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Contemporary Wales

Are you interested in the culture, society, economy and politics of Wales? This 12-week online module explores what is distinctive about Wales and Welsh identity. It will extend your understanding of core aspects of contemporary Wales by applying social sciences concepts. You will explore divisions within Wales and the ways in which connections are made across these differences. By the end of the module you will have a thorough understanding of a changing nation and you will be equipped with the skills that you will need for further study in the social sciences, such as interpreting data and connecting data with social science argument.

Standalone study only

This module is available for standalone study only. The credits from this module cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.


Module code
Study level
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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What a fabulous course. Not being a native of Wales, I thought this course might have been a bit much...
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The quality of the this course is outstanding - the main text is very well put together, and flows superbly....
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What you will study

Wales is becoming increasingly distinctive from other parts of the UK, and this module has been produced as a response to the new post-devolution Wales that is emerging. Old images and understandings no longer apply: coal has been replaced by call centres, and Max Boyce by the Manic Street Preachers. Gender roles have changed, with women recently constituting a majority of the cabinet of the Welsh Assembly Government. Plaid Cymru, for decades a party of opposition, has been in coalition government, challenging Labour’s long-standing domination of politics. Yet rugby, although professionalised, continues to bind people in Wales together perhaps more than any other activity. The module identifies such continuities but also the changes, to examine how the meaning of Wales, and what it means to be Welsh, have been transformed.

The module opens with a case study of rugby and then explores Wales through two themes. The first is the differences that are to be found in Wales. ‘Place’ and belonging have a particular resonance in Wales, with different sorts of communities in north and south, rural and urban areas, the Valleys and, perhaps most distinctly, Cardiff, the capital city. Work divides people in Wales, with long-term unemployment, sometimes over several generations, in some communities, and increasing affluence in other places. Gender continues to be the basis of different opportunities and experiences; and matters of ‘race’ and gender have very specific dimensions in Wales. Notions of social class have changed, but there are powerful material inequalities and differences of lifestyle between the middle and working classes. The module examines the distinctly Welsh dimensions to these differences.

The second theme is the connections that have been forged between people in Wales. The module examines popular culture, the workings of the National Assembly, the Labour tradition, and the nationalist narrative. You will learn about the origins, issues and practices of these institutions and movements. This includes who is excluded from decision-making; the significance of the Welsh language; the kind of Wales that is represented in the arts and at the National Museum of Wales; the significance of popular culture (including Doctor Who and Gavin and Stacey); the distinct electoral system; the origins and significance of the ‘clear red water’ that defines Labour in Wales; and the often conflicting strands within nationalism. You will examine how these representations and institutions contribute to the construction of contemporary Wales.

Vocational relevance

The module will be extremely useful if you plan to work in Wales in any professional role because it will equip you to make sense of contemporary Welsh society and to understand the implications of policies, politics and cultural life in Wales. It will also provide you with core social sciences knowledge and skills that are relevant across a breadth of occupations.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be allocated to a tutor, who will support you by providing correspondence tuition, one-to-one advice and online tutorials.

There will be an online forum where you can discuss the module with your tutor and with other students. Through online tutorials you will be prepared for each of your two assignments, one on differences and one on connections.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

This module will be available for the last time in September 2014.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school


Please note: this module is only available for standalone study. You cannot count the credits you gain from the module towards any current OU qualification. It may be possible, however, to count the credits gained towards a qualification if you are already studying with us and have declared your qualification intention before September 2012 – see your qualification description in StudentHome for details.

This is a 15-credit OU level 1 short module. It is designed for students with an interest in the culture, politics, society and economy of Wales.

You might be entering Higher Education for the first time, in which case it will offer you an introduction to some core concepts and approaches in the social sciences in a way that connects with everyday life in Wales. It assumes that you have little experience of academic study. Reading, note-taking, interpreting social data and essay writing are skills that are covered on the module.

The module is also designed for students who have taken other modules, or even have a degree and who have a particular interest in understanding Wales today, perhaps because it interests you or to prepare you for employment in Wales.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

You might like to follow key events in Wales by scanning Welsh news in The Western Mail, or by reading Planet, the bi-monthly journal on Welsh politics and culture.


Start End Fee
- - -

No current presentation - see Future availability

This module is expected to start for the last time in September 2014.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 18/09/2014.

What's included

There is a study guide to steer you through the various study materials. These include a set text, written for the module; downloadable audio and video, some of it previously broadcast, some commissioned for the module; a website with additional readings, materials and links to relevant websites; and an assignment booklet.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific or foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

This module includes a website and the use of tools such as downloadable audio-visual files.  If you use specialist software or hardware to assist you in using a personal computer or the internet and have any concerns about accessing this type of material you are advised to talk to the Student Registration & Enquiry Service about support which can be given to meet your needs.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.