Sociology of Education

Course content

This course starts from a broad definition of education - as occurring in formal and informal contexts.  We begin with more classical understandings of education and trace how sociologists have studied ‘education’ through the ages - its definition and its purpose.  We then consider how institutions and broader structures shape provision and outcomes of education across different parts of the world, as well as paying close attention to the relational, affective and non-human elements shaping education.  Key substantive topics included which mirror contemporary concerns found in education systems: school choice policy and strategies, educational decision-making at different points of the education trajectory and factors shaping this, tensions in the purpose of the curriculum, the role of teachers and peer effects, and the evidence around how gender, ethnicity, social class etc shape educational outcomes.  The course also examines the intersections between the local, national and global and how these all impact on education.  We consider global institutions and networks, the impact of internationalization within education, as well as resistances to such globalizing influences at the national and local level.


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

  • Master Programme in Social Data Science
  • Bachelor Programmes in Sociology
  • Bachelor Programmes in Psychology
  • Bachelor and Master Programmes in Anthropology 
  • Master programme in Global Development
Learning outcome

At the end of the course, the students will be able to identify:

  • How different education systems are organised and how changing purposes of education affect these structures;
  • What different theoretical and conceptual resources sociologists who study education draw on;
  • How macro, meso and micro factors shape education processes and outcomes.


At the end of the course, the students will be able to:

  • Review and apply different theory and empirical studies to different contemporary educational problems and questions.


At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate the social mobility potentiality of the education system;
  • Articulate why a sociological lens can offer critical insights into processes, outcomes and the potentiality of education.

Lectures, small group discussions.

Key readings will be journal articles and books chapters - made available on Absalon.

This core textbook will be set as accompanying reading:

Have attended some research methods and/or sociology courses.

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Students will comment on each other’s informal inputs during lectures

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral defence
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • English
  • 42


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Bachelor choice

1 semester

Department of Sociology, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Sociology
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Psychology
  • Social Data Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Claire Maxwell   (2-717b4e817d713c79833c7279)
Claire Maxwell (
Saved on the 03-05-2023

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