Social Policy BA

Austerity politics and the referendum vote to leave the EU, have created a very uncertain time for the UK. But for social policy such events illustrate the ever changing context in which human wellbeing is secured. The NHS is facing a severe financial crisis. The education system is facing significant restructuring whilst poverty remains stubbornly high, and increasingly affects those in employment.

Food banks, zero hours contracts, unaffordable housing. We see these terms in the news, but what do they actually mean? Social policy explores these societal problems, and more. It not only introduces you to the key mechanisms through which governments seek to improve the welfare of their citizens, but also the political debate of what this actually means, the differences such debates generate and how we conduct analysis which allows us to make change.

As a subject, social policy seeks change at a societal and global level. Birmingham students explore the subject through a range of conceptual and analytical approaches to develop an understanding of a range of social problems. But students go further than understanding, they seek to promote change. The subject, more than any other, is about creating new potential futures in society as we seek the end social problems which blight citizen's lives.

 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.

The Social Policy degree at Birmingham enables you to understand the nature of social issues in the UK and beyond. It encourages you to not only develop an understanding of contemporary social issues, but investigate potential solutions and how to promote change to tackle social problems.

First year

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 provide you with a range of practical skills and knowledge needed in the wider world of work after your degree.

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). 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.

Additional information

An undergraduate subject degree brochure is available by contacting Email:

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

Be part of a vibrant community of students and staff making real-world impact by addressing past, current and future challenges in the field of social policy.

The research-led teaching on our flexible degree courses ensures an inspirational and enquiry-based learning environment in the lecture theatre, seminar room and on placement. You will graduate as a highly employable, independent global citizen with a broad range of transferable skills.

You will study in one of the most attractive and heritage-rich campuses in the country only a few minutes from the centre of Birmingham, the only UK city featured in the Rough Guide top 10 cities in the world to visit.


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.

Modules in 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 will also take two further modules. One from a selection of sociology modules which are available through the department and one module which is from the University Widening Horizons programme. 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.

Modules in 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:

Modules in 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

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2017, the University of Birmingham will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year. The fees for your first year of study will therefore be £9,250. 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

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-DDD

Typical offers when offered in combination with A Levels:  

  • BTEC Diploma DM-DD plus B in A level
  • BTEC Subsidiary Diploma D plus BB-AB in A levels 

Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements

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?

During your time at the School of Social Policy, your learning will be facilitated through a blend of teaching, learning and assessment methods, and you will experience teaching through a mixture of lectures, seminars, workshops, classes and tutorials.


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.

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.


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.

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 work experience

We have developed a range of internships and funded work experience placements that will enhance both your professional and personal skills whilst giving you the practical experience that is required by almost all graduate employers. In addition to funding and support, we offer unique opportunities to help you to rise above the competition, with global internships and placements available.

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

There are a number of job paths for you to take after graduating. There are graduate schemes in managing welfare services in health care, the third sector and local government which can be popular choices with our graduates. Our students also gain many transferable skills such as critical thinking, written and verbal communication and team work which give them the flexibility to go into a wide range of employment opportunities.

  • NHS managaement trainee scheme
  • Planning Officer
  • Charity co-ordinator
  • Marketing project manager
  • Social enterprise co-ordinator
  • Campaign manager for an MP
  • Youth worker
  • Researcher
  • Communications officer
  • Graduate land buyer
  • Benefits Officer

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.