Revision lecture

This is the revision lecture for the exam – please watch it if you did not attend, it will really help you.


On the format of the exam:

– you have to answer ALL THREE questions in section A (short questions, spend an hour on it)

– you have to answer ONE essay question from a choice of FOUR in section B (spend an hour on it)

  1. As a student doing social & public policy at a different Scottish uni I've found it really helpful that this course is open access. It's been particularly good in how clearly it connects current policies and decisions to concepts. It's also a change from the courses I take in the explicit focus on minority groups. The London/Grindr murders are something really current and important in my life and for quite a lot of other students, and no other lecturer I've had would talk about it.

  2. For question 3, you spoke about what other changes are happening and how do the other changes compare? Would other changes be things such as sanctions, increased penalties for fraud, tightening migrants access to benefits, work programme, youth contract, pension reform, etc? When you say compare is that with regards to the budget and savings?

  3. Here's the exam feedback I gave the students after last year's exam (please read these alongside the paper available on Succeed): The mean mark for the module was 55, with a median also of 55 and a range from 30 to 72, and a standard deviation of 8.61. This is generally what I’d expect to see on a module like this and reflects the cohort of students: many of you were very engaged, worked hard, got your teeth into the learning material and performed well (60 and above). Many of you were less engaged (perhaps the module was not a core part of your programme?) and you performed adequately (marks in the 50s). Specifically on the exam, the mean grade was 55 which means I failed in my attempt to increase the mark profile for the module. However, I calculated the difference between your coursework essay marks and your exam marks and then calculated the mean (more of that later) of this and got a result of 0, which is rather pleasing indeed. The range was from +20 marks (i.e. your exam mark was 20 higher than your coursework mark) to -30. However, the distribution is quite flat if you look at it visually. Take from this what you will – one interpretation is that there’s no point in revising as you won’t get any better by the time of the exam. However, I’m not sure that’s entirely advisable. Next year there will be much more focus in the guidance to tutors on delivering feedback on coursework that will then help students focus on the knowledge and skills needed to develop to perform better in the exam (so that mean of 0 becomes a positive number, hopefully). Generally, the exams were much more interesting to mark than last year – I never got a lecture parroted back at (although this was actually a problem for question A3). I know a number of you were quite stressed not knowing what topics were on the exam, but I think leaving it more open and also treating the coursework essay as formative assessment to then demonstrate a deepening of your understanding in the exam, overall worked well. You are better policy analysts for it. Section A Question 1 - the graph - (mean mark 57) – most of you did quite well on this as you could easily pick up marks to get you to a 40-50 by just describing the graph. It was quite surprising how many students failed to note that the data was from the Scottish Household Survey and discussed housing policy measures brought in by the UK Government for England only (the one slide on the “devolution dividend” in housing policy in the housing lecture was brief, but it was there). To pick up extra marks, you had to: identify that the Right-to-Buy had reduced the supply of council/social housing; that the RTB had increased the number of homes owned outright; identify that an aging population meant more homes were owned outright (as you grow older you pay off your mortgage and become wealthier); identified that the financial crash in 2008 reduced the availability of mortgages reducing the number of homes bought with the help of; identified the growth of the private rented sector as a result of problems of housing supply. The graph did not actually tell us much about the impact of the Bedroom Tax (or “Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy”) but you got marks for mentioning it as it demonstrated a social policy sensibility towards interpreting the data. Question 2 - on aging - (mean mark 56) – again, this question was largely answered well (probably because it was similar to one of the mock questions). To get a pass mark you just had to identify that we have an aging population in the UK and the UK Government thus needs to reduce the pensions bill. Extra marks were gained through the mere mention of the “dependency ratio”; that we have a shrinking working-age population; that we have a low fertility rate; that with an aging population other costs, such as social care, will rise. Question 3 - the definition of poverty - (mean mark 50) – the answers to this were, surprising. I almost had to reweight the exam performance was so much lower on this question. I think you all over-thought it. All it was asking you to do was repeat back the first ten minutes of the poverty lecture: the median income is the middle income in the range (not the mean – surprising how many people made that mistake after I’d basically danced the answer in the Logie) so the income poverty line is 2/3rds of this middle number; that equivalised means it is adjusted for household characteristics; that income poverty is one way to measure poverty you can also use material measures, consensus measures or the present government’s guff about “resilience” measures. Again, marks were attributed for showing a social policy disposition – that you got the topic broadly – so, for mentioning things like, we need to measure poverty if we’re going to do something about it; or for the fact that the UK Governments “150,000” troubled families measure massively underestimates the extent of poverty. Section B Question 1 - should the state deliver social policy - (mean mark 58; 96 attempts) – this question was on the whole answered well. A lot of students got standard, good 2i grades by turning this into the “Beveridge” question, for example by pointing out before 1942 the state didn’t get involved in social policy that much and thus the “five giants” had to be slain. The top answers for this question stretched out the philosophical point, pitching different ideologies about the role of the state against one-another and considering their appropriateness based on social policy evidence. There were some really nice essays of this sort to read, and these students had clearly understood what was meant from the coursework essay and built on this. Question 2 - the Scottish approach to policy making - (mean mark 56; 22 attempts) – this question was not answered well, generally. Most answers focused too much on politics without a fuller explanation of policy – we needed to see a mention of the Christie Commission, the preventative spend agenda, and the outcomes-focus to really push towards a first class mark (this was all covered in lectures and on the reading list). Many essays just repeated points made by the Scottish Government that are not supported by fact: that free prescriptions help the poor (there is no evidence of this, they actually subsidise the worried well middle classes); that free higher education means more poorer students go to university (the data is actually completely contrary to this assertion, more poorer students go to English universities and poorer students at English universities leave with less debt, at the moment). Yes, you might support Scottish independence, but you must remain critical of government if you are to analyse their policies well, even if it is the Scottish Government. Question 3 - Universal Credit - (mean mark 57; 150 attempts) – by far and away the most popular section B question. Answered well, this question, like the associated coursework essay question, focused on the ideological and practical reasons for the introduction of Universal Credit and then discussed and criticised these in light of the evidence so far. Weaker answers (many students got a sold 2ii grade for this question) just parroted back the lines from the Department for Work and Pensions about benefits cheats, incentives to work etc. without critically assessing these. Some people tried to turn this into the “Beveridge” question with limited success (you should have stuck to the first question). Question 4 - comparative social policy - (mean mark 54; 11 attempts) – there were some really good attempts at this comparative question. A few of you used Beth Watts’ lecture to compare homelessness policy in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland; some compared Scotland and England; some international students compared the UK or Scotland to their home countries. Strong answers had to show a depth of understanding of the policy situation in the countries being analysed.

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