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BA (Hons) Social Policy

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

Year of entry: 2022/23

UCAS code


Institution code



3 years full-time

Typical offer

BBB (full entry requirements)

Start date

September 2022(term dates)

UK (home) fees

£9,250 per year

International and EU fees

£19,600 per year

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in the UK for Social Policy

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022

in the world for Social Policy

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022

A BA in Social Policy will enable you to understand the causes of social problems and how societies attempt to solve them, both nationally and internationally. You'll receive a thorough grounding in core social sciences, including sociology, social psychology, politics and economics and use what you learn to explore why making successful policies is so complex, why patterns of inequality persist and what more can be done to address social problems.

Social policy is concerned with promoting the welfare of citizens. Traditionally the subject focused on the ‘big five’ areas of: poverty, health, housing, education and unemployment, but has expanded in recent years to broader social issues and international contexts. Often social policy questions the ways in which services do or do not meet the needs of specific groups, such as children, people with disabilities, women, older people, or members of minority ethnic groups.

On our BA Social Policy course you will receive a broad and balanced introduction to a range of social sciences and training in social research methods. This degree is suited to you if you are interested in the welfare state, the impact of globalisation, social inequalities, the complexities of making successful policies, and what more can be done to solve social problems at home and abroad.


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.

University of the Year shortlisted

We're proud to announce that we've been shortlisted for two prestigious University of the Year awards.

  • Times Higher Education Awards 2021
  • The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022

Find out more about our nominations

Course content

You'll start your study of social 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.

Study abroad

There are opportunities for you to spend time abroad during your course:

Year 1

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

Core modules

You will take core modules which may include:

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

You will take core modules which may include:

Option modules

You will take a selection of option modules, examples of which may include:

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.

Option modules

You will take a selection of option modules, examples of which may include:


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.


You will also work on a dissertation which gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding through independent research on a topic that interests you. Previous students have investigated topics such as:

  • The Role of Policy Networks in Shaping Urban Regeneration Policy
  • Young People’s Engagement in the Political Process
  • Is there an East Asian Welfare Model?
  • Social Housing under New Labour – Demand, Supply and Residualisation.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.

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 policy enquiry.
  • Engage with policy debate at local, national and global level, synthesising complex material and communicating ideas effectively to peers, policy actors, practitioners and client groups across a range of professional settings, 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 solutions.
  • 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.

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'.

Fees and funding

The fees and funding figures below are for 2022/23 entry. If you take a placement year - for example a year abroad or a year in industry - you'll pay a reduced rate of fees for that year

Annual tuition fees

UK (home) International and EU
£9,250 £19,600

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): further increases within the government fee cap will apply in subsequent academic years. We will notify you of any increase as soon as we can.
  • International: fees for international and EU students are subject to annual increases. Increases are currently capped at two per cent each year.

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.

Additional costs

Type Amount
Field trips Optional additional expense £0
Printing, photocopying and dissertation binding Optional additional expense £20


We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2022/23 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.

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 Policy degree and teaching on some of the core modules.

Timetabled activities

In your first year, you can expect:

Lectures4 hours per week
Seminars4 hours per week

These figures are based on an average student in an average week. Your contact hours will vary throughout the year due to your module choices, non-compulsory classes, exam periods and changes to scheduled activities. Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.

Outside your timetabled hours, you'll study independently. This may include preparation for classes, follow-up work, wider reading, practice completion of assessment tasks, or revision.

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 term time. 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 Department of Social Policy and Social Work 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 campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

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 10,000 words. You'll be supported by a dissertation supervisor as you specialise in a topic that interests you.

Percentage of the course typically assessed by coursework and exams

Year 1Year 2Year 3
Written exams0%10%0%
Practical exams5%20%0%

The figures above are based on data from 2016/17. Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.

There is a really diverse mix of students within the department 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 Policy

Careers and skills

This course will prepare you for a career which uses social 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 policy field. 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
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 one A level grade (or equivalent) below our typical offer: Next Step York, Realising Opportunities. 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 and Indicator) 6.5, with a minimum of 6.0 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, with a minimum of 169 in each component
Duolingo 110 overall, with a minimum of 100 in each component
GCSE/IGCSE/O level English Language (as a first or second language) Grade C
LanguageCert International ESOL SELT B2 Communicator High Pass with a minimum score of 33/50 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've not 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 department and the University.

Next steps

Contact us

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Social Policy and Social Work

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