MA Comparative and International Social Policy

The MA in Comparative and International Social Policy provides training in policy analysis and policy research with an international and comparative dimension. It is ideal for those working in, or wishing to work in international policy analysis and policy development in governments, charities and NGOs around the world. The programme adopts a broad international approach, rooted in the conceptual and empirical analyses of higher income countries within the OECD, but adopting these to the study of a broader sample across the globe.


Our MA Comparative programme offers a combination of taught coursework and a supervised dissertation, giving you the opportunity to develop detailed knowledge of social policy in a comparative and international context and to examine, through your own guided research project, aspects of social policy in which you have a particular interest.

The programme is especially targeted at people seeking to develop a career in social and/or policy research. The programme provides training in policy analysis and policy research with an international and comparative dimension.

Who is the programme for?

  • Graduates from social policy, politics, sociology, international studies or other social sciences.
  • Graduates from other backgrounds who wish to develop an understanding of social research methods and policy analysis.
  • Those looking to develop a career in social research and/or policy analysis.

Our programmes are designed for students who look to become active in international social policy analysis and research. Graduates from the MA in Comparative and International Social Policy programme head to a wide variety of destinations, but most tend to go into one of three key areas:

  • policy analysts inside government agencies, NGOs or campaigning organisations;
  • researchers in the same fields; or,
  • academic research, often following a further period of study at PhD level.

Entry requirements

Upper second-class honours degree or equivalent qualification. However, if you have relevant work experience with good academic potential you may also be considered.

International students: if English is not your first language you should also read the English Language requirements 2016/17 for postgraduate study


Themes and content

The MA in Comparative & International Social Policy is based around a combination of social policy analysis and research training modules. In the Autumn Term you are provided with a broad introduction to comparative social policy theory and methods and grounding in key social policy analysis themes, issues and theories. In the Spring Term, you undertake more detailed analysis of social policy themes and issues and combine this with study of the impact of globalisation on social policy. Following completion of these modules, you will embark on your own individual research project, producing a 15-20,000 word dissertation under the guidance of your own individual supervisor. You will also have the opportunity to present your research in progress to a wider audience during a programme of dissertation workshops.

Course structure

This is a 1-year, full time postgraduate programme. Part-time options are available, please contact Rachel McAllister if this route is of interest to you.

 Autumn TermSpring TermSummer Term

Social Policy Analysis

Comparative and International Social Policy: Research Methods

Comparative Social Policy: Governance, Management and Delivery

Globalisation and Social Policy

Graduate Dissertation Workshops

Dissertation Research Project (extends through Summer months)

Teaching and support


The MA in Comparative and International Social Policy programme comprises of modules which have been specially developed for the postgraduate programmes in the Department. We do not co-teach these modules with undergraduate students, and this allows you to study the themes and issues at a more advanced level. The fixed number modules on offer is a demonstration of our commitment to developing a high-quality, advanced programme of study which is focused in its aims, so that graduates and employers of graduates of the programme can be assured they have developed the appropriate knowledge and skills to analyse and tacke global social policy issues.

Modules are taught through a combination of workshops, lectures and seminars. You will find that small group working and establishing your own perspective on social issues will become a core part of your studying process.

The Department

  • This particular degree programme draws interest from a wide international student body, making discussions a truely comparative experience
  • One-to-one supervision whilst undertaking an extended social policy research project on a topic of your choosing
  • The chance to study in one of the biggest social policy departments in the world that has a reputation for research excellence
  • A friendly, supportive and intellectually stimulating environment in which to study
  • Small group teaching with classes typically no larger than 20 people and some with fewer than 10 people


Dissertation examples

Reflecting York’s position as a leading research university, all Social Policy masters degrees at York – including the MA in Comparative & International Social Policy – require you to complete an individual research based dissertation on a topic of your choice and under the supervision of an individual member of staff. This strong research focus means there is a 50-50 balance between time spent on taught courses and your own specialist research project. This reflects the advanced nature of our social policy masters programmes, which are designed to act as a pathway to careers in policy analysis or PhD level study.

During the Autumn Term of the MA you will be asked to think through ideas for your dissertations and discuss these with staff. Topics and supervision arrangements are agreed by the beginning of the Spring Term and, once coursework is completed at the end of the Spring Term, students usually spend five months working full-time on their dissertation.

Given the individual nature of dissertation topics, examples of topics studied vary radically, but recent projects undertaken by social policy masters students include:

  • Measuring the extent to which welfare states in the OECD have moved towards a neo-liberal paradigm
  • An examination of the role that social capital plays in supporting different types of welfare state
  • An analysis of the conception of social rights embedded in UK asylum policies
  • Mapping the changing network of organisations involved in domestic violence service provision

A student listening in a workshop

‌You can apply for this course using our online application system.  If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.

Apply now

Contact details

Rachel McAllister
Admissions Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 1273

Funding opportunities

Of particular note for students wishing to study MA CISP:

Please note we cannot answer any queries about the above opportunities, please contact the organisation directly. Links are provided for information only and do not imply a relationship with the University.