BSc Education / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Theories of Equity in Education

Course unit fact file
Unit code EDUC30652
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit is an advanced sociology and philosophy of education course , asking complex questions like:

What is equity in education?

What is merit?

What is an educational test and how do we know if it’s fair?

Is a fair system one with equal outcomes for everyone?

What counts as an outcome anyway?

The unit aims to go against the grain of much educational thinking and research by staying with the messiness of educational problems rather than prioritising the search for solutions. For this reason, the assessments do not ask you to posit solutions to the educational problems described, but rather to explore them in their full complexity.


The unit aims to:

  • extend students’ knowledge and understanding of key issues affecting the equity of educational opportunities and outcomes;
  • help students to develop a complex understanding of the relationship between education and society;
  • introduce students to a wide range of theoretical approaches to educational inequity and apply these to different empirical topics;
  • encourage independent thinking and self-reflection around education and educational inequities.


Each week, the unit connects the theoretical to the empirical. In each lecture, we will explore a questions below in relation to one educational theory. In the following seminar, we will discuss the essential reading. Most weeks, the reading will discuss one equity characteristic (such as race, class, gender or sexuality) in relation to the theory from the lecture. Most weeks there will also be a chance to reflect on your own experiences in education, and whether the theory being discussed helps you to understand them. 

Teaching and learning methods

Learning will take place over twelve teaching weeks in semester 2. We will meet for one 1.5-hour lecture (whole group) and one 1.5-hour seminar (max 25 students) each week. The lecture will explore a theory or concept in detail, while the seminar will relate that theory to a key equity issue through discussion of the key reading, as well as activities focused on students’ own experiences and further application activities.   
The standard SEED Blackboard (or new VLE) template will be used for pre-reading and accessing learning material. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Investigate how multiple perspectives of sociological and philosophical theories interplay as they relate to education
  • Critically analyse a range of equity issues in education from a global perspective
  • Evaluate the link between theory and application in educational research

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse empirical topics using a range of theories as a lens
  • Apply a range of theories to empirical topics identified independently by students
  • Work independently and with tutor support to devise topics for assessments

Practical skills

  • Work independently and with tutor support to devise topics for assessments

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop critical researcher/learner reflexivity from a sociological perspective. 

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 75%
Report 25%

Feedback methods

Online Blackboard

Recommended reading

Activity, online first, pp. 1-15. doi: 10.1080/10749039.2023.2208573.
Mirza, H.S. and Meetoo, V. (2017)/ ‘Empowering Muslim girls? Post-feminism, multiculturalism and the production of the “model” Muslim female student in British schools’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 39(2), pp. 227–241. doi: 10.1080/01425692.2017.1406336.

Ladson-Billings, G and Tate, W. F. (1995) ‘Towards a critical race theory of education’ Teachers College Record, Vol. 97, pp47-68
Martinussen, M. and Mulcahy, D. (2023). ‘Working-class student-hood and “job-readiness”: affective relations of class, gender and employability policy in higher education’, Journal of Education Policy, online first, pp. 1-19. doi: 10.1080/02680939.2023.2228755.

Power, S and Taylor, C. (2013). ‘Social justice and education in the public and private spheres’, Oxford Review of Education, 39(4), pp. 464–479. doi:10.1080/03054985.2013.821854.

Raffo, C., Dyson, A., Gunter, H., Hall, D., Jones, L. & Kalambouka A. (2007) Education and Poverty: A critical review of theory, policy and practice.  York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Raffo, C. (2014) Improving Educational Equity in Urban Contexts. London:Routledge

Raffo, C., Dyson, A., Gunter, H., Hall, D., Jones, L. & Kalambouka, A. (2010) (Eds) Education and Poverty in Affluent Countries. London: Routledge.

Reay, D. (2006) The Zombie stalking English schools: social class and educational inequality. British Journal of Educational Studies, 54 (3), September: 288-307.

Whitty, G. (2001) ‘Education, social class and social exclusion’ Journal of Education Policy, 16 (4), 287-295

Wilkinson, R. & Pickett, K. (2009) The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

Willis, P. (1977) Learning to Labour: How working class kids get working class jobs. Aldershot: Gower

Windle, J.A. and Fonseca Afonso, É (2021). ‘Building anti-racist education through spaces of border thinking’, Critical Studies in Education, 63(5), pp. 606–621. doi: 10.1080/17508487.2021.2000000.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 18
Seminars 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 164

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Kathryn Telling Unit coordinator

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