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Contemporary Wales

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Are you interested in the culture, society, economy and politics of Wales? This 12-week online course explores what is distinctive about Wales and Welsh identity. It will extend your understanding of core aspects of contemporary Wales by applying social sciences concepts. You will explore divisions within Wales and the ways in which connections are made across these differences. By the end of the course you will have a thorough understanding of a changing nation and you will be equipped with the skills that you will need for further study in the social sciences, such as interpreting data and connecting data with social science argument.

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No current presentation - see Future availability

This course is expected to start for the last time in September 2014.

What you will study

Wales is becoming increasingly distinctive from other parts of the UK, and this course has been produced as a response to the new post-devolution Wales that is emerging. Old images and understandings no longer apply: coal has been replaced by call centres, and Max Boyce by the Manic Street Preachers. Gender roles have changed, with women recently constituting a majority of the cabinet of the Welsh Assembly Government. Plaid Cymru, for decades a party of opposition, has been in coalition government, challenging Labour’s long-standing domination of politics. Yet rugby, although professionalised, continues to bind people in Wales together perhaps more than any other activity. The course identifies such continuities but also the changes, to examine how the meaning of Wales, and what it means to be Welsh, have been transformed.

The course opens with a case study of rugby and then explores Wales through two themes. The first is the differences that are to be found in Wales. ‘Place’ and belonging have a particular resonance in Wales, with different sorts of communities in north and south, rural and urban areas, the Valleys and, perhaps most distinctly, Cardiff, the capital city. Work divides people in Wales, with long-term unemployment, sometimes over several generations, in some communities, and increasing affluence in other places. Gender continues to be the basis of different opportunities and experiences; and matters of ‘race’ and gender have very specific dimensions in Wales. Notions of social class have changed, but there are powerful material inequalities and differences of lifestyle between the middle and working classes. The course examines the distinctly Welsh dimensions to these differences.

The second theme is the connections that have been forged between people in Wales. The course examines popular culture, the workings of the National Assembly, the Labour tradition, and the nationalist narrative. You will learn about the origins, issues and practices of these institutions and movements. This includes who is excluded from decision-making; the significance of the Welsh language; the kind of Wales that is represented in the arts and at the National Museum of Wales; the significance of popular culture (including Doctor Who and Gavin and Stacey); the distinct electoral system; the origins and significance of the ‘clear red water’ that defines Labour in Wales; and the often conflicting strands within nationalism. You will examine how these representations and institutions contribute to the construction of contemporary Wales.

Vocational relevance

The course will be extremely useful if you plan to work in Wales in any professional role because it will equip you to make sense of contemporary Welsh society and to understand the implications of policies, politics and cultural life in Wales. It will also provide you with core social sciences knowledge and skills that are relevant across a breadth of occupations.


Please note: this course is only available for standalone study. You cannot count the credits you gain from the course towards any current OU qualification. It may be possible, however, to count the credits gained towards a qualification if you are already studying with us and have declared your qualification intention before September 2012 – see your qualification description in StudentHome for details.

D172 is a 15-credit Level 1 short course. It is designed for students with an interest in the culture, politics, society and economy of Wales.

You might be entering Higher Education for the first time, in which case it will offer you an introduction to some core concepts and approaches in the social sciences in a way that connects with everyday life in Wales. It assumes that you have little experience of academic study. Reading, note-taking, interpreting social data and essay writing are skills that are covered on the course.

The course is also designed for students who have taken other courses, or even have a degree and who have a particular interest in understanding Wales today, perhaps because it interests you or to prepare you for employment in Wales.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

You might like to follow key events in Wales by scanning Welsh news in The Western Mail, or by reading Planet, the bi-monthly journal on Welsh politics and culture.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific or foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

This course includes a website and the use of tools such as downloadable audio-visual files.  If you use specialist software or hardware to assist you in using a personal computer or the internet and have any concerns about accessing this type of material you are advised to talk to the Student Registration & Enquiry Service about support which can be given to meet your needs.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

There is a study guide to steer you through the various study materials. These include a set text, written for the course; downloadable audio and video, some of it previously broadcast, some commissioned for the course; a website with additional readings, materials and links to relevant websites; and an assignment booklet.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2007 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.6 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be allocated to a tutor, who will support you by providing correspondence tuition, one-to-one advice and online tutorials.

There will be an online forum where you can discuss the course with your tutor and with other students. Through online tutorials you will be prepared for each of your two course assignments, one on differences and one on connections.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this course can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in April 2014 and September 2014 when it will be available for the last time.

How to register

We regret that we are currently unable to accept registrations for this course. Where the course is to be presented again in the future, relevant registration information will be displayed on this page as soon as it becomes available.

Student Reviews

“What a fabulous course. Not being a native of Wales, I thought this course might have been a bit much ...”
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“The quality of the this course is outstanding - the main text is very well put together, and flows superbly. ...”
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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code D172
Credits 15
OU Level 1
SCQF level 7
FHEQ level 4
Course work includes:
2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

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