What are social sciences?

Contemporary social sciences have their roots in ancient history when at that time there was little distinction between science, mathematics and the study of history, poetry, philosophy or politics. Today, social sciences are the fields of scientific knowledge and academic scholarship concerned with the study of human groups, individuals and society. They cover a diverse range of academic disciplines from anthropology, geography and economics to history, psychology and business studies.

Social scientists employ a wide range of quantitative and qualitative research methods to test their hypothesis and gain a better understanding of their field of expertise. These include surveys, focus groups, field-based data collection, statistical and theoretic models and expert informant analysis. Universities throughout the world consider the study of the social sciences as vital for the future of society, and the transferable skills and knowledge gained by social science graduates makes them particularly attractive to prospective employers.

With over 160 undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and diplomas plus an extensive range of research opportunities across 9 distinct academic disciplines, the Faculty of Social Sciences at The University of Nottingham provides one of the widest choice of social science qualifications in the UK.

Below you can find out more about the subject areas covered by the Faculty and also by visiting the website of each individual school.




Fundamentally about how organisations work, their management and the changing external environment in which they operate. Business comprises several major topics including accounting, economics, finance, marketing, human resources, entrepeneurship, operations and organisational behaviour.

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Contemporary Chinese Studies

The study of understanding change and transformation in China, combining subjects such as contemporary society, media, culture, economy, politics, geography, history and the development of language skills.

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Seeks to analyse and describe the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth. The word "economics" originates from Greek and means "household management" or "management of the state." Economics has two major branches: microeconomics, which examines individual elements, such as a household or organisation and macroeconomics, which looks at the economy as a whole.

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Encompasses teaching, learning specific skills and the imparting of culture, knowledge, judgement and wisdom. Education is about facilitating the achievement of an individual's potential and talents. It is an application of pedagogy, a body of theoretical and applied research relating to teaching and learning that draws on many disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, sociology and anthropology.

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Geography investigates the cultural, economic and physical contexts of the living world, drawing on methods from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, but with a distinctive emphasis on the uniqueness of place, landscape and spatial pattern and the relationship between the physical environment and human action. It covers issues such the meaning and interpretation of landscapes and environments, the provision of financial services, catchment sediment dynamics and flood risk, sustainable water and land management and reconstructing past climatic change. Geographical Information Science methods, including remote sensing and visualisation, are used to explore the changing world and help decision makers. Geography is an outward looking discipline which provides students with a mix of specialist training, excellent transferable skills and a distinctive, holistic perspective of the world around us.

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The study of the system of rules and the institutions that establish and usually enforce these within a given community, State, or nation. Law shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a primary social mediator in relations between people and organisations. It is a broad ranging academic discipline and covers numerous specialised branches including administrative, commercial, constitutional, contract, criminal, environmental, international, human rights, public, maritime, property, tort and trust.

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Politics and International Relations

Deals with the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems, organisations and behaviour. Politics covers several fields such as political economy, political theory, development and philosophy, international relations, foreign policy, public administration and policy, comparative politics, law, national systems etc. The study of power in international relations and theory of Great powers and Superpowers is also a key element.

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Sociology and Social Policy

The study of society and human social action, Sociology is primarily concerned with the social rules and processes that bind and separate people as individuals and as members of associations, groups, communities and institutions, and includes the examination of the organisation and development of human social life. It is a broad discipline ranging from the analysis of individual interactions to the study of global social processes. Social Policy focuses on social problems such as poverty, homelessness, domestic violence and unemployment. It also embraces the study of the operation of publicly provided welfare services such as social security, health, housing, education, social care.

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