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

Overview Understand and link practice and theory across public and social policy


2 years part-time

This course is ideal for professionals in organisations that develop or implement social policy and public policy. During your studies you'll develop the skills and knowledge required to influence policy and you'll link public policy theory to concrete examples of social policy.

You'll deepen your understanding of policy-making and explore the interaction between policy-making on local, national and global levels. You'll use evidence to improve social policy practice and develop a range of transferable skills such as critical thinking and designing and conducting research.

By choosing this part-time online course you will be able to combine your study with your career and family. You'll also be studying with one of the top universities in the world, with teaching and support from experienced academics and practitioners. Our Department is ranked 25th in the world, and 4th in the UK (QS World Rankings 2016). All our courses are run directly by us, so you can always count on coherent and strong support from your academic tutors, personal supervisor and our dedicated support team.

You'll study alongside your peers working in similar organisations around the world. You'll be able to actively engage with them and share your ideas, learning and experience as you progress through the course. You'll also be in a position to immediately apply your learning and insight to your work and your organisation.

The thing that’s worked well for me is the online learning environment and working full-time while studying.

Course content What you’ll study


This masters course will explore four themes:

  • The social policy process: how are social policies made within nation states? What is the role of institutions, interests, ideas and evidence in this governance process?
  • Social policy in a globalised world: how do global, international and transnational influences filter through the national policy-making process, and how do they impact on the design and the effectiveness of social policies?
  • Social policy, politics and society: why is social policy making a conflicted process? How do social policies shape society and impact on specific social groups?
  • Social policy and research: how can social policy be analysed? How can research improve the design and implementation of social policies?

In your second year you'll start to prepare for your independent dissertation which will allow you to explore an area of particular interest. You'll have support from a dedicated dissertation supervisor.

You can also study for a shorter period of time and graduate with a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma. See our brochure for details. 


To graduate with a masters degree you will need to take 120 credits of taught modules and complete a dissertation worth 60 credits.

You'll study these modules to a schedule. This will allow you to participate online with academics and fellow students from around the world.

Year one: foundation

In your first year you'll study 60 credits with these modules:

  • Social Policy Analysis (20 credits)
  • Globalisation and Social Policy (20 credits)
  • Social Policy: Evidence, Ideas and Institutions (20 credits)

Year two: specialisation and dissertation

In your second year you'll study a combination of taught modules, which will help prepare you for your dissertation:

  • Introduction to Research Methods (20 credits)
  • Dissertation Workshop Part One (10 credits)
  • Dissertation Workshop Part Two (10 credits).

You will also explore an area of particular interest by choosing to study one of these modules:

  • Comparative Social Policy (20 credits)
  • Housing and Social Justice (20 credits)
  • Work, Welfare and Citizenship (20 credits).

Description of modules.

These modules will run during 2016-18. Modules may change in later years in light of student feedback and ongoing research.


Supported by your dissertation supervisor, you will work on your 18,000 word dissertation from April to mid-September.

Your taught modules will help prepare you for your dissertation. The first year modules and your optional module from the second year will provide a firm theoretical foundation for your dissertation work. Other second year modules introduce a range of methodological approaches, helping you plan and implement your individual research project. With the help of your dissertation supervisor you'll identify an appropriate topic and develop a structure. You'll also select, review and critically examine relevant literature and sources.

I liked the experience very much. I felt really supported by both teaching and non-academic staff. I really enjoyed it.

Teaching and assessment How you’ll be taught and assessed

Teaching format

You'll study online, allowing you to study from wherever you are. You should spend about 15 hours per week completing all your reading and tasks. You can decide when you work on these weekly tasks; all activities can be completed around your schedule.

The three main kinds of activity you will be asked to do are:

  • Reading module texts written by our academic team and selected core articles (journal articles, book chapters, etc)
  • Joining weekly online discussions with fellow students and the module tutor
  • Working on individual tasks such as written exercises to receive feedback from your tutor or to contribute to group work.

You'll be supported by:

  • A module tutor who facilitates the weekly online discussions and offers individual support
  • A personal supervisor who will provide ongoing academic and pastoral support; you can approach your supervisor with queries on study skills and your progress
  • A dedicated support team who can help you with administrative or technical enquiries.

Our distinctive approach.


You will take part in exercises and other tasks as you progress through each module. This will allow you to receive feedback on your progress and understanding.

At the end of each 20 credit module you'll complete an assignment. Normally this will be a 3,000 word assessment.  For the 10 credit modules you will work on a journal (or another practice exercise) or will complete a dissertation plan.

A major benefit of online learning is that you can study flexibly at times which suit you. Day and night, students from all over the world are logging in to study and contributing to forum discussions. The academic support is first rate.

Careers Where you’ll go from here

This course is ideal for people working in the public and not-for-profit sectors as well as people working in for-profit organisations that deliver public services. It will allow you to develop the skills required for management in a large and complex organisation. You'll achieve an understanding of public policy so you can analyse and influence policy-making and implementation.

Career opportunities

Our current students and alumni work in roles in: 

  • Local and national governments and their departments
  • International organisations and non-governmental organisations
  • Other publicly funded organisations such as education and healthcare providers
  • Charities and not-for-profit organisations.

Many of our alumni have progressed in their careers either during or after their studies.

Transferable skills

  • Leadership skills
  • Policy analysis
  • Decision-making
  • Planning and implementing a research project
  • Influencing and managing networks and partnerships
  • Reflective practice for ongoing professional development

Entry requirements How to get here

Course entry

You should normally have at least a 2:1 degree or equivalent qualification. However, if you do not meet this requirement but have relevant work experience with good academic potential you are encouraged to apply.

You should also have professional experience in public or social policy. This could be in roles at local or national government, or in non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations, the voluntary and charitable sector, and private sector roles which support or deliver public services.

You will also need to ensure you have:

  • A computer in your home with an internet connection (minimum 0.5mbps)
  • An office software suite compatible with Word and Excel formats.


When you apply you'll need to write a personal statement, answering all the questions on this template and acknowledging the Requirements of Study.

International options

The international equivalents of UK qualifications are shown on our country-specific pages. You can also contact the international team for guidance.

English language

If your native language is not English you will need to show evidence of your English language ability. Some exceptions apply, but the standard accepted qualifications are listed below:

  • IELTS: 6.5, with no less than 5.5 in each component
  • Pearson (PTE): 61, with no less than 51 in each component
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 176, with no less than 162 in each component
  • TOEFL: 87, with a minimum of 17 in Listening, 18 in Reading, 20 in Speaking and 17 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Merit in all components

Fees and funding​​

For 2017/18 entry the fees for the first year are:

  • Part-time, distance learning (2 years): £5,700 (year 1 fee)
    Higher band fee. Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
  • Part-time, distance learning (2 years): £4,735 (year 1 fee)
    This lower band fee applies to student based in developing countries, employers sponsoring more than one student per cohort, City of York Council employees and Ministry of Defence personnel. Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation
  • Find out more about fees and sources of funding.

Enquire Contact our admissions tutors if you have any questions

Dr Kevin Caraher

Dr Kevin Caraher

Next steps

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