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Unit information: Poverty, Social Exclusion and Social Policy in 2020/21

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Unit name Poverty, Social Exclusion and Social Policy
Unit code SPOL20019
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Harkness
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit focuses on the meanings, causes and consequences of poverty, deprivation and exclusion in the `developed’ world. It considers the relationship between poverty and income maintenance policy, the dynamics shaping these relationships in different social, political and cultural contexts, and the implications for different groups of people. Thus, the unit will look at the distribution of poverty and the role, aims and effectiveness of income maintenance policies in resolving poverty. It will begin with an in-depth study of the definitions and measurements of poverty, deprivation and exclusion, and then go on to consider different theories and perspectives on poverty and social exclusion. The unit will include international examples for understanding the factors contributing to poverty and social exclusion and influencing responses to them.

Primarily focusing on countries of the `developed’ world this unit aims to introduce students to the causes, consequences and distribution of poverty, deprivation and exclusion, how these concepts are understood and measured, and the relationship between poverty, social exclusion and systems of social protection. It will also make students aware of the different approaches to social security employed by national governments and promoted by international organisations; the relationship between social security policies and poverty, deprivation and social exclusion; and to the different theoretical perspectives in this field.

Intended learning outcomes

The key learning outcomes are follows. Students are expected:

  • To be able to discuss different meanings of key terms: poverty, deprivation and social exclusion
  • To have a basic understanding of social security policy in developed nations and to changes over time
  • To understand the role of social, political and cultural contexts in shaping the relationship between social security systems and poverty, deprivation and social exclusion.
  • To be able to draw on different theoretical perspectives in discussion and critique of poverty, deprivation and social exclusion
  • To identify and discuss key differences in the distribution of poverty, deprivation and social exclusion across countries

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 study group sessions.

Assessment Details

part 1: Essay (1000 words) (25%)

Part 2: Essay (2000 words) (75%)

Reading and References

Banerjee A et al (2006) Understanding Poverty Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gordon D, Spicker P (Eds) (1999) The International Glossary on Poverty. London, Zed Books

Gordon D, Nandy S, Pantazis C, Pemberton S, Townsend P (2003) Child Poverty in the Developing World, The Policy Press: Bristol.

Lister R (2004) Poverty. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Townsend P (1979), Poverty in the United Kingdom, London: Allen Lane and Penguin Books

Townsend P, Gordon D (Eds) (2002) World Poverty: New Policies to Defeat an Old Enemy. Bristol. Policy Press, pp 53-80