Social and Political Studies

The course will give you an insight into how the three core disciplines of Social Science – Sociology, Economics and Politics – explore, explain and interpret different aspects of social change. The course is aimed at mature students with little or no prior knowledge of these subjects and aims to give you a sound understanding of the core concepts, theories and approaches involved in the study of society.

This is a one-year full time, or two-year part time, undergraduate course that is the equivalent to the first year of university level study.

If you are a full-time student you will study two modules per term. In addition, you will have a one hour tutorial every week..

If you are a part-time student you will study one module per term. You will also have a weekly one hour tutorial.

The course is validated by The Open University.

Food for Thought

This module is intended to complement the ‘Skills for Social Science’ module which runs alongside it. It introduces certain general concepts prominent in contemporary social science, via the organising theme of food. This theme provides a framework through which you will present and examine the general concepts of production, consumption and trade/exchange, with particular reference to class, gender and ethnicity.

It highlights the specific ways in which these concepts and relations are used and examined in Sociology, Economics and Politics. This interdisciplinary module is intended to prepare the ground for a more discipline-specific focus on these concepts in the subsequent Introductions to Sociology, Economics and Politics.


Skills for Social Sciences – the skills you need to be a better student

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the skills of social science including transferable skills, conceptual tools and methods. It will be grounded in the disciplines of Sociology, Economics and Politics, but will concentrate on the common elements shared by all of the Social Sciences. As an interdisciplinary foundation module, it will provide an introduction to the specific methodologies of the three main social science disciplines, and lay the foundation for the subject specific modules that follow in terms 2 and 3.

These skills complement the ‘seminar’ part of the Food for Thought module, where presentation and group-work skills are developed through practical exercises. In the spring and summer terms the skills acquired in this module become progressively student-led and will be applied and developed through your work in the other modules.


Introduction to Sociology

This module builds on your understanding of the key concepts and the nature of social scientific understanding and research skills introduced in the ‘Food for Thought’ and ‘Skills for Social Science’ modules.

You will be introduced to the theories of Marx, Durkheim and Weber and to the competing sociological perspectives to which they gave rise. You will apply and examine these perspectives for their respective strengths and weaknesses in the empirical field of social inequality.


Introduction to Politics

This module offers you an introduction to the study of politics. During the first half of this module you will explore further key political concepts and their role and interpretation in classical political ideologies (e.g. liberalism, conservatism, socialism, environmentalism, fundamentalism). During the second half of this module you will be introduced to the study of political actors and institutions and the changing nature of relationships between them.


Economy and Society

This module introduces you to the basic principles of Economics. With some reference to the theme of food introduced in the ’Food for Thought’ module during the Autumn Term, it focuses on the concepts of production, consumption and exchange.

You will identify the distinctive approach adopted by Economics, as well as the different traditions of economic thought – in particular the neoclassical and Keynesian approaches and begin to explore new economic ideas.


Independent Studies

This module allows you to explore a topic of your own choice in some more depth over the course of the Summer Term. Where previous coursework will have been based around tasks and questions set by tutors, here you have the opportunity – in negotiation with an allocated supervisor - to shape your own interests into a manageable research topic.

The main aim of the module is to develop and sharpen your independent learning and research skills, with ‘research’ here meaning a structured exploration of an agreed topic (rather than research based on empirical fieldwork).

On each module you will meet as a whole group for five hours per week, with teaching typically being split over two days (into 2- and 3-hour sessions). The teaching methods employed vary according to the content and aims of the session. A typical session will make use of a mix of different methods – e.g. mini-lecture, pair- or group-work, learning checks, tutor- or student-led discussion – in order to accommodate different learning styles.

In the first year in Autumn term the module Skills for Social Science is dedicated to help you develop the skills required for successful study and to be social scientists in training. In the process it will help you prepare for the rest of the programme and explicitly focus on your development as a learner.

The integration of dedicated study-skills elements during the first year is crucial to easing your return to formal education. In addition to skills teaching and development built into the curriculum, you – like all students – are encouraged to make use of the additional learning support available to you at Ruskin

In addition, during the Certificate of Higher Education you will be paired up for one-hour tutorials with a designated tutor to discuss your work and any issues relating to it on a weekly basis. You will be set work that you will bring to each tutorial for wider discussion and formative assessment. The work discussed in tutorials might include, for example, essay plans, an annotated bibliography, a draft data-response or notes on a set reading.

Beyond the time tabled formal teaching sessions, you will be positively encouraged to form and attend formal and informal study groups in which you can discuss course content, ideas and the wider process of studying. Most of Ruskin’s students are residential and discuss issues informally.

In summary, the main teaching and learning methods adopted across the modules are:

  • Tutor-led mini-lectures introducing theoretical, conceptual and methodological issues and debates
  •  Tutor-led seminars allowing you to engage with, contextualise and examine social scientific sources (texts and/or data) individually and in small groups
  • Tutorials, initially tutor-led but becoming increasingly student-led as the course progresses
  • Student-centred activities (defined individual, pair- and group-work tasks; presentations)
  • Student-led discussion and


Within these methods a range of strategies are adopted including:

  • Critical engagement with written sources and data
  • Structured discussion exercises
  • Session summaries and feedback
  • Mini-tests and learning checks
  • Library- and web-based research exercises
  • Guest lectures as part of the tutor-delivered content
  • Group and peer critiques and marking exercises
  • Student-led individual and group presentations
  • Guides to study skills (e.g. self-directed study, giving and receiving critical feedback, reviewing, editing and proofing work, summarising, time management, research and presentation skills).


Beyond the time tabled formal teaching sessions, you will be positively encouraged to form and attend formal and informal study groups in which you can discuss course content, ideas and the wider process of studying. Most of Ruskin’s students are residential and discuss issues informally.

All candidates must be able to satisfy the general admissions requirements for Ruskin College Oxford.

This course starts in September.
Applications close 15th August.

Successful students often go on to work for NGOs such as Oxfam, Asylum Welcome and Age Concern. Others return to previous careers in care, housing or social services in advanced (managerial) positions.

Others go on to another institution to complete undergraduate studies in Sociology, Politics, Social Policy and International Relations (for example, Oxford Brookes, Kings College (London) and Surrey).      

Progression opportunities within Ruskin College

If you successfully complete the Certificate of Higher Education (worth 120 Credits at Level 4), you will be eligible to progress onto the second year of the BA (Hons) Social and Political Studies.

Click on the tutor's name to read their profile.

Dr Peter Dwyer

Academic Coordinator for Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr Ed Rooksby

Programme Coordinator for Social and Political Studies & Tutor in Politics and Social Sciences

You can apply for courses at Ruskin College online or you can download a pdf of our application form

You can request a hard copy of the application form to be sent to you by contacting our Academic Registrar on 01865 759604 or

 You may also apply for this course online through UCAS. The UCAS course code is L001

When filling in the application form please ensure that you complete the personal statement section in full and ensure that you include the contact details of two references. Incomplete applications will be returned.

Tuition fees

Subject to eligibility, most full and part time students will be eligible to apply for a Tuition Fee Loan from the Student Loans Company.

Maintenance (living costs)

Subject to eligibility, full time students may be eligible to apply for help with their maintenance with a Maintenance Grant/Loan. Part time students are not eligible for any financial help with maintenance.
Information on the Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Grant/Loan can be found here.