BA Social Policy

UCAS code Typical offer Length
L430 BBB (See full entry requirements) 3 years full-time
Apply now

Received an offer?

Log in to You@York to track your application
Students in a seminar, small group teaching
Students presenting in the Age of Consent debate
Graduation of Social Policy students

Our degree in Social Policy will enable you to understand the causes of social problems and what governments attempt to do about them .

What is Social Policy?

Course overview

  • You will receive a thorough grounding in core social science disciplines used to analyse social policy: sociology; social psychology; politics and economics.
  • You will be trained in key transferable skills in different types of research methods and analysis of data and encouraged to develop your own policy analysis skills in your projects.
  • You will study core modules designed specifically for this degree programme and choose from a wide selection of option modules developed specially by the Department, or choose from a wider range offered by other Departments such as Politics or Sociology.

Our 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 key social outcomes such as inequality, poverty, employment and well-being in the UK and other countries
  • Why making successful policies in the 21st century is so complex
  • How and why patterns of social inequality still persist
  • What more could be done to address social problems at home and abroad

What subjects should I have studied before?

Social Policy draws upon many disciplines, if you have previously studied sociology, politics, history, geography or psychology, you may be interested in this degree programme. Similarly, some of our students choose Social Policy because it is a subject they have not studied before, yet appeals to their interests.

Our staff and students

Course content

What you'll study


Our BA Social Policy programme will show you the contribution of social science in the understanding of how contemporary UK society has developed, including the role of welfare state institutions. We also draw upon our specialist expertise in the Department to include international contexts, how different social policies can be compared between countries and what we can learn from them. You will also gain training in social research methods, which are highly transferable skills to a wide range of contexts.


Year 1Year 2Year 3

Introducing Social Policy

Introducing Social Psychology and Sociology

Politics and Economics of Social Policy

Exploring Social Policy and Society

The Policy Process

Comparative Social Policy

Social Research Methods

Your choice of ONE option module

Your choice of four option modules, OR three option modules with a work placement

A dissertation related to the Social Policy focus of your degree programme

Module options change on a regular basis and reflect the teaching and research interests of our staff.

Examples of module options for Year 2:

  • Citizenship, Difference and Inequality
  • Understanding Childhood and Youth
  • Understanding Criminal Justice
  • Victimisation and Social Harm

Examples of option modules for Year 3:

  • Comparative and International Social Policy
  • Crime, People and Place
  • Criminal Justice and Policing
  • Gender and Youth Cultures
  • Housing Policy
  • Illicit Drug Use
  • Prisons and Penal Policy
  • Sustainable Development and Social Inclusion
  • The Well-Being of Children and Young People
  • Understanding Families and Family Life
  • Vulnerability, Deviance and Social Control
  • Welfare State Futures
  • Welfare States in Crisis
  • Youth Justice


The third year dissertation is a great opportunity to apply your knowledge and understanding in independent supervised research on a topic of your interest. You will be able to draw upon the University Library's vast online resources, exposing you to the latest thinking in the specific topic you choose, and put into practice the skills you learn from the second year Social Research Methods module. At the end of the third year we hold a Dissertation Conference, where students from across the Social Policy and Applied Social Science programmes can share their work and new-found specialist knowledge.

Previous dissertation titles include:

  • The role of policy networks in shaping urban regeneration policy
  • Young people’s engagement in the political process
  • Is there an East Asian Welfare Model?
  • Social housing under New Labour – demand, supply and residualisation

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module. This covers some of the essential skills and knowledge which will help you to study independently and produce work of a high academic standard which is vital for success at York.

This module will:

  • define academic integrity and academic misconduct;
  • explain why and when you should reference source material and other people's work;
  • provide interactive exercises to help you to assess whether you've understood the concepts;
  • provide answers to FAQs and links to useful resources.


How you'll be taught

Teaching approaches

The teaching methods used in each module are tailored to help you achieve its learning outcomes, but typically feature a mixture of formal lectures and more interactive elements.

We place great emphasis on small group working and encourage students to interact with staff both inside and outside of the classroom. Whilst your first year lectures will be in larger groups - typically 50 to 100 students - they are supplemented by small group seminars of around 10-15 students. You will be expected to research topics in advance of seminars and often asked to make presentations to the seminar group.

In years 2 and 3, lecture groups are smaller as you will begin to specialise more deeply and so follow varied routes of study. In year 2 lectures will typically be around 30 students and in year 3 a typical lecture group is around 15 students, but in both years groups of under 10 may exist on some modules.

Aside from lectures and discussion based seminars, many modules in years 2 and 3 make use of group based workshops, some make use of scenario based role plays and some involve practical sessions where you analyse data in order to understand a specific issue in more depth.

Some year 2 and 3 modules also make use of outside speakers from policy related organisations: these speakers help to bring cutting-edge knowledge of the latest issues in policy and practice into the classroom.

All modules make use of the virtual learning environment, an online space for resources and activities associated with the module. Some modules will involve tutor driven interactive tasks that students must complete between classroom based sessions, others may simply provide access to resources allowing you to recap lecture slides or undertake further reading.


Modules vary in length, credit weighting and the way in which they are assessed.

First and second year modules last for the full academic year (three terms), count for 30 credits, usually with some form of assessment part way through the year and a final assessment task in the third term.

Third year option modules are taught in a single term, counting for 20 credits, and are usually assessed by a single piece of work handed in at the start of the term after teaching has finished for the module.


All students are allocated a personal supervisor responsible for supporting you throughout your three years. One-to-one meetings between you and your supervisor are scheduled twice a term.

All members of staff also have weekly office hours during term time that allow any student to make any appointment to discuss issues related to their classes in one-to-one sessions in staff offices.

In the third year every student is allocated an individual member of academic staff as a dissertation supervisor: they will provide one-to-one support on your final year research project (dissertation) throughout the year.

In addition, through the combination of relatively small group sizes and structured opportunities to interact with staff outside of the classroom, we aim to create a supportive environment where staff and students work closely together both inside and outside of timetabled sessions.


How you'll be assessed

Learning is assessed through a wide range of methods, with a strong emphasis on continuous assessment.

The most common form of assessment is through essays, typically around 3,500 words in length. In your first year you will learn how to write an academic essay, the style of which will be different from your previous education. Throughout the degree, module leaders will often provide opportunities for additional support, such as workshops, revision sessions or preparation activities. In addition, if you wish for further explanation then you can book an appointment as part of our staff office hours arrangement.

The end of degree dissertation research project is 10,000 words in length. You will be supported with a dissertation supervisor as you specialise on a particular area of the subject you are interested in.

Other assessment methods that might be encountered include presentations, group workshop reports, applied policy reports, data analysis exercises and portfolios of work gathered through the duration of a module. There is only minimal use of closed examinations across the programme as a whole.


Careers and employability

All our degree programmes offer a foundation in the social sciences and a range of specialist modules which develop knowledge of social problems, their social, cultural, political, economic and global contexts, and of interventions that address them. This forms a knowledge base which will equip you to think critically and contribute creatively in a wide range of employment contexts, in the public, private and third sector.

We offer opportunities to develop skills in working independently and in groups, information searching and communication (including evidence-based writing and oral presentations), problem-solving, awareness of inequality and diversity, research (quantitative and qualitative), IT and use of social media. These transferable skills are highly valued by employers and the University Careers Service can offer you guidance on how you can best showcase these skills in interviews.

You will be able to pursue career-related interests, whether related to particular issues or groups (e.g. through following the Children and Young People or Crime and Criminal Justice pathways, or taking specialist modules available to all e.g. on Sustainable Development and Social Inclusion, Environmental Policy, Housing Policy), particular organisational contexts (e.g. a module on Social Enterprise is particularly useful to those interested in working in or setting up a social enterprise), or particular roles (e.g. modules on the Policy Process and Policy Analysis are of particular interest to those interested in policy work).

In addition, our work-based placement (a core part of our Children and Young People or Crime and Criminal Justice pathways and an option to the other programmes) increases understanding of the relationship between policy, implementation and practice in specific contexts, and also develops, and offers useful opportunities to demonstrate to future employers a range of employability skills.

Example career paths

Many of our students use the expertise they gain from their degree to develop careers in the social policy field. Recent examples include:

  • Policy research in the House of Commons
  • Employment and training research
  • Work for specialist charities such as ‘Shelter’
  • Work for a local authority

Others go on to develop their skills through:

  • Fast-track civil service training
  • Housing Management training sponsored by a Housing Association
  • Postgraduate training in social work
  • Postgraduate research in social policy


In addition to the University Careers support which provides guidance and opportunities for making you more employable, your personal supervisor will support you in creating an employabilty plan to help you focus on what skills you possess or wish to develop.


How to apply

All applications to undergraduate degree courses at York must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

To use the UCAS course search, choose courses starting in 2016, select search by course code, then select the institution code Y50 The University of York from the drop down menu. You can also use the course codes listed below.

UCAS Course Codes
Degree programmeUCAS course code
BA (Hons) Applied Social Science L431
BA (Hons) Applied Social Science - Children and Young People L432
BA (Hons) Applied Social Science - Crime and Criminal Justice L433
BA (Hons) Social Policy L430
BA (Hons) Extended Degre in Applied Social Science and Social Policy L401

Detailed information regarding our degrees is not available on UCAS and is only available through course profiles on our website.

Help and advice about the application process may be directed to Student Recruitment and Admissions.

Once you have submitted an application

Our Admissions Tutor will look at your application and pay particular attention to your personal statement. In personal statements we are looking for students who have an academic interest in society, perhaps life experiences that are relevant to the degree courses e.g. family circumstances or employment, and have made a contribution to society through, for example, school clubs and volunteering.

For our Applied Social Science and Social Policy programmes (L430, L431, L432, L433) you will NOT be expected to attend an interview. Once accepted, we do invite you to attend a visit day in Spring to give you the opportunity to learn a little more about the subject, our Department and the University. Offer holders will be able to sign up to the visit day through You@York, our dedicated site for accepted applicants to the University.

Home BA Social Policy

Entry requirements

A levels


A level General Studies and Critical Thinking are accepted.

International Baccalaureate

Obtain Diploma with 31 points overall

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers

AABBB at Higher level

Irish Leaving Certificate



BTEC National Diploma: DDM

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma: DDM

European Baccalaureate

75% overall average

Other qualifications

Cambridge Pre-U: M2, M2, M2

Access to HE: Obtain Access to HE Diploma with 30 credits achieved from units awarded Merit or higher

Other qualifications are accepted by the University: please contact Undergraduate Admissions for more information.

English Language Requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English are normally asked to provide evidence of English language ability. Exceptions may be made where an applicant's other qualifications provide sufficient evidence of ability to use English in an academic setting at degree level.

One of the following:

  • IELTS: score of 6.5 overall, with 5.5 or better in each section
  • Pearson PTE Academic: 61 overall with no less than 51 in all components
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): grade A
  • GCSE/O Level in English (as a first language): grade C

Mature students

We welcome applications from mature students and we have a firm commitment to supporting your progression through all our courses. Many mature students have studied successfully in the Department (see our student profiles). An interest in Applied Social Science and Social Policy often arises through life experience, which enriches the course for all students.

We will consider applications individually, and if you do not hold standard entry requirements we have our Extended Degree route with a foundation year leading to study on our Social Policy or Applied Social Science programmes.

Get in touch with us and we'll be happy to discuss your options: or apply straight away through UCAS.

Other options for this subject

You may also be interested in:

Courses which are co-taught by our Department and share some modules with this programme:

Compare courses:

Any questions?

Contact us if you have any questions about our degree programmes or the Department:

Rachel McAllister
Admissions Manager

Dr Rachel Morris
Admissions Tutor

Rachel Morris

More about York