Social Policy BA

Is the criminal justice system working? Should faith groups have a role in public life? How is digitalisation changing the nature of a wide range of areas of social life? Is the divide between the rich and poor getting bigger? Do values such as social justice matter?

Studying Social Policy involves exploring these and a whole range of related issues, indeed, Social Policy is an integral part of our lives and the world around us. Pick up a newspaper, turn on the TV or radio and listen to the animated and passionate conversations of a wide range of local, national and international commentators and you will repeatedly find social policy issues at the core of those debates. Studying Social Policy involves investigating societies' efforts to identify diswelfares and in turn, improve wellbeing. The discipline requires a level of complexity which engages with key fields of wellbeing such as broader dynamics in a rapidly changing global context, such as digitalisation and globalisation. Understanding the pursuit of wellbeing requires an engagement with ideological debates, conceptual differences, divergence in values and conflicting evidence, all of which are implicated within analyses and evaluation of policy processes as well as the formulation and implementation of policy processes themselves.

A Social Policy degree is an interdisciplinary degree, and so is suitable for Home/EU students who are currently studying a range of advanced level subjects as well as international students who have an interest in contemporary social issues and debates. Read more in our latest UG Social Policy course brochure (PDF).

  • Social Policy is a contemporary academic subject and this degree will provide you with a route into a range of careers and professional pathways
  • BA Social Policy is in the top ten in Complete University Guide 2016

  Find out why our students love living and studying in Birmingham.

Please be reassured that the vote to leave the European Union does not mean there will be any immediate material change to the UK university sector’s participation in EU programmes such as Erasmus and study abroad programmes. Visit our EU Referendum information page for more information.


21st Century Social Policy is a highly dynamic academic subject, which engages with a wide range of contemporary, often controversial issues and debates about society, human aspirations and wellbeing. The BA Social Policy is an interdisciplinary degree, drawing on subjects such as sociology, politics, psychology, history, media and cultural studies.

First year

The ambition of a social policy degree programme is to create critically aware and engaged students who are able to analyse and evaluate political and public policy objectives, their formulation and implementation. This requires the gradual development of student's knowledge base and skills. Your first year is designed to help you find your feet and get up to speed with the subject. We introduce some of the main disciplines, themes, concepts and problems facing the UK in a contemporary global context. These include:

  • Key concepts in social policy: for example, need, citizenship, equality, difference, globalisation and risk;
  • The mixed policy economy of wellbeing;
  • Key topics of social policy: health, education, housing, migration, poverty, social security and income maintenance;
  • The demographic and socio-economic context of social policy provision;
  • The construction of social issues and problems and changing policy responses over time;
  • Introductory research skills;
  • An introduction to criminology to explore the criminalisation of social problems and the shifting nature of social policy responses.

Taken together, your core and optional modules will provide you with opportunities to develop your understanding of social policy, and the space to explore new areas of academic study.

Second year

In your second year you will consolidate and build upon the knowledge base and skills gained in your first year. The focus here is initially upon supporting students in developing their research and analytical skills so that you have the capabilities of both conducting your  own small scale investigation of a social issue of your choice in your  final year of study and also the ability to effectively appraise and use bodies of research at every stage of your studies. This will of course provide you with a range of practical skills and knowledge needed in the wider world of work after your degree. As such there are two core modules in year two.  You can also choose a further four optional modules which reflect your particular and developing interests from a range of subject areas, enabling you to develop specialist knowledge in specific policy areas. You will continue developing analytical skills and your understanding of the social and political worlds through modules.

Third year

By your final year you will be prepared to conduct your own research project (or extended essay).  You will have the opportunity to explore knowledge and policy in an area of your choice which reflects your particular interests.   Your core module is a choice between a research-based dissertation or an extended essay. Module options at this level will enable you to focus on additional areas of the research expertise of the School of Social Policy and the research centres of the School, further enabling you to benefit from  research excellence and  leading, contemporary research.    As such you  can explore issues such as:

  • Matters of personal finances, wealth and the relationship these have with social policy
  • The role of religion in politics and social policy
  • The future prospects and developments within social policy
  • Political histories of the ways in which social policies have developed
  • The challenges of migration and diversity for social policy aims and ambitions.

Birmingham social policy is designed to facilitate student learning in key aspects of the discipline, not just so that they can just understand policy, but also to encourage them to seek out and pursue change. Students study the tools and methods of social research alongside theories of policy making, evidence-based policy and different policy analysis techniques and applies to this issues such as drug abuse, body work, homelessness, poverty and domestic violence in order to both analyse and evaluate existing policies and also explore alternative possibilities.

Additional information

An undergraduate subject degree brochure is available from Katherine Burley,, Tel: +44(0)121 414 5709.

We hold applicant visiting days, which you are most welcome to attend.

We run Discovery Days for groups of students, which comprise a subject talk, a taster seminar, admissions advice and a campus tour. Please contact us, if you, your school or college would be interested in one of these sessions.

Why study this course

About the School of Social Policy

The School of Social Policy is one of the leading centres for applied social policy in the UK. The School is committed to bridging the divide between academia and practice and to applying its research through teaching, publications, consultancy and policy advice. The School has vast experience of welcoming students from all over the world. Over the years many students have successfully completed their degrees and enjoyed the experience of living and studying in the City of Birmingham.


There are two departments that make up the School of Social Policy:

The Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Birmingham is an internationally leading centre which draws together expertise from across the fields of social policy, social work and community justice. In our research and teaching, we explore how policy and practice can contribute to making a difference in people's lives - particularly those who may face disadvantage or social exclusion.

The Department also runs what is believed to be the oldest, continually running social work training programme in the UK, which has been running since 1908.


Modules available will enable you to acquire a range of skills which are valued by employers, including: critical enquiry; analytical skills; problem solving; research competencies; workload planning and management; convening working parties; team working; presentations; writing policy reports and producing briefing papers. You will also be able to choose optional modules such as the Personal Skills Award, which can provide you with the opportunity to develop further employment specific skills, for example, in leadership and project management. Optional modules are also available which provide opportunities to visit organisations and agencies and there are further opportunities to gain a wide variety of placement experiences.

First year

Core modules in your first year are designed to help you find your feet and get up to speed with the subject through the study of some of the main disciplines and themes which are relevant to social policy. These include:

You can also choose a further two optional modules which reflect your particular interests from a range of subject areas such as:

  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • History
  • Politics
  • International studies

Taken together, your core and optional modules will provide you with opportunities to develop and consolidate your understanding of social policy, and the space to explore new areas of academic study.

Second year

In your second year you will build upon the knowledge base and skills gained in your first year. The focus here is initially upon supporting you to deveop your research and analytical skills through two core modules in year two:

You can also choose a further four optional modules which reflect your particular interests from a range of subject areas. You may wish  to continue developing analytical skills and your understanding of the social and political worlds through modules such as:

And you can develop specialist knowledge in a range of key social policy topics, including:

Third year

By your final year you will be prepared to conduct your own research project (or extended essay) providing you with the opportunity to select a topic which is of particular interest to you and explore knowledge and policy within that policy area. As such your core module is a choice between a research-based dissertation or an extended essay.

If you choose to do the dissertation (40 credits) as your core module then you can select four optional modules. If you choose to do the extended essay (20 credits) you can choose five optional modules. Optional modules include:

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.

Fees and funding

The Government has announced that it will raise the cap for undergraduate fees in line with inflation. Assuming that the relevant regulations are passed by Parliament, which is expected to happen in Autumn 2016, the University of Birmingham will increase fees to the revised amount, expected to be £9,250 for home/EU students. Visit our tuition fees page for more information.

Learn more about fees and funding.

Home/EU students

Undergraduate Home/EU student fees 2017-18
Fee Band Full-time
Undergraduate £9,250 - TBC

Overseas students entering in 2017-18

Overseas students entering in 2017-18
Fee Band (Undergraduate) Full-time
Band 1 (Classroom) £15,570


At Birmingham we ensure that fears about finance do not constrain prospective students from considering university and that excellence is rewarded.

The University offers a range of additional financial support for students studying at Birmingham in the form of bursaries, grants and scholarships.

Learn more about our scholarships and awards. 


Learn more about our scholarships and awards

We encourage applications through the University’s Access to Birmingham (A2B) Scheme 

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
Typical offer:
General Studies:

Additional information:

BTEC Extended Diploma accepted - grades required DDM.

BTEC Diploma accepted when combined with an A-level.

BTEC Subsidiary Diploma accepted when combined with 2 A-levels.

Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements

What if you are studying non-social science subjects in school?

We welcome applications from those who are studying advanced level or other qualifications from a very wide range of subjects, such as: sociology, politics, criminology, media studies, psychology, international studies, theology, law, history, geography, philosophy, languages, biology, commerce, general studies or critical thinking.

We look for applicants who have gained transferable skills such as - how to research a subject; critically analyse material, frame and present an argument which can be developed further by studying a social policy degree course.

Advanced level studies include:

  • A-levels
  • Access courses
  • AGNVQs
  • Diploma courses such as BTEC
  • AVCEs
  • HNCs
  • International or European Baccalaureate

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 5,5,5 at Higher Level, to include English with a minimum of 32 points overall 
Standard English language requirements apply

Learn more about international entry requirements

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS at  
Learn more about applying


The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.

UK, EU and international students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.

You submit an application via the UCAS website with a list of up to five courses. All choices are confidential during the application process so universities and colleges considering an application cannot see your other choices. Applications must be completed by mid-January of the year that you wish to start university.

You can monitor the progress of your application using the UCAS Apply system.

Key Information Set (KIS)

Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.

All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.

The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.

The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.

As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself.

How will I be taught?

As a Social Policy student your learning will be facilitated through a blend of teaching, learning and assessment methods, for example:

  • Lectures, seminars, workshops, classes and tutorials
  • Web based learning methods, e.g. production of wikis
  • Reflective learning through the use of groupwork, independent work and study logs
  • Project work, policy reports, working parties, briefing papers and presentations
  • Embedded learning through optional placements and extensive engagement with developing contemporary social issues and debates
  • Team and independent research work, in your third year, a research based dissertation
  • Tutorials - All students receive academic support and progress review from their own personal academic tutor throughout the three years of their degree

Assessment is based around one practice piece of work or model answer for which you receive feedback before completing one assessment which determines your module grade. This gives students the opportunity to get feedback on their work before doing their assessment.

Our Information Services provide a suite of training, designed to facilitate students in using the wide range of information technology services, research databases and online data sources, which you will use within your social policy degree studies.

Learning settings

Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, from scheduled teaching in lectures and small group tutorials, to self-study and peer group learning (for example preparing and delivering presentations with your classmates).

Personal tutors

You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.

Welfare tutors

We have dedicated welfare tutors who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond.

During your first year, it is important that you have a smooth transition into University. You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support.

Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions to workshops on a range of topics including note taking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

Contact hours

Depending on the modules you select, each week you will have between 12 and 15 hours of lectures and classes, with lecturers on hand to answer additional questions outside of this timeframe.

Internships and placements

Internships and placements provide students with the opportunity to spend a longer block of time with an agency or organisation, and there are a range of interesting opportunities available to students. In addition to a dedicated Careers Advisor, we also have a specialist Internship and Placement Officer located in the School of Social Policy, who works with and facilitates students in securing experiential opportunities. In addition to structured inputs into the programme our Careers officers have an active relationship with our student Social Policy Society, arranging events, workshops and talks in collaboration with our students. Both placements and internships can provide you with an excellent means of developing a vivid and tangible sense of the connections between your academic studies and the world of employment.

Work experience

If you are interested in gaining work experience over the course of your social policy degree programme, our specialist Careers and Employability Advisor will be able to provide you with support, advice and information about the many employers who are keen to offer opportunities to our undergraduates. The Guild also has a facility called Jobzone which provides a wide and interesting range of opportunities for students. In addition, if you want to gain work experience in an area which is interesting or inspires you, but perhaps is low paid or unpaid, the University has a range of bursaries available which can enable you to do this. 

Assessment methods

Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.

You’ll be assessed in a variety of ways, and these may be different with each module that you take. You will be assessed through coursework which may take the form of essays, group and individual presentations, laboratory-based work (depending on your chosen degree) and formal exams.

During your first year you will undergo a formal ‘transition’ review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.

At the beginning of each module, you’ll be given information on how and when you’ll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You’ll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You’ll be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.

Your Birmingham degree

Your Birmingham degree is evidence of your ability to succeed in a demanding academic environment. Employers target Birmingham students for their drive, diversity, communication and problem-solving skills, their team-working abilities and cultural awareness, and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.

Careers Network

Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about as you start university. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal.

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team (in each of the five academic colleges) who can give you expert advice. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you. Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CV’s and job applications will help give you the edge. In addition, our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

We also offer voluntary work which complements your studies by helping you gain practical experiences in occupational settings while contributing back to society. This can bring new skills that will be useful throughout your future and can make a positive impact on your learning whilst at university. Volunteering enables you to develop skills such as communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, self-confidence and self-discipline, all of which can be transferred into your studies.

Visit the University of Birmingham Careers pages for further information on how we are 'investing in your future'.

Graduate Internship Case Study: Amy Davenport, Health Exchange (2014)

Career opportunities

With an emphasis on examining contemporary social issues and questions your Social Policy degree makes strong connections with the work of a very wide range of employers and key professions. Our graduates have pursued careers in a wide range of areas, for example:

  • Voluntary Organisations and Social Enterprises
  • Advice Work and Law
  • Journalism and Think Tanks
  • Public Relations
  • Health Promotion
  • The Civil Service
  • Local Government
  • Leisure and Sports Management
  • Probation Work
  • Human Resource Management
  • Work with Children and Young People
  • Legal Profession
  • Teaching
  • Working in Developing Countries
  • Social Research
  • Postgraduate Study 

Graduate Internship case study: Amy Davenport, Health Exchange

Amy DavenportAmy Davenport, BA Social Policy (2013) "Overall, I feel that my internship has served me well and has given me a lot of confidence and a better skill set for my career. My view on social enterprises has changed enormously, as I now have a new understanding of its fast-paced nature and the importance it has in delivering to communities that may find it difficult to get help and support from other, more traditional access points. Looking beyond my internship, I now find myself looking for what social enterprises there are and what opportunities they have."

Opportunities to secure a career that is right for you, can be enhanced not only through experiences that are available to you on your Social Policy degree programme, but also through our specialist Careers Network.

Student profiles


Richard took the single honours social policy degree. He decided to study social policy as it allowed him to study a wide range of subjects and issues. Over the course of his studies, Richard enjoyed the criminal justice and diversity modules. Read more....

Naila Begum

I found the Social Policy Department to be very supportive; personal tutors prioritise the welfare of students and ensure that they are on task with their academic work. I particularly enjoyed the Crime and Justice Modules as they provided me with really good insights into the way that public issues can influence the way that the law develops. Read more.... 

Siying Poole 

I chose to study at the University of Birmingham because of its international prestige and excellent reputation in both academic research and teaching. The successful completion of an Access to Higher Education diploma enabled me to join this dynamic and vibrant university as a mature student.

Throughout my degree programme, my expectations were fulfilled in every single respect: my subjects were intellectually interesting and challenging; my lecturers provided inspiration and support and comprehensive welfare and social life programs were available from Student Services. A degree in Political Science and Social Policy has enabled me to gain a variety of valuable skills. These include verbal and written communication skills, research and analytical skills, project management, team working, IT skills in research software including NVIVO and SPSS, and the creation of wikis and the use of other social media such as facebook and twitter.

Whilst studying at the University, I have researched intensively into the Third Sector and my voluntary work at Birmingham Children's Hospital has complemented and informed my research in this area. I have worked closely with consultants and nurses at the Dermatology Department and have chaired an eczema support group since 2009. I successfully completed my degree in July 2012 and obtained a high 2:1 and a 1st with my thesis. Overall, my degree has provided me with a really solid foundation for a career in the public or third sector.