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

Overview Detailed study of social policy issues combined with research training


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

The MA in Social Policy equips you with the skills to analyse social policy in a way that will allow you to understand how policies are developed and the role they play in people's lives. The course offers a combination of taught coursework and supervised independent study. You'll develop the skills to carry out your own research in an area of social policy that interests you.

This MA is especially suited to you if you are considering a career in social policy analysis, advocacy or research in the public sector or socially-focused NGOs. You'll cover topics such as the welfare state in the UK and other countries, the impact of globalisation on social programmes and why patterns of social inequality persist.

The MA in 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.

Course content What you’ll study


The MA in Social Policy is based around a combination of social policy analysis and research training. You'll start with a broad introduction to social research methods and social policy analysis. You'll then narrow down your focus, choosing between advanced research training, more detailed analysis of social policy or a mix of the two.

Most people study 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.
  • Introduction to Social Research Methods: you'll explore the basic principles of social research, become skilled at both quantitative and qualitative research techniques and develop the ability to appraise published research.

In the spring term you will chose two modules from these optional modules:

  • Advanced Qualitative Methods: you'll build upon the earlier Introduction to Social Research Methods by gaining an advanced understanding of, and expertise in the use of, qualitative data generation and qualitative analysis and interpretation.
  • Advanced Quantitative Methods: you'll build upon the earlier Introduction to Social Research Methods by learning more specialised techniques. You'll also learn to critically interpret the results of your work and present these in a clear form.
  • 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 Policyyou'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.
  • Global Crime and Justice: you'll explore the role of economic, social and political factors shaping global crime. You'll examine the criminal justice process at a global level while gaining an in-depth knowledge of specialist areas of crime, such as drug trafficking and corporate crime.
  • Global Social Problems and Global Social Policy: you will examine the social, economic and political processes underlying the globalisation of social problems, such as poverty, inequality, crime, environmental and social harms.

More details on the MA in 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 your research interests and 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 there is an equal balance of time spent on taught courses and your own specialist research project.

Given the individual nature of dissertation topics, examples of topics studied can vary. Recent projects by Social Policy masters students include:

  • Comparative study of policy responses of four Asian Tigers after the 1997 Asian financial crisis
  • Comparative analysis of child-centred investment strategy in the EU27: lessons for the UK
  • Critical study of health inequality in OECD health care systems.
  • Nutrition policy: the food industry's corporate social responsibility on nutrition and public health
  • Social protection and education: the basic education assistance module initiative in Zimbabwe
  • Youth-led civil society organisations in Bangladesh: projects of modernisation or participation?
I did some research as to good Social Policy masters degrees: York came up as one of the highest in the country. The plan was to come for a year, do the masters, then go back to London and carry on my career. There was a change of plan because I loved my masters so much that when an opportunity came up to do a PhD, it occurred to me that I really didn't want to leave, so here I am still in York.
MA Social Policy graduate

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:

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. 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 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.

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.

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:

Careers Where you’ll go from here

The MA in Social Policy develops the 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 career areas or to continue your studies at PhD level.

Career opportunities

The MA in Social Policy is designed for students who want to become active in social policy analysis and research. Graduates from the MA in Social Policy go on to a wide variety of destinations but most tend to go into one of three key areas:

  • Policy analysis inside government agencies, NGOs or campaigning organisations
  • Research in policy organisations
  • Academic research and PhD level study.

Transferable skills

  • Communicate effectively, drawing on a range of skills and presentation techniques for different settings and audiences
  • Manage time effectively to work independently to deadlines
  • Work effectively in a group and as a member of a team in a variety of roles, including taking on leadership responsibilities
  • Working effectively in a variety of workplace settings by understanding the internal dynamics of institutions and being self-aware
  • Evaluate, analyse and design effective policy delivery and outcomes
  • Retrieve and interpret data from a variety of sources, including electronic databases
  • Use computer skills to present and analyse data.

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 aslo 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 your progress and return later to finish. If you're unable to apply online, you can submit a paper application.


A-levels and GCSEs


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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Contact us

Postgraduate Admissions
+44 (0)1904 322142