Joe: Studying Social Policy & My Advice
The University of Salford is a truly special place, awash with inspirational people who helped me to fulfil my potential. I started my degree at a different University and transitioned into Salford in my second year, so I know first-hand how this university, and this programme team, compares with other institutions. Not only is the knowledge, engagement, and teaching methods of Salford’s Social Policy team exceptional, it is complemented by compassionate and unwavering student support. This makes for an inclusive, respectful learning environment which has the genuine potential to change people’s lives.
The best parts of my experience as a Social Policy student at Salford revolve around me finding the courage to rise to challenges and defy the expectations I had of myself. For example, I never thought that I had what it took to write a dissertation, let alone achieve the grade that I did. Proving myself wrong by persevering, breaking the task down into small pieces, and seeking the fantastic support of my personal tutor allowed me to do something that I once considered unthinkable. Of course, none of this would be quite as sweet without celebrating it with some of the inspiring and altogether wonderful friends that I met on this course. The outward-gazing, diverse environment which values the different experiences and journeys of our cohort has allowed me to make some friends for life.
Academically, I most enjoyed the Sociology of Health and Illness and Precarity and Insecure lives modules. The Sociology of Health and Illness module alerted me to the fact that grave health inequalities are often determined by socioeconomic, ethnic, and gendered factors. Precarity and Insecure Lives allowed me to delve into the structural reasons for such factors and analyze in detail some of the impacts of social inequities. These two modules most informed my dissertation which focused on the socioeconomic differences in COVID-19 outcomes.
"I graduated with a First-Class Honors, and I am now studying for an MA in International Relations and Global Communications. Studying Social Policy equipped me with an invaluable analytical skillset which allowed me to think critically about any topic I encounter. It has provided me with a robust intellectual foundation which includes key sociological theories, knowledge regarding mechanisms of power, and the salience of political ideology."
Equally as important, though, the BSc Social Policy course has helped me know my worth as a student, and as a person. As averse to cliches as I am, this degree as simply taught me that I can. And so can you. I now know that positions which I once considered out of my reach are truly attainable. Since starting this degree, I have held a part-time research job and been involved in a student think tank. After completing my masters, there are a few avenues I may explore – not least academia. I am also interested in working for an NGO. One step at a time!
My advice to any new social policy student is as follows:
1) Throw yourself into your studies as much as you can by engaging with the content each week, and reading more widely where you can. This will help you identify topics which you are the most interested in (and maybe even passionate about!). In addition to enhancing your enjoyment of everything that the vast, multifaceted world of Social Policy has to offer, it will allow you to get ahead for future modules and, eventually, your dissertation, by allowing you to better shape your academic focus by choosing to write about the issues which are most important to you.
2) Reference as you go! This is a little trick that has served me well. When reading a chapter/book/article that you think could be useful for a particular assignment, write down the reference. Soon, you will develop a comprehensive bank of sources, which you can divide per module. Not only will this save you lots of time when it comes to writing your assignments, but it is good to keep well practiced in referencing properly. If you’re not familiar with referencing, don’t worry! I advise checking out Salford’s referencing guide. It’s a great resource that I always referred to when writing assignments.
3) Draw on your own experiences where you can. I found that relating topics to my own experiences, where relevant, helped me to better engage with them, and I encourage you to do the same. For example, if you have worked in a health and social care role, applying your own experience may help you to strongly appreciate the impact of reforms to social care.
4) Ask for help when you need it. The Social Policy team at Salford are not only experts and accomplished academics, but they also thrive on the success of their students. I know that it can sometimes be hard to admit when you don’t understand something, but no one expects you to know everything. This is your learning experience, so please know that you only have to ask your tutor for assistance, and they will be delighted to help you.