Social Policy and Welfare States in the 21st Century (Online)


This course offers an introduction to social policy and the comparative study of welfare states. What is the ‘welfare state' and what functions does it serve? Why and how do welfare states vary across countries and over time? What are the biggest challenges that welfare states face in the 21st century?

Listen to Bastian Betthaeuser talking about the course:

This course discusses the origins, development and functions of welfares states in high-income countries. Taking an international comparative approach, the course discusses theories, empirical research and policy challenges in a range of different countries. What is ‘the welfare state' and what purpose does it serve? How can we measure and explain welfare state change? What are the key similarities and differences between welfare states in different countries? How are welfare states affected by changing family structures, labour markets, population ageing, and migration? The course will provide a comprehensive discussion of these and other questions thus enabling students to critically engage with public and scholarly debates in this field.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

Part I The Welfare State
1. The Study of Social Policy and the Welfare State
2. The Development of Welfare States
3. Worlds of Welfare: Typologies of Welfare States
4. Analysing Welfare State Change: From Retrenchment to Recalibration
5. New Social Risks

Part II New Challenges for the Welfare State
6. Globalisation and the Welfare State
7. Changing Family Structures and Family Policy
8. Changing Labour Markets
9. Population Ageing
10. Migration and the Welfare State


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
Course Fee £350.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Franco Bonomi Bezzo

Franco Bonomi Bezzo is a research fellow at La Statale, University of Milan, within the ERC project DESPO, working on the political and societal changes that have occurred as a consequence of European deindustrialisation. His current research agenda focuses on understanding the links between parental background and offspring's outcomes, on investigating the relationship between city shape and urban inequality, and on models of universal income under a post-work perspective.

Course aims

This course aims to:
- provide an introduction to theories, empirical research and debates about the origins, evolution, and functions of welfare states in different countries
- discuss how we can classify and analyse different welfare states in a comparative way, and how we can measure and explain welfare state change
- give an overview of research and policy debates about “new social risks”
- Review and critically discuss how welfare states are related to globalisation, labour markets, family structures, population change and migration
- enable participants to critically discuss key questions concerning the functioning and development of welfare states in different countries thus enabling them to develop their own perspectives and contribute to current public debates about welfare provisioning

Teaching methods

There are several kinds of activity that students will be asked to complete while on this course. Some of these will be ongoing throughout the course, whereas others will relate to the topic of a particular week. Activity types include:

- Readings of book chapters and articles
- Listening/watching podcasts/vodcasts
- Group discussions in unit-specific group forums (e.g. discussing a specific case study / policy)
- Interactive analysis and debate through our ‘InfoMap’ tool which allows students to answer questions or gather information from the perspective of a particular country and share this information with other students via a map interface.
- Participating in online surveys and polls
- Adding terms to glossary wiki
- Adding a resource to the 'resource bank'
- Reading of newspaper clippings / webpages

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.