Social Research (Social Policy) MA/Diploma

The MA Social Research (Social Policy) is recognised by the ESRC as a research training programme designed to provide participants with a sound background in overall research design and the most up-to-date training in methods and data collection and analysis. The core elements are delivered by staff from across the College of Social Science, many of them engaged in cutting-edge research in their particular fields. The MA Social Research (Social Policy) welcomes applications from international students.

Download MA/PGDip Social Research (Social Policy) course brochure (PDF)
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This programme is recognised by the ESRC as a research training programme designed to provide participants with a solid foundation in a broad range of social science research methods as well as basic research skills. Students will acquire a general overview of the philosophy of social research, and understand how this informs research design, methods of data collection and analysis. They will also develop an ability to use a range of research methods to communicate research findings effectively and an understanding of the potential use of, and impact of their research, within and beyond academia.

The core elements of this programme are delivered by staff from across the College of Social Sciences, many of them engaged in cutting-edge research in their particular fields.

The MA programme includes assessed core modules and short courses (120 credits) and the completion of a 12,000-word dissertation (60 credits), while the Postgraduate Diploma includes the assessed courses only (120 credits).

Why study this course

If you are interested in undertaking an academic or research career in the areas of social policy, social work, health and social care or criminal justice fields, this programme could be for you. Normally you will have already done an undergraduate degree in Social Policy, Social Work, or other social sciences. The programme offers students a rigorous and systematic social research training, an opportunity to apply this to their particular areas of policy (or practice) interest and the opportunity to study relevant aspects of policy and practice in more depth.

The Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Birmingham, is an internationally leading centre for reearch in social policy and social work. It has developed a reputation for delivering high quality teaching and learning which enables students to develop into reflective and research informed professionals.


Introduction to Social Science Research (20 credits)

Module Lead: Fiona Carmichael; Nick Peim

This module aims to provide a general introduction to studying and research methods and prepares you for your dissertation, emphasising key skills such as searching literature, finding datasets and presenting and criticising arguments. It also covers ethics of research, the role of theory and philosophical bases for understanding the social world.

Research Design (20 credits)

Module Lead: Graeme Douglas; Gary Thomas

This module links the introductory module and data collection module through consideration of research design, questions, warranting practices and sampling methods. All the elements of research design are linked into an over-arching theme of the full cycle of research activity.

Social Research Methods I (20 credits)

Module Lead: Harriet Clarke; Ian Davison

This module introduces the principles and practices of data collection and explores rationales of the various methods. It will focus on the different stages of data collection, including various methods used to gather textual and numerical data.

Social Research Methods II (20 credits)

Module Lead: Harriet Clarke; Matt Bennett

This module introduces students to a range of approaches for analysing and handling data. It will include covering statistical methods for quantitative data and methodological approaches for qualitative data. It emphasises that the method of analysis is not determined by the method of collection.

Dissertation (60 credits)
On completion of the taught modules (120 credits), Masters students undertake a 12,000 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.

Students can choose from a variety of optional Substructure Modules or Advanced Research Methods Modules, for example:

20 credit modules

  • Sectors and Services in British Social Policy
    Module Lead: Lee Gregory
  • Politics of British Social Policy since 1940
    Module Lead: Robert Page
  • Third Sector in Social Policy
    Module Lead: John Mohan
  • Migration, Superdiversity, Policy and Practice
    Module Lead: Lisa Goodson
  • International Social Policy
    Module Lead: Kelly Hall
  • Globalisation, International Migration and Citizenship
    Module Lead: Nando Sigona
  • Policy Futures: Global and Local Perspectives
    Module Lead: Rob Macmillan; John Mohan

10 credit modules

  • Multivariate Linear + Logistic Regression
    Module Lead(s): Matt Bennett
  • Factor Analysis
    Module Lead(s): Ian Davison
  • Narrative Research
    Module Lead(s): Nicki Ward
  • Visual Research Methods
    Module Lead(s): Ian Grosvenor; Nick Peim
  • Researching Disability
    Module Lead(s): Graeme Douglas; Harriet Clarke
  • Approaches to Research on Discourse
    Module Lead(s): Nick Peim
  • Policy Evaluation
    Module Lead(s): Martin Powell

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

Related staff

Fees and funding

Fees for 2016-2017:

Masters (MA)
Code: 5078 £6,570 f/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 5314 £3,285 p/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 5078 £14,850 f/t (International students)

Code: 5079 £4,380 f/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 5079 £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 or 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. See international scholarships.

Entry requirements

A good Honours degree or equivalent is normally required. This will usually be in a social science, although applications from those with degrees in other disciplines will be considered. 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 participants on the Social Research (Social Policy) MA will be supported by a personal tutor and will also be able to draw on the support of the School's Postgraduate Taught Programme Director, Welfare Tutors and International Student tutors.

Students will also benefit from access to e-learning resources as well as the University's main library and student services.

Assessment methods

The MA programme includes assessed core modules and short courses (120 credits) and the completion of a 10,000-word dissertation (60 credits), while the Postgraduate Diploma includes the assessed courses only (120 credits).

This course is designed for those considering research as a career. That includes those wanting an academic career, for whom this degree is ideal preparation for undertaking a doctorate (PhD). It also includes those seeking a research career in such areas as central government, local government, charities and in consultancies and market/social research. The degree also provides good transferable skills in evaluation and in analysing data, and the ability to critique published research.

"Alison Kite, MA Social Research (Social Policy),"I chose to study at the University of Birmingham firstly bedcause a friend had done an MA in Social Policy here and recommended it. Secondly, my interest is in the Third Sector and I knew that Birmingham had made a bid to run the Third Sector Research Centre, which was successful. I really benefited from the Social Policy expertise within the department and the friendly and supportive working environment. The whole experience was very positive, the lectures and seminars were stimulating and interaction/group discussion was encouraged. Studying at Birmingham has changed my life in a big way! I am now starting the first year of a PhD ESRC studentship and it was the knowledge I gained at Birmingham that enabled me to go for this opportunity. When I started the Masters, I hadn't intended to do a PhD but the course helped me to see what the possibilities were. As a result I have been able to change direction with my career and am really excited about the next three years."