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MA Social and Public Policy

Detailed study of social policy issues combined with research training

Year of entry: 2024 (September)


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2024 (semester dates)

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The MA in Social and Public Policy will equip you with the skills and knowledge to analyse, critique and shape social and public policy.

You will critically engage with the theoretical and empirical dimensions of social and public policy development, drawing on different disciplinary traditions to understand policy-making in multiple contexts. You will gain detailed knowledge of policy processes, assessing the ways in which policy-making seeks to respond to complex social problems and exploring the location of policies in their wider institutional, social, political and economic context.

Your studies will enable you to engage in informed debate around the distribution of power and resources, and how this intersects with the interests and activities of policy actors, and influences policy outcomes. You will develop professional and digital skills including the retrieval, interpretation and presentation of evidence, and learn how to communicate and represent complex ideas to a range of audiences. Your independent research project provides an opportunity for you to apply your research design skills to an in-depth exploration of a policy-related topic.

As a graduate of this programme, you will be equipped to transfer your knowledge, insights and skills to your professional life. Our graduates work across the public, private and non-profit sectors, contributing to the public good and social progress in their chosen careers.

Research centres

Graduate students have access to staff, projects and research across a wide range of social policy areas and the School is home to many internationally renowned research centres.

Global reputation

York is ranked 7th in the UK and =28th in the world for Social Policy and Administration

QS World Rankings by Subject 2023

Course content

The MA in Social and Public Policy is based around a combination of social and public policy theory, analysis and research training. You'll start with a broad introduction to social and public policy analysis, key theoretical and conceptual tools and social research methods. After this you will then choose three option modules, which will examine different aspects of social and public policy in more detail. At the end of your studies you will have the opportunity to apply the skills that you have learned into practice through a dissertation, under the guidance of an individual supervisor. 

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


Core modules

Option modules

You will also study three option modules. Examples include:

The options available to you will be confirmed later in the year. For further information, please get in touch.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff, and in line with Department/School academic planning.


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 dissertations, there is huge variation in the topics which can be studied. Recent projects by Social and Public Policy Masters students include:

  • A comparative study of policy responses of four Asian Tigers after the 1997 Asian financial crisis
  • A comparative analysis of child-centred investment strategy in the EU27: lessons for the UK
  • A 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?

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Critically apply theoretical frameworks to the analysis of complex policy processes and competing responses to real-world social and public policy problems
  • Recognise, analyse and evaluate the multi-level intersections of policy-making with the distribution and operation of power and resources in diverse socio-economic and political contexts
  • Communicate in ways that can engage specialist and policy-interested audiences, balancing academic rigour with accessible presentation of complex material
  • Collaborate with peers, fostering sensitivity to alternative perspectives and awareness of the power dynamics that operate in group working environments
  • Design rigorous policy-focused research, drawing from a range of theories, methods and types of evidence within appropriate ethical codes of research conduct
  • Retrieve, generate and interpret primary and secondary data, using quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods approaches
  • Critically apply knowledge, understanding and skills to the shaping of social progress, both within and beyond the academic context.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2024/25

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £10,590£23,900
Part-time (2 years) £5,295£11,950

Students on a Student Visa are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study.

  • UK (home) fees may increase in subsequent years (up to a maximum of 2%).
  • International fees may increase in subsequent years in line with the prevailing Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate (up to a maximum of 10%).

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status.

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Additional costs

There are no mandatory additional fees but we do recommend that you set aside some money for photocopying. Course books will be available to you from the Library either in print or online format but you may wish to buy your own copies (book prices vary, with new books usually costing between £20 and £60). All other teaching resources will be available online.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2024/25 throughout the year.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Funding opportunities

Other funding opportunities

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

A degree in Social Policy has the potential to bring forward a diverse range of options that you could choose from. The possibilities are endless and the best part is that due to the joined-up working approach, it is likely to get an insight into more than one area of expertise.
Ana, Social Policy student.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

The modules for this course 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 while undertaking an extended social and public 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 40 people and workshops and seminars typically no larger than 20 students

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

Teaching location

You'll be based in the School for Business and Society in the Church Lane Building on Campus West. Teaching will take place in Church Lane Building and Alcuin College and other locations across Campus West.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

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 12,000-15,000 word dissertation as part of your own specialist research project.

Careers and skills

The MA in Social and Public 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

  • Civil servant
  • Government officer
  • International organisation officer/consultant
  • Public management consultant
  • Campaign assistant for a political party
  • Research manager
  • Policy analyst
  • Academia

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

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent
Other qualifications and experience You will also be considered if you have relevant work experience and academic potential
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS (Academic and Indicator) 6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component
Cambridge CEFR B2 First: 176, with 169 in each component
Oxford ELLT 7, minimum 6 in each component
Duolingo 120, minimum 105 in all other components
LanguageCert SELT B2 with 33/50 in each component
LanguageCert Academic 70 with a minimum of 65 in each component
KITE 459-494, with 426-458 in all other components
Skills for English B2: Merit overall, with Pass with Merit in each component
PTE Academic 61, minimum 55 in each component
TOEFL 87, minimum of 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all components

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you haven't met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


You can apply and send all your documentation online. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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