Home>Study at York>Undergraduate>Courses>Social Policy (BA)

Overview Understand the causes of social problems and how societies attempt to address them

UCAS code


Typical offer

BBB (full entry requirements)


3 years full-time

A BA in Social Policy will enable you to understand the causes of social problems and how societies attempt to solve them, both nationally and internationally. You'll receive a thorough grounding in core social sciences, including sociology, social psychology, politics and economics and use what you learn to explore why making successful policies is so complex, why patterns of inequality persist and what more can be done to address social problems.

Social Policy is concerned with promoting the welfare of citizens. Traditionally the subject focused on the ‘big five’ areas of: poverty, health, housing, education and unemployment, but has expanded in recent years to broader social issues and international contexts. Often Social Policy questions the ways in which services do or do not meet the needs of specific groups, such as children, people with disabilities, women, older people, or members of minority ethnic groups.

On our BA Social Policy course you will receive a broad and balanced introduction to a range of social sciences and training in social research methods. This degree is suited to you if you are interested in the welfare state, the impact of globalisation, social inequalities, the complexities of making successful policies, and what more can be done to solve social problems at home and abroad.

What is Social Policy?

Watch a lecture by Professor Jonathan Bradshaw for prospective students.


Course content What you’ll study


You'll start your study of Social Policy by studying core modules that give you a thorough grounding in social sciences and research methods. As you progress you'll take optional modules that will allow you to focus on issues and policies that interest you.

Year 1

In your first year you'll study four core modules that will introduce Social Policy and the social sciences.

  1. Introduction to Social Policy: key areas of social policy provision and the role of different actors in the production and distribution of welfare in the UK and beyond.
  2. Introduction to Sociology and Social Psychology: key theories and concepts in Sociology and Social Psychology. You will develop an awareness of the analytical frameworks used to understand social problems and inequality.
  3. The Politics and Economics of Social Policy: key concepts in economics and their application to Social Policy problems; the exercise of power, political ideas and policy outcomes in the context of British political institutions.
  4. Exploring Social Policy and Society: key concepts that underpin the analysis and practice of social policy and their relationship with social, economic and political change. You'll actively engage in problem-solving processes and develop group work skills.

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.

Year 2

In your second year you'll study three core modules, which build upon your previous work.

  1. The Policy Process: how policy is made and implemented. You'll look at key concepts and theories from the policy analysis literature and apply these to real world scenarios.
  2. Comparative Social Policy: comparative analysis of social policy and trends in its development. You'll study key concepts and methodological tools as well as being introduced to key OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) data resources.
  3. Social Research Methods: you'll gain ‘hands on’ experience of both qualitative and quantitative research methods and an understanding of the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of social research.

You'll also chose an elective module that will allow you to focus on a topic that interests you. Modules change on a regular basis to reflect the latest teaching and research. Examples of options in the second year are:

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

Year 3

In your third year you can choose to study four optional modules or three optional modules with a work-shadowing placement. Modules change on a regular basis to reflect the latest teaching and research. Examples of options in the third year are:

  • Criminal Justice and Policing
  • Death and Policy
  • Gender and Youth Cultures
  • Gender, Citizenship and the Welfare State
  • Housing Policy
  • Illicit Drug Use
  • Poverty and Inequality
  • 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 States in Crisis
  • Youth Justice.

If you undertake a work-shadowing placement you will get a valuable experience which will enable you to examine the policy-practice relationship at first-hand.

You will also work on a dissertation which gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding through independent research on a topic that interests you.

Examples of previous dissertation titles:

  • 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.

Study abroad

There are many international opportunities for Social Policy students to get involved with, including Worldwide Exchange at partner universities, Erasmus+ study placements in Europe, International Study Centres, Summer Schools and Travel Awards for independent projects.

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework the Department of Social Policy and Social Work was placed third in the UK for research activity, with 100 percent of its research impact rated at the highest rank of 4*.

Teaching and assessment How you’ll be taught and assessed

Teaching format

You'll have a lecture series for each module. Some lectures may be delivered by guest speakers, drawing on expertise from other departments and outside the University. Modules normally have an accompanying seminar series. These will be meetings of around 15 to 25 people and may take the form of workshops, conferences or debates. You'll challenge what academics have written and form your own understanding about the topic. You may also take part in workshops that provide hands-on experience in social research methods.

You will be allocated a personal supervisor who will support you through your study. Usually your supervisor will be one of the team responsible for the Social Policy degree and teaching on some of the core modules.


The most common form of assessment is by essays. You'll be supported in the first year with advice and seminars on writing an academic essay. You may also be assessed with a mixture of report writing, data analysis exercises, critical reviews and presentations. There is minimal use of closed exams.

At the end of the degree you will submit a dissertation of 10,000 words. You'll be supported by a dissertation supervisor as you specialise in a topic that interests you.

There is a really diverse mix of students within the department all from different economic, social and political backgrounds. This certainly enhances our learning experience because you can learn so much from the people around you and their opinions, as well from those teaching you.
Tu Yuqi, BA Social Policy - April 2016

Our research influences national and international agendas and can be directly applied to real life. Our work on benefit fraud and welfare reform has been presented to parliamentary committees.

Take a look at some of our research:

Careers Where you’ll go from here

As well as preparing you for a career using social policy this degree will also be good preparation if you would like to continue your studies at postgraduate level.

Career opportunities

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.

Transferable skills

  • Research methods
  • Data analysis
  • Communication
  • Social media
  • Presentation skills
  • Problem solving.
I always felt the Social Policy degree course at York achieved an interesting balance between exploring the theoretical design and development of policy and its practical application. My degree course is directly relevant to what I do now.
Rory Palmer, BA Social Policy, 2003. Deputy City Mayor, Leicester City Council.

Entry requirements How to get here

Course entry

All applications must be made through UCAS.

We will pay particular attention to your personal statement. We're looking for students with an academic interest in society and who have made a contribution to society, perhaps through volunteering or school clubs.

You will not be expected to attend an interview, but once accepted you will be invited on a visit day to give you the chance to learn more about the subject, our department and the University.


A-levels and GCSEs


  • BBB (A level General Studies and Critical Thinking are accepted)

Other UK qualifications

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers
AABBB at Higher level

Cambridge Pre-U
M2, M2, M2

Access to Higher Education
30 credits achieved from units awarded Merit or higher


  • BTEC National Diploma: DDM
  • BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma: DDM

International options

International Baccalaureate
31 points overall

Irish Leaving Certificate


European Baccalaureate
75% overall average

English language

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.

  • 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

Other accepted tests and qualifications

Unistats for this course

Enquire Contact our admissions tutors if you have any questions