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PhD and MPhil in Social Policy and Social Work

Directly influence social policy and social work practice, joining a vibrant community of researchers to progress in your career.

Show year of entry 2022/23 page

  Length Start dates (semester dates)

3 years full-time
6 years part-time

Apply for PhD



2 years full-time
4 years part-time

Apply for MPhil


Join a vibrant community which emphasises theoretically-rich and empirically-grounded research that directly influences policy and practice.

The city of York has a long tradition as a leading voice for social reform. At York, you'll join doctoral students from across the globe pushing conceptual, methodological and theoretical dimensions of social policy and social work.

You will belong to the White Rose Social Sciences Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) with its extended networks and training events. You'll have access to desk space and computing facilities at the Research Centre for the Social Sciences (RCSS), which is a hub for interdisciplinary research and postgraduate life in the social sciences at York. 

Your research

Achieving a PhD in Social Policy and Social Work at the University of York will require you to undertake an independent research project collecting new material or offering new analysis of existing data. Conceptual and theoretical approaches may also be considered, but must contribute more than a synthesis of existing literature.

The PhD is awarded on production of a written thesis of a minimum of 70,000 words and no longer than 100,000 including references but excluding appendices, and subject to an oral examination (viva).

Culture of inclusivity

At the School for Business and Society, we offer dedicated in-house student support and we're proud of our two Bronze Athena Swan Awards, recognising our work to promote gender equality.


Explore Business and Society funding for MPhil/PhD researchers and wider postgraduate support. We also have ESRC White Rose Social Sciences scholarship funding available for research students.

Our research

We are a world class research community well known for its emphasis on theoretically-rich and empirically-grounded research.


We are able to offer supervision in a wide range of areas, largely focused around the following topics: 

  • Childhood, youth and family
  • Housing
  • Welfare and poverty
  • Mental health
  • Comparative and global social policy
  • Health and social care
  • Crime

Consider how your research interests complement our expertise and knowledge. Find out more about our supervisors, our research and current doctoral students.

Before you apply you may find it useful to contact Dr Ziyun Fan for an informal discussion about your topic and potential supervisors. 

Course location

This course is run by the School for Business and Society.

You will be based in the School for Business and Society which is based on Campus West. Most of your training and supervision meetings will take place here, though your research may take you further afield.

You should live in or near York during your PhD programme, whether part-time or full-time. We do not offer distance learning arrangements.

Entry requirements

You will be normally expected to hold an 2:1 or First Class Honours degree. However if you have other relevant experience you may still be considered.

If you wish to pursue research on a social work topic, you should also have a good background in social work theory and practice. Likewise, if you wish to do research in social policy, you should have a firm background in the subject. 

Applicants are expected to have a good grounding in research methods.

English requirements

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence of your ability.

English language requirements


Both our PhD and MPhil courses can be completed either full-time or part-time although some overseas students maybe required to undertake full-time study.

Apply for the PhD in Social Policy and Social Work

Apply for the MPhil in Social Policy and Social Work

Take a look at the supporting documents you may need for your application.

Find out more about how to apply.

Research proposal

In order to assess your application, you must submit a proposal of 3,000 words, using the headings indicated below.

Required headings


Working title

Provide a working title for the proposal.


Indicate the general topic area and the main aim of the study and indicate what your study would contribute. For example, would it address a gap in knowledge or develop theory?

Research questions

Provide one or more research questions that your research will answer.

Literature review

Give a brief literature review, demonstrating your familiarity with this research area including theoretical perspectives.

Research design

Outline your research design and include reference and, where relevant, describe data collection methods, sampling and methods of analysis. Consider what risks there may be to your research design and whether your timetable is feasible.

Ethical implications

Does your proposed research carry any ethical implications? See, for example, Guidelines on Research Ethics ( How will you resolve these?


If you are shortlisted, you will be invited to attend an online interview. It is important that you can demonstrate an understanding of your topic area, its supporting theories and knowledge around current research.

Discover York


We offer a range of campus accommodation to suit you and your budget, from economy to deluxe.

Why York

Discover more about our researchers, facilities and why York is the perfect choice for your research degree.

Graduate Research School

Connect with researchers across all disciplines to get the most out of your research project.

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