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Death and dying

This is an exciting and revolutionary module in which you’ll engage with real issues based on the experiences of dying people, bereaved people, those who work with them, and their carers, both lay and professional.  This module will be of interest for anyone who works with dying people and their families or students who want to find out more about death, dying and bereavement, and what these mean in different contexts.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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Student Reviews

I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It is a fascinating field to study and the depth of the subject areas explored...
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Really enjoyed this course - was one of my favourites. Manageable workload and EMA resulted in a pass I was...
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What you will study

This fascinating module is underpinned by the following key themes:

  • difference and diversity in attitudes and responses to death, dying, disposal and bereavement
  • the rhetoric and reality of end-of-life care, and the limitations of care resources
  • the extent to which death, dying and bereavement have become medicalised and professionalised
  • the ethical nature of end-of -life decisions
  • the social dimensions that impact upon experiences at the time of death and afterwards.

The module is divided into four blocks and the units in each block are equal to one week of study.

In Block 1– The social context of death and dying  you will consider how views of death have changed over time and the ways in which contemporary Western societies view and respond to death and dying. Central to this exploration is the extent to which public views and private experiences are in a dynamic relationship with each other. The rate, cause and place of death are illustrated through individual accounts that highlight the realities beneath the statistics for both service users and providers.

In Block 2 – End-of-life care in context  you will explore the ways in which the hospice movement has achieved its goals in providing good quality end-of-life care to all who need it and the challenges to this goal. You will also consider where care takes place and the role of carers in providing end-of-life care at home. The block also offers a critique of the theories that underpin communication and considers its central role at the end of life and after death.

Block 3 – The contexts of grief and bereavement keeps bereavement and mourning practices as its central theme to examine grief in different contexts. The block begins with a critique of theories of grief and moves on to explore experiences of individual and collective grief before considering the ways in which death is memorialised and commemorated and how this in turn contributes to the way that death is framed in society.

Block 4 – The ethical context of death and dying takes an ethical view of many of the decisions that face people at the end of life. You will be introduced to ethical theories that play a significant role in these decisions and consider adults’ and children’s rights at the end of life. As with the previous three blocks the study material is enriched by experiential case studies that provide the real context in which you can explore such issues and challenges.

The relevance of these ideas to reality is central to this module.

Professional recognition

This module can make a significant contribution to the continuing professional development of nursing and social work practitioners. It may also help you to gain recognition from a professional body. This module has been mapped against the Core Competencies for End of Life Care which support the National End of Life Care Strategy.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. Contact us 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.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online. 

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


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:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


The module does not assume that you have done any study or had any experience beyond that which we all have in our lives: exposure to death, dying and bereavement. Our OU level 1 module An introduction to health and social care (K101) would be ideal preparation.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

On a more personal level, the module authors and tutors are greatly concerned to support students in sensitive aspects of the subject of death and dying, but please remember that your tutor is not there to help you with bereavement. The module cannot fulfil that function, though we hope that this will not deter dying or bereaved people from taking the module.

Preparatory work

You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your first module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £1350.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

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 monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. 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 ten 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. 

Mixed payments

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

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please 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 valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 29/07/2015.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, a DVD and CDs. You will have access to a website through which teaching and library resources are available. Electronic versions of most of the printed study materials are provided on the website.

You will need

A DVD/CD player.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Earle, S., Bartholomew, C. & Komaromy, C. (eds) Making Sense of Death, Dying and Bereavement: An Anthology SAGE Publications £25.99 - ISBN 9781847875129
  • Earle, S., Komaromy, C. & Bartholomew, C. (eds) Death and Dying: A Reader SAGE Publications £26.99 - ISBN 9781847875105

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. The printed study material is available in a comb-bound format and in the DAISY Digital Talking Book format. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

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.