What is public sociology?

The essence of public sociology is that it is a discipline that speaks to, and for, audiences and communities beyond the parameters of the academic discipline and which makes meaningful contributions to ongoing debates around public issues and concerns.

About the Course

Public sociologists ask sceptical questions about the taken-for-granted nature of social inequalities and try to develop knowledge which can enhance the living conditions for the majority of people living within societies. Therefore, public sociology is a useful branch of the social sciences, not least in terms of the ways in which it encourages a sense of social responsibility among those who study the discipline. Such an endorsement of the acute sense of social responsibility that has underpinned the development of the discipline of sociology has inevitably informed the substance and structure of the course.

This is the first specifically public sociology undergraduate course in Scotland. Students are encouraged to engage with a diversity of communities and to develop a sense of the ways in which a public sociological imagination can meaningfully intervene in real world political and social events. In a variety of modules, students are encouraged to reflect upon the ways in which sociological knowledge can effect real change in people’s everyday lives. Therefore, you will find this course particularly suitable if you have an enquiring, questioning mind and you want to understand more about human societies, social problems, interactions and experiences.

In Years One and Two you will study a range of modules which will provide you with a thorough grounding in the key concepts, theories and schools of thought in sociology, as well as some modules in psychology. Through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical workshops and opportunities for community engagement, you will develop a sound understanding of the historical development and contemporary applications of sociological knowledge. Specifically this will include: how sociological knowledge can help us to make sense of the public issues and concerns which affect the communities within which we live, as well as understanding the philosophical debates that underpin sociological interpretations of the world around us. In addition, considerable emphasis is placed on enhancing a wide range of transferable skills, paying particular attention to improving your interpersonal and presentation skills, effective reading and writing, analytical thinking and critical reflection, as well as a sustained focus on the development of your research skills.

Years Three and Four are designed to enable you to develop in-depth understanding of a broad range of substantive debates within the discipline of sociology, eg you will refine your knowledge of sociological theory, research design and implementation, social movements and global change, sociologies of gender and sexuality, sociologies of liberation, and social policy and politics. Working closely with a member of academic staff, you will conduct your own independent research project in Year Four, in which you will be encouraged to bring together your knowledge of sociological theories and concepts, as well as refining your research skills. Your ability to understand the relationship between complex sociological theory, practical research and contemporary public issues and concerns will certainly enhance your employability on completion of this course.

Course Structure

You can opt to study for an honours degree over four years or an ordinary degree over three years. You will complete a range of modules, as outlined, each year.

Entry Requirements

Scottish Higher: BBCC

A Level: CCD

Irish Leaving Certificate: H3 H3 H3 H3

International Baccalaureate: 26 points

Required Subjects: Maths and Eng at S/ Int2/N5/GCSE level

Mature/Access: Access to Humanities/ Arts/ Social Sciences. We welcome applications from mature students with relevant qualifications and /or experience.

Advanced Entry:

Year 2

  • HNC Social Sciences with B in the graded unit
  • Scottish Higher: BC at Advanced Higher in relevant subjects plus BB at Higher
  • A Level: BBB in relevant subjects

Year 3

  • HND Social Sciences with CB in the graded units

International: IELTS of 6.0 with no element lower than 5.5.


Year One

Introduction to Academia & the Sociological Imagination/ Foundations of Psychology/ Introduction to Psychology 1/ Diversity, Identity & Wellbeing/ Methods of Investigation/ Introduction to Psychology 2

Year Two

Social Inquiry – Philosophy & Design/ Social & Developmental Psychology/ Psychological Literacy/ Production & Consumption of Culture/ Engaged Sociology

Year Three

Current Debates in Sociology/ Sociology of Liberation/ Interaction & Social Order/ Poverty and Social Exclusion/ Social Research – Theory & Practice/ Changing World: Social Movement & Global Change

Year Four

Dissertation/ European Social Policy and Politics/ Options may include: Gender Justice and Violence: Feminist Approaches/ Queer Theory, Gender & Sexual Politics; Sociology of Scotland/ Sustainable Development: Theory & Practice/ Sociology of Religion

NB The modules listed here are correct at time of the printing of our Undergraduate Prospectus 2018 (Feb 2017) but may differ slightly to those offered in 2018. Please check the website for any updates.


You will develop a wide range of knowledge, skills and aptitudes on the course and this will be reflected in the diverse array of jobs open to you on graduation. Social and community work, consumer and social research, public policy development, teaching, academia, marketing and human resource management have often been favoured by graduates . This degree is suitable for all kinds of general graduate employment.

Quick Facts

  • You will develop the ability to make sense of complex and challenging social issues.
    You will be able to reflect on how the public sociologist and sociological knowledge can effect positive changes in the quality of the everyday lives of individuals.

Learning and Teaching

From Year One, you will attend lectures, seminars and workshops for approximately 10-12 hours per week, in addition to time for personal study and independent learning. In later years, you will spend less time in a classroom setting.

>>Click for more information on 'Learning, Teaching and Assessment'

Study Abroad

It is possible to study for a period of time at a university overseas.

Associate Student Places

You can study this course as an associate student completing the first year at Newbattle Abbey College.

Please Note:

The delivery of this course is subject to the terms and conditions set out in our 2018/19 Entry - Terms and Conditions (Undergraduate).

Special Information for EU Applicants:   The Scottish Government has confirmed that undergraduate EU students enrolling in the 2017/8 and 2018/9 academic years will be entitled to free tuition fees in Scotland for the duration of their course. Those assessed as eligible will remain so for the duration of their course. You must apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for funding. For guidance on eligibility and funding please visit the SAAS website.


Course Overview

3/4 years
Start Date
September 2018
Study Abroad
School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management
Fees & Funding
L390 BSc/PubSo