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Food Policy MSc

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  • Academic Title
    Food Policy MSc
  • Course description
    The programme provides the opportunity to widen and deepen understanding of the development of food policy and the main contemporary issues and debates in the area. It will also develop and enhance skills in policy analysis.

    Students may work in a wide range of areas such as environmental health, trading standards, local government, the civil service, food manufacturing, retail or catering, or as dieticians or nutritionists. Students may also be seeking to return to work or to enhance their personal understanding of food policy.

    MSc Food Policy

    The key purpose of the MSc/PG Diploma Food Policy programme is to produce students who have a strong and critical grasp of both the theoretical and empirical aspects of food policy.

    They will gain an in depth knowledge and a good understanding of the breadth of food policy in the United Kingdom within a European and International context.

    The student will learn how to conduct critical analysis of public policy and how to apply these skills in the workplace and community.

    MSc Food Policy learning outcomes

    Upon completion of the MSc in Food Policy students will be enabled to:

    1. Build upon the student’s previous knowledge to develop a critical understanding of the depth and reach of food policy and of the dynamics that shape it at local, national, regional and global levels.

    2. Engage with food policy through the application of a range of disciplinary perspectives and apply them to food policy, including: political and economic, social/cultural, environmental and public health perspectives.

    3. Critically evaluate the nature and development of contemporary food policy.

    4. Develop policy analysis skills to a range of simulated food policy practice based assessments.

    5. Develop fresh insights into an area of food policy.

    6. Apply research skills as an increasingly self- confident learner and critically reflect upon these skills and the learning process.

    Delivery of the MSc in Food Policy

    In the taught mode classes include lecture sessions, workshops, small group activities and discussions, and whole class discussion. The lectures -  are supplemented by occasional outside guest speakers from the world of food policy. Students are encouraged to exchange their own experiences and perspectives on issues under discussion.

    The teaching times are as follows:

    - Full time:
    Monday 16.00 hours to 19.00 hours
    Tuesday 16.00 hours to 19.00 hours
     - Part time:
    Year One: Monday 16.00 hours to 19.00 hours and
    Year Two: Tuesday 16.00 hours to 19.00 hours

    The principal teaching and learning method used for the distance-learning mode for this programme is text based learning packages (workbooks) with subject specific tutor support. The learning packages are intended to engage the student in active learning. This is achieved through the inclusion of a number of activities, or exercises, with accompanying commentaries.

    Examples, case studies and original research are used to bring the subject to life and to help the student to link theory to their practice. Hence, the use of the workbook itself is a contribution to the learning activity and has been deliberately designed with this in mind.

    Activities which contribute to the teaching and learning process include: searching on the internet or in libraries, sending interim learning activities to tutors for informal feedback, correspondence with the module tutor through email or through the mail, and communicating with tutors and peers through email discussion groups.

    Further examples from the workbook activities include simulation/role playing exercises and developing literature search skills.

    Assessment is through written work on both the taught and distance learning modes and plagiarism is not permitted and student work is closely monitored to identify potential plagiarism. In the case of distance learning students engage in workbook exercises and informal feedback with the tutor(s) which help to shape the exact topic of the student's assignment in each module.

    Assignments are tailored to student's interests and work contexts as far as praticable and so plagiarism is less likely to occur due to the customised nature of this assignment process. This is the case for both taught and distance learning modes.

    In addition, on both modes (taught and distance learning) we have structured the assignments as pieces of student learning. The assignments are designed to engage the student in a degree of self-directed study and analysis, to encourage the student to develop as a more self-confident learner and researcher.

    Apart from the introductory module on Food and Public Policy, students are encouraged to choose their own subject matter to fit within the set assignment.

    For example, in the Political Economy of Food the final assignment involves students researching a food commodity of their choice.

    In Food, Culture and Society
    students compose a memorandum around the social and cultural aspects of a food policy issue of their own choice and in Food, Public Health and the Environment the assessment is based around the public health and environmental dimensions of an issue of the student's choice.

    In both of these modules the two assignments are linked with the first or formative assignment being a formative draft proposal and the final being the summative memo/report. This self-confidence and greater sense of autonomy is most fully realised through completion of the dissertation.

    In undertaking this programme, students are encouraged to enter and map the world of food policy and to investigate its many varied opinions and scholarly evaluations contained in books, academic journals, official reports, NGO and other reports, electronic data bases, such as CD-ROMs, on line data bases and internet accessed data bases.

    The Course philosophy

    This Course is the first in food policy that we know of anywhere. Food policy is a term much used but rarely explored, which is why we have set up this Course.

    The Course is designed to give you an opportunity to study the subject in depth and to appeal to people from a wide variety of experience, expertise and professions. This broad vision is deliberate. Food policy sits at the intersection of many other disciplines and the philosophy built into the programme is one that will encourage you to read widely and think comprehensively.

    The course ranges across diverse policy areas. Its scope is the entire food system, from agriculture and its inputs to consumption. You will be asked to take a panoramic view of all constituent sectors traditionally kept separate in academic treatments. We are as interested in agriculture and food processing as retailing and catering. We juxtapose production with consumption, social and cultural matters with public and environmental health.

    The rationale for this is that public policy covers all these perspectives and sectors, so in mapping food policy, we have to do likewise.

    Often decisions about food are taken in one sector that have an impact on another. When the Chief Medical Officer gave advice, for example, to peel carrots to reduce risk from pesticide residues, does this undermine health promotion advice to eat more vegetables?

    Another example of cross-sectoral impact is where increased efficiency in food distribution systems has generated more traffic with consequential environmental implications. By exploring such impacts between sectors, we can clarify the intellectual framework of food policy.

        * The course has a strong commitment to social justice and sustainability.
        * We explore the issue of food poverty and we stress interest groups who are excluded from key decision-making about food policy.
        * We want you to listen to people whose voices are not usually heard.
        * By being designed to appeal to people from a wide range of backgrounds and work, we anticipate that the course will give a comprehensive overview of the food system and its dynamics.
        * You will be encouraged to take a critical perspective.

    Course structure

    The course is designed as an integrated study of food policy with four core modules, followed by a research methods module prior to a dissertation module. A degree of optionality is offered within the framework of the assessment process where you will be allowed to choose your specific assignment topic within the context of a particular assessment. The dissertation module will give you additional choice to conduct work in an area of food policy.

    The first module Food and Public Policy (30 credits) provides a base for the programme, introducing the public policy contours, the institutions and actors, and the dynamics of food policy. It provides you with the opportunity to reflect upon the scope and foci of food policy, and to write a policy analysis report of an issue of contemporary salience.

    The Political Economy of Food (30 credits) looks at theoretical attempts to understand the impact of key political, economic and social dynamics upon the food system, and to apply this understanding to a case study related to key dimensions of the food system. The assessment promotes greater independence of choice in topic selection, and in searching for and assembling evidence.

    Food, Culture and Society (30 credits) is designed to help you identify key theories and models used to explain and predict food choice and consumption. It draws from social science, public health, epidemiological and anthropological studies. The assessment is based on a work related example informed by theoretical models around food choice, an attempt to influence policy development. It requires further desk-top search skills, and allows you to develop more independence in the learning process.

    Food, Public Health and the Environment, (30 credits) seeks to integrate the areas of public health and environmental impact and protection in the analysis of food policy. The assessment involves an integrated health and environmental impact assessment, progressing further the your own skills in choosing the assignment topic and designing and collating the evidence base for the assessment.

    Further specific preparation of research skills is given in the Dissertation module (60 credits); this complements the approach of the taught modules. The research methods are assessed by means of the dissertation proposal, which is then realised with the completion of the final Dissertation. This module provides a detailed examination of a research question of relevance to food policy of your choice after consultation with your tutors in the MA in Food Policy Programme team.

    Throughout the programme you will encounter some key themes that will recur within and across modules, providing an intellectual continuity and progression through the Programme. These themes include:

        * debates over the role of the state.
        * food policy as a contested space,
        * who, and what, are the social forces from whose conflict food policy emerges,
        * the impacts of globalisation upon food production, distribution, consumption and decision making,
        * social exclusion and fragmentation,
        * the social construction of food,
        * consumer responses to and involvement in policy making,
        * food choice and behaviour,
        * the application of research methods and methodologies.

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