such as time management, IT and problem solving.

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. An impressive 94% of our research-active staff submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, with 99% of the research submitted judged to be of international quality.

The School supports a large and thriving postgraduate community and in 2010 distributed in excess of £100,000 in Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) quota awards, and in University and SSPSSR bursaries and scholarships to new students.

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.

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.

Modules may include Credits

In this module you will begin to understand the process and debates surrounding how researchers learn more about the social world. What techniques and approaches do social researchers draw upon to organise, structure and interpret research evidence? How do we judge the quality of research? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the range of frameworks and methodologies? The first part of the module introduces you to the conceptual issues and debates around the ‘best’ way to explore social questions, forms and issues, and an overview of some popular methods for doing so. In the Spring Term, you will spend most of your time applying what you have learned in a group research project and an individual research design project.

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This module will examine the impact of digital technology on our social and cultural lives. It will concentrate on how the Internet in particular has challenged some of our more traditional notions of identity and self, the body, relationships, community, privacy, politics, friendship, war and crime, economics, among others. Lectures will show how some of the basic components of culture such as notions of identity, space, the body, community, and even the very notion of what it is to be human, have been complicated by the rise of virtuality and cyberspace. We will also examine these issues through case study phenomena unique to digital culture, currently including gaming, music, cybersex and social networking.

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15

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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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).

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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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This course is designed to provide a guide to the foundations of sociology by exploring the most influential traditions of writing in the discipline and examining how these were forged on the basis of an ongoing dialogue with the legacy of the Enlightenment. After situating sociology in its historical, philosophical and theological contexts, the course analyses how the founders of the discipline developed a series of a competing visions of those processes elementary to social and moral life. Focusing mainly on the French and German traditions of sociology, but also incorporating the British tradition, we progress by examining the tensions that have arisen between collectivist visions of the social whole and competing conceptions of voluntarist inter/action, before focusing on Parsons’s attempt to reconcile these approaches within an overarching conception of ‘the sociological tradition’. The second part of the course moves away from these classical visions of sociology to those post-classical attempts to reconstruct the discipline on the basis of alternative concerns such as conflict, culture and post-modernity. Here we study a number of perspectives that have contributed to a fragmentation of the discipline. Whilst most sessions are concerned with debating the dominant theoretical interests that have defined the discipline, others are devoted to investigating key junctures in the development of methodology and research practice. The course aims to provide students with critical insights into the ways in which sociology has been configured as a discipline in response to key junctures in its history.

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This module provides Masters students with a criminological, sociological and cultural understanding of drug use and trade. It will be divided into three parts: the first will explore the cultural contexts of illicit drug use within modern society; the second will offer a detailed analysis of current and potential methods of drug control; the third will consider and evaluate practical issues facing the drug policy makers of today. Throughout the module curriculum, effort will be made to consider methods, issues and policies in a global, as well as national, context. Particular emphasis will be placed on the theoretical arguments underpinning the major debates in this field and up-to-date research will be drawn upon throughout.

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This module investigates and critically examines the ways in which understandings of race, racisms, difference, and belonging have shaped, both historically, and in the contemporary era, multiethnic societies such as Britain and the USA. This topic is especially pressing, given the vast amount of change in many Western societies - greater cultural diversity, globalization and greater mobility, changes in the manifestations of racism, and changing patterns of family and community life. In what ways do notions of race and racial difference, and contestations over belonging, still matter (or not) in societies today? What competing evidence exists in claims about either the continuing (or declining) significance of ‘race’ and notions of difference more generally? Should we attempt to transcend ‘race’ and racial thinking?

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The module will explore the following:

• 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 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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The module is organised around the general theme of a discussion of current debates in the sociology of health, illness and medicine drawing on both theoretical and empirical research. More specific themes will include: the social construction of health and the changing boundaries between health and illness; medicalisation and the discovering of new mental and physical illnesses ; narratives of illness and identity in the context of chronic illness and disability assessing the value of concepts such as ‘biographical disruption’: the changing structure, nature and regulation of medicine and the explanatory power of the new sociology of professionalism.; the political sociology of medicine which explores the relationship between the state and organised interests such as the pharmaceutical industry; changing approaches of the public /patients to maintaining health and managing illness in the context of a culture of consumption where health and lifestyle might be seen as commodities and maintaining a healthy body keeps control over an uncertain and changing world ; trust, risk and mental health ; consideration of the growth in the use of non orthodox health care and the development of medical pluralism and a discussion of the relationship between structure and agency in the context of social inequalities in health.

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Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • prepare you for the academic challenges of postgraduate study in SSPSSR;
  • offer a range of modules that provide a solid grounding for further study at Master’s level in the UK;
  • develop academic and research skills in Social Science degrees taught through Social Sciences;
  • increase your proficiency in English for general academic purposes and for study in SSPSSR to a standard which is equivalent to C1 on CEFR or 6.5 in IELTS;
  • enable you, on completion, to study successfully alongside others who have completed a full UK Social Sciences degree;
  • enable you to develop their independent study and research skills in the context of postgraduate study associated with SSPSSR.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the structures, registers and varieties of English to a level sufficient for you to be successful on a University of Kent postgraduate degree programme;
  • the inter-disciplinary nature of Academic Skills in Social Sciences;
  • academic literacy and skills - in particular, the use of English for academic purposes;
  • the process and debates surrounding how researchers learn more about the social world;
  • the techniques and approaches that social researchers draw upon to organise, structure and interpret research evidence;
  • how to judge the quality of research concerning strengths and weaknesses of the range of frameworks and methodologies.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • critical reflection;
  • discussing and undertaking written and interpretative analysis of key material;
  • presenting, evaluating and interpreting a variety of data using defined techniques in a logical and systematic fashion;
  • general research, especially bibliographic and computing skills;
  • gathering, organising and deploying evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and some primary sources;
  • identifying, investigating, analysing, formulating and advocating solutions to problems;
  • developing reasoned arguments, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • applying concepts, theories and methods used in the study of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology;
  • analysing data including indexing and retrieval of qualitative data, and understanding basic statistics.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • team and independent working: collaborating effectively as part of a team and in group activity for a common goal; the ability to work with others; independent working and study skills;
  • communication skills: presenting material in written and oral form; making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation; understanding the dynamics of communication;
  • critical thinking: critically evaluating and reflecting on your own and others' opinions; analysing and critically examining material as well as identifying and describing problems;
  • research: understanding and evaluating research material, including qualitative and quantitative data; processing information (reading) and using libraries;
  • IT/ICT: using effectively and appropriately for communication and as a means of learning;
  • planning and time management: planning effectively, meeting  deadlines and managing your own learning.

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

Recent graduates have pursued careers in academia, journalism, local and central government, charities and NGOs.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

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.  

Entry requirements

  • Undergraduate study at an overseas university or institution in a relevant social sciences field;
  • or, an undergraduate degree from a UK institution where the particular area of intended SSPSSR study has represented a component but not the principal focus of study;
  • or, a relevant foundation degree, ordinary (Bachelors) degree, Diploma of Higher Education or other higher diploma.

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. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

Average 6.0 in IELTS test, minimum 6.0 in Reading and Writing (students will need to meet the SSPSSR linguistic entry requirement by gaining an equivalent grade in module LZ605 - Advanced English for Postgraduate Academic Study in Social Sciences and Humanities).

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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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.

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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 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.

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Dr Trude Sundberg: Lecturer in Social Policy

Research methods and comparative welfare issues.

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Dr Robert de Vries: Lecturer in Quantitative Sociology

Social stratification and social comparisons, cultural consumption, health inequalities, social attitudes and stereotypes (particularly with respect to welfare benefit claimants). 

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Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Methods of Social Research (2 years) - MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £12010 £12010

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 accommodation and living costs, plus 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: