Understanding Society: A Pathway to Further Study

Update October 2017: Applications for this course, starting in October 2017, are now closed. We hope to offer it again in the future, and will be publishing more details in early 2018. In the meantime, the University offers similar courses in English and History, both of which start in January 2018.

About the course

The course will run for the first time on 15 Wednesday evenings, 6 pm to 9 pm, from Wednesday 4 October 2017. You do not need to have any prior qualifications to apply. The most important thing is to explain in your personal statement (on the Understanding Society application form (Office document, 1,985kB)) why you would like to study on the course. The course will be led by Emily Moreton, with contributions from a range of subject experts and advice and support on applying for further study at Bristol or elsewhere.

What it’s all about?

This course is for anyone interested in making sense of the society that we live in and how social and public policies can make a difference to people's lives. It's an interactive course, covering a wide range of topics, from social inequalities, to the general election; September 11th to the justice system; protests, the environment, and what it really means to be part of society. The course will draw on participants' and tutors' experiences, social and conventional media, research projects, and a wide range of other sources, to inform our debate and discussions in class. There will also be opportunities to develop your study skills – including note-taking, essay writing and participating in discussion.

How to apply

The Understanding Society application form (Office document, 1,985kB) and Understanding Society application pack (PDF, 517kB) contain all the information you need in order to apply, and the application form. Complete and sign the form, and post it back to the address printed at the end or send it to us by email to understanding-society@bristol.ac.uk.

If you have any questions about the contents of the pack or about applying, please get in touch with us on the same email address.

What happens next?

There may be various routes into further study beyond this course and we will offer advice and support on the options. Two options at Bristol University may be especially relevant:

  • If you feel confident about starting a degree straight away, you can apply for one of the undergraduate courses in School for Policy Studies.
  • If you feel like you need a bit more preparation before starting an undergraduate degree, you can apply for the Foundation Year In Arts and Humanities, a way into university for people without formal qualifications.

The tutors involved with the course will be happy to advise you on your options, and support your application to any of these programmes.

The course will encourage you to develop skills in:

  • Reading a range of sources. We’ll be looking at lots of different types of sources which help shed light on our society.
  • Discussion: There will be an emphasis on class discussion and debate as well as on critical analysis of the sources. This is a great way to improve confidence and to start thinking about what you are reading. This leads towards…
  • Essay writing: We’ll be focusing in the opening weeks of the course on planning and writing essays: so don’t panic if you haven’t written one before or if you are out of practice!

How much does it cost?

The enrolment fee for this course is £385. Students on a low income can apply for a special bursary to help with some of the costs.


For more information, please download the Understanding Society application pack (PDF, 517kB). Further details, including how to apply for future courses, will be posted in 2018.


For further information, please email understanding-society@bristol.ac.uk.

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