Childhood and Youth Studies (2016 entry)

MA, 1 year full time/2 years part time

Subject overview

  • Childhood and youth studies is located within the School of Education and Social Work at Sussex and draws on teaching and research expertise from both the Department of Education and the Department of Social Work and Social Care within the School. Social Work at Sussex is ranked 11th in the UK in the Guardian University Guide 2017.
  • The School is among the leading academic units in the UK for the quality of its research and in 2012 launched the ground-breaking Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth (CIRCY). The Centre brings together academic expertise from across the University and also benefits from having an international advisory group including policy and professional experts. We warmly encourage student participation in all CIRCY activities including the regular
    seminars and workshops we host in collaboration with our external partners.
  • Childhood and youth studies at Sussex offers you the opportunity to fully understand and actively work on issues affecting children and young people in the local, national and global context. You study modules across anthropology, international development and child rights, sociology, gender studies, sexual
    health, psychology, media and social work.
  • Recently commissioned faculty research projects include an international study into children’s participation, safeguarding children’s internet use in the digital age, child protection in secondary schools and the development of a ‘sex positive’ health service delivery for young people.
  • We have strong links with a number of local organisations through which we offer work placements as part of our course. Many of our graduates find employment in non-profit organisations, schools, and social-research settings.

  • 9 minutes to Brighton

  • 60 minutes to central London

  • 14,594 students study at Sussex

  • 30 clubs and sports teams

  • 19th in The Guardian
    University Guide 2016

  • 180 student societies

  • 189 countries worldwide are
    home to Sussex graduates

  • 4th in the UK for research
    influence, in the top 200
    Times Higher Education World
    University Rankings 2014/15

  • 90% of graduates from our
    postgraduate courses, in
    employment, are in graduate level
    jobs (DLHE survey 2013)

  • 38th in the world for international
    outlook (Times Higher Education
    World University Rankings

Rachel's faculty perspective

Dr Rachel Burr

‘Some students considering the MA in Childhood and Youth Studies will have a clear career path in mind, and may indeed be mid-career professionals already. The course enables you to bring a range of contrasting disciplinary and professional perspectives to bear on policy, practice and research with children and young people .

‘The course also offers a great foundation for people who would like to enter child-focused professions and organisations, from teaching, social work, educational psychology and occupational therapy to working in child advocacy for a UK-based charity.

‘The international perspectives offered by the Masters also make it an excellent starting point for working in international aid and development and, because of the excellent grounding in research, it’s also considered an excellent foundation for doctoral-level study in an unusually wide range of academic disciplines.’

Dr Rachel Burr
Course Convenor, MA in Childhood and Youth Studies
University of Sussex

Programme outline

This is an interdisciplinary and interprofessional MA offered in collaboration with anthropology, education, psychology, law and sociology. It enables you to bring a range of contrasting disciplinary and professional perspectives to bear on policy, practice and research with children and young people.

New research in developmental, psychological, sociological, anthropological, cultural and educational domains is used to scrutinise the differing political and ethical claims on childhood and youth that inform contemporary policy and practice.

This MA sharpens your analytical and writing skills, and exposes you to new and original ways of thinking about children and young people. The course provides research and training tools for completing empirical research with children and young people. These skills and tools are transferable to the workplace. The interdisciplinary nature of the training also results in post-qualifying students developing a broad knowledge base to communicate effectively and successfully with a wide variety of child- and youth-focused professionals.


You are assessed through essays and case studies of 1,500-3,000 words, and group presentations on core modules and options. As part of the dissertation component of the course, you produce a dissertation proposal and a dissertation of 15,000 words.

In addition to the course structure below, you may find it helpful to refer to the Modules tab.

Two core modules introduce the distinctive field of childhood and youth studies and explore key aspects of policy, practice and research. From the second term onwards, you tailor your learning by opting to study research- or practitionerfocused options on topics that fit with your own interests. Finally, a research methods module and a research dissertation or work-based project provide the opportunity to apply in-depth scholarship to professional practice.

Back to module list

Academic and Research Skills

60 credits
All year teaching, year 1

This module provides a structured induction into a wide range of essential academic and research skills. You will gain conceptual and practical experience in reading, analysing, designing and undertaking research throughout the module, culminating in the major project undertaken at the end of the course. Theory and practice are linked throughout, with sessions covering topics such as:

  • the conventions of academic referencing
  • approaches to reviewing the academic literature
  • writing a research proposal
  • different methodological positions
  • specific research methods and research ethics. 

The module aims to ensure a thorough understanding of the academic and research skills needed to undertake all aspects of the MA in International Education and Development and there are opportunities to discuss the requirements of each assignment in depth.

Throughout the year there is an emphasis on collaborative group work, exchanging ideas, presenting work in progress and supporting each other through the different phases of writing and reading. The course therefore provides a supportive framework within which you are encouraged to develop critical and reflexive understandings of your roles as both consumers and producers of research. 

Activist Media Practice

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

Social movements have historically struggled to get their message reported clearly, accurately and effectively through the lens of mainstream media. This has lead to the rise of alternative media practices and strategies to break through or unsettle the corporate and state-run media systems around the world. In order to challenge hegemonic discourses, activist media seeks to circumvent and dismantle traditional media's communicative strategies either through a disruptive aesthetic or through a reconfigured mode of civic engagement. Whether through radical leaflets, pirate radio, graffiti, protest music, performance art, activist videos, political documentaries, or social media and the internet, today's media landscape has evolved into a range of complex transnational networks that can be activated by independent counter-hegemonic media practices and expressions.

This module asks you to learn about various forms of cultural resistance (through readings, screenings, lectures and discussions) in order to to formulate an effective form of activist media provocation. This piece of activist media may take the form of a video, a website, site-specific performance, series of photographs, media prank, etc. You will also be asked to write a reflective essay that contextualises the finished piece within the conceptual debates of the module.

Anthropology of Childhood

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

Anthropologists have taken children's lives into account from the early stages of the discipline, as visible in the works of, for example, Mead and Malinowski.

These accounts, however, were often based on adult's views on children. More recently, anthropological interest has shifted from these socially constructed and symbolic understandings of childhood to an engagement with children's own perspectives and practices (James and Prout 1990).

These approaches assume the centrality of children as actors, rather than passive beings who are being acted on; children are seen as complete humans, rather than as deficient adults-to-be.

This perspective has enabled a wealth of cross-cultural, ethnographic studies to emerge, describing ideas and practices surrounding children and childhood. These include key events of the life course, such as birth and death, but also a focus on how children are shaped by, and actively shape, their social environments, such as families and peers, educational institutions and religious communities.

Key themes address children in the context of play and labour, children's bodies, spaces and mobilities, as well as their experiences of, and responses to violence.

In this module, you gain an overview of anthropological engagements with childhood, both historically and including its more recent methodological innovations. Broader theoretical discussions are complemented by in-depth ethnographic material from cultures and societies across the globe.

The module covers the following topics:

Week 1 - 'Childhood' as a cross-cultural concept
Week 2 - Anthropological Perspectives on Children
Week 3 - Rites of Passage
Week 4 - Education and Morality
Week 5 - Children's Bodies and Spaces
Week 7 - Labour and Play
Week 6 - Children's Mobilities
Week 9 - Children and Violence
Week 10 - Individual Term Paper Tutorials

Current Developments in Childhood and Youth Policy and Practice

30 credits
Autumn teaching, year 1

During this module you will interrogate contrasting policy assumptions about what constitutes a good childhood and about how best public policy and professional practice might secure and promote children's rights and well-being. The module curriculum will be organised around selected aspects of childhood and youth policy and practice in and beyond the UK. The rights framework provided by the UNCRC will be employed to structure enquiry. Case examples will be used to focus reading and discussion and these will be closely related to the research and professional practice interests of the student group. The module assessment is a 5,000 word case study. You will be required to negotiate a title that meets the generic learning requirements of the module whilst ensuring relevance to your personal and professional interests.

Curriculum, learning and society

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

The aim of this module is to study how the curriculum, learning, and society interrelate in low- and middle-income countries. It will engage with the major issues, concepts, and theories relating to curriculum development, pedagogy, and social inclusion in education. These will be related to policy and practice. It will address questions such as:

  • What are the patterns of curriculum worldwide and how is curriculum reform being accomplished in different settings?
  • To what extent are equity and social justice enacted through the curriculum and how might this be furthered?
  • What are the processes of curriculum development and what power do teachers and other stakeholders have in deciding what knowledge is included? 
  • What do different definitions of educational quality say about what is valued in education? 
  • What pedagogies are espoused and practiced in low- and middle-income countries and how appropriate are these for different kinds of learners? 
  • What are the pedagogical and social effects of different systems and practices of assessment?
  • How are instructional materials incorporated in educational practice at national and local level? 
  • How does the curriculum relate to local and global cultures and teacher and learner identities? 

The module will engage with these questions at various levels, including especially a study of how macro issues are played out in the micro/meso contexts of classrooms and other educational institutions.

Foundations of Education Policy, Planning and Development

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

The changing roles of government in relation to education services have multiple implications for stakeholders in education. This module explores approaches to educational planning and policy issues, and considers the implications of contemporary governance concerns associated with designing and implementing educational reform.

You will gain practical experience in developing education strategies aimed at achieving education and development targets. The module pays particular attention to the various dimensions of the changes in the governance of education.

The module considers key aspects of policy and planning covering the changing international agenda regarding good governance:

  • the changes to educational planning and reforms aimed at ensuring sustainable financing
  • the role of NGOs and communities in designing and implementing change
  • reforms and governance of education paying attention to decentralisation and its impact on how schools are managed and function
  • and approaches to monitoring and evaluating education interventions and programmes.

Introduction to Childhood and Youth Studies

30 credits
Autumn teaching, year 1

This module introduces the field of study from the contrasting perspectives of a number of core disciplines that address the concepts of childhood and youth. Employing a life-span approach derived from developmental psychology and core preparatory readings, the module will present you with a range of disciplinary accounts that currently construct the social categories of 'childhood' and 'youth' within a comparative, cross-cultural frame of reference. These will include the view from law, social policy and social work, education, anthropology and sociology and medicine as well as psychology. Case studies will be used to ground discussion and analysis and enable you to make effective connections between theory and research and the policy and practice contexts in which they work or have a particular interest. The module assessment is two-fold. You will first submit a 1,000 word Review Paper one third of the way into the module for formative assessment and feedback only. On completion of the course a 4,000 word Long Term Paper will comprise the summative assessment. You will be required to negotiate titles in each case that meet the generic learning requirements of the course whilst ensuring relevance to your personal and professional interests.

Restorative Justice: Domestic and International Approaches

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

This module will provide scope for you to explore contemporary restorative justice developments in the United Kingdom and internationally. The module starts by examining restorative justice theory and explores how its principles have been put into practice within the UK and in other countries. You will then examine the relationship between restorative justice and the state as well as the importance of the concept of "community" in assessing whether restorative practices can repair harm. You will also look at whether restorative justice can be used in "difficult" cases including domestic violence, hate crime, and even homicide. Finally, the module explores the use of restorative justice in countries where mass human rights violations have been committed - including genocide. Examples such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and the Gacaca courts in Rwanda are just some of the examples of how restorative principles might be used to help repair the harms of the most serious of all crimes.

Childhood and Youth in Global Perspective; Rights, Protection and Justice

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

This module will explore legal and rights frameworks relating to children and young people with a particular emphasis on international conventions and perspectives. The first part of the module will involve an exploration of three areas of law: children's rights, child protection/welfare and youth justice/offending. 
Explorations of these topics will include an examination of ideas of globalisation and post-colonial critiques where relevant. In the second part of the module case studies will be used to critically explore these issues in relation to practice with children and young people drawing upon examples from the developed and developing world.

An indicative list of practice topics for exploration includes: 

  • Children/young people and work
  • Children and poverty
  • Children and homelessness
  • Children and criminal justice
  • Children and refugee status
  • Children and the family 

The module will make connections between policy and practice approaches to children and youth in majority and minority worlds as well as linking themes such as migration, adoption and child trafficking. We will, however, pay particular attention to the specificities of work within a development context including an exploration of the practice issues asssociated with work in refugee camps and with street children.

Teachers: policy and practice in lnternational contexts

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

The module focuses on how teacher education can be organised to best enable teachers to improve their practice. In addressing this, it is necessary to consider how teachers learn to teach. The importance of the teacher to the teaching/learning process has never been in doubt and yet it is only relatively recently that the spotlight has been put on teachers, rather than on pupils, to examine the ways in which teachers learn and the theories and motivations that underpin their practice. Understanding how teachers learn to teach and how best to facilitate their learning are crucial issues to consider when designing policies to improve education in developing countries.

The aim of the seminars in the first part of the term is to give you a broad overview of some of the major issues, concepts and theories in teacher education and how they relate to practice. In the second part the module looks at contemporary issues related to culture and teacher development, teacher mobility, teacher motivation, supervision and mentoring, and teacher education by distance including the use of ICTs. These are all considered in the context of a variety of developing countries, and include consideration of the role of international aid in shaping the practice of teacher education.

Youth Justice

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

This module will examine how the law does and should respond to criminal and anti-social behaviour by children and young people. Given that much discussion of such behaviour tends to be extremely emotive and characterised by a rose-tinted view of the behaviour of previous generations of children, the module begins by reflecting upon the nature and extent of youth crime. Against the backdrop of contested constructions of childhood and children's rights it then explores the shifts in policy that have occurred in relation to offending by children. It examines how perceiving them as `children in trouble' to be helped or `young thugs' to be punished profoundly affects societal and legal responses. The increasingly tough approach taken by governments in recent years is scrutinised in the light of international instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and sustained criticism from international bodies.
The module goes on to examine the youth justice process, including pre-trial diversion and the sentencing of young offenders, including the increasing use of custody. 

The module then examines a range of issues of current concern, including the age of criminal responsibility, the introduction of civil punitive orders such as ASBOs, the extent to which the state should make parents take responsibility for the actions of their children, the relationship between the media and youth crime and dangerous young offenders.

Back to module list

Entry requirements

UK entrance requirements

A first- or upper second-class undergraduate honours degree; exceptionally other candidates may be accepted who demonstrate ability to study at the appropriate level.

Overseas entrance requirements

Overseas qualifications

If your country is not listed below, please contact the University at E

The following table is given as a general guide for our taught postgraduate degrees requiring a first- or upper-second class undergraduate honours degree. If you have any questions, contact the University at E

CountryOverseas qualification
Australia Bachelor (Honours) degree with second-class upper division
Brazil Bacharel, Licenciado or professional title with a final mark of at least 8
Canada Bachelor degree with CGPA 3.3/4.0 (grade B+)
China Bachelor degree from a leading university with overall mark of 75%-85% depending on your university
Cyprus Bachelor degree or Ptychion with a final mark of at least 7.5
France Licence with mention bien or Maîtrise with final mark of at least 13
Germany Bachelor degree or Magister Artium with a final mark of 2.4 or better
Ghana Bachelor degree from a public university with second-class upper division
Greece Ptychion from an AEI with a final mark of at least 7
Hong Kong Bachelor (Honours) degree with second-class upper division
India Bachelor degree from a leading institution with overall mark of at least 60% or equivalent
Iran Bachelor degree (Licence or Karshenasi) with a final mark of at least 15
Italy Diploma di Laurea with an overall mark of at least 105
Japan Bachelor degree from a leading university with a minimum C/GPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or equivalent
Malaysia Bachelor degree with CGPA of at least 3.3/4.0 or B+
Mexico Licenciado with a final mark of at least 8
Nigeria Bachelor degree with second-class upper division or CGPA of at least 3.5/5.0
Pakistan Four-year bachelor degree, normally with a GPA of at least 3.3
Russia Magistr or Specialist Diploma with a minimum average mark of at least 4
South Africa Bachelor (Honours) degree or Bachelor degree in Technology with an overall mark of at least 70%
Saudi Arabia Bachelor degree with an overall mark of at least 70% or CGPA 3.5/5.0 or equivalent
South Korea Bachelor degree from a leading university with CGPA of at least 3.5/4.0 or equivalent
Spain Licenciado with a final mark of at least 2/4
Taiwan Bachelor degree with overall mark of 70%-85% depending on your university
Thailand Bachelor degree with CGPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or equivalent
Turkey Lisans Diplomasi with CGPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or equivalent depending on your university
United Arab Emirates Bachelor degree with CGPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or equivalent
USA Bachelor degree with CGPA 3.3-3.5/4.0 depending on your university
Vietnam Masters degree with CGPA of at least 3.5/4.0 or equivalent

If you have any questions about your qualifications after consulting our overseas qualifications, contact the University at E

English language requirements

IELTS 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each section.

For more information, refer to What qualifications do I need?

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Fees and funding


Home UK/EU students: £7,500 per year1
Channel Island and Isle of Man students: £7,500 per year2
Overseas students: £14,800 per year3

1 The fee shown is for the academic year 2016.
2 The fee shown is for the academic year 2016.
3 The fee shown is for the academic year 2016.

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Faculty interests

Visit Department of Social Work and Social Care: People and contacts

Prof Robin Banerjee
Professor of Developmental Psychology

Research interests: Developmental psychology, Emotion, Motivation, Psychology, Social behaviour, Social cognition, Youth

View profile

Prof Janet Boddy
Professor of Child, Youth and Family Studies

Research interests: child and youth welfare, cross-national methodology, family studies, Research Ethics, social pedagogy, Social work

View profile

Dr Rachel Burr
Senior Teaching Fellow in Education

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Dr Anne-Meike Fechter
Senior Lecturer in Anthropology

Research interests: Aid, Aid Workers, Cambodia, childhood and youth, Development, Expatriates, gender, Indonesia, Migration, Mobility, Morality and Ethics, southeast asia, Transnationalism

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Dr Kristine Hickle
Lecturer in Social Work & Social Care

Research interests: childhood and youth, Groups, groupwork, human trafficking, sexual violence, Social work, Trauma

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Mr Barry Luckock
Senior Lecturer in Social Work & SocialPolicy

Research interests: Social work

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Dr Tish Marrable
Lecturer in Social Work

Research interests: Autism and Social Care, Bereavement, disability, Emotion in professional practice, Social work, Supervision

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Dr Sevasti-Melissa Nolas
Senior Lecturer

Research interests: action research, childhood and youth, children's participation, children's social policy, children's welfare, public life, qualitative research methods, social action, Social work, youth inclusion, youth policy

View profile

Prof Rachel Thomson
Professor of Childhood & Youth Studies

Research interests: Social behaviour, Sociology

View profile

Careers and profiles

You may already have a professional qualification in social work, teaching, youth work, early years or related fields and wish to specialise further in the field of childhood and youth studies.

This MA will be attractive to advanced practitioners, leaders and managers, projectdevelopment and policy officers, and others working with children and young people in local, national and international agencies in the statutory and non-governmental sectors. The course provides an excellent step into doctoral-level study in any academic discipline or profession concerned with childhood and youth.

To find out more, visit Careers and alumni

School and contacts

Contact us

Course Co-ordinator, Essex House, 
University of Sussex, Falmer, 
Brighton BN1 9QQ, UK 
T +44 (0)1273 872595 
F +44 (0)1273 877534 

Visit the Department of Social Work and Social Care

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Bahrain • Brazil • Brunei • Canada • China • Colombia • France • Germany • Ghana • Greece • Hong Kong • India • Indonesia • Iraq • Italy • Japan • Kenya • Kuwait • Malaysia • Mexico • Nigeria • Norway • Pakistan • Qatar • Saudi Arabia • Singapore • South Korea • Spain • Sri Lanka • Taiwan • Thailand • Turkey • UAE • USA • Vietnam.

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