SN4100 Sustainable Welfare Policies in the Making: Global Challenges to the Nordic Welfare Model Emneplan

Engelsk emnenavn
Sustainable Welfare Policies in the Making: Global Challenges to the Nordic Welfare Model
Master's Programme in Applied Social Sciences – Study Option Nordic Social Policy and Global Sustainable Development
10 stp.


The Nordic welfare states have traditionally been known for being egalitarian. Hallmarks of the model have been universal welfare rights, well-regulated labour markets, high labour market participation rates, generous and inclusive welfare benefits, and active family policies that have promoted the labour market inclusion of women. Even though the picture is slightly more complicated - the Nordic models also comprise characteristics such as contributory benefits, conditionality and  even working poor- in a global perspective the Nordic model is relatively generous and rights based.

In recent years, the Nordic countries have been put under stress by a number of global challenges: climate change, the financial  crisis, digitalisation, migration, energy distribution, and demographic change. Such challenges have sparked political debate about how to adapt the Nordic welfare state systems  in order to meet these crises, and still preserve the key characteristics of the model. This provides us with a lense to study political change and how it comes about, and the role of factors such as path dependency, austerity, agenda setting, ideology and interests, in policy making this again provides us with the tools to discuss if and how the Nordic model can sustain itself, and how the solutions and adaptations chosen sets it apart from welfare models in other countries and regions. How is sustainability addressed in these processes - and what are the normative foundations for the discussion?

The course aims to provide an understanding of Nordic policy responses to new global challenges. The course will critically assess political process theory, institutional perspectives, different governance models in dealing with the challenges, and post-growth.




A candidate who has completed his or her qualification should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


The candidate

  • has advanced knowledge about how sustainability is understood and negotiated in policy processes
  • has advanced knowledge about the processes of social policy making
  • has specialised insight on the history and development of social policies and their influence on contemporary understandings of this in Nordic welfare states. 
  • has thorough knowledge of the ways in which the Nordic welfare states have responded to global challenges. 


The student  

  • can identify different social policy issues and challenges related to sustainability, and critically analyse how local, national, and supranational organisations shape these perspectives. 
  • critically analyse existing theories and interpretations in the field of social policy, and reflect on how specific conceptualisations shape social policy agendas and understandings.  
  • can critically analyse how context- and power-based perspectives shape social policy ideologies and policy development and the ways in which policy responses may reinforce these perspectives.
  • can critically evaluate measures to promote sustainability, i.e. which measures can best promote the ability of citizens, social groups to maintain and further develop their living conditions given the societal challenges they face
  • can apply theoretical perspectives on the making of Nordic social policies, and their relevance for social policies globally. 
  • can critically analyse the political processes that shape Nordic social policy

General competence

The candidate

  • can analyse relevant academic knowledge concerning different policy process perspectives on key issues taken up within social policy. 
  • can apply their knowledge and skills to carry out advanced assignments on how dominant norms within social policy function to set the premises for models applied and the meaning this has at the social and individual levels. 
  • can take this knowledge to contribute it to new thinking and innovation processes within the field of social policy  

Arbeids- og undervisningsformer

The course is based on lectures, class exercises, homework assignments and assigned literature. Students are expected to read the course literature and actively participate in the course meetings, emphasising dialogue.

Arbeidskrav og obligatoriske aktiviteter

The following coursework requirements must have been approved in order for the student to take the exam: 

Coursework 1: The student must submit a coursework paper of at least 1700 words (in addition to front page, list of content and list of references), written individually or in groups of max 4 students. A student must have approval from the course lecturer in order to write individually. The paper must be approved by the course lecturer. 

A student who is absent from the presentation will have to submit a compensatory coursework requirement within a given deadline. 

Coursework 2: The coursework papers are to be presented at a seminar, or poster session, or zoom gathering. Participation in the seminar, or poster session, or zoom gathering is mandatory.  

Students whose papers are not approved after the first submission will be given the chance to resubmit once. Papers that are not approved after two submissions will disqualify students from sitting the final examination. 


Vurdering og eksamen

The exam in the course is a supervised individual exam of six hours. 

Hjelpemidler ved eksamen

Students may use a spelling dictionary, as well as a bilingual dictionary during the exam.


Grade scale A-F. 


The exam papers are assessed by one internal and one external examiner.

A random selection consisting of at least 25% of the exam papers will be graded by both an internal and external examiner. This will inform the grading of the remaining exam papers.