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BA (Hons) Social and Public Policy

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

Year of entry: 2024/25
Show year of entry: 2025

UCAS code


Institution code



3 years full-time (plus optional placement year)

Typical offer

BBB (full entry requirements)

Start date

September 2024 (semester dates)

UK (home) fees

£9,250 per year

International and EU fees

£23,700 per year

Undergraduate Open Days

Book your place for our Open Days on 6 and 7 September.

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A BA in Social and Public Policy will enable you to understand the causes of social problems and how societies attempt to solve them, both nationally and internationally. 

Social progress depends on effectively designed social and public policies that aim to distribute resources to maximise human welfare and minimise social disadvantage. The study of Social and Public Policy addresses the best ways to achieve these outcomes, drawing on concepts and theories from all social science disciplines.
As independent, critical thinkers, you will graduate equipped to tackle complex problems and produce creative solutions, applying sophisticated theoretical knowledge of the social and policy worlds and promoting collaborative approaches in their working lives.
Our programme is outward-looking and incorporates strong links with the non-academic policy community, opportunities to engage with leading policy organisations and an international perspective to studying social issues. You will have a versatility of knowledge and skills that will enable them to pursue a wide range of careers in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Real world influence

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.

39th in the World

for Social Policy and Administration in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024

Course content

You'll start your study of social and public policy by undertaking core modules that give you a thorough grounding in social sciences and research methods. As you progress, you'll tailor your degree with option modules that allow you to focus on issues and policies that interest you.

During your degree, You will consider the diversity of human needs and sources of inequality at local, national and global levels, and analyse the social, political and economic context in which they exist. Aiming to understand and improve societal responses to social problems and disadvantage.

You will also engage with active examination of the complexity of the policy-making process in the UK and beyond. You will learn how to investigate and critically assess the role of policy actors, citizens, governments, and markets in shaping policy, and to evaluate the evidence on which policy is based.


Year 1

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

Core modules

You will also study one option module. In previous years, options have covered topics such as:

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module.

Year 2

In your second year you'll study core modules which build upon your previous work. You'll also choose from a range of option modules that will allow you to focus on a topic that interests you.

Core modules

Option modules

You will also study two option modules, one from Option List A and one from Option List B. Examples include:

Option List A
Option List B

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

Year 3

In your third year you can choose from a range of option modules, including the opportunity for a short placement with an organisation working in social policy. You'll also work on a dissertation: an extended essay based on your own research.

Core modules

Option modules

You will also study four option modules, two from Option List A and two from Option List B. Examples include:

Option List A

In the summer holiday before the third year starts you can undertake a work-shadowing placement that lasts around 80 hours. This will allow you to learn from professionals in a field you're interested in. Watching professionals at work is a completely different learning experience which can help you develop ideas for your dissertation and your future career. If you choose to do a placement, it counts as one of your four option modules.

Option List B

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.

Learning by design

Every course at York has been designed to provide clear and ambitious learning outcomes. These learning outcomes give you an understanding of what you will be able to do at the end of the course. We develop each course by designing modules that grow your abilities towards the learning outcomes and help you to explain what you can offer to employers. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Analyse and evaluate policy to develop informed judgements through a critical understanding of the ways in which social, political, economic and institutional interests shape social problems and societal responses.
  • Design policy for effective delivery and outcome, drawing on understanding of the policy making process and applying theories and concepts from the social sciences to real world problems.
  • Retrieve, generate, interpret and critically assess qualitative and quantitative data using appropriate research methods, digital resources and policy-relevant analytical techniques to investigate social questions, assess evidence and produce reasoned written accounts of social and public policy enquiry.
  • Engage with policy debate at local, national and global level, synthesising complex material and communicating ideas effectively to a range of audiences, both in writing and verbally, using up-to-date visual presentation techniques.
  • Work effectively in multidisciplinary teams by acknowledging competing interpretations of social issues, and by recognising the value of collaborative and participatory approaches to problem-solving and the shaping of policy responses.
  • Recognise the drivers of social inequalities and the differential impact of policies on social groups and contribute to the pursuit of social progress through sensitivity to the diversity of human needs.
There is a really diverse mix of students on the course 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 and Public Policy

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees

UK (home) International and EU
£9,250 £23,700

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.

Fees for subsequent years

  • UK (home) fees may increase within the government fee cap in subsequent academic years. We will notify you of any increase as soon as we can.
  • International fees are subject to increase in subsequent years in line with the prevailing Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate (up to a maximum of 10%).

More information

For more information about tuition fees, any reduced fees for study abroad and work placement years, scholarships, tuition fee loans, maintenance loans and living costs see undergraduate fees and funding.


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

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.

Free online courses

Get a taste of university-level study on one of York's free short courses, including our subject course, 'Understanding and solving poverty and inequality'.

Teaching Excellence Framework Gold Award

Gold-standard education

Our teaching, learning and student experience is outstanding, recognised by a Gold rating from the Office for Students in the 2023 national assessment (Teaching Excellence Framework).

Why we’re gold-rated

Teaching and assessment

You’ll study and learn with academics who are active researchers, experts in their field and have a passion for their subjects. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

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 and Public Policy degree and teaching on some of the core modules.

In the UK, full-time students are expected to spend 1,200 hours a year learning. That's about 40 hours of classes and independent study each week during semesters. Everyone learns at a different rate, so the number of hours you spend on independent study will be different to other students on your course.

Teaching location

You will be based in the School of Business & Society which is based on Campus West. The majority of your teaching will take place in Derwent and Alcuin.

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 - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can use the fast and frequent bus service. Take a campus tour.

Assessment and feedback

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 8,000 words. You'll be supported by a dissertation supervisor as you specialise in a topic that interests you.

Careers and skills

This course will prepare you for a career which uses social and public policy. The course is also 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 and public policy fields. 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.

Entry requirements

Typical offer
A levels


Access to Higher Education Diploma 21 credits at Distinction and 24 credits at Merit or higher
BTEC National Extended Diploma DDM
Cambridge Pre-U M2, M2, M2
European Baccalaureate 75% overall
International Baccalaureate 31 points overall
T levels We will consider a range of T Level qualifications for entry. Please visit our dedicated T Levels page for a full list of accepted T Levels.
Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers Scottish Highers - BBBBB

Advanced Highers - not required for entry

We may also be able to consider three Advanced Highers or a combination of Highers and Advanced Highers, where an applicant does not meet the grade requirement through Highers alone. Please contact us to discuss your qualifications.
International foundation programme Foundation Certificate from our International Pathway College or an appropriate alternative.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Alternative offers

Meeting the following additional criteria may qualify you for an alternative offer.

Criteria Adjustment
Widening participation If you successfully complete one of the following programmes, you may be eligible for an alternative offer up to three A level grades (or equivalent) below our typical offer: Black Access Programme, Next Step York, Realising Opportunities, YESS, YorWay to York. More about widening participation.
Contextual offers If you have experience of local authority care or live in an area with low progression to university, you may be eligible for an alternative offer up to one A level grade (or equivalent) below our typical offer. More about contextual offers.
EPQ If you achieve C or higher at EPQ, you may be eligible for an alternative offer up to one A level grade (or equivalent) below our typical offer.
Core Maths If you achieve B or higher in Core Maths, you may be eligible for an alternative offer up to one A level grade (or equivalent) below our typical offer.

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) 6.5, with a minimum of 6.0 in each component
Cambridge CEFR 176, with a minimum of 169 in each component
Oxford ELLT 7, with a minimum of 6 in each component
Duolingo 120, minimum 105 in each component
GCSE/IGCSE/O level English Language (as a first or second language) Grade C / Grade 4
LanguageCert SELT B2 with a minimum score of 33/50 in each component
LanguageCert Academic B2 Communicator with a minimum score of 33/50 in each component
KITE 459 Main Flight score with 426 in each component
Skills for English B2: Merit overall, with Pass with Merit in each component
PTE Academic 61, with a minimum of 55 in each component
TOEFL 87 overall, with a minimum of 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all components

For more information see our undergraduate 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.


To apply to York, you will need to complete an online application via UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

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 School and the University.

Next steps

Contact us

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School for Business and Society

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