MA Social Policy

Our Masters degree in Social Policy combines detailed study of social policy issues with research training and allows you to choose the balance between the two.


This well established MA Social Policy degree programme offers a combination of taught coursework and a supervised dissertation, giving you the opportunity to develop advanced research and analysis skills and to examine, through your own guided research project, aspects of social policy in which you have a particular interest.

The programme is especially suited to you if you are seeking to develop a career in social and/or policy analysis, advocacy or research within the public sector or a socially-focused NGO.  

Our MA Social Policy programme is suited to you if you are interested in:

  • The main pillars of the welfare state in the UK and elsewhere
  • The impact of globalisation on social programmes in the UK and other countries
  • Why the policy-making process in the 21st century is so complex
  • How and why patterns of social inequality still persist
  • What more could be done to reduce child poverty at home and abroad

Who is the programme for?

Our programmes are designed for students who look to become active in social policy analysis and research. Graduates from the MA in 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 policy organisations; or,
  • academic research and PhD level study.

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 Social Policy is based around a combination of social policy analysis and research training modules, leaving the balance between the two flexible. In the Autumn Term you are provided with a broad introduction to social research methods and grounding in key social policy analysis themes, issues and theories. In the Spring Term, you can choose whether to undertake more advanced research training, more detailed analysis of social policy issues or a mixture of the two. 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

Introduction to Social Research Methods

A choice of TWO modules from:

  • Advanced Qualitative Methods
  • Advanced Quantitative Methods
  • Comparative Social Policy: Governance, Management and Delivery
  • Globalisation and Social Policy
  • Global Social Problems and Global Social Policy

Graduate Dissertation Workshops

Dissertation Research Project (extends through Summer months)

You can view a brief description of our postgraduate modules

Teaching and support


The MA Social Policy modules 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 relatively small number of modules on offer is a demonstration of our commitment to developing a high-quality, advanced programme of study which maintains a strong focus on 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

  • 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 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 of 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

Nabila, MA Social Policy student from Bangladesh

‌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

Dr Antonios Roumpakis
Social Policy Programme Director

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 1298

Funding opportunities

Applicants to the MA Social Policy course may be interested in the following opportunity:

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