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Social Science: Helping Us Understand Ourselves and the World

Social science is an important area of study that can lead to a versatile degree and a rewarding career. Social science has probably never been a more important area of study than it is today, and probably never has it been less acknowledged for the immense contribution it can make to understanding human behaviour and social processes.

As the world seems engulfed in catastrophes, from devastating tsunamis, killer cyclones and cataclysmic earthquakes to raging bush fires, lava-spewing volcanic eruptions, indiscriminate terrorism and endless warfare, people and communities are reeling uncomprehendingly, trying to make sense of what’s happening to them.

And it’s not only globally that lives are disrupted and social cohesion is threatened. Tragedy is also a single act of abuse by one human on another – a parent on a child, a bully on the school playground or in the workplace on a fellow pupil or colleague, a man on a woman.

But life is not all tragedy… What is to be made of human happiness and pleasure? Are hugely expensive events such as football’s World Cup and rugby’s equivalent, or the Olympic and Commonwealth games, actually very good value for money in terms of the sheer joy they generate among participating nations and their competitors? What is the national ‘feel good factor’ of sporting success all about?

“A social science degree can provide some answers – or at least some perspectives.”

As taught at New Zealand’s Lincoln University, social science encompasses a range of areas including:

  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Political science
  • And geography

all of which combine to help answer or contribute to an understanding of life’s big and small questions.

During the course of a typical Bachelor of Social Science degree, students learn to think critically and analyse information while gaining a broad understanding of human behaviour and the way societies operate. What, for example, is to be made of the phenomenon of ‘tribalism’ that emerges after disasters such as 9/11? What happens to individuals when they are isolated in extreme environments, such as on polar expeditions or on prolonged space flights?

“The social science staff at New Zealand universities offer research expertise in many fields, including the matter of human behaviour in extreme environments.”

The research of Senior Lecturer Dr Gary Steel at Lincoln University, for example, has made an international contribution to this field and, yes, it has even included work with astronauts and Antarctic expeditions. It was an ambition to gain a greater understanding of human behaviour that led Kylee Bush of Christchurch, New Zealand, to a social science degree programme:

“The Bachelor of Social Science degree enabled me to bring together a formal study in human behaviour with my passion for community development,” says the 2010 Lincoln University graduate. “I did a double major in ‘Society and the Individual’ and ‘Society and Leisure’, and enjoyed the versatility of my studies and the opportunity to learn in a variety of areas.”

Kylee’s social science qualification has proved very versatile indeed and respected internationally. It won her a job in Australia with the Queensland Government, where she is a Child Safety Officer. Her work involves investigating allegations of child abuse and the case management of children and families.

“My position requires me to have strong academic writing skills and the ability to think analytically and critically. My work is at the level of personal distress, not a global catastrophe; but of course, there are social scientists who work at that level too.”

“I see my job as an example of the importance of social science in helping people in their daily lives.”

“For me, this is what social science is all about – helping people to understand and manage the processes that impact on them in their daily lives. In many circumstances, people and society can be very self-destructive. As a social science graduate, I like to think that I can bring my specialist knowledge, skills and understanding to human situations in order to help individuals, and the families and communities of which they are part, avoid harm and damage.”

“I am very proud of the contribution that social science and its associated professions can make to the betterment of society. It helps us better understand ourselves and the world in which we live.”

Article provided by Lincoln University (New Zealand).

Top 5 Government Funded Scholarships for International Students

For many international students, government funding in the form of grants, bursaries and scholarships is the only way they can pursue their dream of studying abroad. So before you apply to your dream university overseas, find out what types of funding are available to you. Here are our top 5 government-funded scholarships for international students 2021/22.

Chevening Scholarships (UK)

Starting in 1983, Chevening has provided scholarships and fellowships to more than 50,000 people from around the world. Their aim is to provide outstanding scholars with the opportunity to study a one-year masters degree qualification at any UK university. 

What’s included?

  • Payment of tuition fees
  • Economy travel (flights) to and from your country of residence 
  • An arrival allowance
  • The cost of an entry clearance (visa) application 
  • A departure allowance
  • A contribution of up to £75 for TB testing, where is required
  • A travel top-up allowance
  • A monthly personal living allowance (stipend) to cover accommodation and living expenses. The monthly stipend will depend on whether you are studying inside or outside London. These rates are subject to annual review.

Applications open in August and close in November each year. If successful, you will be asked to attend an interview in June and be given an offer in July. Studies will start soon after in September/ October. Find out more.

Australia Awards Scholarships

Australia is one of the best destinations for international students. It has a high standard of higher education, multicultural and welcoming student communities and some of the “most liveable” cities in the world (The Global Liveability Index 2021). 

Each year, Australia Awards Scholarships provides students from participating countries with full-time undergraduate and postgraduate study opportunities. To be eligible, you must live in Asia, the Pacific, Africa or the Middle East. A full list of participating countries can be found here.

What’s included?

  • Full tuition fees
  • Return air travel to and from Australia
  • Contribution towards accommodation expenses, textbooks and study materials
  • Contribution to Living Expenses (CLE) 
  • Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)
  • Pre-course English (PCE) fees

Application opening and closing dates depend on your country of residence. Find a full list here. Find out more.

Fulbright Foreign Students Program (USA)

The Fulbright Foreign Student Program provides international students with the opportunity to study at a master’s or PhD level in America. Approximately 4,000 students receive these scholarships each year. Like other government-funded scholarships, Fulbright scholars are required to return to their home country after studying. Find out more.

Applications are processed by bi-nation Fulbright Commissions or U.S Embassies so foreign students must apply through the Embassies in their home countries. A full list of these countries and bodies can be found here

What’s included?

  • Tuition fees 
  • Living expenses 
  • Return economy flights 
  • Health insurance 

Erasmus Mundus Scholarships (EU)

The Erasmus Programme is an international student exchange programme, established in 1987. It’s a well known and supported scheme funded by the European Union. There are a wide range of opportunities available with Erasmus, including:

Each program has a different set of key selection criteria which are available in the Erasmus+ Programme Guide. Make sure you read through the guide carefully and allow enough time to prepare your application. 

What’s included?

  • Full tuition fees 
  • Monthly stipend for living expenses 
  • Participant costs 
  • Travel 
  • Health insurance  

Open and close dates for applications depend on each program. Find out more.

New Zealand Aid Programme Scholarships

New Zealand offers a wide range of scholarships for international students looking to study at bachelors, masters or PhD level. These scholarships are fully-funded and for students living in commonwealth countries.

These scholarships give international students a chance to improve their knowledge and help their country of origin to grow its talents. Priority will be given to students looking to study subjects that are most relevant to the developmental needs of their home country. 

What’s included?

  • Full tuition fees and a living allowance (NZ$491 per week)
  • An establishment allowance (NZ$3000)
  • Medical insurance when you are in New Zealand
  • Travel to and from your own country
  • Travel insurance

Applications close in Feb/March each year. Find out more.