Special Educational Needs & Disability Studies BA (Hons) (with Foundation Year)UCAS Code: X11D|Duration: 4 years|Full Time|Hope Park|UCAS Campus Code: L46
Work placement opportunities|International students can apply|Study Abroad opportunities
About the course
Disability Studies is an academic field that recognises disability is fundamental to all human lives. It acknowledges the wider history of oppression and discrimination experienced by disabled people and seeks to educate people to challenge those inequalities. Informed by this perspective, the Special Educational Needs & Disability Studies degree examines the relationship between disability and education in a wide range of educational contexts.
On this degree, you will undertake a critical exploration of disability and education from the ways in which compulsory education responds to the needs of disabled children, young people and adults, to the ways in which arts-based and cultural organisations work with and on behalf of disabled people
You will have the opportunity to undertake a placement in the second year of your course. This will enable you to enhance your understanding of the relevance of disability studies to a professional context.
Good to know:
- Links with agencies and disability organisations
- Integration with the University’s Research Centre for Culture and Disability Studies (CCDS)
- Excellent preparation for working with and on behalf of disabled people in a range of contexts
Teaching on this degree is structured into lectures, where all students are taught together, seminars of smaller groups of around 15-20 students, tutorials which typically have no more than 10 student, and workshops. You will also have the opportunity to have a one-to-one meeting with your tutor each week.
In your first year of study, there are approximately 12 teaching hours each week, which reduces to approximately 10 teaching hours each week in your second and third years. On top of teaching hours, you will be expected to spend 12-14 hours studying independently each week, as well as studying in groups to prepare for any group assessments that you may have. This degree also has a compulsory placement.
Assessment and feedback
During your degree, there are a variety of different assessments to ensure you are given a range of opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge, skills and understanding of the academic and professional components of the degree. These include written exams, essays, portfolios, poster and other presentations, and case studies.
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.
Your academic development is embedded in the curriculum and progresses through each level of study.
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 course 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 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 Normalcy
Here you will start to consider the concept of ‘normal’ examining the ways that this idea has emerged. You will explore the importance of language and labelling, identity and prejudice, medical diagnosis and the relationship between race, gender and the label of Special Educational Needs.
Disability & 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 Diversity
Here you will continue to consider the ways that we conceptualise the body, the mind, learning difficulties and sensory impairment. Whilst this offers an insight into the ways that these areas are defined in relation to categories of Special Educational Needs, the work goes further to explore disability as a lived experience
If you study Special Educational Needs & Disability Studies as a Single Honours Degree, you will also gain an introduction to Applied Social Sciences. This course includes:
This aspect of the course introduces the importance of history to your study of the social sciences. It includes, histories of Liverpool including histories of race, gender, class, sexuality and disability.
The next theme offers an introduction to the study of cultural representations. Here you will explore a range of cultural products such as the news, film, art and TV for the ways some people are represented.
Here you will gain an understanding of key ideas or isms such as feminism, ableism, Marxism and Post-Colonialism and their importance to your study of Special Educational Needs & Disability Studies
Deconstructing Scientific Knowledge
This aspect of your studies encourages you to examine the nature of scientific knowledge, hierarchies of knowledge and the importance of understanding how scientific knowledge has shaped our understanding of the social world. You will consider the importance of this specifically in relation to your study of Special Educational Needs & Disability Studies.
Here you will gain an overview of contemporary ideas in regional and national politics. This aspect of our course will enable you to develop your confidence in understanding the role of politics and policy in our lives and will enable you to appreciate this as a broader context for understanding the importance of work in equality and diversity
This final theme enables you to move from local, regional and national themes above to address ideas in social science at a global level. Poverty, inequality and environmental issues, for example, all require this larger perspective and you will work with examples that show this importance of global perspectives to our understanding of key issues in the social sciences.
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.
Exploring Diversity, Disability and Education
Next you will explore and apply the social model to thinking about neurodiversity, Profound and Moderate Learning Difficulties (PMLD), sensory and cognitive diversity and ideas about bodily difference.
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.
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
If you study Special Educational Needs & Disability Studies as a Single Honours Degree, you will also study the following:
Cultural Disability Studies, Theory, Research and Methods
Here you will gain an understanding of the distinctive contribution cultural disability studies brings to deepen our understanding of the relationship between disability, society and education. Topics include: metanarratives of disability, analysing visual rhetoric and interpreting a range of cultural texts. You will also explore representations of diversity in contemporary culture.
Professional Identity: Disability Studies in Practice
This aspect of the course turns to the practical application of disability studies and is an important aspect of your preparation for your work placement. Here the course is informed by work with a range of partner organisations from across the region. You will reflect on your identity as a future professional in this area and the role of ethics and professional values in working with organisations that are led by and on behalf of disabled people.
International and Intersectional Perspectives on Disability
This last main theme recognises the importance of international perspectives in disability studies. Here you will study the ways that disability is constructed across cultures including comparisons of social and educational contexts. Specific themes include indigenous perspectives, global perspectives on madness and mental distress, therapeutic imperialism and moves to de-colonise disability studies. This block will also include intersecting identities including the relationship between disability, gender, sexuality and race.
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.
If you study Special Educational Needs & Disability Studies as a Single Honours Degree, you will also study the following:
Disability and Time
This aspect of the course offers critical exploration of key ideas such as temporal disablement, chrononormativity, disability and speed, rhythmanalysis, intersectional approaches to time and the temporal politics of professional practice.
Here you will examine scholarly activism, media and contemporary forms of cultural production, transgressive practice and the role of allies and activism. Recent work on activism and austerity will enable you to explore the contemporary relevance of these ideas.
Disability and Life-writing
Life-writing is a significant means of engagement with lived experience. This aspect of the course explores a range of themes including: life-writing and the phenomenology of impairment, and the use of disability memoir in medical education, celebrities & ‘mental illness memoir’ and the sociological significance of disability memoir.
Disability (Studies) & Identity
In this final stage of your degree you will explore the following themes: the perceived usefulness of disability identity; disability identity and disclosure; disability and identity within academic contexts, posthumanism & ambiguities of disability identity, disability Identity and organisational Structures, disability identity within digital space; questioning the need for disability identity through the arts.
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 available as Advanced Research Courses. You will choose four courses from the following:
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.
Mad, Bad and Sad: The Medicalisation of Human Emotion and Behaviour
This course aims to explore the increased pathologisation and psychologisation of human emotion and behaviour. You will consider the history of emotions and how as a society we have come to conceptualise some emotions and behaviours as excessive, deficient or deviant. Furthermore, you will examine how we have come to try and regulate such emotions and behaviours through medical surveillance and pharmaceutical intervention.
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.
Disablement & Time
Issues of accessibility, exclusion and disablement have traditionally been conceived and discussed in spatial terms. In this series of seminars, we will be exploring temporal forms of disablement -- ways in which people can be disabled by the regulation and standardisation of time, and by the imposition of rigidly constructed social and institutional timeframes. The sessions are underpinned by two theoretical approaches: 1) Chrononormativity – a normative approach to the regulatory value of imposing timeframes; and 2) Arrhythmia – a component of Rhythmanalysis – a method devised by the French sociologist Henri Lefebvre to evaluate the forms of disablement that arise when the rhythms and time-related expectations conflict with the preferred and natural rhythms of the inhabitants of those spaces.
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.
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. 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.
This degree offers excellent preparation for a range of careers including teaching and social work as well as work with organisations that are led by and on behalf of disabled people. The degree also offers a route into postgraduate study including MA Disability Studies.
On graduating, you will be able to advocate for those identified as having a special educational need and/or disability. You will also have the confidence to further the understanding of others. You will have developed relevant research skills and methodologies and have the ability to critically reflect on theory, policy and practice in relation to Special Educational Needs and Disability.
Work Placement Opportunities
In your second year of study, there is a compulsory work placement. This may be a school setting but may also be a cultural setting or voluntary organisation in order for you to develop an appreciation of education in non-compulsory settings. The emphasis on work with cultural organisations will enable you to apply your insights from disability studies.
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 2022/23 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.
As well as tuition fees, you will need approximately £200 to purchase any necessary texts during your three years of study. There will also be travel costs when you go on placement, this usually costs around £100.
You will also need to consider the cost of your accommodation 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 2022/23 are £12,500.
Visit our International fees page for more information.
With Foundation year, this degree is only available to study as a Single Honours course.