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Policy & Politics: Struggling to combat social inequalities


UPDATE 26-10-2022: The date of the final session has been changed from January 17, 20223 to December 20, 2022.
Disclaimer: due to the coronavirus pandemic, this course description might be subject to changes. For the latest updates regarding corona virus, please check this link.

Topics: Redistribution, Discrimination, Equal opportunities, Education inequality, Health inequality, Climate inequality
Disciplines: Political Science, Sociology, Governance & Public Administration
Skills: Group assignments, Interviewing, Writing skills, Debating, Presenting

Admission requirements:

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an elective course within the Honours College programme. Third year students who don’t participate in the Honours College, have the opportunity to apply for a Bachelor Honours Class. Students will be selected based on i.a. their motivation and average grade.


Inequality is an inherent political contested issue. Although inequalities exist everywhere and throughout history, the way inequalities are accepted and legitimized changes from place to place and from time to time. In this course we will investigate the way social inequalities are recognised as such and how they develop from ‘a fact of life’ towards a political issue.
Once formulated as a political issue, the question arises what kind of policies could be developed and implemented to combat undesirable inequalities successfully. This is a highly dynamic process; political and social actors, governing institutions and policy issues interact with each other. Together, they will determine the outcome.

In this course, we will focus on various social inequalities; from class, education, and health to gender, LGBTQI and race/ethnicity. We will study the polity process on a local, national and inter/supranational level. The teacher will use her own experiences as a former Dutch Minister, junior minister and MP to analyse pitfalls and possibilities. Guest-speakers will join the classes to share their experience. Students are expected to investigate experiences of other stakeholders and participants, other countries, historical periods. These comparisons may help to understand the dynamics of ideals of equality, the way people combat inequality and the interrelation of policy and politics.

Course objectives:

  • Understand the variability and contested character of the concept of equality;

  • Understand the interrelation between various forms of inequality (e.g. syndemics; intersectionality etc.);

  • Gain advanced knowledge about the interplay between political and societal actors; governing institutions and politics;

  • Apply knowledge about this interplay to societal issues of inequality;

  • Develop the ability to find a common ground among stakeholders with very different societal views;

  • Learn to reflect upon their own position and to understand positions of others (through class discussion, simulation);

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the constraints in developing policies to combat social inequality.

Programme and timetable:

The sessions of the class will take place on Tuesday evenings from 17.30 - 20.00.

Session 1: October 11
Session 2: October 18
Session 3: October 25
Session 4: November 8
Session 5: November 15
Session 6: November 29
Session 7: December 6
Session 8: December 13
Session 9: December 20 (18.00 - 20.20)
Deadline final assignment: January 17, 2023

Room 3.54, Wijnhaven, The Hague

Course load and teaching method:

This course is worth 5 ECTS, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

Methods; a variation of in-class teaching, class-discussion, interviewing, simulation and assignments.

  • Seminars: 9 seminars of 2,5 hours

  • Literature reading: 5,5 hours/week

  • Preparation of presentations, simulation; 8 hour.

  • final paper 3000-4000 words: 60 hour.

Assessment methods:

  • In class-participation: 20%

  • assignments in preparation of class-meetings and presentations: 30%

  • written paper: 50%

All grades should be sufficient in order to pass the course.

Brightspace and uSis:

Brightspace will be used in this course. Upon admission students will be enrolled in Brightspace by the teaching administration.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Bachelor Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Application process:

Submitting an application for this course is possible from Monday 15 August 2022 up to and including Thursday 1 September 2022 23:59 through the link on the Honours Academy student website.

Note: students don’t have to register for the Bachelor Honours Classes in uSis. The registration is done centrally before the start of the class.


Lecturer: Prof.dr. Jet Bussemaker: