SA4G8      Half Unit
The Third Sector

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof David Lewis OLD 2.40


This course is available on the MSc in Criminal Justice Policy, MSc in Social Policy (European and Comparative Social Policy), MSc in Social Policy (Research), MSc in Social Policy (Social Policy and Planning) and MSc in Social Policy and Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course is capped at a maximum of 30 places.


Academic and/or practical knowledge of the the 'nonprofit', 'NGO', or 'voluntary sector' (in any country) desirable but not essential.

Course content

The 'third sector' is conceived as including all non-state and non-market organisations - such as non-governmental organisations, voluntary organisations, and community groups - and their activities. The course provides a concise introduction to theory and evidence on the nature, past and present roles and potential capacity of third sector organisations in social policy in developed  and developing countries. It aims to answer the key questions: what is the 'third sector'?; what roles does it or should it play in meeting welfare needs?; how are third sector organisations involved in shaping social policy; how are changes in funding and in the provision of services affecting organisations? What are the limits to the roles of third sector organisations? Are the answers affected by country, institutions, policy, period, areas of activity? The course covers theoretical arguments and models of the ideal and actual roles of third sector organisations, and the historical development of the sector in different contexts. It assesses boundaries and relationships between the third sector, the state and the market, and its relationship with different social groups, service users and communities. It describes and explains the size and the role the sector takes in different periods, countries and areas of activity, and evaluates its impact. It considers the independence, interdependence, accountability and probity of third sector organisations. The course draws on examples from a range of areas of activity (such as education, employment, international development, social care), and areas of activity with particular groups (such as migrants and refugees, women, children and older people), as well as a range of countries.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 1 hour and 30 minutes of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to participate actively in seminars and to complete one piece of written formative coursework

Indicative reading

Anheier, H (2005) Nonprofit Organisations: Theory, Management, Policy; Billis, D (2010, ed.) Hybrid Organizations and the Third Sector: Challenges for Practice; Edwards, M (2009) Civil Society; Evers, A and Laville, J-L (eds) (2009) The Third Sector in Europe; Harris, M and Rochester, C (2001, eds.) Voluntary Organisations and Social Policy: Perspectives on Change and Choice; Ishkanian, A and Szreter, S (2012) The Big Society Debate: A New Agenda for Social Welfare?; Lewis, D. (2014) Non-Governmental Organizations, Management and Development; Lewis, D and Kanji, N (2009) Non-Governmental Organizations and Development; Kendall, J (2003) The Voluntary Sector: Comparative Perspectives in the UK; Powell, W and Steinberg, R (2006) The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook; Salamon, L and Anheier, H (1997) Defining the Nonprofit Sector: A Cross-National Analysis; Taylor, M (2011) Public Policy in the Community.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 5.7
Merit 77.4
Pass 17
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2015/16: 34

Average class size 2015/16: 17

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 87%



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