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MA Social Sciences (Critical Autism Studies)

Map the development of interventions and engage with contemporary best practice, discussions and controversies in autism, with opportunities to undertake an international field trip and complete a work placement.

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      • International Students Can Apply
      • Work Placement Opportunity


      Course Length: 1 Year Full-Time, 2 Years Part-Time
      Start Dates: September 2022, September 2023
      Subjects: Sociology and Social Sciences
      Location: Edge Hill University

      This taught Masters degree provides you with specialist training in critical autism studies within an interdisciplinary department. You will gain a range of perspectives on autism in order to appreciate the ways in which discourses of autism shape autistic people’s lived experiences. Tracing the development of autism interventions and engaging with contemporary debates in policy and practice, you will develop critical study skills, receive training in social science research methodologies and deliver a substantial research project. An optional international field trip enables you to gain an international perspective and outlook, with an additional opportunity to apply your knowledge and understanding in a work setting. The programme is suitable for professionals, teachers, support workers, recent graduates and those working with autistic people. 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?

      The first semester provides an introductory framework to both your studies and social research methodologies.

      You will receive a grounding in autistic spectrum conditions and be encouraged to view autism as a naturally occurring form of cognitive diversity.

      Mapping the development of autism interventions, from early approaches to contemporary models of best practice, you will engage with current discussions and controversies.

      The second semester will enable you apply your knowledge and understanding in practice through optional work-based learning and/or an international field trip. Alternatively, you can engage in self-directed learning, with the additional option of exploring child mental health and children’s social relations.

      The final stage of the programme is a dissertation where you will carry out a supervised piece of extended social research on a relevant topic of your choice.

      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 workbooks, essays, reflective journals, independent projects and a dissertation.

      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, with an open textbook in front of them, make notes in a classroom in 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:

      SPY4006Dissertation (60 credits)

      Dissertation requires you to carry out a supervised piece of extended social research in a relevant area of your choice. You will be responsible for designing and executing a piece of substantive, original research. A clear and identifiable research question must be identified. You will engage in critical reflection of the primary and/or secondary research methods used and you must carry out substantive analysis of data. You will develop transferable skills in collecting and critically analysing information, written and oral communication, problem-solving and time management. You will also need to consider the ethical and moral dilemmas associated with the design and undertaking of social research.

      Assessment: Coursework: 100%.

      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%.

      SPY4016Social Science Methodologies (20 credits)

      Social Science Methodologies provides advanced and critical engagement with social research methods and methodology. You will gain a detailed understanding of the foundations of social research and the range of different approaches to undertaking research. You will gain the skills and knowledge required to become a social scientist, capable of designing and developing robust critical research projects, in preparation for producing your dissertation. The module introduces you to the philosophical, methodological, ethical and procedural/design issues that are central to qualitative and quantitative social research.

      Assessment: Coursework: 100%.

      You will select two of the following optional modules:

      SPY4013Psychiatrised Childhoods (20 credits)

      Psychiatrised Childhoods describes the process by which an ever-expanding array of human life experiences have come to be observed, understood, enacted and acted upon through the language, theories, technologies and institutional practices of western biomedical psychiatry. Academic and professional interest in child mental health has been dominated by psychomedical research and literature pointing to a global ‘crisis’ in child mental health, with psychiatric disorders among children rising exponentially. The ‘crisis’ is framed as a public health issue and the solution is formulated in calls for scaling up services with more systematic governmental, professional and pharmaceutical intervention. However, there is scant debate about whether such intervention is justified or legitimate. This module draws on interdisciplinary perspectives and takes the multidimensional nature of children and young people’s lives as its focus. It examines how researchers, policymakers and practitioners make sense of, categorise, and respond to children’s emotional distress. Diagnosis and treatment of mental health and distress will be re-framed to promote a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of children’s social relations, culture and meaning. The aim is to promote policy and practice, on a local and global scale, that recognises children as creative human beings, capable of imagining and executing strategies for managing their emotional lives, despite structural and discursive constraints arising from their generational position in society.

      Assessment: Coursework: 100%.

      SPY4014International Field Trip (20 credits)

      International Field Trip provides you with the opportunity to intensively study a particular society and culture through some of its contemporary approaches to contemporary childhood or critical autism studies. The module enables the comparative cultural analysis of a different society to the one you live in. There will be some preparatory lectures and reflective sessions alongside an intensive field trip. Virtual sessions and online materials will be available should a trip not be possible. You will explore comparisons and contrasts and use the experience of difference to investigate social and cultural issues and problems.

      Assessment: Coursework: 100%.

      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%.

      SPY4018Work-Based Learning and Employability (20 credits)

      Work Based Learning and Employability bridges higher education with the world of work. The module integrates professional practice, employability and personal development to provide you with the opportunity to enhance your practical experience through a work placement and to apply academic theory and knowledge in a work-based setting. Developing skills as a reflective practitioner, you will examine key employability issues such as organisational structure, leadership and conflict management. You will also focus on job applications and hone your presentation and interview skills.

      Assessment: Coursework: 75%, Practical(s): 25%.

      SPY4019Deconstructing Challenging Behaviour (20 credits)

      Deconstructing Challenging Behaviour critically analyses dominant definitions of ‘challenging behaviours’. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence defines ‘challenging behaviours’ as those that include “aggression, self-injury, stereotypic behaviour, withdrawal, and disruptive or destructive behaviour.” This module will argue that, not only are challenging behaviours socially constructed, the way they are frequently understood locates the behaviour that challenges within the individual. As a result, it is the person, rather than their behaviour, that is often seen as a challenge with some groups of people, such as those with autism, learning disabilities and conditions that impact communication and the brain, including dementia. An ecological model will be used to critically consider the interrelationship between the macro and the micro spheres and assess the role of environmental and/or interpersonal factors. The aim of the module is to equip you with important critical thinking skills which can be applied to service provision in order to best meet the needs of those with complex support needs and increase their quality of life.

      Assessment: Coursework: 100%.

      Optional modules provide an element of choice within the programme curriculum. The availability of optional modules may vary from year to year and will be subject to minimum student numbers being achieved. This means that the availability of specific optional modules cannot be guaranteed. Optional module selection may also be affected by timetabling requirements.


      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 an MPhil or PhD.


      Tuition Fees

      Tuition fees for full-time study on this MA are £7,000 for UK students and £13,500 for international students enrolling on the programme in academic year 2022/23.

      Tuition fees for part-time study on this MA are £39 per credit for UK students enrolling on the programme in academic year 2022/23. This is equivalent to £780 per 20 credit module.

      180 credits are required to complete a Masters degree.

      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 www.edgehill.ac.uk/postgradfinance2022.

      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 www.edgehill.ac.uk/eufinance for further details.

      Financial support information for international students can be found at www.edgehill.ac.uk/international/fees.


      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 www.edgehill.ac.uk/applydirect for more information about the application process.

      Visit www.edgehill.ac.uk/applydirect 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 www.edgehill.ac.uk/applyinternational.

      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 www.edgehill.ac.uk/studentterms.

      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 www.edgehill.ac.uk/opendays.

      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 www.edgehill.ac.uk/visitus.

      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 www.edgehill.ac.uk/postgradprospectus.

      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 www.edgehill.ac.uk/international 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.

      21st January 2021 - New Module Added

      SPY4019 Deconstructing Challenging Behaviour (20 credits) added as an optional module.

      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

      In this video Pro Vice-Chancellor, Lynda Brady, explains how we’re preparing the campus for your arrival in September and the facilities that will be available.

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