Social Policy

The department of Sociology and Social Policy is part of the School of Social and Political Sciences (SSPS).

About the major

Most countries today have systems to provide for citizens in times of need. For example they may have unemployment benefits for people out of work, or pensions for the elderly. Social Policy is the study of these policies. The Social Policy major focuses on how different policies affect the social and economic welfare of individuals, families and communities. Studying social policy enables you to understand the principles underpinning the provision of social policies. It explores why and how some policies emerge and also why they disappear. The type of policy areas you will study include: work, unemployment and employment services; youth and children's services; health policies; housing and urban/regional policies; policies for women, policies for Indigenous people; multicultural policies and policies on the environment.

When you study social policy you will be introduced to the discipline through junior units in sociology. Here you will learn about the key ideas and concepts that sociologists have been developing to help understand the world. You will also be introduced to methods and techniques that will enable you to undertake your own research. These foundational ideas will be consolidated in senior social policy units that explore the principles of social policy and also units that analyse social policy in different national contexts. You will also study senior theory and methods units. This will be enhanced by the study of particular areas within social policy and will deepen your understanding of key sites of inequality and change in the contemporary world.

Students will grapple with these aspects of social policy in classroom situations but also in the real world. You will learn to write and think sociologically using essays, reports, oral group work, posters, debates and new social media.

Pathway through the major

A major in Social Policy requires at least 36 credit senior points, including at least 18 credit points of core 2000-level units of study and 6 credit points from core 3000-level units of study.

The units of study for the major can be found in the Table A unit of study table for Social Policy. The table shows units of study on offer in the current handbook year. You may find information regarding a full list of units of study available to the major on the departmental website.

Junior units of study (1000 level)

You complete two junior units of study: SCLG1001 Introduction to Sociology 1 and SCLG1002 Introduction to Sociology 2. In these units you will learn about:

  • Basic methods
  • Key topics of analysis (class, gender, race, globalisation etc)
  • Classical social theory
  • Contemporary social theory
Senior units of study (2000 and 3000 level)

You complete 18 credit points of core senior intermediate (2000-level) units of study:

  • SCPL2601 Australian Social Policy
  • SCPL2602 The Principles of Social Policy
  • SCLG2632 Quantitative Methods

These core senior-intermediate units of study extend on the introductory material in the two junior units. They focus on deepening your theoretical and methodological capacities in concert with an introduction to the core principles of social policy.

You also complete 6 credit points of core senior advanced (3000-level) units of study: SCPL3604 Social Policy and Practice.

The remaining credit points for your major can be taken from senior units of study listed under electives on the unit of study table. Elective units provide you with an advanced introduction to domestic and international social policy research and analysis, exploring specific policy fields and welfare state regimes. These units have specialist content (e.g. Sociology of Religion, Sociology of Inequality, Urban Sociology, Social Movements and Social Policy) enabling you to focus on narrower topics and learn about the particular concepts, theories and methods associated with these sub-fields of sociology and social policy.


In this fourth year of study students undertake a program of coursework and a research thesis. If you intend to undertake honours you must have completed at least 48 senior credit points of Sociology or Social Policy with a Credit average or above. You must also take SCPL3604 Social Policy and Practice as a bridging unit to the research-intensive year of Honours. This unit allows you to undertake work around a specific empirical/theoretical project, pulling together your learning across the major.

Please note: from 2015 the minimum requirement for entry into Honours will increase to an average of 70% or above across 48 senior credit points in the intended subject area/s.

Contact/further information

Department website:
Undergraduate Coordinator: Dr Amanda Elliot