Sports Development BA (Hons) - University of Sunderland

Course overview

Sports Development is about the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of policies and programmes that engage more people in sport. If you’ve been inspired by events like the London Olympics, then this course offers degree-level knowledge and skills that will enable you to make a difference in UK sport.

To equip you for jobs in this exciting area, our course includes modules on ‘Sport and Exercise in the Community’, ‘Sport and Social Issues’, ‘Sports Management’, ‘Sports Development’ and ‘Sport, Health and the Media’.

The course has a strong practical element. Optional modules include ‘Coaching Practice’ and ‘Sport and Exercise Psychology’. We will prepare you for appropriate Skills Active qualifications, which include ‘Physical Activity for Children’ and ‘Personal Trainer’. 

Throughout the course there is a focus on enhancing your employability through skills such as teamwork, communication, time management and reflective practice. Excellence in these skills will help you move into the job of your choice, once you have completed the course.

Our teaching team is passionate about the subject. According to the National Student Survey 2015, 91% of our sports science students think that staff are good at explaining things.

When you graduate, potential areas of employment include national governing bodies, local authorities, the NHS and other health bodies, health and fitness clubs, and schools and colleges.

See what our staff and students think about Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Sunderland:

Course content

Year 1 (national level 4)

Sport and Social Issues (20 Credits)

Explore contemporary issues in sport with the intention of demonstrating the relationship between sport and the wider society. Examine how political, economic, social and cultural factors shape sporting practices, values and ideals.

Independent Study (20 Credits)

Prepare and carry out individual research within a sports topic of interest. Learn about the social and economic functions of sport, which can be important in the development of the person and the community.

Sport and Exercise in the Community (20 Credits)

Take an introductory look at the structure and function of organised sport and associated provision, particularly in the context of the United Kingdom. Embrace the full definition of sport as laid out by the Council of Europe.

Principles of Sport and Exercise Psychology (20 Credits)

Gain an understanding of psychology and motor behaviour within a sport and exercise setting. Demonstrate knowledge of psychological concepts and explain their relevance in health-related physical activity/exercise and performance enhancement. 

Principles of Sport and Exercise Leadership (20 Credits)

Cover issues that impact upon leading, coaching, instructing coaching and exercise related sessions. Investigate the roles of the coach and instructor, qualities and requirements of the effective coach and instructor, psychological, physiological and sociological factors that influence.

Personal and Professional Development (20 Credits)

Develop key study and employability skills essential for academic and professional success. Increase your awareness and understanding of the processes involved in learning and professional development.

Year 2 (national level 5)

Sports Development 1 (20 Credits)

Explore sports development in the UK. Examine the complexities of sport and exercise development, and get an introduction to a range of development models and initiatives.

Sport and Physical Education (20 Credits)

Explore the origins and development of physical education and school sport. Examine the influence of government policy on physical education and school sport.

Sport, Power and Social Relations (20 Credits)

Refresh your knowledge on the theoretical backdrop provided by Structural Functionalism and Marxism (or Conflict Theory). Explore and critically evaluate neo-Marxist Hegemony theory inspired by Gramsci, and the approach of the influential French social theorist, Bordieu. 

Sport, Exercise and Public Health (20 Credits)

Explore the relationship between sport, physical activity and health in the UK. Examine policy, strategy and initiatives in these three areas over time to illustrate the political, economic, social and cultural influences on all three.

Research Methods in Sport and Exercise (20 Credits)

Study the research process and learn how to construct an investigation from an initial idea to the point of completing and presenting the study. Learn quantitative and qualitative research design and analysis, and apply the most appropriate research.


Optional Modules (choose one):

Coaching Practice 1 (20 Credits)

Undertake practical coaching activities both as an individual and in a group setting. Link theory to practical coaching activities, with a focus on the planning and undertaking of effective sports coaching sessions.

Sport and Exercise Psychology 1 (20 Credits)

Use the theoretical models of motivation to look at the determinants and correlates of adoption and maintenance of regular physical activity and of successful performance in sport.

Personal Training (20 Credits)

Learn how to collect, interpret and analyse client information using validated methods appropriate for the health and fitness industry and in-line with current Sector Skills Council guidelines. Take advantage of the opportunity to apply theoretical concepts to real-life and case study situations. 

Final Year (national level 6)

Sports Development 2 (20 Credits)

Prepare yourself for the challenging activity of strategic analysis in relation to sports development. Acquire the skills necessary for strategic understanding, and planning within sports development in the UK.

Sports Management (20 Credits)

Look at the skills necessary for effective management within the sport and leisure industry, including marketing, people management and financial, economic, legal and ethical principles. Focus on an in-depth analysis of key concepts, theories, and applications involved in sports management, culminating in the preparation of a business plan for a sporting event or facility.

Sport, Health and the Media (20 Credits)

Analyse health issues in contemporary society. Explore a diverse range of sources such as newspapers, health promotion campaigns, television programmes and films.

Professional Skills (20 Credits)

Research various career opportunities within sport, leisure, and physical education and create information and guidance of the appropriate courses of action. Gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the skills and qualifications required to undertake these various roles and methods used to gain these necessary skills and experience.

Dissertation 1 or Dissertation 2 (20 Credits or 40 Credits)

Carry out a small-scale piece of research on a sport and/or exercise-related area. Analyse or review an existing data set or subject area using appropriate techniques and interpret the outcomes.

Optional Modules (choose one):

Coaching Practice 2 (20 Credits)

Develop your theoretical knowledge into vocational practice. Critically evaluate your professional skills in a coaching setting and reflect on professional practice.

Exercise Behaviour Change (20 Credits)

Consider psychological issues in physical activity promotion and intervention within a multi-level framework. Evaluate communication and behaviour change strategies selected to manage, support adoption and maintenance of exercise behaviour with an individual.

Physical Activity and Exercise for Special Populations (20 Credits)

Look at exercise and activity management skills in relation to specific populations and exercise referral individuals. Review the current research relating to physical activity and exercise management for certain population groups.


Teaching and assessment

Our teaching methods are designed to develop not only your knowledge but also skills that enhance employability. Methods include small group work, practical activities, workshops, lectures, tutorials, computer-based learning, presentations and independent learning.

The content of the course prepares you for appropriate Skills Active qualifications. These include: ‘Instructing Exercise and Fitness (Gym)’, ‘Personal Trainer’ and ‘Exercise Referral’.

The majority of assessments are coursework-based. As well as assessments that count towards your degree, there are also on-going assessments for feedback and consolidating your learning.

To find out more about modules, credits and how you will be assessed, please see how courses are taught. Information about our policies relating to student experience and quality assurance processes can be found on the Academic Services website.

Key Information Sets

All UK universities and colleges display Key Information Sets (KIS) on their undergraduate courses. The KIS gives you a quick overview of some standard information about a course and has a link to more detailed information on Unistats.

Facilities & location

We have invested in the latest software and equipment so that you have maximum scope to measure and improve fitness through exercise. Our facilities will propel your learning in exercise, health and fitness and include:

Exercise Physiology and Psychology

Our laboratories include the most up-to-date equipment for assessing human performance. You’ll get practical hands-on experience with the following:

  • Polar® Team2 heart rate monitoring system for assessing the heart rates of a full squad of team players in real time
  • Cortex® gas analysers to evaluate cardiovascular performance
  • Biochemical analysers from Randox®, Jenway® and Gonotec® to measure substances and enzymes within the body
  • Tendo®, Myotest® and Globus® equipment to profile your strength and power and develop specific training programmes
  • Fusion Sport® SMARTSPEED light gates for assessing speed, agility and reaction times
  • Assess and enhance cognitive performance using our Neurotracker® 3D multiple object tracking equipment 

Sports Medicine and Anatomy

Anatomy is taught by experienced staff in a specialist clinical lab using skeletons, anatomical models, 3D software, online material and human subjects. You will learn techniques for sports injury rehabilitation, including the use of sports massage and ultrasound equipment.

You will also examine balance and stability using our Biodex® stability and balance trainer and assess strength imbalances using our sophisticated Biodex® dynamometer and new BTE Primus® rehabilitation equipment. You can investigate how new techniques such as thermal imaging are being used in injury assessment with Flir® IR cameras.

Fitness and Conditioning Suite

In our lab, you'll find fitness and conditioning equipment that would be the envy of most modern gyms. From a wide range of cardiovascular equipment to machine and Olympic weights, you will receive hands-on teaching in a professional environment.

University Library Services

The University library has thousands of relevant books, e-books and journal articles, with many more titles available through the inter-library loan service. We subscribe to useful resources such as SPORTDiscus, which provides journal articles, book chapters and summaries about sport, fitness and related disciplines.

Sciences Complex

This course is based in the Sciences Complex at our City Campus, which has benefited from multi-million pound investments. The IT facilities are excellent and, across the University, there are hundreds of workstations as well as wireless internet access. If you have any computer problems, just ask the friendly helpdesk team.

Sports facilities

Students at Sunderland have easy access to some of the best facilities in the region. These include:

  • 50m Olympic size swimming pool
  • 95m artificial ski slope
  • Climbing wall with some of the best route setters in the UK 
  • Football training pitches at Sunderland AFC’s Academy of Light
  • Marine Activities Centre for sailing, canoeing, kayaking and powerboating
  • LTA indoor tennis centre with 13 indoor and outdoor courts
  • Floodlit athletics tracks


Our City Campus features a state-of-the-art facility called CitySpace. It features:

  • Sports hall (suitable for hosting large-scale events)
  • Fitness suite/gym
  • Injury prevention and support suite
  • Strength and conditioning room
  • Fitness classes
  • Climbing wall


Darwin Building

Sciences Complex, City Campus, Chester Road, Sunderland, SR1 3SD

Entry requirements


Our typical offer is 112 UCAS points from a minimum of two A Levels or equivalent (e.g. 1 x AVCE double award). Read more on the new UCAS Tariff point system for 2017.


Our typical offer will be in the region of 280 points from a minimum of two A Levels or equivalent (for example 1 x AVCE double award).

We accept a maximum of 20 points from Level 3 Key Skills qualifications.

We also require three passes at GCSE grade C or above, which must include Mathematics and English Language, or a minimum of Level 2 Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number.

If English is not your first language, please see our English language requirements.

Other acceptable qualifications

BTEC National: 280 points from a BTEC Certificate or Diploma.

Access Courses: We would require successful completion of an Access to Higher Education course that is accredited by the Quality Assurance Agency. We would also require a minimum of grade C in GCSE in Mathematics and English Language or the equivalent as part of your course.

Scottish Highers: Our typical offer is for 280 points.

Irish Leaving Certificate: Our typical offer is for 280 points.

International qualifications: Please call the Student Helpline for advice on other acceptable qualifications. The number from outside the UK is +44 191 515 3000.

Any other qualifications: If you have any other qualifications not listed here, you may still be eligible. Please contact the Student Helpline for advice: 0191 515 3000.

Returners to Learning: If you are a mature student, you may benefit from our dedicated Returners to Learning Progression Scheme. For further information email or call the Student Helpline: 0191 515 3000.

If you wish to be considered for direct entry to a different year of a course, please contact the Student Helpline: 0191 515 3000.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

If you feel you already know some of the topics covered in this course, either due to previous learning or from experience of work, then you may not need to study all of the course.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) is the name given to the process of gaining credit towards a qualification because of something you have learnt in the past. If you are eligible for APL you won't have to learn the same topic again, and so you can be exempt from a module, set of modules or year of a course. 

Read more about APL in the Quality Handbook (.pdf). If you think you may be eligible for APL, please contact the course leader.

Fees & finance

The annual fee is:

  • £8,750 if you are from the UK
  • £10,500 if you are from outside the UK

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or International student, please see the International section of this website.

Scholarships and bursaries may be available to you – please see the Fees and Finance section of this website for more information.

Employment & careers

Potential employers for graduates of this course include national sports associations, sports and leisure companies, recreation services, local authorities, the NHS and other health bodies, and schools and colleges.

Job roles include the following (some require further training):

  • Sports Development Officer
  • Sports Coach/Trainer
  • Health and fitness instructor
  • Sports therapist
  • Fitness centre manager
  • Teacher of PE
  • Lecturer
  • Uniform services
  • Any graduate-entry occupation (e.g. management trainee)

You could also progress to further study and a career in research and/or academia.

Skills Active Qualifications

The Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences now has accreditation from Skills Active, The Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure, to award vocational qualifications (related to the health and fitness industry) to students who successfully complete specific academic modules. The qualifications are listed below and can be accessed as part of the course:

Industry qualifications mapped to University modules: 

University level 

Main module mapped to Vocational qualification


SSP155 Principles of Sport and Exercise Leadership

Level 2 Gym



SSP255 Personal Training

Level 3 Personal Trainer


SSP355 Physical Activity and Exercise for Special Populations

Level 3 Exercise Referral Instructor


The University of Sunderland is committed to ensuring that every student has an impressive range of opportunities to enhance their CV and gain valuable experience:

  • Work placements
  • Graduate internships
  • Studying abroad
  • Student Ambassador Scheme
  • Mentoring
  • Starting your own business
  • Student jobs and volunteering
  • Careers advice

For full details, please see our Employability page.


Our Institute of Sport co-ordinates an extensive range of volunteer opportunities through theSportsCareerAcademy, offering training and qualifications in return for your time. Further opportunities are advertised by our Careers and Employability Service. Voluntary roles allow you to help other people while learning about your strengths and building up your CV.

University Language Scheme

It is usually possible to take a module from the free University Language Scheme. This can be studied on top of your 120 credits or in some cases, can earn credits towards your degree.

Language skills increase your international mobility and you can choose between French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese and Arabic at a range of levels. If your first language is not English, please check with your tutor about entry requirements.

Staff and students talk about the benefits of the University Language Scheme: 

The Enterprise Place

If you have a good idea for a new business and have the dedication and motivation to make it happen, then we want to hear from you. The Enterprise Place, based on-campus at St Peter's Gate Business Centre, is the perfect environment for entrepreneurial students and graduates to turn their business ideas into reality. You will have access to free hot desk space, IT facilities, specialist advice and support and business mentors and networking opportunities.

To find out more about how we can help you start a business, please contact the University's Enterprise Team:

Tel: 0191 515 3751


Support for your learning

You can expect stimulating contact time that includes lectures, workshops, seminars and case studies. There is also a significant amount of time where you will be researching and studying on your own in preparation for assignments and seminars. If you have individual queries or difficulties within subject areas, you can book an appointment with your tutor to gain more in-depth support and guidance. 

From the start of the course you will be allocated a Personal Tutor. You’ll meet your Personal Tutor at agreed times throughout each year of the course. Personal Tutors encourage your personal development and are a useful point of contact for any queries about your course, extracurricular activities and issues where they can point you towards specialist services at the University. These include student counselling, financial advice and chaplaincy support.

Support for your development

To help ensure the course is meeting aspirations for personal development, we invite students to fill in questionnaires at the end of modules. This provides a structured way for you to keep us up-to-date with your views.

During your course, and particularly towards the end of it, we encourage you to make full use of the resources at our Careers and Employability Service. The Service helps you explore your options, clarify your ideas, develop a career focus and make effective applications.

Extracurricular activities

The University supports student-led initiatives that enhance the extracurricular activities available to you. Some of these are related to particular subjects while others allow you to pursue interests and social activities. It’s all part of the vibrant and life-changing atmosphere at the University of Sunderland.

For more information about all the support services you will have access to as a Sunderland student, please see Student support and guidance.

"The ethos at the heart of Sports Science courses is to create a pathway to quality employment."

Morc Coulson

Morc Coulson - Academic

Senior Lecturer

"The ethos at the heart of the sports science courses at Sunderland is to create a pathway to quality employment for students.

"In order to do this, we have worked closely with employers to ensure our graduates leave with the qualifications and experience that the industry is looking for.

"Thanks to millions of pounds worth of recent investment, we have some of the best sports science facilities in the country, attracting students from around the world.

"We value ourselves highly as a team in preparing students for the employer route and jobs market, delivering much more than a degree qualification to students.

"All of our teaching staff have worked in the sports sector before moving into lecturing which we believe gives us an edge in really giving our students the inside knowledge they will need in the workplace.

"Our students go on to achieve great things. Sunderland graduate Michael Oliver has just become the youngest referee in the English Premier League, while former student Graham Guthrie has gone on to oversee food in schools at Sunderland City Council."

Apply for this course

Interested in this course? Apply straight away through UCAS, or read our 7-step guide to applying to university.

Want to know more about this course or the University of Sunderland? Order a prospectus or come to our next Open Day to see the facilities and talk to academic staff:

    Next open day

  • Date: Tuesday 23rd August 2016
  • Time: 9:30am-4:00pm
  • Type: University Open Day
  • Location: The Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter's

Contact Sunderland

Contact the Programme Leader for specific questions about the course:

Graham Cook
Tel: 0191 515 3710

Contact the Faculty of Applied Sciences for general questions about studying at the University of Sunderland:

The Recruitment Team 
Tel: 0191 515 2731

The details

Course Name Sports Development
Classification BA (Hons)
Course Mode Full-time
Course Level Undergraduate
Duration 3 years
Study Location On-campus (Sunderland)
Starting 19 September 2016
UK/EU Fee £8,750
Intl Fee £10,500

Entry requirements

2016 entry: 280 points

2017 entry: 112 points

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