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BA (Honours) Childhood and Youth Studies

What makes young people tick? What shapes and influences children's development? How can the adults who work with children support them more effectively? Childhood and youth studies is one of the UK's fastest growing academic disciplines. The OU was a pioneer in this field and over the last 15 years has developed an engaging, wide-ranging, interdisciplinary programme for anyone working with children and young people or with a general interest in the field. You'll learn about child development and psychology, international childhoods, research with children, and children's literature - spanning the entire age range from early years to youth. There are three study pathways and a wide choice of module options, enabling you to follow your interests and draw on your own expertise. Whichever route you select, the BA (Honours) Childhood and Youth Studies will develop your knowledge and analytical skills in relation to policies, practices and issues affecting the lives of children and young people across a range of settings.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Key facts

Code: Q23 Made up of: 360 credits

There are no formal entry requirements to study this degree.

You do not need to work with children in order to study this degree; however, depending on your choice of modules, you may need some level of experience in working with children and young people. If you wish to focus your study on early and primary years, you'll need to meet the 'fit person' criteria for doing so - including obtaining the necessary criminal record clearance required for the setting and country in which you're working. It's your responsibility and that of your employer to ensure you meet these requirements - not the OU's. You should contact the relevant agency in your country for more information if you are in doubt about your eligibility, or to find out more.

Fees: Our fees depend on where you are ordinarily resident. We have a range of funding options to help you with payment. When you apply to study we will tell you the fee and funding options that are available to you. Before you apply you can read What you can expect to pay.

Career relevance and employability

A degree in childhood and youth studies gives you skills and knowledge relevant to many careers in childcare, health, education, working with families, playwork, or working with young people. It will develop your understanding of practices and policies that affect children, and introduce you to many new aspects of the subject - helping you make informed choices about future career paths. This degree is not a professional qualification, so many of our graduates choose to undertake postgraduate training before progressing to employment in specialist fields.

This degree course emphasises independent thinking, develops analytical and communication skills and will help you become a clear and confident writer - all attributes that are highly valued by employers. It also develops your awareness of the diversity of modern childhoods. The many module options allow you to expand your expertise and interests, and managing the range of subjects will demonstrate your versatility. This degree will develop your research skills if you want to go on to further study.

There's more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU's Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.

Educational aims

The degree aims to develop theoretical and practical knowledge about children and young people. It is designed for students working with or for children and young people, in a wide range of settings, and for students with a general interest in the study of childhood and youth.

The degree aims to:

  • develop relevant skills of critical analysis
  • provide the necessary concepts, theories, knowledge and skills base to understand the lives of children and young people
  • encourage critical reflection on and analysis of practices affecting children and young people
  • give you the opportunity to examine your own value base in relation to wider views on childhood and youth
  • develop appropriate analytical, research and conceptual skills needed to link theory, practice and experience
  • develop your knowledge and understanding of children's rights
  • deepen your appreciation of the diversity of children's experiences.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

When you complete your studies you will have knowledge and understanding of:

  • different theoretical perspectives that contribute to the study of childhood and youth, including biological, anthropological, psychological, sociological, legal, cultural and historical accounts, and how these inform effective communication with children and young people
  • the way ethnicity, religion, caste/class, gender, sexuality and disability shape childhood and youth; the impact of differentiation, inequality and exclusion;strategies designed to tackle these issues including safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people
  • policies and provisions relating to regulation/promotion of children and young people's status, welfare, health and learning, including how these impact on home, school, work and other contexts, and an appreciation of the importance of multi-agency working
  • the principles underlying a rights approach to childhood and youth issues and how these may be applied to a variety of situations within international and national contexts including how these can support transitions
  • a range of approaches and methods used in research with children and young people.

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this degree you will be able to:

  • analyse critically and systematically concepts, theories, policies and practices concerning children and young people
  • understand and comment critically on the contributions of different approaches to the study of childhood and youth
  • critically understand the significance and limitations of theory and research
  • formulate questions that can be answered through research, identify appropriate methods, analyse evidence and assess its significance
  • identify and critically reflect on connections and discontinuities between knowledge and its application in practical contexts, and how this might impact on effective communication and welfare promotion with and for children and young people.

Practical and/or professional skills

A degree in Childhood and Youth Studies will give you knowledge and analytical skills relevant to many careers in childcare, health and education; working with families; playwork, or working with young people. However, it is likely that most graduates will be required to undertake postgraduate training in specialist areas before progressing to employment in specialist fields. You should always check the relevance of your degree if you are considering teaching.

When you have completed this degree you will be able to:

  • learn from personal experience and apply theory to practice issues and dilemmas and learn from feedback to improve performance
  • analyse features of contemporary childhood (and the cultural representation of childhood in different economic and socio-cultural contexts) in an historical and/or international framework including multi-agency working
  • identify and reflect on your own values and position and those of others and assess their relationships to policy and practice
  • carry out project-based work on aspects of childhood studies, critically evaluating approaches to enquiry, drawing on appropriate methodologies and disciplinary perspectives and paying due regard to the importance of information sharing
  • accommodate new principles, understandings and evidence and formulate and justify proposals for action in the light of these.

Key skills

When you have completed this degree you will be able to demonstrate the following skills:

  • organise and articulate opinions and argument, taking account of appropriate conventions of academic writing
  • communicate accurately and clearly in styles adapted to the purpose and context including interpretation of numerical and graphical data when appropriate
  • read purposefully and critically, identifying and recording what is relevant from a range of resource material, and responding sensitively and critically to diverse viewpoints
  • analyse tasks, plan and manage time
  • learn from a variety of different media and different teaching methods.

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