Faculty of Social Sciences
The following courses are not necessarily shown in the recommended order of study for an OU qualification.
This key introductory Level 1 course is an ideal introduction to the social sciences – psychology, social policy and criminology, geography and environment, politics and international studies, economics and sociology – through study of contemporary UK society. Using a blend of text, audio, DVD and online materials, you’ll explore a wide range of topics, including questions of society’s relationship to the environment, questions of identity and issues of social order and governance – all considered in their national and international contexts – that will equip you with a range of skills for independent study and for your personal and working life.
This key introductory Level 1 module provides an approachable and contemporary introduction to the disciplines and subjects that form the social sciences, as well as the questions and issues that social scientists investigate and explore. It tackles everyday issues in an appropriate way, so that you can build on what you already know and gain a solid grounding in study techniques and social science skills and debates. Combining this with another 30-credit course – such as Discovering psychology (DSE141) – is an excellent choice if you want a gradual entry into the social sciences.
Drawing on a wide range of studies and some classic pieces of psychological research, this key introductory Level 1 course provides an accessible and engaging introduction to the study of psychology. Discovering psychology explores the different ways in which psychologists investigate the human mind and behaviour, and shows you how psychological research addresses real-life issues. You will be provided with a textbook and access to a website containing an online study guide, audio-visual material and interactive activities which are designed to help you develop your knowledge and skills.
The tremendous expansion of counselling over the last 20 years reflects the changing nature of society, an increase in the number of people perceiving a need for professional help with their problems, and a growing recognition of the value of such support. This online course provides an accessible and interesting introduction to the theory and practice of counselling. While the course is primarily theoretical, it also develops some awareness of the basic skills in counselling practice. You will get a good grounding in key topics in counselling, including its cultural and historical origins; different theoretical orientations; and the vital role of the counselling relationship.
Are you interested in the culture, society, economy and politics of Wales? This online course 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 course 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.
Are you interested in making more informed decisions about your personal finances? You and your money is a practical course that will develop your financial skills and improve your understanding of the constantly changing social and economic environment in which financial decisions are made. You’ll explore questions such as: Why do people borrow so much? How can I plan for my retirement? By the end of this key introductory Level 1 course, you’ll have a detailed understanding of some key personal finance issues that affect people’s lives, and the skills and knowledge needed to improve your own financial capability.
If you already have a financial qualification at Level 3 in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) or Level 6 in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF), this ten-week online course will help you to build on that qualification and achieve Higher Education (HE) credits. By combining your professional qualification with academic knowledge gained at The Open University (OU), you can achieve 20 credits in less than half the normal study time. You should have previously studied the two OU courses, You and your money: personal finance in context (DB123) and Introduction to financial services (BD131), before studying this course.
Tumultuous events like 9/11 and the war in Iraq have reminded people how vital – and sometimes how deadly – the world of politics can be. Even at the very local level, the everyday politics of petitioning, local council debate, and of schools and hospitals affects people’s lives. This course invites you into the world of politics in a fresh and accessible way, using a wide variety of case studies drawn from the UK and beyond. It sheds light on the inner workings of power, decision making and protest, and it covers politics from parliament to the street, and the politics of ideas as well as institutions.
It is commonplace now to say that the world has gone global. Whenever we buy food and clothes, listen to music, or watch the news, we can see how different parts of the world, often thousands of miles apart, are connected together. And with these multiple and various connections comes a sense of the world as being a complex and exciting place. This course will help you to understand that complexity, giving you some key geographical concepts which help to make sense of the processes and patterns shaping our globalised world.
This interdisciplinary course investigates the role of social science in making sense of everyday dilemmas such as sustaining relationships, making a living, finding a place to live, being part of a community, or making one’s voice heard. The course explores how social scientists use evidence and data, theories and explanations, and norms and values to make sense of social life. By studying this course you will develop the practical transferable skills and intellectual resources required to analyse the different ways in which social science is used both to understand and to shape our social lives.
Environmental issues pose challenges. What are the biophysical and social causes of environmental change? What exactly is an environmental issue and why are they often controversial and difficult to resolve? How can we make a difference? You will address all of these questions as you explore four key global environmental concerns – life, water, carbon, and food – through a rich and interactive set of study materials. As you do so, you will develop a distinctive way of thinking about environments and environmental issues that draws on the insights of both natural and social sciences to be at once intellectually innovative and practically relevant.
This course examines the relationships between the worlds of social welfare and crime control. It focuses on policy interventions and responses in the UK and around the world to issues such as anti-social behaviour, poverty, discrimination, hate crimes, child labour, health and disease, families, slums, ghettos and gated communities. Using multi-media teaching materials, the course is organised by four conceptual themes - surveillance, social justice, security and community. It will equip you with the skills you need to select and evaluate evidence in relation to social science arguments and social policy.
This course responds to the need to understand the problems of running national and global economies in the wake of a major economic crisis. It starts with macroeconomics, looking at how economies work from global and integrated perspectives. It then moves to microeconomics, drilling down into the behaviour of people, firms and governments. This combined analysis allows you to explore how policy affects, and is affected by, the economy and its constituent members. Using a simulator, you will apply what you have learned, taking on the role of an economic analyst to make or advise on policy choices.
Fear and sadness are the most common problems that people seek counselling for. This course introduces you to the ways in which they have been understood: as 'mental health problems'; by different forms of individual therapy; and by approaches that focus on the family, the social group, or society. While the course is primarily academic, you’ll develop awareness of counselling skills, processes and techniques. The main sections of the course cover: historical developments in understanding fear and sadness; key individual counselling approaches; approaches that consider relationships and cultural aspects of human suffering; and the practice and evaluation of counselling.
Why, where and how should I invest? How are these decisions affected by economic uncertainty? What is the relationship between risk and return? These are some of the questions addressed in Personal investment in an uncertain world. Investment planning requires financial decisions about the allocation of resources in a world of uncertainties that affect the value of pensions, shares and bonds. You’ll learn how to understand the sources of uncertainty, the way that financial service providers adapt to it and how individuals form personal strategies to manage it.
How humans think, develop, and experience the world around us has been fascinating psychologists for over 100 years. Using a historical and biographical framework, this course introduces you to a wide range of psychological approaches, including biological, social, and cognitive psychologies. It looks at areas such as identity, learning, memory, and language. But you won’t just learn about psychological theories, you’ll learn how to do different types of psychological research too. You’ll undertake practical work using quantitative and qualitative research methods and learn to analyse data using statistical software. All in all, Exploring psychology will give you a thorough overview of psychology, relevant to your daily life.
This course, which builds on Exploring psychology (DSE212), covers a range of approaches and methods in psychology – developing your research skills (including use of SPSS) and your understanding of the practical and ethical issues involved. The principal part of the course involves group work, designing, conducting and analysing a psychological study in small groups. This study will be conducted in the broad areas of memory or communication. The course is a Virtual Residential School conducted entirely online, using online forums for tutor support, group discussions, activities and project work. Regular internet access (logging on at least three times a week) is required throughout the duration of the course.
This short course, with a week-long residential school at its core, provides an opportunity to develop your practical skills in psychological research. It builds on the associated course Exploring psychology (DSE212), using materials from this course – alongside other resources – to help you prepare for the residential school. During the residential week, you will engage in activities that demonstrate the practical and ethical issues involved in conducting research. You’ll also design, conduct and analyse one project as part of a group, using either quantitative or qualitative methods. Register early if you have a preferred date and venue in mind as unfortunately we can’t always offer your first choice.
Crime, disorder, and justice are increasingly pressing concerns across the world. Fear of crime and proliferating global threats contribute to an increasing sense of insecurity. Local concerns – for example street crime – are now accompanied by twenty-first century global concerns about human trafficking, cyber-crime, terrorism and human rights violations to name but a few. These ‘threats’ have implications for justice, as the boundaries between crime control and civil liberties are being increasingly redrawn. You’ll explore crime and justice in both global and local contexts, and in particular the way that crime and justice are being continually redefined by global economic, social and political change.
How does memory work? How do we understand language? How do we think? These are just some of the questions related to everyday experience you’ll address on this course. Beginning with core topics – perception and attention; categorisation and language; and memory, thinking and reasoning – you’ll then explore wider issues, such as emotion and consciousness, topics that have presented a challenge to the cognitive approach. Throughout, you’ll be asked to examine theories, evidence and arguments as well as the methods of cognitive psychology, including neuropsychology and neuroimaging. Using a computer, you’ll also be guided through techniques of data analysis and experimentation, and will engage in your own project work.
How has social policy influenced ideas and values about parenthood? How far can we legitimise locking children in secure accommodation in order to ‘care’ for them? How have ‘welfare to work’ initiatives changed the meaning of ‘work’ in social policy? How does social policy construct the lives of refugees and asylum seekers? This course uses four key themes – Sexualities, Care, Work, and Citizenship – 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.
Should religious beliefs shape how politics are conducted in the contemporary world? Does violence have a role in politics? Should animals as well as humans be represented in politics? What do bodies and sexuality have to do with politics? Living political ideas is an exciting Level 3 politics and international studies course that debates these and similar questions. It demonstrates the relevance of political ideas for understanding contemporary issues in national and world politics. The award winning study materials include software, video, audio, websites and print (British Universities Film & Video Council, Learning on Screen Awards 2009).
This Level 3 course uses traditional and cutting-edge social psychological theories to explore some of the most exciting and pressing issues we face in our complex, fast changing world. Topics in the course include emotions, conflict, relationships, the body, personality, prejudice and group processes. Working with multimedia materials, you will develop advanced academic skills of critical evaluation and argument and will have the opportunity to conduct your own independent research project – consolidating and deepening your understanding. The course will also contribute to your personal development by encouraging you to reflect on your life in the light of social psychological evidence.
In order to survive, human beings live in social worlds which create security, foster stable attachment between individuals and things, and regulate behaviour. This accessible, vocationally relevant course demonstrates how sociological approaches can be applied to make sense of these processes – investigating how they work and how they sometimes fail. Through topics such as immigration, medicine, family, money and reality television, you will explore how social experience is shaped by nature and the material world, and made meaningful through culture and the media. The course is ideal if you have previously studied the social sciences or arts and want to consolidate your understanding of sociology.
This course teaches economic theories that explain the behaviour of people in households, firms, markets and governments. It presents alternative economic explanations that will enable you to make your own critical judgements of which theory serves which purpose best. The course also equips you with the research skills that you’ll need to conduct your own project on a topic you want to know more about. At the end of the course, you should have developed a more critical view of the socio-economic world in which you live.
How can we best understand and analyse international developments such as the role of the World Trade Organisation, the power of the USA, the rise of China and India, or contests over religion, culture and rights? What are the main features of international order, how are they changing, and what can we expect in the future? This interdisciplinary course provides the tools of political and economic analysis needed to answer such questions. You will also review and debate the power politics of dominant states; struggles for rights and justice; economic and technological developments; and how world order is changing.
This innovative course explores the causes and consequences of a range of international environmental problems and resource conflicts, including loss of biological diversity, water allocation and urbanisation. Particular attention is paid to climate change. You’ll learn how political divisions, inequalities and contentions over values and knowledge can hinder policy responses to environmental problems, and evaluate what can and should be done in the future at both political and individual levels. The course is ideal if you wish to develop a policy-relevant understanding of international environmental problems for either personal interest or career development.
The Open University offers over 30 inspiring courses in Social Sciences.