Postgraduate taught 

Educational Studies MSc

Contemporary Themes in Education Policy EDUC51001

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Education
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

Education professionals and scholars of education require a foundational knowledge and understanding of education policy and its pervasive role in shaping, governing and directing education systems. This course will help you towards a general understanding of education as a broad academic field while at the same time introducing you to policy studies. Significant issues and areas of practice in education are governed by policy; today education policy is pervasive. By considering a selection of key policy areas or themes students will engage with areas of significance and activity within contemporary education systems. Policy scholars are aware that contemporary debates, disputes and competing ideologies and understandings of education across sectors and contexts take place in and around education policy making. Education policy represents forms of authoritative statement about the purposes of education, what education is or should be, how it should be organised and resourced along with significant questions such as access, social justice and social change. By the end of this course you will have developed an understanding of education policy and a range of key issues and areas that characterise contemporary education systems and reflect global trends. Policy exemplars studied within the course are typically drawn from across sectors (for example, compulsory education, higher education, vocational education) and in relation to issues such as the purposes of education, social justice, vocational education, access to education and the organisation and resourcing of education. This is a taught course, normally based on two lectures each week that draws on expertise from across the School of Education. The course is supported by a programme of online resources, selected readings and self assessment exercises.


Two one hour lectures each week in Semester one.

Excluded Courses

Education Policy and the Politics of Education




Students can chose from two options for summative assessment in this course:


Option 1: Mid semester class exam (25%) and end of course written assignment (75%).


Option 2: Mid semester class exam (25%) and end of course Examination (75%).

Main Assessment In: December

Course Aims

This course provides students with a more general induction into the study of education through the critical exploration of policy related to a range of significant issues and sectors across the education field. Making use of contemporary themes and issues, and their related policy, students will gain an understanding of foundational sectors, concepts and questions in education. The course aims to provide participants with an introduction to the study of education policy as a subfield of policy studies. Participants will learn about policy, the contested nature of policy making and the embeddedness of policy and policy systems within the politics of education and multi-scale governance. Students will gain an awareness of the importance of ideas, ideological commitments and forms of knowledge in understanding education as established, directed and changed by policy and policy making. 

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


Demonstrate understanding of a range of significant issues and ideas in contemporary education.

Demonstrate awareness of the goals, assumptions and values underlying education policies and their relation to wider ambitions and governmental concerns. Locate the study of education policy as a subfield of policy studies.

Understand and locate selected policies and policy problems within the context of a globalised policy space.

Recognise conceptions of social justice as a concern in driving policy reform and in the critical evaluation of policy.

Distinguish policy concepts and narratives displaying an appreciation of contestation and politics within and around education policy.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.