Social Policy MA/PGDip/PGCert

The 'Big Society' or a top one percent Society?The MA Social Policy aims to introduce you to the study of social policyboth from a British and international perspective. It explores the subject within the context of broader political, social, economic and demographic developments. The programme is designed for those who have a first degree in another discipline or who are seeking to study social policy for the first time at postgraduate level or who are looking to refresh their understanding of the subject. The MA Social Policy welcomes applications from international students.

Over 4,500 students from 150 countries worldwide choose to study here at Birmingham, and we now boast one of the largest and most vibrant international student communities in the UK.  You can also find out why our students love living and studying in Birmingham.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Taught

Study Options: Full time, part time

Duration: MA: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time; Diploma: 9 months full-time, 18 months part-time;

Start date: September


Birmingham Masters Scholarships

The MA Social Policy aims to explore the development and contemporary context of social policy both in Britain and internationally. A key feature of the programme is the emphasis on understanding social policy developments within its broader economic, social and political context. Students will study a number of core and optional modules covering a wide range of perspectives. It is designed for both home and international students.

Programme content

The MA Social Policy is made up of 180 credits. This includes 120 credits of taught modules and a 60 credit dissertation (10,000 words). The Postgraduate Diploma is made up of 120 credits of taught modules.

Why study this course

Aston Webb building domesIf you are currently working in social policy or interested in a career in health, housing, social services and social security, then the MA Social Policy could be for you.

The Institute of Applied Social Studies in the School of Social Policy is an internationally leading centre for research in social policy and social work. The Institute has developed a reputation for delivering high quality teaching and learning which enables students to develop into reflective and research informed professionals.

The Institute is located in the newly refurbished Muirhead Tower.


The modules include:

  • The Politics of British Social Policy Since 1940
    This module explores some key developments in the politics of British Social Policy since 1940. Topics will include the impact of the Second World War on the development of the British welfare state, the post-war Labour reforms (1945-1951). 'One Nation' Conservative social policy (1951-1964), Labour's revisionist welfare strategy in the 1960s and 70s, the Thatcher welfare 'revolution' (1979-1990), New Labour's 'third way', welfare strategy (1997-2010) and contemporary developments in the Cameron-Clegg coalition government from 2010.
  • Introduction to Applied Social Research
    This module introduces students to the theory of social research and the different methodologies in an applied policy and practice setting. The development of a research proposal, choice of methodology and methods, access and ethical considerations and the research process are included and students are expected to undertake a small piece of empirical or policy research as part of their dissertation.  
  • Policy Futures: Global and local perspectives 
    This module provides students with the opportunity to identify and discuss the nature and role of policy analysis.
  • International Social Policy
    This module introduces students to developments in Social Policy in Europe and beyond. It looks at different models of Social Policy and welfare development, explores the impact of globalisation on social welfare and enables students to critically compare and analyse Social Policy from different cultural, political and historical perspectives.

Plus two courses from a range of options, including:

  • Researching Social Policy
  • Sectors and Services in British Social Policy
  • New Migration and Social Policy
  • A range of optional choices from within social sciences

Fees and funding

Fees for 2015-16:

Masters (MA):
Home and EU (full time) Code 2227: £6,210;
Home and EU (part time) Code 2228: £3,105;
Overseas (full time only) Code 2227: £14,140
Home and EU (full time) Code: 3214: £4,140
Home and EU (part time) Code 3215: £2,070
Overseas (full-time) Code 3214: £9,427
Learn more about fees and funding 

Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships may be available, please contact the Department directly. Prospective sutdents can contact the Student Funding Office via the online enquiries system at

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. 

Entry requirements

A good Honours degree or equivalent is normally required. This will often be in the field of social science, although applications from those with degrees in other disciplines are welcome. Applications are also encouraged from those without an Honours degree who have five years or more relevant work experience in a policy or practice area.

Learn more about entry requirements 


International students:

We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

  • by holding an English language qualification to the right level.
  • by taking and successfully completing one of our English courses for international students.

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Learning and teaching

All participants will be supported by a personal tutor and will also be able to draw on the support of the Institute's Postgraduate Taught Programme Director, Institute welfare tutors and international student tutors.

Assessment methods

On completion of the taught modules (120 credits), Masters students undertake a 10,000 word dissertation on a subject of their choice. Each student is allocated a supervisor, selected for their experience of both the subject matter and supervision.


Dawn Plimmer, MA Social Policy

Dawn Plimmer, MA Social Policy"After completing my undergraduate History degree at Birmingham, I decided to study for an MA in Social Policy to allow me to explore my interest in public policy in a more contemporary and applied context. The course appealed due to its broad content encompassing social theory, policy analysis, and research: all areas which I felt would be useful in helping me to pursue a career in a policy-related field.

I studied for my Masters part time while working as a Grants Officer, assessing and managing grants for funders that support charities. Working alongside studying was rewarding as it allowed me to explore topics of interest that emerged from my job. For example, I completed my dissertation on charity experiences of welfare-to-work commissioning processes. As a part time student, I found the course flexible, and the staff supportive.

The content of the course was varied and interesting, with modules ranging from the history of British social policy, to commissioning research and evaluation. Students also benefit from an impressive range of staff expertise associated with the School of Social Policy, ranging from social welfare, to migration and criminal justice. My dissertation was supervised by the Director of the university’s Third Sector Research Centre, allowing me to benefit from the latest specialist knowledge in the field.

Towards the end of my Masters, I gained a job as a consultant at New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), a charity consultancy and think tank. I enjoy the diverse nature of my role which ranges from helping funders to develop their strategy, conducting primary and secondary research into topical sector issues, and developing tools to help charities to measure their impact.

The understanding of social policy debates, the policy process and social research methods which I developed through completing an MA have proven to be highly useful and relevant in my career. I would recommend the course to other recent graduates wishing to pursue a career in public or third sector policy, as well as to professionals who want to better understand policy issues and conduct research in their specialist field."