Special Educational Needs (with Foundation Year)
UCAS Code: Combined Honours only – see combinations tab|Duration: 4 years|Full Time|Hope Park
UCAS Campus Code: L46
Work placement opportunities|International students can apply|Study Abroad opportunities
About the course
The Special Educational Needs course will equip you to become a passionate advocate for disability rights and equality in your chosen profession. There are 14.6 million disabled people in the UK, and graduates with expertise in special educational needs and disability are in demand in a wide range of areas including education, health, social work and social care, local government, and business.
A supportive team of disabled and non-disabled academics will enable you to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence you need to become a future leader in this area. You will learn about the historical, social and cultural factors that shape our understanding of special educational needs and disability. Your understanding of academic theories and models will be deepened by activities which challenge you to explore how this knowledge can be applied in professional settings. As well as tutors’ extensive professional experience, course content is informed by input from a range of guest speakers, and from our partner organisations, which include disabled-led and self-advocacy groups, education and care providers, charities, and disability arts organisations.
The Special Educational Needs course at Liverpool Hope is unique in that it is informed and enriched by the work of the Centre for Culture and Disability Studies, an internationally recognised centre of excellence in disability studies research, and the only UK research centre to focus on disability and culture.
You can also study Special Educational Needs via a Single Honours degree with the Special Educational Needs & Disability Studies course.
Teaching on this degree is structured into lectures, where all students are taught together, seminars of smaller groups, and tutorials which typically have no more than 10 students. You will also use the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Moodle and will have a one-to-one meeting with your tutor each week.
For the Special Educational Needs part of your Combined Honours degree, in your first year of study there are approximately 6 teaching hours each week, which reduces to approximately 5 teaching hours in your second and third years. On top of teaching hours, you are also expected to spend 12-14 hours studying independently each week, as well as studying in groups to prepare for any groups assessments that you may have.
Assessment and feedback
Throughout your three years of study you will have a number of assessments, including a portfolio, essays, written exams, posters, an annotated bibliography, journal analysis and information pack. In your final year you complete a dissertation research project.
You will receive formative and summative feedback. This will include written feedback with opportunities for a one-to-one discussion of feedback with your tutors.
The Foundation Year is a great opportunity if you have the ability and enthusiasm to study for a degree, but do not yet have the qualifications required to enter directly onto our degree programmes. A significant part of the Foundation Year focuses upon core skills such as academic writing at HE level, becoming an independent learner, structuring academic work, critical thinking, time management and note taking.
Successful completion of the Foundation Year will enable you to progress into the first year (Level C) of your chosen honours degree. Further details can be found here.
The first year provides you with a knowledge and understanding of the key ideas in Disability Studies that you will bring to your study of Special Educational Needs. You will study:
Disability and History
This will enable you to develop an understanding of the relationship between disability and society and the different ways that this has been understood over time. It includes a brief overview of early historical representations of disability but focuses most significantly on the emergence of categorisation and institutions in the nineteenth century as a basis for understanding contemporary ideas about Special Educational Needs.
Disability and the Life Course
This aspect of the course will encourage you to explore disability in early years, disability and youth, adulthood and in later life and old age. This will deepen your understanding of the relationship between disability, and education throughout the life course.
Disability and Culture
This key focus in your first-year course relates to the ways that disability is represented in culture. This addresses important ideas regarding the ways social attitudes towards disability can be challenged or reinforced through, for example, media representations and opens up important ideas about the relationship between pity, charity and disability.
Disability and Society
You will develop an understanding of the relationship between disability and social practices which significantly shape the everyday experiences of disabled people and the ways in which we think about SEN and disability. Themes include normalcy, language and terminology, charity and pity. You will also study contemporary understandings of intersectionality, considering the relationship between class, race, gender, sexuality and disability.
You will explore the specificity of experiences of disability and SEN in greater depth, challenging the notion of disabled people as a homogeneous group. This includes exploring factors that might transform an individual’s experience of disability or SEN, such as socioeconomic status, gender, class, and sexuality. While you will explore issues such as stigma and prejudice (for example in relation to psychiatric labels such as Borderline Personality Disorder), you will also consider the work of disability activists and academics, disability as a minority identity and notions of disability pride.
Social Theory of Disability
The second year of your course is underpinned by the social model of disability. You will develop an understanding of the significance of this in terms of theory and practice in relation to Special Educational Needs. You will engage with recent and relevant research that models the application of the social model as a conceptual and practical tool for change.
Exploring Diversity, Disability and Education
You will engage with recent research that offers alternative readings of impairment such as work on neurodiversity, dyslexia and lexism, as well as sensory, bodily and cognitive diversity. You will be encouraged to develop independent research to support your choice for a focused study.
Exploring Professional Values and Attitudes
The relationship between embodied and professional knowledge forms an important core for this section of the course. The ethics of professional practice will be explored with reference to a range of educational contexts and professional roles and practice-based research. You will also have an opportunity to enhance your knowledge and awareness of issues relating to ethics of practice and to gain knowledge about future employment opportunities.
This final element of your studies engages with ethical and philosophical as well as practical dimensions of researching disability. You will study the importance of lived and embodied experience and methods and approaches for emancipatory and participatory forms of research.
Theories of Disability
Your final year begins with a study of contemporary work in disability studies and includes a study of critical disability theory, ableism/disablism neo-liberal ableism, knowledge and power and the subject, disability and surveillance, race and ableism, the Tripartite model, appreciation and affirmation and crip theory.
Here you will explore a range of ideas that enable you to take theory to a consideration of inclusive practice. The key work covered here relates to: cultural inclusion, inclusion and inclusive education, inclusive/exclusive policy, transformability, Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning.
Disability and Ethics
This final theme offers important insights into the relationship between disability and ethics including the following topics: disability ethics and technology, ethics of intervention including medical intervention and ethics of choice.
In addition to this course of study, you will identify an aspect of study related to Special Educational Needs and develop a piece of independent research into your chosen area.
The following courses are indicative of the courses available to you as Advanced Research Courses.
Neither seen nor heard listening to the stories of marginalised young people
Despite increased recognition of the importance of seeking the perspectives of young people there remain a significant number whose stories remain untold. These include young people who have been excluded, medicalised, contained, and segregated. During our sessions we will explore the social structures that surround children and young people and how they work to silence their voices. By drawing on creative and participatory methods we will explore how young people can be empowered to share their stories. We will also reflect on the challenges of ensuring young people’s voices are heard by the adults who surround them.
Researching the Cultural History of Learning Disability
In this cultural history of learning disability, the emphasis is not on what certain people are or are not learning, nor on what anyone’s particular difficulties with learning are perceived to be. Rather, the emphasis is on the role “learning disabilities” play in society. In other words, a cultural approach is concerned with the way people said to have learning disabilities have been conceptualized, spoken about, and interacted with, and with the relational and environmental factors contextualizing and shaping these practices. We will investigate the way intersecting discourses of medicine, education, media, law, economics, colonialism and eugenics brought the phenomenon of Learning Disability into being in the 19th Century, and continue to influence discourse in the present day.
Metanarratives of Disability and Assumed Authority
The inequity of the normative social order is profound. When out and about, many disabled people know only too well what it is to be erroneously told the error of their ways by passers-by, assumed authority often cloaked in helpfulness and accompanied by multiple variants of virtue signalling. Although support, assistance, and indeed helpfulness are all sometimes desired if not required, those things are distinct from assumed authority so widespread that it even extends into the workplace, home, and so on. This being so, benefiting from the knowledge of a colleague becomes a matter of inclusion; enjoying the company of a friend becomes complicated by notions of duty; and sexual attraction becomes haunted by the spectre of charity. All of these things are enforced by the metanarrative of disability that will be deconstructed in this research seminar.
Disability Rights, Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain
This seminar focuses on understanding the socio-political and cultural forces that shape the experience of chronic illness and chronic pain in the context of disability rights. It draws from contributions in disability studies, health and social care and the sociology of health and illness to explore the barriers experienced by people living with chronic illnesses, for instance in education, health and social care and employment, and investigate how these can impact on people. Students will also explore an intersectional approach that will help them investigate how these lived experiences can be shaped, for instance, by ableism, racism and sexism.
Researching the representation of disability in popular culture
This seminar series explores the use of cultural disability studies theory, concepts and methods in research surrounding disability and popular culture. Students will develop in-depth knowledge of key issues relating to the portrayal of disability in various forms of popular culture (such as television, advertising, film and popular music) and ways of examining these issues within research. Students will learn about the role disability studies has in promoting critically informed responses to the representation of diversity in popular culture, and will explore connections between disability studies and cultural studies.
This seminar offers an in-depth examination of neurodiversity, including the origins and development of the neurodiversity movement, the emergence of Neurodiversity Studies as an academic field, neurodiversity awareness campaigns, and neurodiversity in relation to identity, disclosure, appropriation, and representation. In a contemporary context where ‘neurodiversity’ is increasingly co-opted and commodified by charities and businesses, can the neurodiversity movement retain its radical potential?
Disability Studies, Arts and Education
Within education, the arts can offer distinctive and alternative modes of learning through and with materials as well as via collaboration and engagement with critical social practice. As a result, they are frequently cited for their inclusive potential. However, educators must also adhere to reductive systems and practices in Special Education that require disabled children and young people to be identified categorised and labelled because of perceived individual deficit. This course will enable you to apply current research in disability studies and practice in disability arts in order to examine these tensions in current policy and practice in arts and education. You will work with contemporary examples from disability arts to explore complex and productive readings of the relationship between disability and education, recognising the creative potential that disability brings to learning with and through the arts.
Disability and the Built Environment
This course will focus on how disability is socially constructed. It will question body size as a disability in order to criticise stereotypical perceptions of disability, and aid in broadening a student’s understanding of disability. It will engage with neoliberalism to critique the implementation of minimal accessible spaces within the built environment and demonstrate how there is a hierarchy of disability based on normative assumptions. It will critique neoliberal practices which are evident in disability access legislation and policies. It will introduce Universal Design to help students to question how the built environment can be made to accommodate all and this will be demonstrated within their assessment.
There may be some flexibility for mature students offering non-tariff qualifications and students meeting particular widening participation criteria.
Graduates of this degree have the opportunity to pursue a range of professional qualifications in education both within schools and in other settings. Many students choose to progress to a PGCE course at Liverpool Hope University to train as a teacher, or continue their studies through a number of Masters available at the University, including an MA Disability Studies. Students may also progress to a postgraduate qualification in social work or our MA in Youth and Community Development.
The degree can also inform your future role as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), an Inclusion Support Co-ordinator, Behaviour Support Worker or Learning Mentor. In addition, this course offers opportunities for employment in areas such as disability inclusion and as a disability support worker.
Study in Special Educational Needs is also highly relevant to those who wish to work in community or charitable organisations.
The Service and Leadership Award (SALA) is offered as an extra-curricular programme involving service-based experiences, development of leadership potential and equipping you for a career in a rapidly changing world. It enhances your degree, it is something which is complimentary but different and which has a distinct ‘value-added’ component. Find out more on our Service and Leadership Award page.
As part of your degree, you can choose to spend either a semester or a full year of study at one of our partner universities as part of our Study Abroad programme. Find out more on our Study Abroad page.
The tuition fees for the 2024/25 academic year are £9,250 for full-time undergraduate courses.
If you are a student from the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, your tuition fees will also be £9,250.
The University reserves the right to increase Home and EU Undergraduate and PGCE tuition fees in line with any inflationary or other increase authorised by the Secretary of State for future years of study.
On top of tuition fees, you also need approximately £200 to purchase key textbooks and to cover the cost of any fieldtrips.
You will also need to consider the cost of your accommodation each year whilst you study at university. Visit our accommodation pages for further details about our Halls of Residence.
We have a range of scholarships to help with the cost of your studies. Visit our scholarships page to find out more.
International tuition fees
The International Tuition fees for 2024/25 are £12,500.
Visit our International fees page for more information.
This course is only available with Foundation Year as a Combined Honours degree with the following subjects: