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Sociology and social policy

Admission Requirements

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To apply to this course, click on the relevant Apply Link below

What is Sociology and social policy?

Sociology and Social Policy combines the study of social theory, social policy and social research. The programme aims to give you a thorough training in the systematic study of society and the social and economic policies utilised in different countries. At the end of your four years you should have developed both a general sociological understanding and specific expertise in various contemporary policy issues.

Is this course right for you?

Curious about social and economic policy issues around the world? Searching for a course that demands both academic and vocational qualities? Interested in understanding society, its social problems and have a desire to make a difference? Then Sociology and Social Policy may be the degree for you. It is a unique programme which combines the study of social theory, social policy and social research.

It is particularly relevant to students intending to pursue a career in research, social policy analysis and evaluation, management and planning within the social services, both voluntary and statutory, as well as to those with a general interest in society and social policy.

Why study Sociology and Social Policy at Trinity?

  • Trinity’s School of Social Sciences and Philosophy is at the forefront of research and teaching across the disciplines of Philosophy, Political Science, Economics and Sociology and is Ireland’s top ranked university in all four subjects (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015)
  • Trinity’s School of Social Work and Social Policy has a strong international orientation in its work with many School staff being members of international research networks in their fields of interest. It also contains research centres focussing on ageing, children and intellectual disability.

What will you study?

The fundamental aim of the degree programme is to give students a thorough training in the systematic study of society and its social issues. Sociology introduces students to the theories that explain social behaviour and relationships. Key themes will focus on the family, work, European societies and globalisation, conflict, migration and racism, social movements, social theories and social research. Social policy focuses on social issues and social problems and is concerned with building a better society. Key modules will enable students to answer some of the following very topical questions: What are social policies and why do we need them? Who makes social policy and who benefits from social policy? Who provides and who pays for social policies?

The two academic subjects are closely interrelated and have in common a questioning of everyday perspectives and explanations. They also share a range of particular research methods. An essential objective of the programme is to equip students with a range of research skills in order that they can both critically interpret existing research and conduct their own. Social research is the foundation for the scientific understanding of social phenomena. This programme introduces students to the theory and methods of social research. Students can expect to learn the entire process for conducting social research and evaluating the research conducted by others.

The subjects studied include general social science disciplines such as economics and politics, and specialist areas such as family policy, welfare policy, criminology and the extent of poverty and inequality. The first and second years are more general and foundational in nature, while the third and fourth years will focus more specifically on sociology and social policy. A strength of the course is that it explores these issues in a genuinely comparative context. Teaching methods include lectures, seminars and group project work. Assessment is by a combination of continuous assessment, class presentations and written examinations.


In first year you will take Introduction to Sociology, Politics and Irish Society, Social Policy Concepts and the Irish Welfare State, Introduction to Economics or Introduction to Economic Policy. Optional modules include Mathematics and Statistics, Introduction to Law, a choice of language (French, German, Russian, Polish), Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Central, East European and Russian Area Studies.


The second year places greater emphasis on social policy and sociology modules, as well as the Introduction to Social Research Methods. Irish Social Policy I and II are mandatory, with students choosing to take two modules from Introduction to Social Research, European Societies, Gender, Work and Family, Power, State and Social Movements, and a further two modules from Economy of Ireland, Economics of Public Policy, History of Political Thought, International Relations, Comparative Politics, Introduction to Irish Family Law, French, German, Russian, Polish language, and Broad Curriculum (see page 19) modules.

In first and second years students typically have two lectures and one tutorial per week for each module.


The choice of modules available in third year typically includes: Social Theory, Globalisation and Development, Researching Society, Race, Ethnicity and Identity, Social Inequality, Comparative Welfare States, Crime and Social Policy, Families, Youth and Society: Contemporary Issues, Economics of Less Developed Countries, Economics of Policy Issues, Irish Politics, Democracy and Development, European Union Politics, Representation and Public Opinion, Public Interest Law, and International Law.


The choice of modules available in fourth year typically includes: Economic Sociology of Europe, Conflict Studies, Migration, Digital Lives and Social Networks, Poverty, Inequality and Redistribution, Ageing Societies and a dissertation.

Many of the modules in third and fourth years deal specifically with Ireland and with European society. In the final year you will research and write a dissertation on a topic of your choice.


The range of employment opportunities in the area of social and public policy continues to expand. This is a particularly relevant degree for those interested in pursuing a career in the formulation of policy in the public service, community development and voluntary/non-profit sectors. Graduates of the programme are also employed as social researchers, policy analysts and journalists having secured employment in companies such as Eurodesk (Brussels Link), Inner City Organisation Network, KBC Bank, Reiss and various education facilities, to name but a few.

The course also provides a solid foundation for specialist postgraduate courses in the areas of social research, social policy and social work.

Further information

Email: | Tel: +353 1 896 1840 and:

Email: | Tel: +353 1 896 2001

Student Profile

Aoife Ryan-Christensen

"I chose the degree in Sociology and Social Policy because it is highly inter-disciplinary; alongside the core subjects of Sociology and Social Policy, students are offered a wide range of subject choices within Economics, Political Science, Law and languages. I would recommend this course for anyone who is interested in current affairs/politics, society, and learning about the underlying structures of how countries are run.

The Social Policy courses range from an overview of Irish social policies in the first two years, to a wider comparative perspective in the final two years. An important part of the degree is teaching students how to conduct research."