MSc International Social Change and Policy banner

Start date: September 2019
Duration: 1 year full-time
Programme code: SCST82 (full-time)

MSc International Social Change and Policy

Overview

Want to find out more about the MSc International Social Change and Policy?

Watch our webinar with Dr Majella Kilkey (Course Leader), Dr Kate Weiner (Admissions Tutor) and current MSc International Social Change and Policy student Wendy Kim to hear more about the course, entry requirements and what it's like to be a postgraduate student in the Department.

Watch the webinar

We live in an era of unprecedented rapid social change, which reaches all parts of the globe. Understanding the processes driving these changes, the challenges that they pose and the policy responses needed are fundamental to the work of social policy analysts internationally, including in Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe.

The MSc in International Social Change and Policy is an innovative and exciting programme that will develop your awareness of the most pressing challenges posed by social change, enable you to critically examine dominant policy responses to key aspects of social change at national, cross-national comparative and global levels, and make you aware of agendas on policy alternatives and futures.

The course is taught by a team of internationally-recognised academics with specialism in ageing, migration, labour markets, inequalities, family life and comparative and international research methods, and whose research has demonstrable impact beyond academia. The course team is composed of social policy, sociology and social work academics, leading to deeper understanding of the causes of, and solutions to, global and international social problems.

Throughout the course, there is a strong emphasis on developing the practical skills required by social policy analysts working internationally. The Dissertation with Internship option will also give you the opportunity to apply those skills in a real-world policy environment.

Aims and outcomes

The MSc International Social Change and Policy aims to provide students with an up-to-date and critical understanding of the epistemologies, theories and processes through which we might better understand contemporary social change from an international perspective.

Not only will the course develop your awareness of the most pressing challenges posed by social change, and how the scale and patterning of those challenges varies internationally, but it will enable you to critically examine the dominant policy responses to key aspects of social change at national, cross-national comparative and global levels, making you aware of agendas on policy alternatives and futures.

The course provides comprehensive training in research methods, with an emphasis in approaches relevant to research and policy analysis from an international and comparative perspective.

You will be equipped with the skills required to undertake independent social scientific research with international policy relevance at an advanced level. Furthermore, you will develop transferable skills and knowledge that will be of benefit whether you eventually work in international or national social policy analysis or some other related field.

Is this course for me?

This course is an excellent choice for students who want to think systematically from an international perspective about the key social challenges of the 21st Century, and develop the knowledge and skills to critically analyse policy responses at the national, cross-national comparative and global levels.

For professionals already working on social policy in government, international organisations and development agencies, global advocacy agencies and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), this course provides an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the subject area.

Course details

Teaching is conducted through a combination of lectures, seminars, laboratory classes, small-group work and problem-solving.

Assessment can vary across modules between a combination of essays, oral presentations, policy reviews, posters and portfolio work. You are assessed in a variety of ways in order to test a range of knowledge, skills and capabilities. There is also a dissertation, which provides the opportunity to focus in-depth on a topic of individual choice. You can choose to do a standard dissertation or a dissertation linked to an internship. One-to-one supervision is provided for students when undertaking their dissertations, during which the intellectual and methodological issues of the dissertation are discussed, and you can get help and support in planning your work.

Each module is assigned a credit value: 180 credits are required for graduation. 90 of these are core modules, 30 are optional and finally 60 credits are allocated to one of two dissertation options.

Students who take this programme part-time will have a period of two years to complete. The part-time route is structured in the following way: students will take 90 credits in the first year and the remaining 90 credits in the second year. The dissertation, which is worth 60 credits, must be taken in the second year.

Core modules:

Introduction to Qualitative Social Research
(15 credits)

You’ll be introduced to a variety of qualitative research techniques, and will learn more about a full range of research methods and analyses in common use in social science. The module covers interviewing, observation, document work, the use of visual data and mixed methods. As well as learning how to use these tools, techniques and processes, you will learn how to apply them to your own research projects. This module forms the basis for further subject-specific research training in the contributing departments across the social sciences.

International Social Change and Social Problems
(15 credits)

In this module, you will focus on the processes, dynamics and consequences of contemporary social change from an international perspective. Key patterns of international social change are explored and analysed with reference to the main theories and at different spatial scales from the global to the local. Arguments will be applied through a number of cases studies, including: (international) migration, labour market change, economic competitiveness, population ageing and family change.

International Social Change: Analysing Policy Responses
(15 credits)

This module examines policy responses at national, international and global levels to significant contemporary social changes occurring across the globe, including population ageing, migration, globalisation and new labour market risks and family change. It introduces the theoretical frameworks utilised in the analysis of social policy in global, international and comparative contexts, and the architecture of international and global social policy governance, so that you can understand the nature of social policy responses and their outcomes, as well as reasons for international variations in the logic of policy responses. It also introduces you to key debates about policy alternatives and futures.

Introduction to Quantitative Research
(15 credits)

The module will introduce uses of quantitative research in the social sciences. It introduces basic concepts such as sampling, distributions, hypothesis testing and descriptive statistics. It then goes on to bivariate statistics such as correlation and cross-tabulation along with relevant statistical tests. You will become familiar with the key role that secondary data analysis now plays in the social sciences, and you will gain proficiency in using the statistical software package SPSS. You will also learn the fundamentals of primary quantitative data collection including survey design and questionnaire design.

Methods for International Social and Policy Analysis
(30 credits)

You will be introduced to fundamental ideas in data analysis and research methods in international comparative social and policy research, covering both quantitative and qualitative data and approaches. You will also learn about practical issues related to the design of a research project including appropriate choice of methods and data.

Optional modules:

Key Issues in Environment and Development(15 credits)

This module engages critically with the key theoretical debates that shape the environment, society and international development. By looking at current questions in development theory and their relationship to development practice in the context of environmental change, it encourages students to think critically about the ways in which interdisciplinary approaches define issues and problems, and the theoretical viewpoints that inform their actions. The unit is taught primarily through seminars: these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the academic literature on international development.

Governance and Participation in the Global South
(15 credits)

Since the close of the twentieth century, intentional plans to improve the quality of governance in the Global South have become a significant part of international development, and the subject of specific policy agendas around promoting `good governance¿, democratic decentralisation, and enhancing public participation. This unit will use a growing theoretical literature on governance and the everyday state within the Global South to look critically at these policy agendas and their underlying assumptions. The unit is taught through seminars and workshops which structure learning, and help students to research these policy agendas effects within particular contexts through case studies.

Key Issues in Global Public Health
(15 credits)

You will be introduced to contemporary and historical public health  discourses, policies and practices, before critically examining their practical and theoretical underpinnings. The module goes on to explore the role and actions of key global health players (e.g. individual governments, United Nations organisations, bilateral and multilateral partnerships, local and international non-governmental organisations and health care industries), and discusses the social determinants of health, considering how they might be tackled for improved health equity and social justice. It provides an introduction to major public health challenges in the contemporary world, illustrated through health issues (e.g. malnutrition, maternal and child health, mental health, sexual and reproductive health), socio-political issues (e.g. gender equity, trade, conflict, famine), and environmental issues (e.g. climate change, urbanisation, food security, waste management).

Theorising the City in the Global South
(15 credits)

This module addresses debates at the interface between Urban Studies and Development Studies. Focusing on urban areas in the Global South, it looks at the city from a variety of spatial scales, from everyday practices of citizens at the grassroots level to the representation of the city within national policy and planning processes. It encourages you to think critically about the ways in which practitioners approach issues and define problems, and the theoretical viewpoints that inform their actions.

Urban Development in the Global South
(15 credits)

This module looks at the challenges to urban planning and development in the global South: how are conflicting imperatives of ecological sustainability, social inclusion and economic competitiveness being balanced by practitioners, and what implications does this have for those living there? The module will develop your understanding of how urban planning systems are constructed and mediated by different actors.

Ideas and Practice in International Development
(15 credits)
This module looks at key challenges and debates in international development, and asks you to reflect on how these are shaping, and being shaped by, contemporary processes of social, economic and political change within the Global South. It encourages you to think critically about the ways in which practitioners approach issues and define problems, and the theoretical  viewpoints that inform their actions.
Migration and Families (15 credits)

This unit explores intersections between migration and families in theory, policy and practice, in UK and internationally. It critically examines dominant theories around migration and `the family' in the context of contemporary migration patterns and evidence of how migrants `do' family. It explores how migration policies, in interaction with labour market and welfare policies, stratify migrants' opportunities for family-life. Particular attention is paid to examining the transformative potential of migration for family practices (e.g. care-giving) and relations (e.g. gender and parental). Adopting a transnational lens, the role of migration in contributing to the configuration of non-migrants' family-life is also examined.

Intimacy and Personal Relationships (15 credits) The module explores approaches to theorising and studying intimacy and personal relationships. Beginning with the Individualisation thesis and its critics, the module will go on to explore recent moves towards conceptualising personal relationships in terms of `embeddedness', `relationality', `intimacy' and `linked lives'. Students will also explore a range of substantive topics within the field including memory, genealogy, material culture and home, marriage and sexuality, responsibility and care and friendship.
Digital Health (15 credits)

This module looks at the social implications of digital technologies in health, considering what these mean for our experiences of health and illness as patients and as citizens, for the work of health care professionals, and for the provision of health care. The module will consider a range of contemporary areas such as self-tracking and gamifying health, telemedicine and care at a distance, health information on the net, electronic patient records, illness death and dying on the web, and health activism and online patient groups. Drawing across these, the module will consider questions about changing  representations and cultures of health and illness, whether we can all be medical experts now, who has responsibility for health, how we relate to health care professionals, the commodification of health data and the relative benefits for state and industry.

The Sociology of Culture and Identity (15 credits) This module provides students with a critical outline of the sociology of culture and identity. Students will come to recognise the key theoretical approaches to a critical understanding of the processes and social consequences of culture and identity. Culture is a defining feature of identity and contributes to how individuals see themselves and the groups with which they identify. Students will be given an overview of the growing importance of social identity studies
and the tools to further research social identity. Students will be encouraged to use a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to examine facets of popular culture.

Digital Identities  (15 credits)

This module explores how gender, age, race, class and other identities are being reimagined in what various commentators have called a ‘social media age’. It provides students with an in-depth understanding of social media platforms’ roles in people’s identity negotiations, examining users’ social media identities in different global contexts, and paying close attention to the
intersections between different identities. It reviews debates about identity formations from the earliest digital media moments and considers contemporary concerns, such as: anonymity and agency; selfies and sexting; censorship, resistance and collective identities; social media fandoms; masculinity and gaming.

The example course structure listed above refers to the academic year 2018-19 and may be subject to change in future years. The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant.

Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers.

In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Your dissertation options

One important aspect of optionality on the MSc International Social Change and Policy is the dissertation. You can choose to follow a standard dissertation route, or you can take the dissertation with internship route.

Standard Dissertation

Your dissertation provides the culmination of all the work that you have done on the course. It is intended as a substantial contribution to knowledge, at the Masters level. It is an opportunity to put together all you have explored and learnt about:

  • Identifying a researchable area;
  • Reviewing relevant methodological research, policy and theoretical literature;
  • Defining specific research questions;
  • Determining appropriate methods of data collection and analysis;
  • Negotiating access and maintaining effective relationships with those whose co-operation is required in order to complete the project;
  • Undertaking data collection;
  • Analysing data;
  • Drawing conclusions and considering implications for policy and practice;
  • Presenting findings in a research report format.

Any topic that falls within the subject areas covered by the degree could potentially form a suitable topic for a dissertation. The only restriction is that it should address some aspect of an international, supranational, or trans-national area of social change and policy. Even if the topic you have in mind doesn’t immediately appear to have a connection, it is still worth talking it over with the Programme Convenor who can advise you further as to its suitability. Provided that the subject focus falls broadly within the range of your MSc, there are only two conditions that determine suitability:

  • The research must be empirical and feasible from a practical point of view within the time and length constraints that are imposed.
  • A suitable supervisor must be available within the Department and must be willing and able to carry out the supervision.
Dissertation with Internship

The Dissertation with Internship (DI) aims to give you a broader experience of research and the study of international social change and policy than is possible on standard modules. In essence, the purpose of the DI is to offer you the possibility to collaborate with an outside organisation (be it an (I)NGO, business, public body, etc.) to undertake a piece of research specific to that organisation's needs. The nature of the collaboration between the student and the organisation and the level of support that is required will differ for each project, but for all projects the DI requires that you work with an outside organisation, and negotiate with them to come up with a project that is realistically feasible, and which has some value to them. Feeding back your research findings to the organisation is an important part of the DI.

The only criterion for the topic title is that it should address some aspect of international, supranational or trans-national social change and policy. So, for example, you could work with a homeless charity in Edinburgh, Paris or Mumbai, undertake a series of short placements with them to build relationships and an understanding of the issues that they have to deal with, and then write a dissertation about the ‘problem’ of housing provision in that country, linking it to broader processes of social change, or perhaps a general analysis of the effectiveness of that nation's homeless policy with a special critique of your organisation's strategy and international policy agendas on homelessness.

An equally viable project would be working with an organisation, undertaking a particular policy or empirical oriented project for them, which then is developed further (e.g. by locating within the appropriate theoretical and international policy frames).

Clearly, it is also quite acceptable to collaborate with an overseas organisation. If you are an overseas student who has good links in your home country, there is no reason why you cannot work with a government department or an NGO at home.

The example course structure listed above may be subject to change in future years. The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant.

Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers.

In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Entry requirements

The minimum entry requirement is a 2:1 honours degree, or equivalent, in a relevant or social science discipline, such as sociology, social policy, politics, international relations, or development studies. Applicants with relevant work experience and good academic potential are also encouraged to apply.

International students

We have wide experience of a range of international qualifications. Please visit our website for international applicants for specific advice on the entry requirements for your country.

Select your country from the list on this page

If you do not meet the entry requirements for our postgraduate taught Masters degree programme, you can still be considered for our pre-Masters programme. Please find out more about our Graduate Diploma and our relationship with Sheffield International College.

Graduate Diploma

English language requirements

Our minimum English requirement is:

For more information on other acceptable English language qualifications with variable requirements, please visit: www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgraduate/info/englang

If you do not meet the entry requirements for the MSc in International Social Change and Policy, you can be considered for our pre-Masters programme.

More information about English language requirements

Fees and funding

You can look up fees for full- and part-time postgraduate courses here.

Allan & Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust Masters Scholarships 2018

The University of Sheffield has a strong commitment to International Development. One of the themes of the University’s strategy is ‘celebrating, promoting and increasing the volume of the work that we do to improve the lives of others through our international relationships, locally and abroad’. Building on this commitment the University, in collaboration with the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust and the Sheffield Institute for International Development, is now able to offer scholarships targeted at international students from developing countries for a number of courses that are affiliated with the Sheffield Institute for International Development. Overseas applicants to the MSc International Social Change and Policy may be eligible for one of these scholarships.

Find out more

International students

Studying for your degree at the University of Sheffield offers you a world-class high-quality qualification and excellent value for money. One of the great advantages of studying at the University of Sheffield is that your money will go further in our city.

Find out more about living costs, scholarships, tuition fees and more for international students.

Postgraduate taught course tuition fee deposits

If you are an International applicant and have accepted a place on a taught postgraduate course, the University of Sheffield will ask you to pay a deposit towards your course tuition fee. By paying a tuition fee deposit you will indicate that you are definitely going to take up your place. Read more here.

Tuition fees

You can find information on tuition fees for both UK/EU and overseas students here.

Home or overseas tuition fee status?

In common with other UK universities, the University of Sheffield charges different fees dependent on whether students are classed as Home or Overseas for tuition fee purposes. The decision to class a student as a Home or an Overseas student is determined by government legislation as set out in the Education (Fees and Awards) Regulations 2007. The regulations governing the fee status of students can be found on the government legislation website.

Read more about home or overseas tuition fee status.

Tuition fee refund policy

If you are considering, or have decided to take leave of absence, withdraw entirely or transfer to another University, you will need to know how this will affect your tuition fees. Read the  Tuition Fee Refund Policy for essential information on tuition fee refunds here.

Funding your study

Find out more about financial support, money management and additional support here. There is also more information on the sources of funding that can help you pay for your postgraduate studies here.

Other potential costs

Reassessment fees

If for any reason, you fail or are unable to complete an assessed piece of work which is a requirement to pass your course, you may be required to pay a reassessment fee. information about these fees can be found on the University's exam webpages.

The team

Image of Majella KilkeyDr Majella Kilkey

Reader in Social Policy and Programme Leader

Majella researches at the intersection of migration and family studies, with a particular interest in migration- and family-related policies, and people's lived experiences of family-life in the context of increasing migration and mobility. She is Co-Director of the Migration Research Group in the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Current projects include MIGRATE, a project funded by the European Commission and focused on understanding the impact of 'Europe's migration crisis' on European integration. Majella is also Co-Investigator examining how families 'do care' in mobile and diverse societies, on the Economic and Social Research Council-funded research programme Sustainable Care. With colleagues at the Centre for Migration Research in Warsaw and colleagues at the University of Sheffield, Majella is also working on a programme focused on how migration is transforming Polish society.

Image of Ruby ChauDr Ruby Chau

Marie Curie Research Fellow

Ruby's main research interests are comparative social policy in Europe and East Asia, defamilisation, social exclusion, welfare mix, culturally sensitive policy and practice in health and social care.

Ruby's international research experience has inspired her to reconsider the cultural relevance of conventional welfare theories to non-Western welfare systems. Since 2011, she has been working with an international team comprising researchers from Hong Kong, Sheffield, Taiwan and Shanghai to conduct a series of researches to examine the similarities and differences between East Asian and European welfare systems.

Ruby's major teaching subjects are social divisions, social inequality, social research methods, comparative social policy in Europe and East Asia.

Image of Liam FosterDr Liam Foster

Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Social Work

Liam's research interests are as follows: gender and pension provision, gender inequality in the workplace, funeral provision and poverty, disability and ageing research, theories of ageing, and the sociology of sport.

Much of Liam's research focus is on inequalities in later life and policy implications, particularly in relation to pensions. This has often included a gendered focus. The role of planning for retirement has also been explored. Liam has liaised with the Labour Party, Trade Unions, the European Parliament and pension providers about these findings. He is also interested in theories of ageing and the application of the political economy of ageing.

Image of Alvaro Martinez-PerezDr Alvaro Martinez-Perez

Lecturer in International and Comparative Social Research Methods

Alvaro’s research interests include social stratification and inequality, labour markets, education, family and gender, and migration.

Alvaro has a strong methodological focus centred in a wide range of quantitative methods used across the social sciences (sociology, political sciences and economics), especially in international and cross-national comparative research. For instance, in his PhD Alvaro investigated the impact of educational homogamy in the patterns and evolution of gender inequalities in couple relationships over the course of marriage using panel methods, simultaneous equation modelling and event history analysis.

Image of Afua Twum-Danso ImohDr Afua Twum-Danso Imoh

Lecturer in the Sociology of Childhood

Afua's current research interests include: the global export of a particular notion of childhood through international law and policies and its impact on local communities; the implementation of international children’s rights standards within a developing country context; the impact of cultural values such as reciprocity, respect and responsibility on children’s rights principles; the socialization of children and changing parent-child relations and the implications for children’s welfare and rights; the concept of children’s participation in non-Western societies.

Afua convenes the postgraduate module ‘International Childhoods: Rights, Policies and Practices.’

Image of Alan WalkerProfessor Alan Walker

Professor of Social Policy and Gerontology

Alan's research interests span a wide range in social analysis, social policy and social planning. He is a specialist in social gerontology and, with two colleagues in the Netherlands, is responsible for developing the concept of social quality and he Chairs the European Foundation on Social Quality, which is based in Amsterdam.

Alan has published more than 30 books, over 200 reports and more than 300 papers in scholarly journals and edited volumes. His work has been published in more than 20 languages. He is a founding Academician of the Academy for Learned Societies in the Social Sciences, and, in 2007, was given lifetime achievement awards by both the British Society of Gerontology and the Social Policy Association. He has been active in the UK voluntary sector for many years and co-founded the Disability Alliance in 1974. He is currently Patron of the National Pensioner's Convention.

Image of Sue YeandleProfessor Sue Yeandle

Professor of Sociology

Sue's work covers topics relating to care, work, gender and family, and draws on over 40 funded projects. These include major projects on gender and employment in local labour markets (2003-06, HEESF award); on carers, employment and services (2005-07, EU EQUAL award to Carers UK); and on the everyday lives of older people with care needs who use technology to support independence in the home (2011-14, Technology Strategy Board award). Most recently, she leads a large Economic and Social Research Council-funded research programme on Sustainable Care: Connecting People and Systems.

Sue specialises in research with the potential for policy and practical impact, and has expertise in making complex research findings accessible to a wide range of audiences, wide experience of research design and methods, and extensive knowledge of policy on care, carers and employment.

What our students say

Image of student Lucy Jessop"Having chosen to change career paths, I decided that completing a Masters degree would both equip me with new skills and give me the space I needed to find that alternative path. The MSc in International Social Change and Policy appealed to me for numerous reasons. First, I wanted to figure out how to affect social change, to be a positive actor in the world. That the course had an international focus was even better. Team this with the possibility of doing a dissertation with a paid internship, and also the opportunity to apply to the University's GLOSS scheme, then there really was no other course out there for me.

"The core module, International Social Change and Problems, has been interesting, particularly the way that we've been able to study such a variety of subjects. That we've been lucky enough to have had seminars delivered by other specialists in the department has also enriched my experience of the course. I've also enjoyed studying a module outside of the department - Theorising the City in the Global South. I love that there was the flexibility to do this and how welcome I felt in the class, despite coming from a different department."

- Lucy Jessop, MSc International Social Change and Policy graduate

Image of Seung-Hyun Moon"I wanted to focus on relevant issues from a global perspective, so the title name 'International Social Change and Policy' was a good fit for my research interests.

“The MSc International Social Change and Policy programme gives students the freedom to choose what they want to study in the big boundary of international studies. The course teaches students how to research and how to politically analyse their research topics, so I think this is really good for students who want to study further. I find sharing my opinions with students from other countries on the course to be very interesting.

"One of my professors in South Korea was an alumni of the University of Sheffield and she also did her PhD in Sociological Studies with Professor Alan Walker as her supervisor, so she strongly recommended that I study at Sheffield. She said: "if you want to study in the UK and you want to study policy, then I recommend you to go to Sheffield and do your Masters degree study there and then PhD study."

- Seung Hyun Moon, current MSc International Social Change and Policy student

Image of Hsin-Tzu Yang"Everything on the course is well organised because in the first semester, we study International Social Problems and in the second semester, we will study the policy. Under the cores, all kinds of issues are introduced and covered. Everything is introduced by way of a workshop, so we are encouraged to discuss with fellow students rather than just being taught things by the teacher.

"We also learn about Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods and they are both very useful because those are the skills we need to conduct proper research."

- Hsin-Tzu Yang, current MSc International Social Change and Policy student

Social policy blog

The blog posts below, written by our academic members of staff, offer an example of applying social policy research to everyday life and give a sense of what the discipline can offer.

Refugee and Migrant Crisis: New challenges of integration

By Jack Harrison

30 July 2018

Before I landed in Greece I didn’t really know what to expect from the Summer School that I was travelling to attend. I wasn’t even sure exactly what a summer school was, so when family and friends asked what it was that I was going to, I don’t think I gave any particularly informative answers. However, now that it is over I could talk about it until the sun goes down, but I will have to just fit in as much as I can into 1000 words.

The summer school was titled: “Refugee and Migrant Crisis: new challenges of integration.” When I saw it advertised I was immediately interested as I had been a volunteer for the last year with ASSIST – a Sheffield based charity which supports destitute refugees. As a result of that position I had also chose to base my dissertation on refugee integration in the UK, using Sheffield as a case study. Due to my interest in the topic, my application for funding was successful and I was awarded a scholarship by the Sociological Department which covered the course fees and flights to Greece – without which I would not have been able to attend.

Shortly after landing in the city of Thessaloniki I met the group I would be spending my time with over the next 8 days. The group really was a melting pot in every sense; students from countries all over the world, from undergraduate to PhD and from an endless list of disciplines. Previous experience of the refugee crisis ranged all the way from being refugees themselves to essentially having no knowledge past what they picked up from the media. Whilst there was a lot of variation in this regard, there was a common thread of openness to discussion, genuine interest in the topic and engagement with the programme which made the next week that much more interesting and productive.

The programme its self was excellent: well organised, varied and engaging. Mirroring the variation of the students attending the school was the ways in which we approached the refugee crisis academically. We had lectures based on international law, on the effect of the crisis on voting patterns in Greece, on factors effecting the mental health of refugees and on the ethics of conducting research on refugees, amongst many others. Beyond that we also had sessions with the Hellenic Red Cross, the United Nations Higher Refugee Commission and we also visited a small NGO based in a town outside of Thessaloniki.
We volunteered for a day and a half at this small NGO which was called Perichoresis. We were given a talk from its founder who explained how the charity formed in response to the asylum seekers coming into Greece who were clearly in need of support. The name Perichoresis derives from a religious concept which roughly translates as ‘to make room for,’ which guided their approach to integrating asylum seekers and refugees into their community. He told us the story of his ancestors who in the early 20th century were forced to leave their homes as part of a compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey. He had heard first hand stories from his family of being refugees in need of help; now it was someone else’s turn. We spent the rest of our time being immersed in the activities Perichoresis delivers on a daily basis including English lessons, nursery activities for children and even a friendly game of football. It was a privilege to see people who have come from such difficult backgrounds having positive experiences, and to be a part of that if only for a day.

The last session of the week was a conversation with refugees who were currently living in a camp outside of Thessaloniki. They were three young boys aged between 17-20. As we went around the room and introduced ourselves with our names and where we were from, one of the boys responded with a greeting in the language of each person, whether that be English, Turkish, Italian and half a dozen more. To hear someone so young, obviously intelligent and full of potential talk about the tragic circumstances that have shaped their lives so far was difficult to hear, and very much put a human face to the ‘academic’ topic we had studied for the previous week. It was inspiring to hear how they remained optimistic and were making efforts to get the formal education that they missed out on.

It would not be doing the summer school justice if I did not mention the social side too. It was such an interesting, friendly and experienced group of people that I had the pleasure of spending my week with - both staff and students. A special thanks goes to the students from CITY College based in Thessaloniki who went out of their way to make us feel welcome, to show us the best their city has to offer in terms of places to eat, drink, visit, and the best spot to watch England in the World Cup. We had guided tours of the city and even got to spend our Saturday at an idyllic beach bar which was closer to what I had imagined when I pictured Greece in my mind. 

I have taken away from the Summer School knowledge, experiences and friends, and that is more than I could have hoped for.

smaller image

Jack is a student on the MSc International Social Change and Policy

The Summer School was organised by University of Sheffield International Faculty, CITY College, and the Department of Sociological Studies provided scholarships for some of its students to participate.

The South East European Research Centre, based at CITY College, leads the MIGRATE project on which the Migration Research Group at University of Sheffield is a partner.

The neglect of ageing

By Alan Walker for the Social Policy Association's 50th anniversary blog series

8 January 2018

Social policy has neglected ageing and, as a result, it has vacated what should have been a leading role in responding to one of the biggest challenges facing the world. This neglect has also reinforced, rather than critically demolished, the official national and global policy orthodoxy which concentrates on old age, not ageing, and assumes that later life is a ‘natural’ period of decline. This has contributed, in turn, to the widespread tendency, seen most poisonously in the 2017 General Election, to regard rising social care costs as the inevitable result of population ageing. Rather than asking if the projected demand for social care (i.e. extrapolations from the present) is inevitable and, if not, what policy approaches might mitigate it, the usual response across the political spectrum is to focus instead only on the supply side: funding. This political myopia entails substantial Exchequer costs but, more importantly, does nothing to address the human consequences of unnecessary disability...

Read more here.

'Not one of you any longer': EU nationals’ Brexit uncertainty and mistrust

By Dr Hannah Lewis, Dr Majella Kilkey, Dr Julie Walsh and Professor Louise Ryan

15 December 2017

The Brexit vote has plunged EU Nationals resident in the UK into uncertainty. For the first time many face profound feelings of rejection, betrayal and fear for their futures and those of their children and families. Whatever deal is struck during Brexit negotiations regarding the ‘settled status’ of EU nationals, the general trajectory of May’s Conservative Government on citizenship and immigration has been the deliberate and open pursuit of a ‘hostile environment’. The promotion of discrimination through bordering practices that permeate multiple areas of everyday life – housing, health, education, legal support and advocacy, banking services and work – has marginalised all migrants but also any person of colour. The Brexit campaign and vote has shattered the myth of Britain as an open, tolerant society.

Read the full blog post on Discover Society here.

Britain is doing less than other countries to end pensioner poverty for women

By Dr Liam Foster, Dr Ruby Chau and Professor Sam Yu (Hong Kong Baptist University)

12 December 2017

How does the UK compare with other European countries in relation to family-friendly policies? Liam Foster, Ruby Chau and Sam Yu look at eight European countries and develop two new indices on ‘defamilisation’, the degree to which social care measures make it possible for people to participate in activities outside their home. Their research shows that the UK still has much to do to moderate economic inequalities in older age between men and women.

Women are typically overrepresented in pensioner poverty. On average, in the EU the percentage of men aged 65+ at risk of poverty is less than 15%, compared with over 20% of women. These trends reflect women’s constrained opportunities across the life course, including their greater likelihood of undertaking caring responsibilities, its impact on employment and, subsequently, women’s increased chances of reaching retirement with inadequate pensions.

The level of gendered inequalities is affected by the extent to which pension systems address these diverse experiences and compensate for relative disadvantages in the division of work and care, including the use of care credits. Unfortunately, typical male working patterns are still largely the reference point for calculating pensions in most countries, with gender differences in work and care often overlooked.

Read the full blog post on the LSE British Politics and Policy blog here.

Everyday lives: Children, poverty and the unequal chances of being in care

By Professor Kate Morris

12 November 2017

What does living in poverty mean for the chances of bringing up your children? What’s the relationship between poverty and going into care? These are just some of the questions a study called ‘Child Welfare Inequalities’ has tried to look at.

Researchers in Sociological Studies at Sheffield and five other UK Universities have been looking at children’s chances of being removed from their families into the care system. The research, led by Professor Paul Bywaters shows clearly that you are far more likely to be in care or need a child protection plan if you live in the poorest neighbourhoods. The research also shows that there is a ‘social gradient’ – this means that as poverty increases the chances of entering care or needing protection increases.

The researchers based at Sheffield (led by Professor Kate Morris) spent time in social work teams looking at the influence of poverty on social work decisions, and whether differences in the nature of local social work could explain the big differences in care and protection rates. They found that whilst there were some differences, on their own these couldn’t explain the national picture of unequal chances of being in care or in need of protection.

The research tells us that it’s poverty and deprivation that is key in understanding the unequal rates. You are up to ten times more likely to be in care in the poorest parts of England, compared to the richest parts. The research that helps us understand how welfare policies about children and families and government decisions about funding have real consequences for the everyday lives of children, including the chances of living with their families.

The findings from the research have been used nationally and internationally to help politicians and senior managers think differently about the impact of poverty. But it’s also helped frontline social workers think about the children and families they work with, and how poverty makes it so much harder for parents to care safely for their children.

The findings from the research (funded by the Nuffield Foundation) has been on the BBC, in the Guardian, on Radio four and in the local press, and has helped to start to change the conversations about the relationship between poverty and child protection.

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