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Unit information: Social Policy and Development in 2020/21

Unit name Social Policy and Development
Unit code SPOL20050
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Peiffer
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The central aim of this unit is to analyse the relationship between social policies and the concept of development, and to demonstrate that comparative studies involve international systems. Starting with an analysis of theories of 'development', we will critique explanations propounded for uneven development between and within societies, and look at the role of gender, politics and power in debates around development. Policies pursued by "developing" countries and civil society action against globalisation and development inform future policy options and directions, and the unit will also explore and analyse social responses to policies on development. Comparisons here will include India and China.

The unit aims to:

  • Demonstrate that comparative studies involve international systems.
  • Familiarise students with development theories and debates on international funding.
  • Examine relationships between the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries.
  • Study policies followed by ‘developing’ countries, and civil society responses to these policies, and to international systems including globalisation.

Students will be expected to be able to critique the theoretical positions on development, including an understanding of the importance of gender dynamics in the development paradigm and to understand the main arguments surrounding international definitions of poverty. Further, students should be familiar with the role of international agencies/organisations in the global economy and their effects in relation to the alleviation of poverty and distribution of resources. Comparisons between countries, on the issues of policies and civil society responses should ‘concretise’ understanding of the constraints and possibilities of different development paths followed.

Intended learning outcomes

After completing this unit successful students will be able to:

  1. Critique key theoretical positions on development.
  2. Understand and be able to explain particular models of development in varied international contexts.
  3. Give an account and an assessment of different international policy responses to development fields and issues.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to communicate to a wide audience issues related to development and international social policy.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through blended learning involving a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including weekly lectures, practical activities supported by study-group sessions, and self-directed exercises. Narrated power point presentations will cover more conceptual and theoretical aspects of the unit, whilst case-examples and other applied learning will take the form of self-paced, material delivered electronically, and undertaken individually or supported by pair and group work, and involving elements of tutor feedback and peer-assessment. Feedback will be provided for formal assessments, preparation for which will be supported through online activities and in weekly study group sessions.

Assessment Details

Part 1: Policy brief - 1000 words, 25% - assesses ILO's 4 Part 2: Essay - 2000 words, 75% - assesses ILO's 1-3

Reading and References

  • Sen, A. and J. Dreze. (1995). India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Pickup, F, S Williams and C Sweetman (2001): Ending violence against women: a challenge for development and humanitarian work. Oxford: Oxfam.
  • Allen, T & Thomas, A (Eds) (2000) Poverty and Development into the 21st Century. Oxford University Press/Open University.