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Personal lives and social policy

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How has social policy influenced ideas and values about parenthood? How have relations of care changed in a contemporary global economy? How have ‘welfare to work’ initiatives changed the meaning of ‘work’ in social policy? This module uses three key topics – Sexualities, Care and Work – to explore how individuals shape and are shaped by policy making and welfare practices and how social policy is organised, represented and experienced – opening up challenging questions about the policymaking process both in the past and in contemporary society.

What you will study

The module offers an imaginative and innovative perspective on the role played by social policy in society today through its core concepts of the personal, social policy and their mutual constitution – investigating marginalised issues, such as disability and sexuality, as well as ‘taken for granted’ topics, like women’s caring roles, highlighting their meanings in welfare practices and discourses.

Its approach is to explore the module themes across theoretical frameworks – post-structuralism, feminism, Marxism, psychoanalytic approaches and post-colonialism – in order to critically evaluate particular concerns and debates. Students are also encouraged to reflect on their own experiences of welfare and the research process (as well as analysing representations by other individuals and groups) through assignments which employ a variety of formats such as a report, as well as more conventional essays.

A clear emphasis on the evaluation of research evidence runs throughout and there are opportunities to consolidate and develop skills in analysing visual, numerical and printed data from a range of historical and contemporary sources. To gain greater insights and develop hands-on research skills, students are supported in undertaking a small piece of independent research consisting of two semi-structured interviews after reflecting on an initial interviewing experience.

This module adopts an interdisciplinary approach that is designed to be of interest and relevance to students planning OU level 3 study in social policy. In addition, it is likely to be of interest to students in other social science disciplines including sociology and psychology, as well as those in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. It has also been designed to encourage and facilitate entry to postgraduate-level study.

Professional recognition

This module may help you to gain recognition from a professional body.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject. 

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

What's included

Three module books and online materials including a week-by-week study guide, interactive timelines, audio-visual materials, activities, study skills and resources. 

You will need

You will need equipment to record interviews. Further guidance on equipment is provided in the module materials.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material, 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, but not obliged, 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.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD305 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Personal lives and social policy starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019 when we expect it to start for the last time.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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