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.


The course will run mondays from 15-18 (Updated 22. november 2023)


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

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

The course is also offered to

  • Merit students
  • Exchange students
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

Policy on the Use of Generative AI Software and Large Language Models in Exams

The Department of Sociology prohibits the use of generative AI software and large language models (AI/LLMs), such as ChatGPT, for generating novel and creative content in written exams. However, students may use AI/LLMs to enhance the presentation of their own original work, such as text editing, argument validation, or improving statistical programming code. Students must disclose if and how AI/LLMs have been used in an appendix, which will not count toward the page limit of the exam. This policy is in place to ensure that students’ written exams accurately reflect their own knowledge and understanding of the material.



Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Synopsis with oral defence

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
  • Department of Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinators
  • Claire Maxwell   (2-69734679756934717b346a71)
  • Jesper Fels Birkelund   (6-71677b39383b4566717a72736e33707a336970)
Saved on the 05-03-2024

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