Subject Areas

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There are four main subject areas in the School of Social & Political Sciences. See more information by clicking on the relevant item below:


The subject of Criminology does require some explanation, especially as most people will not have studied it in any rigorous shape or form before coming to University. Even at undergraduate level it is relatively new, with the first courses materialising in the 1990s and we at the University of Lincoln have been among the pioneers of Criminology as a single honours undergraduate degree subject. Whilst there is a history to Criminology at postgraduate level, and academic criminological texts have been penned for well over a century, there is something new and exciting about it is a contemporary undergraduate subject.

So what is Criminology? Perhaps it is best to start with what it is not. Criminology is not about 'catching crooks'. Criminology will not equip you with the wherewithal to nail your man, woman, child, organisation or nation-state. It will not instruct you in the art of offender profiling or engage in any easy quick fixes to the 'crime problem'. One of the fundamental challenges of Criminology is the very complexity of crime and the realisation that 'common sense' solutions may often be misguided, limited or even 'wrong' responses to the problem of crime.

A key Criminological word is 'why'? For example the twentieth century is often characterised as the most violent in history, with more than its share of wartime genocide, ethnic cleansing and industrial 'disasters', alongside serial killing, mass murder, rape, assault, torture and hooliganism, as well as routine swindling and theft. And yet it is unclear whether it is always the most harmful of these activities which attract the attention of the criminal justice system. Criminology asks the question why certain activities are criminalized in the first place, and why and how these may change over time. For example, the currently changing complexions of 'war crime' and 'corporate killing' may challenge conventional thinking. Clearly such questions require both historical and extremely contemporary answers, and only serve to underline the dynamic potential of the discipline of Criminology.

In addition to asking questions, Criminology is about putting forward coherent and well thought out solutions, whether your own or others. With that in mind we have an active involvement with the local criminal justice network, involving visits, seminars, expert speakers and 'hands on' projects.

Criminology draws heavily on a range of disciplines and perspectives including sociology, history, geography, philosophy, social policy and politics and, in that respect, provides a useful pivot to explore the inter-related and multi-faceted nature of society. It therefore constitutes an excellent grounding in ideas, arguments and knowledge, in the context of disciplined and focused enquiry into crime, punishment, victims and justice.

International Relations is an interdisciplinary subject area which draws upon politics, economics, history, sociology, international law, geography and cultural studies to explore global issues such as conflict, global inequalities, sovereignty and human rights.

International Relations is the study of how political, economic and cultural forces interact to mould relationships between nations. The balance of these dynamics enables peace and trade to be maintained in a complex, globalised world, where pockets of tension can rapidly escalate beyond borders.

International Relations at Lincoln aims to provide a structured way of understanding and influencing the cross-border factors shaping our societies: security, conflict, inequality, development, intercultural understanding and human rights. Students are taught by academics who are currently engaged in research across a range of specialisms including terrorism, gender and sexuality, international political economy, war crimes and genocide, the politics of global health and the European Union. Teaching is driven by the latest developments in the discipline.


Politics at Lincoln examines a wide range of subjects including domestic and global politics, political theory and international relations. Students have the opportunity to explore the big political issues of the day in Britain and around the globe, and study the social and theoretical contexts which underpin these developments.

Politics students have the opportunity to develop analytical, evaluative and critical-thinking skills and to learn how to collect and analyse data, draft policy proposals, present arguments thoughtfully and debate points of contention with peers. Academics in the School of Social & Political Sciences have a diverse range of expertise and aim to provide a thorough grounding in British and global politics.

Many people often feel that they have only a vague idea about what Social Policy is. Yet we all know something about the subject because it is an important part of all of our lives. The founders of the welfare state referred to services which would look after us 'From the cradle to the grave'. Health care, education, help in finding jobs, income maintenance in times of need, housing, pensions, social care and the maintenance of law and order are all examples of social policy. The extent to which we are affected by social policy depends upon individual circumstances but it is clear that it is an important part of all of our lives.

The last twenty-five years have seen enormous changes in social policy and social welfare. Under the Conservative governments there was an attempt to 'roll back the frontiers of the welfare state' and wide-ranging changes to welfare provision. The Labour governments have been seeking to reform the welfare system into one which is better suited to the demands of the 21st century. Major questions are about how welfare services should be paid for (for example, through taxation, social insurance or fees) and who should provide them (the public, private or voluntary sectors).

These and others, such as the impact and implications of developments such as globalisation and the ageing population, are key questions for society and are amongst the topics that you will study at Lincoln. In addition, our involvement in Europe raises further issues about the range and quality of welfare services provided and by who, whilst newer topics ranging from food safety to asylum seekers also impinge on the social policy agenda.

There are even deeper and harder questions to be asked: how much are decisions about social policy dependent upon economic policy and the performance of the economy, and how much control do national governments now have over these policy areas. At the same time, it is important not to neglect study at the micro-level, for example recognising the amount of voluntary and informal care that takes place in society and the need for support amongst carers, or examining the realities of poverty for families.

Social Policy at Lincoln seeks to draw you in to these debates and to develop an understanding of the influences upon social policy and the provision of welfare in the twenty-first century by looking at social policy from a variety of perspectives. As a subject that draws upon others, including history, sociology, politics and economics, the study of Social Policy provides a strong grounding in ideas arguments as knowledge, as well as enabling you to develop many of the 'soft' skills valued by employers in today's labour market.

Sociology students are scholars of human social behaviour, examining the dynamics of communities and groups in order to further our understanding of collective processes and better inform the policies that shape and govern society. At Lincoln, you gain an insight into the fabric of different societies, groups and political structures. You learn about the changing nature and role of the family unit, how technological advances have transformed the way we interact and what subcultures can teach us about mainstream society. The curriculum draws on the expertise of staff, whose research actively informs contemporary academic and public policy debates.