Home>Study at York>Postgraduate>Courses>Comparative and International Social Policy (MA)

Overview Rigorous training in the comparative analysis of institutions, from local to international


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time


The MA in Comparative and International Social Policy will train you in comparative and international policy analysis, research and design. 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.

It is based in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work which was ranked equal first in the UK for the impact of its research, with 87% of its research activity rated as world leading or internationally excellent.

This MA is especially suitable for:

  • Graduates from degrees in social policy, politics, sociology, international studies or other social sciences
  • Graduates from other backgrounds who wish to develop a high quality of graduate level research training in social research methods and policy analysis
  • Graduates who wish to develop an understanding of comparative and international welfare institutional arrangements
  • Those looking to develop a career in social research and/or policy analysis.

The MA in Comparative and International Social Policy is part of a group of Social Policy masters degrees that draw on the research excellence of the Department to enable you to study Social Policy at an advanced level. These courses each offer a unique blend of modules to allow you to specialise in a particular area.

York is very calm city, it helps you focus and concentrate. Don't be afraid because as an international student I know that some people may feel insecure studying in a new country but I think it will change your life!
Hoi Ying, China, MA Comparative and International Social Policy

Course content What you’ll study


The MA in Comparative and International Social Policy is based around a combination of social policy analysis and research training. You'll start with a solid introduction to comparative social research methods and social policy analysis. You'll then explore how social policy is affected by globalisation. You'll finish with a comparative exploration of how emerging governance structures and actors affect the management and delivery of social policy in national and international settings.

This masters degree has a broad international approach, rooted in the analysis of higher income countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and adapting this to a study of a broader sample of countries across the globe.

This particular masters degree attracts an international student body so you'll benefit from a truly comparative experience.

Most people study for full-time for 12 months, but part-time study over 24 months is also available.


In the autumn term you'll take two compulsory modules:

  • Social Policy Analysis: you will be introduced to the key concepts, techniques and theories used in social policy analysis.
  • Comparative and International Social Policy - Research Methods: you will be introduced to the key theories, methods and data sources employed in comparative and international social policy research.

In the spring term you'll take two more compulsory modules that focus on international and comparative social policy:

  • Comparative Social Policy - Governance, Management and Delivery:  you will explore the theory, practice and challenges of public management delivery through the use of real-world case study materials from a wide range of settings and levels of governance.
  • Globalisation and Social Policy: you'll explore debates over the nature of globalisation and the role of transnational social actors. You'll examine how social policy is affected by globalisation in four regions: Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia.

More details on the MA in Comparative and International Social Policy modules.

In the summer term and summer months you'll take part in the Graduate Dissertation Workshop. This will give you the chance to develop and present your research interests. You will participate in a group project with other students who have similar interests. You will also use this time to work on your individual research project.


You will design, develop and manage your own original research project. You'll be supervised by an individual member of staff. Our strong research focus means that half your time will be spent on taught courses and half your time will be dedicated to your own specialist research project.

Recent projects by MA Comparative and International Social Policy masters students include:

  • A new typology of welfare state types of East Asian societies incorporating a gender dimension
  • Comparative study of welfare retrenchment in 19 OECD countries
  • 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
  • Pension funds investment and management in East Asia
  • Political economies in crises through a gender lens
  • Revisiting the impact of inequality on economic growth
  • Social inclusion policies in the European Union and Turkey: a comparative study
  • Welfare states in transition: towards eco social welfare.

The Department has one of the largest concentrations of social policy research in the UK. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework we were ranked third in the UK for overall research performance and joint first for the impact of our research. Graduate students have access to staff, projects and research across a wide range of social policy areas and the Department is home to many internationally renowned research centres, including:

This Department really cares for people, for every single student and even for their individual development. I've never been in a city like this. It feels just like home. Everybody's always happy to help strangers.
Xinide, China (Inner Mongolia), MA Comparative and International Social Policy

Teaching and assessment How you’ll be taught and assessed

Teaching format

The modules for this MA have been specifically developed for postgraduate study. You will be taught through a combination of hands-on workshops, lectures and seminars based on real cases and data. You will find that small group working and establishing your own perspective on social issues will become a core part of your studying process.

  • One-to-one supervision whilst undertaking an extended Social Policy research project on a topic of your choosing
  • A friendly, supportive and intellectually stimulating environment in which to study
  • Small group teaching with the majority of lectures typically no larger than 30 people and often less than 15.

You'll also be able to attend the Department's lectures and University lectures from visiting speakers from across the world.


Your assessment will be continuous and based mainly on essays and reports. You will receive written feedback on all assessed work. There are no exams.

You'll complete a 15,000-20,000 word dissertation as part of your own specialist research project. You'll also have the opportunity to present your research as it progresses to a wider audience as part of our dissertation workshops.

Funding opportunities

There are a number of funding opportunities for students studying this masters degree:

You can also explore more general sources of postgraduate scholarships and funding:

Careers Where you’ll go from here

The MA in Comparative and International Social Policy develops skills that employers need in a number of areas, especially policy analysis and research. You'll also find you develop transferable skills that will allow you to progress to different areas or to continue your studies at PhD level.

Career opportunities

This masters is designed for students who want to become active in social policy analysis and research. Graduates go on to a wide variety of destinations but most tend to go into one of these key areas:

  • Policy analysis inside intergovernmental organisations, national government agencies, think tanks, social service administration, NGOs or campaigning organisations
  • Researchers in policy organisations, consultancies and international departments of national civil services
  • Government ministries
  • Higher education careers, including academic research and PhD level study.

Transferable skills

  • Effective social inquiry skills based on qualitative and quantitative methods training
  • Independent study and group working skills
  • Effective analysis, design, delivery and evaluation of policy
  • Data retrieval, interpretation and computing skills for data analysis
  • Presentation, communication and dissemination of research outputs.

Entry requirements How to get here

Course entry

You will normally be expected to have at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification. You will also be considered if you have relevant work experience and academic potential.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically with our online system, which allows you to save progress and return later to finish. If you're unable to apply online, you can submit a paper application.


International options

Guidance on international equivalents for entry qualifications.

English language

If your native language is not English, you should meet an English language proficiency level of 6.5 in the British Council's IELTS test with at least 5.5 in each component. We do accept other English Language Tests.

You may also want to attend the University's Intensive Summer Courses.

Enquire Contact our admissions tutors if you have any questions

Next steps

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Postgraduate Admissions
+44 (0)1904 322142