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

Overview Advanced research training combining in-depth methods training with schooling in social policy analysis theories


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

The MRes in Social Policy will equip you with advanced social policy specific research skills that are needed to critically analyse and research contemporary social problems and policy issues.

The course offers a combination of taught coursework and supervised independent study. You will also complete an independent study project which is an opportunity for you to demonstrate the research skills and knowledge you will develop in the earlier stages of the course.

This MRes is especially suited for:

  • Graduates from social policy, politics, sociology or other social sciences
  • Graduates from other backgrounds who wish to develop an understanding of social research methods and policy analysis
  • Those looking to develop a career in social research and/or policy analysis

The MRes 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 MRes 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 go on to study effective data collection, analysis and interpretation at an advanced level as well as developing the presentation and communications skills you'll need to effectively disseminate your research.

Most people study for 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'll take two more compulsory modules that build upon your earlier study:

  • Advanced Qualitative Methods: you'll build upon the 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 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.

More details on the MRes 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 produce a 15,000-20,000 word dissertation under the guidance of your own individual supervisor.

Given the individual nature of dissertations, there is huge variation in the topics which can be studied. Recent projects by Social Policy masters students include:

  • The role of community-based services in ameliorating loneliness amongst the elderly in China
  • "The secret poll-tax": a mixed method study of localized council tax support
  • Siblings and the care system
  • Welfare conditionality and the well-being of single mothers​.
Now I'm studying for my PhD, specialising in mental health street triage. I'd love to work in mental health research but also teach at the same time, so I'm lucky at the moment to be able to teach on the Introducing Social Policy module.
Alice, MRes Social Policy graduate, 2014-15
Hear more from Alice about her experience studying this course.

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 course have been specifically developed for postgraduate study. You'll be taught through a combination of hands-on workshops, lectures and seminars based on real cases and data. You will find that small group working and establishing your own perspective on social issues becomes a core part of your studying process.

  • One-to-one supervision while undertaking an extended research project on a topic of your choosing
  • A friendly, supportive and intellectually stimulating environment in which to study
  • Small group teaching with the majority of 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 teaching has been really good. The staff are all research active so when they're lecturing they feed their own research into the lectures, tutorials and everything. It's interesting to hear about the real life applications of theory and knowledge.
Caitlin, MRes Social Policy

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 MRes in Social Policy develops skills required by employers 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.

Career opportunities

The MRes in Social Policy is designed for students who want to become active in social policy analysis and research. Graduates from the MRes 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 the same fields
  • Academic research and PhD level study.

There are also opportunities outside social policy, including civil service, journalism and social enterprise.

Transferable skills

  • Advanced research and analysis skills
  • Qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Critical appraisal
  • Presentation and dissemination of research.

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 also be considered if you have relevant work experience and academic potential.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through 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.


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 a pre-sessional language courses.

Enquire Contact our admissions tutors if you have any questions

Next steps

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