Global Labour and Social Change

The MA in Global Labour and Social Change (MA GLSC) updates and replaces the MA in International Labour and Trade Union Studies (ILTUS).

Whilst the MA GLSC retains a central focus on the future of trade unions and organised labour to represent the interests of workers globally, the new programme explores also the role of allied social movements in providing alternative and/or supplementary means to organise and represent the wide, diverse interests of those engaged in work. As such the MA GLASC welcomes applicants from trade union activists and officials and those from social movements and/or those active outside of organised labour and with an interest in the political economy of work and the future representation of worker’s interests.

The MA GLSC is a one-year full-time, and two-year part-time programme. Full-time students are taught weekly with twice-weekly tutorials. Full-time students are typically resident on-campus, but this is not a compulsory requirement. Part-time students are taught via weekend residential workshops, with tutorials provided when students attend workshops.

The MA GLSC at Ruskin College is wholly unique in the UK being the only programme written specifically for those employed or active around issues of worker organisation, mobilisation and representation. This unique characteristic arises also from Ruskin’s historically close relationship with labour movements internationally, and its continuing educational mission to provide radical, socially transformative education to working class women and men.

Course Philosophy and Approach

The course philosophy and approach is centred on the role and place of labour movements internationally in the ongoing debate about labour movement crisis and renewal. This philosophy recognises also that academic disciplines of gender and development have a significant confluence with the study of labour and allied social movements. Thus students benefit from an inter-disciplinary curriculum delivered through a pedagogical approach predicated on radical and critical teaching and learning methodologies.

The master’s degree offers practitioners and scholars of labour and allied movements, the conceptual, analytical and critical framework for understanding and explaining, making links with, and comparing and contrasting their own and fellow and sister students’ depth and breadth of labour and allied movement experience. It aims to encourage students to think beyond the mainstream about new and creative strategies of labour movement renewal and transformation and their own role and identity in this.

The overall philosophy of the programme is rooted in a commitment to self-development and the empowerment through education and learning. This combines with an ethos whereby students take responsibility for their own autonomous learning, making sense of their own experience as they proceed. This aspect is built into the MA as part of the learner journey. Students are required to reflect on this systematically and critically throughout the programme. A self-reflexive commentary, based on students’ personal journals forms part of a practice-based portfolio which concludes the assessment for the Professional Post-Graduate Certificate (PPGC) stage of the MA. Similarly, reflexivity and positionality are required to be addressed in the dissertation.

Overall Course Aims

The programme will enable students to acquire the necessary knowledge, understanding, skills and critical dimensions of the subject area through teaching, learning and assessment as a basis for:

  • The education and development of individuals as practitioners, leaders and specialists in the field of global labour studies, and thus improve the quality of leadership, innovative and strategic thinking in labour movements and allied organisation and movements.

  • Add value to either first degrees or to equivalent levels of study, professional and practitioner work, by developing in individuals an integrated and critically aware understanding of leadership, organisation and strategic development of international labour and allied organisations and movements.

  • Prepare graduates for both career development and the taking on of effective and leadership roles in labour and allied organisations, and for research and further academic study.

  • To support students to generate new critical awareness of their personal and academic growth and development.

The central focus of the MA GLSC is an analysis of the political economy of work globally and the political, social and economic implications of this. So, for example, how does work undertaken across global supply chains in garment manufacture affect the economic stability of workers and their communities who are drawn into this work? Additionally, in what ways do these workers mobilise to represent their own interests, and how is this done through labour and/or social movements on the ground or at a regional or international level?

The programme seeks to explore and analyse the on-going challenges of worker organisation and mobilisation globally examining simultaneously the wide ranging social change impinging on such work. For example, in what ways does the global rise of precarious work challenge traditional models of trade union organising strategy? And, should more radical strategies be deployed encompassing a wider range of social actors than trade unions?

The programme is based on the expectation that students will have a wide range of knowledge and/or practical experience in labour movements and allied fields, and a primary aim is for the course to provide the conceptual and analytical framework for them to make sense of such practice, and make links across disciplines and fields. The heavy emphasis on grounded learning and praxis means that much study will be based on current issues, dilemmas and debates in the field, accessed through case study work, data analysis, archives, video and other media gained, structured and presented through information and learning technologies (ILT). The Post-Graduate Certificate of the MA concludes with an attachment which will allow for the structured facilitation of praxis, and reflection on this in the practice-based portfolio.

The course is validated by The Open University.

Steps to Postgraduate Study - The official, independent guide for anyone considering a taught postgraduate course

View the programme specifications for the MA here

View the programme specifications for the PGCert here


Students will normally be graduates with an honours degree, or equivalent qualifications in a relevant area of study.

Instead of a degree, you may be admitted if:

• You have relevant paid or unpaid experience including training/education courses, in organisations such as trade unions, community, voluntary or political groups

• You have knowledge and academic skills commensurate with degree level work

• You can show evidence of capacity for post-graduate study through providing a portfolio of recent written work; for example reports, policy papers, funding applications, essays, etc.

• You complete an academic case study analysis exercise and background reading set by the MA to the equivalent standard of a first degree

• You have qualifications in the relevant area of study and have completed the equivalent of year 1 elsewhere, you may apply for entry to Part 2 of the MA

The MA comprises two exit awards of postgraduate certificate (PGCert) and postgraduate diploma (PGDip). Although students are able to exit the MA at these points with the relevant award, these stages also signify key phases of learning and development for students as the complete the MA.

The MA is an educational programme which runs over either one (full-time mode) or two (part-time mode) academic years. Regardless of mode, the MA educational programme comprises three parts. Part one (PGCert) of the MA provides the primary underpinning theoretical and practical knowledge of international labour movement challenges and opportunities. The development of research knowledge and skills also during part one enables students to undertake part two of the MA (PGDip). This is where a more integrative analysis is undertaken of, for example, how and whether labour and allied movements can respond to global change within the context of the political economy of work. The contingent knowledge and skills gained completing these stages, for example the outcomes of the attachment stage of the PGCert, are critically important development influences to complete the third and final part of the programme (MA) where students are taught radical research methodologies which allow for the completion of a 10-12,000 word dissertation.

Whilst studying on this post-graduate academic programme the central tasks for you as a postgraduate student are to understand and use theory, concepts and models to develop analytical insights, explanations and critiques of the subject matter and issues, and to apply them to the strategic issues and problems allied to political, economic and social contexts of labour and of allied social movements.  Each module of the MA will address the contexts of global labour studies (external, internal and international and comparative perspectives). Since this is an international course of study, connecting the global and the local will be an integral part of the work of the course and will map across the modules. The attachment element in part one of the MA, and the dissertation in part three, are critically important opportunities to discern a relationship between the theory arising from the teaching of the programme, and practice (praxis) arising from a critical reflection of activity at the site/focus of the attachment and dissertation.

Part-Time Mode

Parts 1 + 2 of the MA (year 1 for part-time students) consists of 4 modules, each taught through two 3-day residential workshops – except for the Praxis module which is one weekend. These modules provide the groundwork for Part 3 (year 2 for part-time students), comprise one module and the undertaking of research activity, analysis and writing up of a 10-12,000 word dissertation. Residential workshops combine individual tutorial supervision sessions which provide support to sustain student’s own independent study. Peer group support is also a feature of the MA educational programme.

Full-Time Mode

Parts 1 and 3 of the MA educational programme are delivered in parallel. Full-time students attend weekly classes during term time.  Full-time students also attend all residential workshops (7 in total) provided during their year of study as this is an opportunity also to meet with part-time students. Full-time students are expected to complete and submit their 10-12,000 word dissertation at the end of their academic year. Full-time students also receive fortnightly tutorials and dissertation supervision session to complement learning undertaken at residential workshops. Full-time students are expected to achieve a significant degree of independent, self-directed study also.

The educational approach of the MA is based on Ruskin’s ethos of inclusivity, fairness and social justice, including support for learners who face barriers to their engagement with learning. The MA encourages student self-development progressively through and from part one of the MA through to parts two and three.

An educational methodology applied throughout Ruskin, and particularly embedded within the PGCert programme, is based on the teaching and writing of the Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire. Freire’s pedagogy (educational methodology) rests on several key concepts:

  • The critical role of dialogue, as opposed to a strict curricula, as means of developing and sustaining respect between teacher’s and learners.

  • Praxis: theory into action.

  • Conscientization. Building and developing a consciousness that is understood to have the power to transform.

  • Situating learning within the lived experience of students.

This course runs every other year. Please contact Hannah on 01865 759604 or to find out the next start date. There will be a series of open days throughout the year that the course starts.

The MA aims to provide a higher education level qualification for labour movement and associated practitioners in order to enhance their strategic skills and knowledge and provide the basis for career progression in the field, including movement between union policy development and practice and academic research and education.

As evidenced by the 2005 TUC Union Officer Training Review, which notes that following changes in union officer roles and entry routes, the level of educational qualifications has increased and now among officers, degree/HND and professional qualifications dominate (2005:9).

The MA is equally useful for those seeking to develop research and academic careers in the field.

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

Dr Peter Dwyer

Academic Coordinator for Humanities and Social Sciences

Ian Manborde

Programme Co-ordinator, MA Global Labour and Social Change

Tracy Walsh

Academic Co-ordinator for Law and Trade Union Studies

Fenella Porter

Course Tutor.

Visiting Tutors

Sue Ledwith

Visiting Tutor [full and part time]

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 Reception on 01865 759600 or email

You should submit your application with:

  • Evidence of your formal qualifications, and for those applying on the basis of equivalence, examples of recent written work and previous study etc
  • 2,000 words on Why You Want to Apply for the MA in Global Labour and Social Change at Ruskin College.
Fees (per year) Full Time (1 year) Part Time (2 years)
Global Labour Social Change MA £7,850 £4,000

Post graduate students are responsible for the payment of tuition fees and residence and catering fees if applicable.  

You may find the following sites useful:  

Please click here to find out more about scholarship options.

Students are responsible for the payment of their own tuition fees on this course and there will be an additional residence and catering charge for the residential workshops (approximately £150.00 per workshop).

Some individual unions provide scholarships for study at Ruskin. The TUC also generously provides three scholarships per year of £1,000.

The MA programme co-ordinator, Ian Manborde is willing to assist MA applicants in seeking financial assistance from their trade unions and employers. Please contact Ian on 01865 759600.

Historically, the majority of all MA ILTUS students received some form of financial assistance for MA study from their trade union and/or employer.

MA students can apply for a professional and career development loan (PCDL) to fund their study. Acceptance of an application is however at the discretion of those banks which are a part of the PCDL scheme. Further information is here:

Further information on funding can be found in our fees and funding support sections on the website:

For details of the Nomvuyo Ngwaxaxa scholarship for overseas women trade unionists, click here

Currently the following fees apply 

MA = £7,850

The PG Cert award = £2,800

The PG Dip = £5,600

Should you require accommodation for the duration of this course please contact us for full details. 

Further information on funding

You may find the following sites useful: 


And for international students:

The MA GLSC has five modules. The five modules are structured to allow you to complete the MA flexibly. This means you can exit the MA at the postgraduate certificate (PGCert) stage or postgraduate diploma (PGDip) stage. This may suit students with limited time to complete the MA in entirety or who wish just to refresh certain subject knowledge. If students wish to acquire the award of MA they will need to complete the final stage of the programme.

The MA GLSC is divided into three, flexible parts:

Part One: PGCert

Part one modules

Part Two: PGDip

Part two modules

Part Three: MA

Part three module

  • Power and inequality
  • Praxis
  • Theoretical approaches to organising and resistance
  • Rethinking the world of work and globalisation
  • Radical research methodologies


Power and Inequality Module

This module examines theoretical and practical features of globalisation and neoliberalism, and its impact on labour in different contexts, examining both organised labour and labour process in the context of the political economy of work. This is followed by an internationally comparative analysis of labour movements and the challenges posed to organised labour by globalisation, exploring the role of overlapping allied movements who respond also to issues of social justice in the context of work and employment. Emphasis is given within the module to an identification of the key social, economic and political factors that impede the capacities and effectiveness of organised labour, with a concentration on how processes of labour movement revitalisation encourage a wider interpretation of alternative forms of worker organisation and of alliances with allied movements. The module introduces students to critical reflection and explores the concept of praxis. The summative assignment at this point is an essay that assesses their understanding of their learning so far, and prepares them to undertake their ‘practice-based learning’ project via an attachment which is undertaken as part of the Praxis module.


Praxis Module

This module completes the post-graduate certificate (PGCert) award of the MA in Global Labour and Social Change (MAGLSC). The module comprises an initial taught element, and it is completed through a period of critical reflective practice. The module culminates in a 3,000 word practice-based portfolio, at a site selected to gain exposure to employment, activism or voluntary activity which reflects the core themes of the first module of the award. A student will be expected to complete their attachment over approximately 150 hours duration during a five-week period. The successful completion of the PGCert award acts as a foundation for the completion of the PGDip and MA awards of the MAGLSC.


Theoretical approaches to organising and resistance

This module introduces students to the critical global challenges of organised labour within the context of crisis and renewal, and with an appreciation of how trade unions are located within a wider context of civil society action and challenge to globalisation.  To achieve this students use a prior development of the critical appreciation of the relationship between theory and practice within the context of their own movement/organisational experience to construct a perspective of these challenges. This includes a conscious theoretical understanding of the process of mapping labour movement membership onto labour force changes and exploring tensions in the contexts of gender, old and new memberships, organisational forms, ideologies and practice. In addition students will develop a critical theoretical understanding of the activity of labour movements at a global level to respond to change, particularly within the context of operating as and with social movements to model oppositional and resistance initiatives. Students also have the opportunity to investigate and assess those inherently organisational and cultural weaknesses that arise from labour movement activity but which limits effectiveness, as well as determining those factors which can precipitate renewal. These factors include internal labour movement reform, the imperatives for organising, the process of mergers, transforming union cultures and structures, inclusion, exclusion, transversal working, visibility and voice for ‘new’ memberships; diversity and inclusivity – gender, ethnicity, race, religion, sexuality, class, disability and age.


Rethinking the world of work and globalisation

This module concentrates on more complex aspects of labour relations, and how workers are increasingly marginalised geographically and economically from organised labour, but are nevertheless building alliances and networks in the political and economic contexts in which they live. This module develops a broader focus on the formation and role of organising outside of trade unions, and the possible links with/role of civil society.


Radical Research Methodologies

The Radical Research element of this module concentrates on epistemology, methodological approaches, and methods training. During this time the students are supported in developing and pursuing their individual research project, and writing their literature review, methodology, data, and analysis sections of their dissertation. The notion of ‘radical’ within the context of both teaching methodologies and learning outcomes is one predicated on critical reflexive practice providing a framework in which students are able to apply emancipatory research methods in order to generate original research findings.

This module introduces students to the primary social science methodological, philosophical and theoretical approaches to research. In particular students are introduced to the key concepts of methodology, positionality, ontology and epistemology. Students have the opportunity to interpret the applied aspects of positivism, ethnomethodologies, labourist, feminist, interpretive and postmodernist positions through a review of literature, teaching and seminar discussion. A key emphasis is placed engaged and collaborative approaches to research drawing on Freirian, labourist and feminist perspectives. There is a distinct focus on praxis throughout the MA and in this module students are expected to consider Reflexive methodologies as an impetus for transforming practice.

Students are also introduced to key skills and knowledge required in developing their understanding of research methods and of research skills:

  • Research design

  • Literature search and review

  • Fieldwork planning, access

  • Survey design, questionnaire and interview design and practice

  • Ethics in research

  • Statistical techniques and methods

  • Analytical techniques

  • Writing up