The Social Change Degree: A new undergrad course for changemakers and disruptors

From September 2019, Leeds Beckett University and Doing Social will jointly deliver a new bachelor’s degree in social change, that has been uniquely designed with civil society practitioners, communities, educators and students, offering real-world experiences in community and innovation spaces.

BA (Hons) Innovation and Skills for Social Change (ISSC), has been designed for learners who wish to gain deep insights and capabilities to tackle the root causes of social issues sustainably, in all sectors, and to make a difference to people’s lives locally, or globally, through future careers and projects. Students and communities will work together on projects, and students will be able to make a difference while they learn.  You can view the course description on the university’s website here.

This is an interdisciplinary course which draws on historical and contemporary perspectives from political, sociological, economic, management and philosophical theories and models as well as community insights. This approach is necessary so students can develop a deeper awareness, understanding and appreciation of the nature, language, discourse, and challenges relating to social need, innovation and social change.

During the course, students will gain a wide range of knowledge and global skills which will prepare them for future roles within the social sector and communities, private sector, public sector, academia/research, and in government. There are many career possibilities available to students on this course – see below.

Where: The course will be delivered at Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK.

Places available:  There are only 25-30 places available annually.

Students: This course is suitable for individuals of all ages and backgrounds who are passionate about social justice, sustainability and humanity, and making the world a better place.

Teaching and assessment: Teaching takes place over 2 or 3 days a week. Modules will be delivered through a variety of masterclasses, seminar groups, tutorials, debates, experiments, virtual learning environments and external experiences. There are no exams on this course. Assessments have been innovatively designed to reflect real work activities and to develop important abilities and attributes needed to contribute significantly to social change through future careers.

The aims of the course: The main aim of this course is to develop skills and abilities which can help to strengthen and address social needs, gaps, and failures in society. Through this course, students will achieve a skill-set that will enable them to undertake or create roles that can disrupt, strengthen and collaborate with different sectors to tackle or respond innovatively and effectively to the “wicked problems” of our time. Students will be able to contribute to transforming society using collaborative, inclusive processes that are driven by achieving primarily social, rather than economic goals.

Skills that will be developed: Students will have the chance to develop many global skills through practice, in this course; skills such as: innovation, creativity/imagination, collaboration, design, co-creation, sustainable and frugal practices, project and event management, capacity/capability building, systems and strategic thinking, training and facilitation, research, analysis, marketing, digital, social inclusion, public speaking, debating, measuring outcomes/impact, enterprise, leadership and mindfulness. These are skills which will be useful in many different careers, globally.

What makes this course different?

  1. It has been co-designed with communities, students, practitioners and organisational representatives, to ensure it reflects realworld practice and contexts, and is relevant to evolving societal needs and demands.
  2. For these reasons, it will also be largely delivered with practitioners and people with lived experience of social issues.
  3. This is a “social change programme”; the course seeks to contribute purposefully to society and to benefit communities and organisations. Its social purpose is to “collaborate with communities to progress social change endeavours, and to help to strengthen capabilities and skills in both communities and organisations for improved life chances and wellbeing”.
  4. Students will undertake “live projects” every year of the course (over 530 hours staggered over three years) during which they will collaborate with communities and organisations on social action projects that benefit all parties. Through this, students will gain a wide-range of experiences in innovation, co-creation, design, project management, capacity building, impact measurement and enterprise and build up their portfolio of experience over the three years. 
  5. Students collaboratively decide the topic of their final masterclass in each taught module.
  6. This course embeds values which promote inclusion, collaboration, equity, wellbeing, compassion, and social justice.



“I wish I’d known about a crowdsourced course in social innovation when I was 18. This is something that’s truly bottom-up, and it has the potential to add tremendous value to the world of social innovation and education. Moreover, the multi-focused approach is really admirable; I think that the combination of political, social, economic, and philosophical perspectives will really catalyse how people today think about and execute social change.”

Ishani Jasmin, Freelance Wellbeing Consultant in Education 

“More than ever before we must be open to finding new ways to think through solutions that work for people, and we need to do this with people, not to people. For learners who are, or who want to be practitioners and leaders, this unique course is a very exciting development and one that can lead to more confident co-producers and collaborators. We need diverse solutions, and this means diverse voices need to be given a louder voice. We need people who listen and are courageous in finding solutions together, acting and behaving differently in order to drive change. The course is important for these reasons, and we’d certainly welcome being part of sharing and learning with you!”

Tracy Fishwick, Managing Director, Transform Lives Company | Co-founder, The People’s Powerhouse

“Community Organisers Ltd is excited by the potential that this new degree course brings to the sector as well as to our network of community organisers. This course is a fabulous opportunity for those engaged and leading change at the local level to increase their knowledge and understanding of innovation as well as creating a new generation of community activists and social innovators.”

Nick Gardham, Chief Executive Officer, Community Organisers Ltd

“No longer is it enough to just have a degree. Now, more than ever, we need to consider the impact that our actions have on people and the environment. The opportunities this course offers, to work alongside communities, social entrepreneurs, changemakers and community-based businesses, means that students can gain the practical skills and knowledge that underpins successful change models and inclusive social business. Practical experiences of co-creation and innovation, will allow students to actively contribute to positive change within communities. This degree goes beyond the theory of social change, innovation and entrepreneurship; it is one of only a handful of undergraduate courses where students develop important skills in parallel. I am delighted to be supporting this programme from 2019.”

Naomi Mwasambili, Chief Executive Officer, Chanua Health

“Too often, people get exciting innovative ideas without stopping to consider who benefits and who might be underserved, excluded or forgotten. Thankfully, this course has been designed with those questions at its heart.”

Dan Gregory, Common Capital

“I am delighted about the creation of the Social Change Degree.  The need for transformative change is pressing. We know now that the best hope for sustainable and meaningful change comes from initiatives and processes that are deeply shaped by, often driven by, the people affected. I am genuinely excited at the prospect of change-makers being offered a structured, collaborative programme to build capacity, skills and confidence as well as a network of fellow-travellers.”

Radhika Bynon, Director of Programmes, The Young Foundation


Course content

Year One:

  • Social Need and Social Change
  • Social Innovation Theory and Practice
  • Grassroots Action and Innovation
  • Personal, Professional and Academic Development (PPAD)
  • Mapping Journeys to Social Change (live project)

Year Two:

  • Co-design for Social Change
  • Community Capacity Building
  • Organisational Capacity Building
  • Research for Social Change
  • Frugal Innovation and Learning Events (live project)

Year Three:

  • Business Models for Social Change
  • Social Change Dynamics and Systems
  • Major Independent Project (live project)


Careers in changemaking

ISSC is designed to develop capabilities and skills to disrupt and innovate for social good in all sectors. Students aren’t pigeon-holed into specific careers or further studies, they are instead exposed to different environments, experiences and routes during the course to learn how different sectors can contribute to social change. This broadens the scope for future career possibilities and other pathways they can take following graduation.  

The live projects also provide students with opportunities to build professional networks and their portfolio of experiences in real-world settings, as well as to road-test different changemaking roles, over the three years. 

The course design allows for students’ interests to evolve organically over the three years and students are encouraged and supported to explore pathways and identify the direction that best suits their preferences, values and the societal change(s) they wish to contribute to in the future.

Some examples of graduate careers might include: working for or perhaps starting your own social venture, charity or movement, working in education, healthcare, digital, AI and tech environments, in poverty alleviation, social services, housing, on environmental projects and sustainable development, designing or managing innovations, consultancy, overseeing a corporate social responsibility strategy, policy-making, research, project management, community leadership, organisational development, international development, activism, becoming a member of parliament (MP), activism, campaigning, community development and community organising. This list is not exhaustive! The possibilities are endless. 

How to apply

Through the UCAS website here. If prospective students have any questions about the course or their application, they can write to the team directly at If it is helpful, we’d also be happy to arrange a call.

Entry requirements

Formal requirements: Ideally, we require 104 points, 64 points from two ‘A’ Levels, or equivalent. We also ask for a GCSE English Language and Maths at Grade C or above (Grade 4 for those sitting their GCSE from 2017 onwards) or equivalent. Key Skills Level 2, Functional Skills Level 2 and the Certificate in Adult Literacy/Numeracy are accepted in place of GCSEs.

If you do not meet the formal requirements: We will still consider your application if you are able to demonstrate an interest in this subject, related work / volunteer experiences and a commitment to completing the degree. We may also recommend an initial access course if we think this might be beneficial.

We are currently accepting up to 30 students per cohort, on a first-come basis. 

Contributors to the course

This course was co-designed with 120 people from around the country from February to July 2017. We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this process, through discussions, focus groups, online surveys and the advisory group. Below, we have listed the names of contributors who have agreed for their details to be displayed. 

  • Aakifa Bahadur, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Aamenah Hussain, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Abdou Sidibe, The Children’s Society
  • Adam Udeogba, London South Bank University
  • Adele Rae, Burley Top Community Association (invited to ISSC advisory group)
  • Adrian Ashton, Adrian Ashton Consultancy
  • Akanksha Subramanian, Student at University of Bristol
  • Alaine Burns Laycock, Orangegnaro
  • Alastair Falk, Independent consultant
  • Ammaarah Laher, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Amy Croome, Bridges Fund Management
  • Andreana Drencheva, University of Sheffield
  • Andrew Bacon, Enactus UK (invited to ISSC advisory group)
  • Andrew Houghton 
  • Angela Rouse
  • Anna Merryfield, Social Spider CIC
  • Anna Teresa Rickman, Lightful
  • Aqsa Naser, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Bob Thust, Practical Governance
  • Carl Hawkes, South Yorkshire Housing Association
  • Charlotte Newman, Rainmaker Foundation
  • Chris Hollins, Voluntary Action Leeds (invited to ISSC advisory group)
  • Chris Llewellyn, CriSeren Foundation
  • Claude Hendrickson, Leeds West Indian Centre Charitable Trust
  • Dan Gregory, Common Capital / SEUK
  • David Cooper, Batley Girls’ High School
  • David Floyd, Doing Social/Social Spider (invited to ISSC advisory group)
  • David Lumb, Leeds Sustainable Development Group CIC
  • Dharmesh Mistry, Project Chakra
  • Dipak Patel
  • Doug Martin, BARCA Leeds
  • Ed Carlisle, Together for Peace
  • Emily Gilmour
  • Eylan Ezekiel, Digital Maven
  • Fatima Karolia, Community member
  • Fatima Patel, Community member
  • Fatima Vachiat, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Ferhana Lunat, Community member
  • Fiona Weir, Various including NAPP and Kirklees Council
  • Gary Blake, Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL)
  • Graeme Tiffany, Independent Education Consultant
  • Haqqeem Abdul Razak, Student at University of East Anglia
  • Hawa Limbada, Community member
  • Helen Jones, Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange
  • Hollie Stanton, Enactus UK
  • Iffat Ahmed, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Indy Sira, Enactus UK
  • Iram Hussain, Community member
  • Jacqui Howard, The RSA
  • Jacqui Lovell, Red Handed
  • Jane Li, Home-Start Leeds
  • Jen Dyer, University of Leeds and IMAS
  • Jennifer Daly, Student at DeMontfort University
  • Jonathan Ward, PhD University of Birmingham/Blue Box Belper
  • Josiane Smith, MakeSense (and others)
  • Karl Witty, Leeds Beckett University
  • Kate Welch, Social Enterprise Acumen CIC
  • Katie Hill, Leeds Beckett University
  • Khadija Qais, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Kurt Lindley, Be More – Learning and Development
  • Malcolm Hall 
  • Mariyam Seedat, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Mary Blacka, Independent
  • Matt Roche, Big Lottery Fund (invited to ISSC advisory group)
  • Mezufah Patel, Community member
  • Michelle Parry-Slater, Kairos Modern Learning
  • Mona Itani, Riyada for Social Innovation
  • Nagma Rehman, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Nick Gardham, The Company of Community Organisers (invited to ISSC advisory group)
  • Pam Hardisty, UnLtd Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs (invited to ISSC advisory group)
  • Paula Spencer, William Merritt Centre
  • Rabya Afzal, Richmond Fellowship
  • Robert Ashton 
  • Ruth Cooke, Perennial GRBS (York Gate Garden, Leeds)
  • Saffiyah Lorgat, Student, Batley Girls’ High School (invited to ISSC advisory group)
  • Safoora Ali, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Sally Blyth, Womens Health Matters
  • Salma Patel, Community member
  • Sana Kauser, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Sarah Allan, Involve
  • Shahnaz Sheikh, Community member
  • Sonja Woodcock, Voluntary Action Leeds
  • Sue Osbourne, School for Social Entrepreneurs, Yorkshire Humber & North East
  • Tayba Nawaz, Student, Batley Girls’ High School
  • Tayyeba Basser, Community member
  • Victoria Betton, mHabitat – Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Zagham Karim, Student at University of Leicester
  • Zahila Waheed, Student, Batley Girls’ High School (invited to ISSC advisory group)
  • Zara Holden, Student at Nottingham Trent University
  • Zenab Naseem, The Challenge