The MA in Global Labour and Social Change (MA GLSC) updates and replaces the MA in International Labour and Trade Union Studies (ILTUS).

Whilst the MA GLSC retains a central focus on the future of trade unions and organised labour to represent the interests of workers globally, the new programme explores also the role of allied social movements in providing alternative and/or supplementary means to organise and represent the wide, diverse interests of those engaged in work. As such the MA GLASC welcomes applicants from trade union activists and officials and those from social movements and/or those active outside of organised labour and with an interest in the political economy of work and the future representation of worker’s interests.

The MA GLSC is a one-year full-time, and two-year part-time programme. Full-time students are taught weekly with twice-weekly tutorials. Full-time students are typically resident on-campus, but this is not a compulsory requirement. Part-time students are taught via weekend residential workshops, with tutorials provided when students attend workshops.

The MA GLSC at Ruskin College is wholly unique in the UK being the only programme written specifically for those employed or active around issues of worker organisation, mobilisation and representation. This unique characteristic arises also from Ruskin’s historically close relationship with labour movements internationally, and its continuing educational mission to provide radical, socially transformative education to working class women and men.

Course Philosophy and Approach

The course philosophy and approach is centred on the role and place of labour movements internationally in the ongoing debate about labour movement crisis and renewal. This philosophy recognises also that academic disciplines of gender and development have a significant confluence with the study of labour and allied social movements. Thus students benefit from an inter-disciplinary curriculum delivered through a pedagogical approach predicated on radical and critical teaching and learning methodologies.

The master’s degree offers practitioners and scholars of labour and allied movements, the conceptual, analytical and critical framework for understanding and explaining, making links with, and comparing and contrasting their own and fellow and sister students’ depth and breadth of labour and allied movement experience. It aims to encourage students to think beyond the mainstream about new and creative strategies of labour movement renewal and transformation and their own role and identity in this.

The overall philosophy of the programme is rooted in a commitment to self-development and the empowerment through education and learning. This combines with an ethos whereby students take responsibility for their own autonomous learning, making sense of their own experience as they proceed. This aspect is built into the MA as part of the learner journey. Students are required to reflect on this systematically and critically throughout the programme. A self-reflexive commentary, based on students’ personal journals forms part of a practice-based portfolio which concludes the assessment for the Professional Post-Graduate Certificate (PPGC) stage of the MA. Similarly, reflexivity and positionality are required to be addressed in the dissertation.

Overall Course Aims

The programme will enable students to acquire the necessary knowledge, understanding, skills and critical dimensions of the subject area through teaching, learning and assessment as a basis for:

•The education and development of individuals as practitioners, leaders and specialists in the field of global labour studies, and thus improve the quality of leadership, innovative and strategic thinking in labour movements and allied organisation and movements.

•Add value to either first degrees or to equivalent levels of study, professional and practitioner work, by developing in individuals an integrated and critically aware understanding of leadership, organisation and strategic development of international labour and allied organisations and movements.

•Prepare graduates for both career development and the taking on of effective and leadership roles in labour and allied organisations, and for research and further academic study.

•To support students to generate new critical awareness of their personal and academic growth and development.

The central focus of the MA GLSC is an analysis of the political economy of work globally and the political, social and economic implications of this. So, for example, how does work undertaken across global supply chains in garment manufacture affect the economic stability of workers and their communities who are drawn into this work? Additionally, in what ways do these workers mobilise to represent their own interests, and how is this done through labour and/or social movements on the ground or at a regional or international level?

The programme seeks to explore and analyse the on-going challenges of worker organisation and mobilisation globally examining simultaneously the wide ranging social change impinging on such work. For example, in what ways does the global rise of precarious work challenge traditional models of trade union organising strategy? And, should more radical strategies be deployed encompassing a wider range of social actors than trade unions?

The programme is based on the expectation that students will have a wide range of knowledge and/or practical experience in labour movements and allied fields, and a primary aim is for the course to provide the conceptual and analytical framework for them to make sense of such practice, and make links across disciplines and fields. The heavy emphasis on grounded learning and praxis means that much study will be based on current issues, dilemmas and debates in the field, accessed through case study work, data analysis, archives, video and other media gained, structured and presented through information and learning technologies (ILT). The Post-Graduate Certificate of the MA concludes with an attachment which will allow for the structured facilitation of praxis, and reflection on this in the practice-based portfolio.

Study Details:

MA; one-year full-time, two-year part-time

Module Details:

The MA GLSC has five modules. The five modules are structured to allow you to complete the MA flexibly. This means you can exit the MA at the postgraduate certificate (PGCert) stage or postgraduate diploma (PGDip) stage. This may suit students with limited time to complete the MA in entirety or who wish just to refresh certain subject knowledge. If students wish to acquire the award of MA they will need to complete the final stage of the programme.

Power and Inequality Module

This module examines theoretical and practical features of globalisation and neoliberalism, and its impact on labour in different contexts, examining both organised labour and labour process in the context of the political economy of work. This is followed by an internationally comparative analysis of labour movements and the challenges posed to organised labour by globalisation, exploring the role of overlapping allied movements who respond also to issues of social justice in the context of work and employment. Emphasis is given within the module to an identification of the key social, economic and political factors that impede the capacities and effectiveness of organised labour, with a concentration on how processes of labour movement revitalisation encourage a wider interpretation of alternative forms of worker organisation and of alliances with allied movements. The module introduces students to critical reflection and explores the concept of praxis. The summative assignment at this point is an essay that assesses their understanding of their learning so far, and prepares them to undertake their ‘practice-based learning’ project via an attachment which is undertaken as part of the Praxis module.

Praxis Module

This module completes the post-graduate certificate (PGCert) award of the MA in Global Labour and Social Change (MAGLSC). The module comprises an initial taught element, and it is completed through a period of critical reflective practice. The module culminates in a 3,000 word practice-based portfolio, at a site selected to gain exposure to employment, activism or voluntary activity which reflects the core themes of the first module of the award. A student will be expected to complete their attachment over approximately 150 hours duration during a five-week period. The successful completion of the PGCert award acts as a foundation for the completion of the PGDip and MA awards of the MAGLSC.

Theoretical approaches to organising and resistance

This module introduces students to the critical global challenges of organised labour within the context of crisis and renewal, and with an appreciation of how trade unions are located within a wider context of civil society action and challenge to globalisation. To achieve this students use a prior development of the critical appreciation of the relationship between theory and practice within the context of their own movement/organisational experience to construct a perspective of these challenges. This includes a conscious theoretical understanding of the process of mapping labour movement membership onto labour force changes and exploring tensions in the contexts of gender, old and new memberships, organisational forms, ideologies and practice. In addition students will develop a critical theoretical understanding of the activity of labour movements at a global level to respond to change, particularly within the context of operating as and with social movements to model oppositional and resistance initiatives. Students also have the opportunity to investigate and assess those inherently organisational and cultural weaknesses that arise from labour movement activity but which limits effectiveness, as well as determining those factors which can precipitate renewal. These factors include internal labour movement reform, the imperatives for organising, the process of mergers, transforming union cultures and structures, inclusion, exclusion, transversal working, visibility and voice for ‘new’ memberships; diversity and inclusivity – gender, ethnicity, race, religion, sexuality, class, disability and age.

Rethinking the world of work and globalisation

This module concentrates on more complex aspects of labour relations, and how workers are increasingly marginalised geographically and economically from organised labour, but are nevertheless building alliances and networks in the political and economic contexts in which they live. This module develops a broader focus on the formation and role of organising outside of trade unions, and the possible links with/role of civil society.

Radical Research Methodologies

The Radical Research element of this module concentrates on epistemology, methodological approaches, and methods training. During this time the students are supported in developing and pursuing their individual research project, and writing their literature review, methodology, data, and analysis sections of their dissertation. The notion of ‘radical’ within the context of both teaching methodologies and learning outcomes is one predicated on critical reflexive practice providing a framework in which students are able to apply emancipatory research methods in order to generate original research findings.

This module introduces students to the primary social science methodological, philosophical and theoretical approaches to research. In particular students are introduced to the key concepts of methodology, positionality, ontology and epistemology. Students have the opportunity to interpret the applied aspects of positivism, ethnomethodologies, labourist, feminist, interpretive and postmodernist positions through a review of literature, teaching and seminar discussion. A key emphasis is placed engaged and collaborative approaches to research drawing on Freirian, labourist and feminist perspectives. There is a distinct focus on praxis throughout the MA and in this module students are expected to consider Reflexive methodologies as an impetus for transforming practice.

Students are also introduced to key skills and knowledge required in developing their understanding of research methods and of research skills:

•Research design

•Literature search and review

•Fieldwork planning, access

•Survey design, questionnaire and interview design and practice

•Ethics in research

•Statistical techniques and methods

•Analytical techniques

•Writing up


Entry Requirements

Students will normally be graduates with an honours degree, or equivalent qualifications in a relevant area of study. Instead of a degree, you may be admitted if: • You have relevant paid or unpaid experience including training/education courses, in organisations such as trade unions, community, voluntary or political groups • You have knowledge and academic skills commensurate with degree level work • You can show evidence of capacity for post-graduate study through providing a portfolio of recent written work; for example reports, policy papers, funding applications, essays, etc. • You complete an academic case study analysis exercise and background reading set by the MA to the equivalent standard of a first degree • You have qualifications in the relevant area of study and have completed the equivalent of year 1 elsewhere, you may apply for entry to Part 2 of the MA

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