As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself.
Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, from scheduled teaching in lectures and small group tutorials, to self-study and peer group learning (for example preparing and delivering presentations with your classmates).
To begin with you may find this way of working challenging, but rest assured that we’ll enable you to make this transition. You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors who can help with both academic and welfare issues, and a formal transition review during your first year to check on your progress and offer you help for any particular areas where you need support.
As a Social Policy student, you will be based in Muirhead Tower, a fully WiFi enabled, sophisticated, hi-tech learning environment. There are nine libraries supporting your learning through access to one of the biggest research library facilities in the UK. Open access computing facilities are widely available across campus.
We are committed to enabling all of our students to profit from a culture of learning, aligned with our research ethos, which is based upon active enquiry and critical reflection around continually emerging developments in the dynamic field of social policy.
We utilise an approach known as enquiry-based learning, in which learning comprises a conversational, collaborative enterprise, where academic staff work with you in the process of gaining the crucial academic and life skill, of becoming an active and independent learner. Within this process, we are strongly committed to ensuring our students develop a range of transferrable skills as part of the process of enhancing their future employability.
Employers value Social Policy graduates on the basis of our reputation for academic excellence and our students' considerable suite of skills and experiences gained over the course of their degree programme; our graduates are highly employable. Supporting our students in acquiring skills and experiences to enhance their employability is a key priority for us and is reflected in the way that we structure our academic programmes. Systematic assessment and review is firmly built into the programme through our 'Progress' and tutoring systems.
Progress and tutoring
Your skill-set and talents, which you bring with you to your Social Policy degree programme, are valuable resources and a baseline upon which we will build over the course of your degree programme. Key sources of support in that process are our 'Progress' and tutoring systems which include intensive academic tutoring by senior tutors for first year students and one-to-one tutoring for students in all three years of the programme, providing you with a personal and systematic approach to reviewing your progress, achievements and aspirations. Social Policy programmes provide a range of opportunities for enhancing your skill base, experiences and your employability.
Agency placement experiences
Agency placements are firmly integrated into an academic module and so will provide you with a critically informed and animated insights into the links between your academic work and the work of employers. Placements can be valuable in that they can provide you with a further gateway to gaining employment relevant experiences such as developing insights into what happens when an issue emerges within an agency and how the issue unfolds, is negotiated and managed. An agency placement can also be a great help in developing your sense of self-confidence and competence in an agency setting.
Internships provide students with the opportunity to spend a longer block of time with an agency or organisation, and there are a range of interesting opportunities available to students. In addition to a dedicated Careers Advisor, we also have a specialist Internship Officer located in the School of Social Policy, who works with and facilitates students in securing internship opportunities. In addition to structured inputs into the programme our Careers and Internship officers have an active relationship with our student Social Policy Society, arranging events, workshops and talks in collaboration with our students. Both placements and internships can provide you with an excellent means of developing a vivid and tangible sense of the connections between your academic studies and the world of employment.
If you are interested in gaining work experience over the course of your social policy degree programme, our specialist Careers and Employability Advisor, who holds regular surgeries, several days each week in the building which we are based, will be able to provide you with support, advice and information about the many employers who are keen to offer opportunities to our undergraduates. The Guild also has a facility called Jobzone which provides a wide and interesting range of opportunities for students. In addition, if you want to gain work experience in an area which is interesting or inspires you, but perhaps is low paid or unpaid, the University has a range of bursaries available which can enable you to do this.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to demonstrate your commitment to civic engagement, develop your employability skills, gain crucial work experience, and meet new people. We actively encourage our students to gain volunteering experiences, both through our modules as well as our links to the Student Volunteering Service, who provide our students with access to a range of experiences both in the UK and abroad.
A typical Social Policy lecture
Social Policy lectures take many different forms.This is a typical first year social policy lecture. Other Social Policy lectures take the form of talks followed by a workshop, others are combined with small group exercises, group discussions, seminars, project or placement work.
Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.
You’ll be assessed in a variety of ways, and these may be different with each module that you take. You will be assessed through coursework which may take the form of essays, group and individual presentations, laboratory-based work (depending on your chosen degree) and formal exams.
During your first year you will undergo a formal ‘transition’ review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.
At the beginning of each module, you’ll be given information on how and when you’ll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You’ll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You’ll be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.
Teaching and learning mediums
The design of the Social Policy curriculum reflects the full range of our research expertise and you will be taught by academics who are specialists in their field. As a Social Policy student, your learning will take place through a range of different mediums, including:
A key emphasis on direct contact, which includes interactive, academic lectures, seminars, workshops, project work, group and individual tutorials.
A range of e-learning mechanisms such as WebCT, Wikis, podcasts and iVLE our integrated virtual learning environment through which you will have both on-campus and off-site access to a wide range of learning materials, 24 hours a day.
Our Information Services provide a suite of training, designed to facilitate students in using the wide range of information technology services, research databases and online data sources, which you will use within your social policy degree studies.
Teaching and learning methods
As a Social Policy student your learning will be facilitated through a blend of teaching and learning methods, for example:
Lectures, seminars, workshops, classes and tutorials.
Web-based learning methods, e.g. the production of wikis.
Reflective learning through the use of groupwork, independent work and study logs.
Project work, policy reports, working parties, briefing papers and presentations.
Embedded learning through optional placements and extensive engagement with developing contemporary social issues and debates.
Team and independent research work, in your third year, a research based dissertation.
Tutorials - All students receive academic support and progress review from their own personal academic tutor throughout the three years of their degree.
A typical assessment for modules is 50% of coursework and 50% examination; some modules are 100% coursework. Students are able to choose some modules according to their personal strengths and preferences both in relation to subject matter and assessment methods.
Your research dissertation
In your 3rd year, you will undertake a research based dissertation on a subject of your choice, providing you with an excellent opportunity to focus upon a theme or topic which really interests and inspires you. You will carry out your research in a vibrant research environment where the quality of tuition and academic support is excellent. Specialist modules on research methods and dissertation advice and support, will be provided in each year of your studies. In addition, you will receive one-to-one academic supervision from a specialist in the Social Policy academic team, which has a balance of expertise that covers all areas of the discipline, and has long-established strengths in a range of fields such as: criminal justice; the voluntary sector; politics and social policy; poverty; health policy; wealth and assets; social inclusion and equalities; housing issues; faith-based organisations and movements; new migration; comparative social policy; and young people and families. The breadth and quality of expertise available to support you in your research work is considerable. In the last Research Assessment Exercise, 95% of our research work was adjudged as 'internationally recognised', 45% as 'internationally leading' and 15% as 'world-leading'.
External Examiner's Comments
As well as receiving a high score in the National Student Survey, our Social Policy programmes consistently receive positive feedback from our external examiners.
Professor Nick Ellison "BA Social Policy at the University of Birmingham, provides the very best in social policy teaching, offering a wide choice of modules with plenty of opportunity to learn about research methods and the 'practice' of research. There are also opportunities to undertake placements, which are useful for gaining experience and future employment. During my time as External Examiner, I was impressed by the feedback provided for students and most certainly impressed with the enthusiasm of the staff, particularly in their efforts to ensure that teaching was properly 'research-led' and focused on the most up-to-date themes and issues in social policy" .
Teaching and assessment
We use a wide range of teaching methods and assessments, including a range of e-learning mediums such as WebCT, Wikis and podcasts, along with workshops, presentations, seminars, classes, briefing papers, policy reports, project work and essays. A typical assessment for modules is 50% coursework and 50% examination. Some modules are 100% coursework. Students are able to choose some modules according to their personal strengths and preferences both in relation to subject matter and assessment methods. Your third-year dissertation, which is research-based, is supervised by an academic tutor. All students have the support of their own personal tutor throughout their degree, and access to welfare tutors if they have specific learning support needs.