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PGCert Social Sciences (Critical Autism Studies)

Gain a fresh perspective on autistic spectrum conditions as a naturally occurring form of cognitive diversity, mapping the development of interventions and engaging with contemporary best practice, controversies and lived experiences.

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      Course Length: 3 Months Full-Time
      Start Dates: September 2022, September 2023
      Subjects: Sociology and Social Sciences
      Location: Edge Hill University

      This postgraduate certificate provides you with specialist training in critical autism studies within an interdisciplinary department. You will acquire a range of perspectives on autism in order to appreciate the ways in which discourses of autism shape autistic people’s lived experiences. A key focus of the programme will be service provision and support for autistic people. Tracing the development of autism interventions, as well as engaging with current debates in policy and practice, you will develop critical study skills and a detailed understanding of contemporary autism practice. The programme is particularly suitable for professionals, teachers, support workers, recent graduates and those working with autistic people, providing the opportunity for continuing professional development to enhance your employability. We particularly welcome applications from ‘experts by experience’, including autistic people, as well as their family members or carers.

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      In Depth

      What will I study?

      You will receive a grounding in autistic spectrum conditions, challenging the notions of autism as a ‘disorder’ or ‘deficit’ and encouraging you to view autism as a naturally occurring form of cognitive diversity.

      This new perspective on autism will then be applied to the practice environments of autism services. Mapping the development of autism interventions, from early approaches to contemporary models of best practice, you will engage with current discussions and controversies.

      Alternatively, if you have already engaged in critical autism studies at undergraduate level, you may have the option of undertaking self-directed study, in place of the initial module introducing autistic spectrum conditions.

      How will I study?

      The programme is delivered via blended learning, with a combination of face-to-face discussions and online and independent study.

      Taught sessions will be delivered in two-day blocks, held three times a semester per module, with the opportunity to participate in additional sessions via the virtual learning environment.

      All seminars will be a combination of tutor-led and student-developed interactive learning. You will also engage with tutors on a one-to-one basis.

      How will I be assessed?

      You will be assessed through a combination of reports and essays and encouraged to draw and reflect on your experiences, whether gained through employment or as an ‘expert by experience’.

      There are no formal written examinations as part of the current assessment methods on this programme.

      Who will be teaching me?

      You will be taught by research-active staff who have expertise in autism studies. Some members of the programme team also have previous experience of working as social workers, youth workers, teachers and project workers prior to embarking on their academic careers.

      A Great Study Environment

      Two students chat while studying in a social learning area in the foyer of Creative Edge.The Department of Social Sciences is based in Creative Edge, a state-of-the-art £17million building offering highly contemporary facilities for Social Sciences students.

      The building features a lecture theatre, seminar rooms, IT facilities and smaller tutorial spaces. There are also social learning areas which encourage a more informal and interactive style of learning.


      Expand All

      Compulsory modules:

      SPY4010Introduction to Critical Autism Studies (20 credits)

      Introduction to Critical Autism Studies adopts a critical approach to understanding autism. Although autistic spectrum conditions are estimated to affect approximately one in 100 people in the UK, autism continues to be understood largely within a medical framework, underpinned by a deficit model which assumes that all autistic people are impaired in relation to social and emotional interaction, social communication and language, as well as flexibility of thought and imagination. The module challenges the dominant medical model of neurological deficit. Rather than viewing autism as a cognitive development disability, this module will encourage you to consider it as a naturally occurring form of cognitive diversity. You will examine the argument that autism has been constructed as a neurobiological deficit in a context of neurotypicality and cognitive normality. You will also investigate whether understanding autism as neurodiversity allows for more positive interpretations of autistic people’s experiences, skills and identities.

      Assessment: Coursework: 100%.

      SPY4011Approaches, Interventions and Supporting Autistic People (20 credits)

      Approaches, Interventions and Supporting Autistic People traces the development of autism interventions, from early treatments to contemporary models of best practice. Despite the growing significance of neuroscience in the area of autism, there is still no agreement about its causes and no single medical test to diagnose it. While it is widely acknowledged that there is no ‘cure’ for autism, there have been a range of attempted remedies put forward. This module will provide an overview of early treatments and interventions, including electroconvulsive therapy, and extreme diet restrictions. Consideration will also be given to the significance of the emergence of psychopharmatherapies for autism. You will critically examine contemporary mainstream treatment strategies in addition to some of the more controversial treatments such as applied behaviour analysis, where positive and negative reinforcement techniques attempt to bring about a change in behaviour. The use of biomedical interventions, including restricted diets and hormone therapy, will also be assessed.

      Assessment: Coursework: 100%.

      SPY4015Contemporary Issues in Autism (20 credits)

      Contemporary Issues in Autism recognises that, since its first formal identification in 1943, interest in autism has grown significantly. From claims of an autism ‘epidemic’ to attempts to ‘cure’ autism, discourses of autism are frequently contested and subject to considerable debate. This module will identify and engage with contemporary discussions and controversies in the field of autism and consider the consequences in terms of policy and practice. It will also consider the skills and values required from the autism workforce in order to meet the needs of the autistic community in the 21st century. An ecological model will be utilised to critically consider the interrelationship between macro and micro spheres, where constructions of, and responses to, autism at the macro level of law, policy and medical research shape the experiences of autistic people and those who support them in the micro sphere. The importance of acknowledging expertise by experience will be considered, as will what should shape the priorities of autism research and what research methods might be most appropriate to use.

      Assessment: Coursework: 100%.

      If you have already undertaken critical autism studies at undergraduate level, you may have the option to complete SPY4017 Self-Directed Learning, instead of SPY4010 Introduction to Critical Autism Studies, subject to agreement from the programme team.

      SPY4017Self-Directed Learning (20 credits)

      Self-Directed Learning enables you to focus on a particular agreed topic and explore it. With tutorial support, you will produce a particular project-based piece of work and an accompanying learning diary that demonstrates a reflective approach to its execution. You will lead on the learning that takes place and reflect on its progress, problems and problem-solving. The subject matter must involve addressing a social issue or problem and/or investigating the response of a non-governmental organisation, voluntary or community organisation, private agency or public authority, to a social issue or problem. The module will involve desk research, such as library searches, as well as information retrieval from a range of primary sources. The reflective diary will enable you to assess how the project was conceived, managed and executed.

      Assessment: Coursework: 100%.


      You can expect to receive your timetable at enrolment. Please note that while we make every effort to ensure that timetables are as student-friendly as possible, scheduled teaching can take place on any day or evening of the week.


      Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of our published course information, however our programmes are subject to ongoing review and development. Changing circumstances may necessitate alteration to, or the cancellation of, courses.

      Changes may be necessary to comply with the requirements of accrediting bodies, revisions to subject benchmarks statements, to keep courses updated and contemporary, or as a result of student feedback. We reserve the right to make variations if we consider such action to be necessary or in the best interests of students.

      Entry Criteria

      Entry Requirements

      You should have a degree equivalent to UK first-class or second-class honours (2:2 or above) in a relevant subject such as social sciences or other human sciences.

      It may be possible to join the programme without a degree if you are in full-time employment, have a minimum of five years’ work experience, and can demonstrate evidence of continuing professional development through a portfolio and written statement.

      Applications are particularly welcomed from ‘experts by experience’, including autistic people, as well as their family members or carers.

      An interview will form part of the selection process if you do not meet the degree requirements outlined above.

      English Language Requirements

      International students require IELTS 6.5, with a score no lower than 6.0 in each individual component, or an equivalent English language qualification.

      If your current level of English is half a band lower, either overall or in one or two elements, you may want to consider our Pre-Sessional English course.

      Career Prospects

      What are my career prospects?

      The programme will enhance your professional career opportunities and employability, preparing you for a wide variety of roles working with and supporting autistic people in the health and social care sectors, or in international development. With further training, you may wish to pursue a career in teaching, social work or counselling.

      The skills and experience acquired through successful completion of this MA also provide essential preparation for progressing onto research qualifications, such as a Masters by Research degree.


      Tuition Fees

      Tuition fees for full-time study on this Postgraduate Certificate are £2,340 for UK students and £4,500 for international students enrolling on the programme in academic year 2022/23.

      EU/EEA and Swiss students who have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, as well as Irish nationals, may be eligible for the UK tuition fee rate.

      Financial Support

      For comprehensive information about the financial support available to eligible UK students joining postgraduate courses at Edge Hill University in academic year 2022/23, together with details of how to apply for potential funding, please view our Money Matters 2022/23 guide at

      EU/EEA and Swiss students who have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme may be eligible to apply for financial support. Irish nationals should ordinarily apply to Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI). Please see for further details.

      Financial support information for international students can be found at


      How to Apply

      There is an online application process for this programme.

      Please choose the application form for your preferred intake date and mode of study.

      Visit for more information about the application process.

      Visit to access the relevant online application form and to find out more about the application process.

      Further information for international students about how to apply is available at

      Should you accept an offer of a place to study with us and formally enrol as a student, you will be subject to the provisions of the regulations, rules, codes, conditions and policies which apply to our students. These are available at

      Visit Us

      If you are considering applying to study at Edge Hill University, the best way to gain an insight into student life is to discover our stunning campus for yourself by attending an open day. You can view dates and book your place at

      Alternatively, if you are unable to attend an open day, you can find out more about our full range of events for prospective students, including campus tours and virtual activities, at

      Request a Prospectus

      If you would like to explore our full range of taught Masters degrees, MBA awards and our Masters by Research (MRes) degree before you apply, you can order a postgraduate prospectus at

      Get in Touch

      If you have any questions about this programme or what it’s like to study at Edge Hill University, please contact:

      If you would like to talk to the programme leader about the course in more detail, please contact:

      International students should visit or email [email protected] with any queries about overseas study.

      Course Changes

      Expand All This page outlines any material changes to course content, programme structure, assessment methods, entry criteria, and modes of study or delivery, implemented in the past two years.

      This page outlines any material changes to course content, programme structure, assessment methods, entry criteria, and modes of study or delivery, implemented in the past two years. No material changes have been made to the information for this programme in that time. Any future amends will be tracked here.

      Covid-19 - Social Sciences (Critical Autism Studies) Essential Information

      Teaching and Learning at Edge Hill University in 2020

      In this video Pro Vice-Chancellor, Lynda Brady, answers your questions and explains how teaching will work when you join us at Edge Hill University in September.

      Campus Facilities at Edge Hill University in 2020

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