Social Policy MA/PGDiploma/PGCertificate

The MA Social Policy explores issues and developments in social welfare from both a British and international perspective. The programme examines social policy within the context of broader political, social, economic and demographic developments. The programme will appeal to those who have studied another social science subject at undergraduate level, or who are seeking to study social policy for the first time at postgraduate level. It is also suitable for those who are looking to refresh their understanding of the subject, as well as those who are currently employed in the voluntary or public sectors in areas such as health or housing. The MA Social Policy welcomes applications from international students.

Download MA/PGDip Social Policy course brochure (PDF)

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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

The Department of Social Policy and Social Work in the School of Social Policy is an internationally renowned centre for teaching and research in social policy and social work. The Department aims to ensure that all MA students develop their analytical and research skills.


There are currently four core modules on the MA Social Policy programme. These are:

The Politics of British Social Policy Since 1940 (20 credits)

Current Module Lead: Robert Page

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 and Major neo-liberal welfare 'revolution' (1979-1990), New Labour's 'third way', welfare strategy (1997-2010) and the 'welfare' records of both the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government (2010-2015) and the current Conservative administration (2015 - present day).

Introduction to Applied Social Research (20 credits)

Current Module Lead: Lisa Goodson

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 (20 credits)

Current Module Lead: Rob Macmillan

This module provides students with the opportunity to identify and discuss the nature and role of policy analysis.

International Social Policy (20 credits)

Current Module Lead: Kelly Hall

This module introduces students to social policy in countries other than the UK. It looks at different modules of social policy and welfare development, explores the impact of globalisation on social welfare and enables students to critically compare and analyse social policy within different cultural, political and historical contexts.

There are also a range of optional 20 Credit modules. These include:

  • Researching Social Policy
    Current Module Lead: Jenny Phillimore
  • Sectors and Services in British Social Policy
    Current Module Lead: Lee Gregory
  • Migration, Superdiversity, Policy and Practice
    Current Module Lead: Lisa Goodson
  • Third Sector in Social Policy
    Current Module Lead: John Mohan

Approved modules from another Department.

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme are subject to change. As you will appreciate members of staff may leave the University and this may result in the withdrawal of a particular module. If a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as possible so that you can make an alternative choice.

Related staff

Fees and funding

Fees for 2016-17:

Masters (MA)
Code: 2227 £6,570 f/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 2228 £3,285 p/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 2227 £14,850 f/t (International students)

Code: 3214 £4,380 f/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 3215 £2,190 p/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 3214 £9,900 f/t (International students)

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

The new postgraduate loans system for Masters degrees in the UK will be introduced for students commencing in the 2016-17 academic year. As part of the UK’s Chancellor’s 2014 Autumn Statement, the government has reconfirmed its commitment to loans for postgraduate Masters degrees as part of the 2015 Spending Review.

The government-backed student loans will provide up to £10,000 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas.  Detailed criteria and information regarding the application process is expected in early 2016. For more detailed information view our Postgraduate funding page.

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

All MA Social Policy students will be allocated a personal tutor. Students will also have access to the Departmental Welfare Tutor and a range of other University wide services and support.

Assessment methods

On successful completion of the taught part of the programme (120 credits), MA Social Policy students undertake a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of their choice. Each student is allocated a supervisor, who will usually be a subject specialist.

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."