BASS Politics and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Global Social Challenges

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOCY10461
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course introduces students to a social scientific approach to a range of pressing global social challenges. It will be a team-taught course and the topics will vary from year to year. An indicative list of topics includes:  

1. Introduction: Social Challenges and Public Sociology  

2. Inequalities in a Global Age  

3. Gender and Sustainable Development 

4. The Corporation in Global Society  

5. Climate Change, Capitalism and Society 

6. Decolonisation  

7. Pandemics 

8. Population Ageing: A Global Challenge  

9. Global Protest: Why It is Kicking Off Everywhere  

10. A Summary Overview: A Sociological Perspective on Global Challenges  


The course is theoretically framed by an appreciation of the ways that social challenges highlight issues of both global interconnection and global inequality. It also stresses the notion of 'social responsibility' as one that offers some promise in dealing with global challenges, but should be understood critically. For sociologists - both professionals and students - one of our responsibilities is to communicate a social scientific understanding of global social challenges based on sound evidence and critical thinking. Global Social Challenges will use assignments and formative feedback designed to encourage public focused communication on these issues.  



This course will introduce students to a range of current social issues affecting human  
society on a large scale. Examples might include global inequality, climate change,  
conflict, migration, terrorism, economic crises, corporate crimes and so on. The range of  
substantive topics will vary year-on-year to reflect current developments and will be team- 
taught to reflect the range of research expertise available in sociology at Manchester.  
Students will discover a sociological approach to major social challenges through  
emphases on:  

• Understanding and describing pressing social problems through reference to their social and cultural dimensions.  

• Analysing competing explanations for contemporary global social issues with reference to core sociological themes such as inequality, globalisation, and power.  

• Assessing potential solutions to contemporary social challenges in relation to the ways in which they are embedded in society and culture.  

• Recognising the potential implications and limitations of the notion of 'social  

responsibility' in relation to academic practices and economic behaviours.  

As a result, students will be able to critically assess debate on key social challenges in a way that does not reduce them to purely technical-scientific, political or economic  
discourses and allows them to deconstruct popular accounts encountered through a  
variety of media sources.  

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will:  

• Be able to describe and interpret a range of pressing social challenges existing in global society.  

• Be able to contextualise social issues in relation to wider global trends and structures, including inequality and globalisation.  

• Be able to critically assess debates on the explanations for, and potential solutions to, global social challenges through the application of core sociological concepts.  

Teaching and learning methods

Each two-hour lecture will be introduced by the Convenor, but most will be delivered by other members of the teaching team, drawn from across the Sociology DA (Departmental Administrator). Lectures will be traditional in style, but lecturers will be encouraged to make use of a variety of tools for interaction and engagement.  

Tutorials will be delivered by GTAs (Graduate Teaching Assistants), who will be briefed on core discursive tasks for each session to encourage a variety of learning interactions across the course. A full tutorial guide will be presented to students at the beginning of the course to help guide their independent study.  

The blackboard will be a store of documentation, readings, and lecture slides. A library linked reading list will be presented throughout the site's content areas.  

All students will produce blog entries as compulsory assignments on the course. The best work is published on a public-facing website. You can see past student's work here:   

Assessment methods

Non-Assessed Coursework

Short piece of writing in the style of blog posts (750 words).

Assessed Coursework

One 1500 word essay


Online ‘open book’ exam – one essay (1500 words +/- 10%) from a selection of 8 topics/questions

Feedback methods

All sociology courses include both formative feedback - which lets you know how you are getting on and what you could do to improve - and summative feedback - which gives you a mark for your assessed work. In this course you will receive individual written feedback on coursework from tutors and from your peers, as well as general verbal feedback throughout the course in tutorials and lectures.  

Recommended reading

Beck, U. (2008). World at Risk (2nd edition). Cambridge; Polity Press.  

Burawoy, M. (2005). 2004 American Sociological Association Presidential address: For  
public sociology. The British Journal of Sociology, 56(2), 259-294.  
Castells, M. (2009). The Rise of the Network Society. (2nd edition). Chichester; Wiley- 

Castells, M. (2009). The Power of Identity. (2nd edition). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Cohen, R., & Kennedy, P. (2013). Global Sociology (3rd edition). Basingstoke: Palgrave. Jenkins, R. (2002). Foundations of Sociology: Towards a Better Understanding of the Human World. Basingstoke: Palgrave.  

Therborn, G. (2010). The World: A Beginner's Guide. Cambridge; Polity Press.  

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maisie Tomlinson Unit coordinator

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