Rising social inequality resulting from the economic crisis. Dilemmas arising from the influx of millions of asylum seekers in Europe. Governments stepping back and expecting more from individuals. Increased life expectancy that goes hand in hand with increased health inequality. These are all examples of challenges related to individualisation, multicultural societies, solidarity and social justice, and health inequalities. Topics like these challenge social policy in contemporary European countries every day.

For example: Large numbers of migrants continue to seek refuge in Europe. In fact, more than 1.3 million people submitted an asylum claim in 2015. What does this influx of migrants mean for European societies? Can this ethnic and cultural diversity lead to increased integration and social cohesion? Or does it lead nativist backlashes – such as nationalism, xenophobia and new racisms?

At the same time, inequality within and across European countries abounds. A recent report suggests the 8 richest individuals in the world have more wealth than the poorest 50% combined. Thomas Pikkety already warned governments in 2014 to step in and address growing economic inequality. So how do European societies deal with the economic inequality between rich and poor? How do social policies differ across countries in addressing these inequalities?

If you are interested in learning about possible answers to these and similar social policy questions in an interdisciplinary, international environment, then the minor Social Policies in Contemporary Europe: New inequalities and risks (SPiCE) is for you.

The Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science offers a minor in Social Policies in Contemporary Europe: New inequalities and risks (SPiCE) as of the academic year 2017-18. The SPiCE minor is particularly appealing for all Interdisciplinary Social Science students – both Dutch and international – with an interest in social policy, social inequality or social risks.

The interdisciplinary, international minor Social Policies in Contemporary Europe: New inequalities and risks (SPiCE), with its focus on contemporary Europe, is useful not only for students interested in social inequality and social policy from a European perspective but also students interested in these issues more globally. Important lessons can be learned from the ways in which these inequalities have developed in European societies and the ways in which these inequalities are addressed through social policy and beyond. In addition, it provides:

  • an exciting international classroom environment, with interaction between Dutch and foreign students;
  • an opportunity for Dutch and foreign students to prepare for an English-language Master’s programme;
  • a truly interdisciplinary approach, combining insights from psychology, sociology, social policy and health sciences.

Social inequality lies at the heart of social science study and research. On the one hand, social scientists deal with persistent structural inequalities arising from differences in race, class and gender. On the other hand, social scientists increasingly focus on emerging inequalities in other contexts such as sexuality, migration and health. These emerging inequalities are often related to enduring inequalities of race, class and gender, leading to complex social problems that require sufficient social policy responses.

Social policies are often used to motivate individual behaviour and are inherently related to social inequalities. Social policies can alleviate such inequalities but also reinforce them. In the SPiCE minor, the focus is on developing students' knowledge of persistent and emerging social inequalities across Europe, country similarities and differences in these inequalities, and a comparison of welfare systems, social policies and service provision (from an interdisciplinary perspective). To this end, students will become familiar with theoretical and methodological frameworks used to understand, analyse and evaluate social inequalities, social policy and social risks from a comparative perspective.

The study programme for the Social Policies in Contemporary Europe: New inequalities and risks (SPiCE) minor consists of the four related courses outlined below. Courses are held in complementary time slots to ensure that students can enrol in the required courses each semester. Students can also choose to register for these courses separately without following the minor. However, only those students who have submitted a motivational letter, been accepted to the minor and completed all four courses successfully will receive notification of successful completion of the minor.

Required courses:

Block 3 Block 4
Individualisation and Social Policy: Norms, objectives and practices (level 3 course) Health in Society (level 3 course)
Multicultural Society (level 2 course) Solidarity and Social Justice: Social Policy Responses to Social Problems (level 2 course)
  • English language proficiency.
  • Basic knowledge of the social and behavioural sciences (1-2 years of previous coursework).  In particular, it can be useful to have some knowledge of social and behavioural sciences in relation to behaviour, social processes and their relation with health (prerequisite knowledge Health in Society).
  • Motivational letter: To take part in the minor, students are required to write a letter of motivation outlining their desire to take part in the minor and their motivation for doing so. See Application Procedure.

All students are required to submit a motivational letter to apply for the minor. Only those students accepted for the minor will then be allowed to register. In your letter, please explain why you are interested in the minor and how your academic background makes you a suitable candidate for enrolling in the minor.

Exchange students from partner universities can submit their application and letter of motivation to the International Office.

Utrecht University students must submit their letter of motivation to the coordinator of the minor, Dr. Mara A. Yerkes, no later than 15 November 2018: (M.A.Yerkes@uu.nl). Following, Utrecht University students can register for the minor and the courses online via OSIRIS Student.

Students from other Universities must submit their letter of motivation to the coordinator of the minor, Dr. Mara A. Yerkes, no later than 15 November 2018: (M.A.Yerkes@uu.nl). Following, these students can enrol for the minor courses through OSIRIS Online Application. Visit our subsidiary courses page for more information.

Students must first submit a letter of motivation to apply for the minor to see if enrolment is possible. Registering for the minor does not automatically mean you are also enrolled for the courses within the minor. You will need to enrol in each course separately. Please take into account the periods of enrolment.

You will find the course descriptions in the OSIRIS Course Catalogue.

Further information
For further information about the minor or questions, please contact the coordinator, Dr. Mara A. Yerkes (M.A.Yerkes@uu.nl).