PO2PWS-Politics of the Welfare State

Module Provider: School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Miss Margherita De Candia

Email: m.decandia@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:
The course is an introduction to the politics of welfare states in the developed economies of OECD countries with a particular focus on Western Europe. It focuses on the interaction between political and economic factors in explaining the emergence and evolution of welfare states and their various forms across countries. Students learn the major theoretical approaches in the study of the welfare state and apply them to contemporary debates about the welfare state as well as the politics of welfare state reform.

This module aims to give students a broad understanding of the welfare state, what factors determine its evolution and how we can explain the differences we observe across countries.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the course students will be able to

- Explain what the welfare state is, its origins, and differences across countries;

- Outline the economic rationale for having welfare state policies;

- Discuss the major approaches to the study of the welfare state;

- Evaluate the role and relative importance of different actors in influencing welfare state policies;

- Apply the main theories of welfare state change to recent reforms of welfare state policies in developed economies.

Additional outcomes:
The module promotes independent study, critical and analytical skills, and the ability to communicate orally in a group context.

Outline content:

The following content is indicative only and may be subject to minor changes:

The course looks at the economic and politics of welfare state policies. It analyses the origins, cross-national variation and evolution of the welfare state. It then asks what the welfare state is and where it comes from. Next, students are introduced to the literature on welfare state regimes and on the politics of welfare state reform. The course also reviews several prominent debates on the welfare state. We first focus on the role of employers in opposing or promoting certain welfare state policies. We then examine how the welfare state is increasingly dualised with workers in permanent employment – the insiders – being well-protected and the outsiders remaining in insecure jobs with limited entitlements to benefits. Next, we discuss whether and how immigration undermines the welfare state. We also ask whether globalisation is at odds with having generous welfare states. Finally, we investigate whether there is a trade-off between efficiency and equity.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The course is taught through both lectures and seminars. Lectures introduce students to the relevance and key concepts of a topic as well as prominent debates in academic scholarship. Seminars then allow students to deepen their understanding and apply their knowledge of the topic through various tasks such as a presentation, group exercises, and case studies. To complete the course successfully students must satisfy the following requirements:

1. Students must attend all the seminars;

2. Students must submit two 2,500 words essays. The essay questions should be different from the presentation question (see point 3);

3. Students must give one 15 minutes presentation, which must be accompanied by PowerPoint slides;

4. Students are expected to participate in class debate;

5. Students must read the compulsory readings before each seminar.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 15
Guided independent study 175
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 90
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:
There is no examination.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will write two 2,500 word essays on a selected topic. Non-submitted essays will be awarded a mark of zero. They will also make a 15 minute presentation: those who do not present will be awarded a mark of zero.


Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    University-wide rules apply.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    If a student fails to pass the year at the first attempt there is an opportunity to be re-assessed on one further occasion at the next opportunity in those modules achieving a mark of less than 40%. Students who are eligible for re-assessment have the right to re-assessment in all elements even if they have previously passed one of those elements. It is expected, however, that the majority of students would probably elect not to repeat an element in which they had already passed, in which case the confirmed marks would be carried forward.

    Coursework: Failed or missing coursework should be re-submitted by 1st August, emailed directly to politics@reading.ac.uk, AND submitted on Blackboard.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding: There may be optional costs associated with photocopying or printing sources listed on the reading list relating to this module. Please note that the Library charges approximately 5p per photocopy.
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 6 December 2018


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