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Masters Excellence Scholarshipsup to £500,000 in tuition fee discounts available

Education, Policy and Society (MSc)

12 months, with some weekend seminars (Full-time) / 24-36 months, with some weekend seminars (Part-time) / n/a (Distance / E-Learning)

Course Aims

As education becomes increasingly globalised, schools and education systems around the world are being shaped and reshaped by what are often a common set of global education policies and ideologies. The aim of the MSc in Education, Policy & Society is to help students develop their ability to critically analyse these dominant educational ideologies, policies and practices; to understand the forces that are driving them, their shortcomings and likely outcomes; and most importantly, to discover and engage with alternative models of education, training, teaching and learning, at the early childhood, primary, secondary and post-secondary levels, and in nonformal and informal contexts outside the formal education system.

Special Features

The MSc in Education, Policy & Society is unique in that it is one of the few Master’s level courses focusing on education that is offered by an interdisciplinary School of Social Sciences. As such, the approach to education offered here is shaped by a strong belief in the value of interdisciplinary social science theory and research for enhancing our collective ability to re-think, re-imagine and enhance educational practices, policies and principles, whether at the local, national or global level.

Course Description

The MSc in Education, Policy & Society is designed for all students wanting to develop their capacity to critically analyse educational practice, policy and ideology, to develop a more clear “big picture” understanding of the broader structures and forces that are affecting schools, universities and education systems today, and to find out about and deepen their understanding of alternative ways of thinking about and doing education. This may include those who have recently completed undergraduate courses of study as well as individuals currently working as practitioners, whether in schools, colleges or universities, youth or community groups, international development organisations, workforce and skills development programmes, or in different levels of government.

The MSc in Education, Policy & Society has been designed to be of value and relevance to students both from the UK and overseas.

Course Structure

The MSc in Education, Policy & Society is organised around a sequence of three 20-credit specialist modules in education, two 30-credit modules in social science theory and research methods, and one 60-credit supervised dissertation on an educational topic of your choice. The three specialist modules that make up the core of the MSc in Education, Policy & Society are:

Module 1: Global educational alternatives (20 credits)

This module develops students’ knowledge and understanding of educational practices, pedagogies, theories and research, drawn from across the global North and South, that seek to provide alternatives to the prevailing neoliberal model of marketised, vocationalised, credentialist and hierarchical forms of schooling. The module closely examines traditions of popular, progressive, democratic, environmental, labour, indigenous and culturally sustaining forms of education. The module focuses, in particular, on non-vocational purposes of education.

Module 2: International and comparative skills systems (20 credits)

This module develops students’ knowledge and understanding of skills and skills systems in different national contexts, and explores the impact of growing internationalisation on skill development, labour mobility and inequality. Aspects that are covered include the comparative political economy of skills and the way state and non-state policy actors (e.g. state, trade unions, and employers in coordinated, liberal and emerging economies) shape the skills system. Further attention will be given to debates on the knowledge economy, the challenges of globalisation, and the role of skills in economic growth and development and variability within and across countries. The module focuses, in particular, on vocational purposes of education.

Module 3: Social contexts of education (20 credits)

This module provides students with a set of theoretical frameworks and critical analytical tools that are helpful for examining and understanding questions of power, politics, ideology and inequality in a broad range of educational practices, structures, policies and discourses. This module is unique in that it is offered as an intensive set of lectures, seminars and student workshops that are organized over a short, three-day period. It brings together MSc students with working professional students, who are currently engaged in a range of occupational contexts, including in schools, colleges and universities, public health, public policy and administration, social work, nursing and medicine.

All students on the MSc in Education, Policy & Society are required to take at least two of these three specialist modules. In some cases, students may opt to substitute one of these modules with an alternative specialist module from one of the School’s other postgraduate programmes that fits their own particular learning interests. These may include specialist modules such as: Changing Modes of Professionalism; Contemporary Issues in Childhood and Youth Studies; Debates in Educational Research; Research with Children and Young People; Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century; Visitor Studies.

In addition to these three specialist modules, all students on the MSc in Education, Policy & Society are also required to take two 30-credit modules in social science theory and research method. These modules are:

Module 4: Principles and practices of research design (30 credits)

This module provides students with an introduction to the principles and practice of social science research design and methods. It introduces students to the main data collection methods used in social sciences and provides a common grounding in how to critically evaluate the research of others and make appropriate choices in their own research projects, enabling them to specify, design and conduct a research project. Seminars in this module help students understand how to apply research principles and practices to the field of education studies in particular.

Module 5: Critical Perspectives in Social Science (30 credits)

This module introduces students to, and advances their understanding of, some of the leading theoretical perspectives and concepts in the social sciences. The module draws on a range of sociological theoretical perspectives and conceptualisations (for example equality, power, values, gender, ethnicity, class and social reproduction) to explore the ways in which theoretical insight can add insight and understanding to our knowledge of the social world and everyday practice. Seminars in this module help students understand how to apply theoretical perspectives and concepts to the field of education studies in particular.


Finally, all students in the MSc in Education, Policy and Society are asked to produce a 60-credit, 20,000 word dissertation on an educational topic of their choice. This dissertation involves a small scale independent piece of research. It enables students to develop their interests in a substantive area related to the programme and to put into practice the knowledge and skills developed through participation in the taught modules. Each student will be allocated a personal dissertation supervisor to assist in planning, conducting and writing up the research project.

Teaching Methods

Modules on the MSc in Education, Policy and Society are delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, workshops and independent guided study, and offer extensive opportunities for small group learning. All of the modules involve weekly meetings over the course of a three month academic semester, except for Module 3: Social Contexts of Education, which is offered as an intensive three day learning event. Some modules are offered only in the autumn semester, and others only in the spring semester. Modules are assessed by a combination of essays, reports, reviews and presentations. There are no examinations.

Skills Acquired

On successfully completing the MSc in Education, Policy & Society, you will have significantly enhanced your ability to:

      1. Critically evaluate policy, practice and discourse in a wide range of educational settings, and analyse competing theoretical perspectives and knowledge claims
      2. Analyse and situate local and national education policies and practices within their broader global, historical and ideological contexts
      3. Collect, analyse and interpret a range of complex social science data
      4. Communicate and present ideas and research findings effectively in both spoken and written form
      5. Apply social science theory and research in order to better understand, re-think, re-imagine and enhance educational practices and policies in your own communities and workplaces

      6. Tutor Profiles

        • Professor Phillip Brown is a leading sociologist in the field of education, work and the global labour market. Recent work includes path-breaking comparative studies involving work in China, India and Singapore that fundamentally challenged Western policy debates around skill formation, social justice and the knowledge economy.
        • Dr. Carina Girvan is a lecturer in Education, with interests in technology enhanced learning, teacher professional development and programming. The main focus of her research is on the use of new technologies in education. Her recent work has focused on the design and learner experience of constructionist learning activities in non-goal orientated virtual worlds.
        • Dr. Peter Hemming’s research and teaching interests focus on the areas of children, young people and religion, children and experiences of schooling, faith-based education, sociology of education, citizenship studies and sociology of religion.
        • Professor David James’s main areas of interest include research methodology, learning and assessment in further and higher education, the sociology of post-compulsory education, the social theory of Bourdieu, social equality and inequality, psychological and cultural theories of learning.
        • Professor Caroline Lloyd has written widely on the link between skills and competitive strategy, the political economy of skill and the causes and consequences of low wage work. Her current research focuses on a comparative study of skills and work organisation in the European service sector.
        • Professor Sally Power is Director of Research at the School of Social Sciences. Her research interests focus on the relationship between education and inequality, and particularly social class differentiation, as well as the relative success and failure of education policies designed to promote greater equality of opportunity.
        • Dr. Dean Stroud’s research focuses on workplace learning, (green) skills formation and policy, trade unions, work organisation, regeneration policy and the development of sustainabile economies. His most recent project explores the greening of technical vocational education in the European steel industry, a sector that has been the focus for much of his work.
        • Dr. Stuart Tannock’s research and teaching interests focus on the areas of critical youth studies, education in a global context, alternative education, theories of education and social justice, immigration, and labour movement and community based organising.

        Entry Requirements

        Applicants should normally hold a first or second-class undergraduate degree in a humanities or social sciences subject. However, other applicants will be considered if they can demonstrate, through recent and relevant experience, that they have the ability to undertake the course.

        Applicants whose first language is not English are required to obtain a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.5 with at least 6.5 in writing and 5.5 in all other sub-sections.

        Further Information & How to Apply

        Applications should be made via the Online Applications Service. Please make sure that you explain clearly in your personal statement why you are interested in applying to the MSc in Education, Policy and Society. You should refer explicitly to the course and module content outlined above and should explain clearly the particular aspects of this course that most interest you, and what topics or themes you are hoping to learn more about in taking it. If this information is not included, this may cause delays in processing your application, and the School may contact you with a request for further information .

        There deadline for applications to this course for international applicants is August 1st; for applicants, the deadline for applications in September 1st. The different dates are due to the need to allow sufficient time for visa processing for international applicants.

        Cardiff University Masters Excellence Scheme

        This course is included in the Masters Excellence Scholarship 2015 (Pathway to PhD) scheme. If you are looking at applying for a Masters degree with the intention of going on to study at PhD level then you are eligible to apply for this scholarship. The application will ask you to consider your research area and future sources of funding.  It is recognised, however, that in making this application there is not a commitment to undertake further study, or to undertake further studies at Cardiff University.  Similarly, in making an award, Cardiff University is not committing to making an offer for further study or for a further award.

        Tuition Fees:

        • UK & EU Full Time Fees: (Payable annually and those stated are for 2015/16 unless otherwise stated below).
        • UK & EU Part Time Fees: (Payable annually and those stated are for 2015/16 unless otherwise stated below).
        • International Full Time Fees: (Payable annually and those stated are for 2015/16 unless otherwise stated below).
        • International Part Time Fees: (Payable annually and those stated are for 2015/16 unless otherwise stated below).

        Next intake: September each year. Apply in September and by the 15th October each year.

        School Contact

        Name: SOCSI Taught Masters Administrator  

        Telephone: +44 (0)29 2087 0284 / +44 (0)29 2087 5178  



        School Website:

        School Contact

        Name: Dr. Stuart Tannock  

        Telephone: +44 (0)29 208 75113 



        School Website:

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