Social Policy with Year Abroad BA

The Social Policy degree at Birmingham provides an excellent opportunity to actively engage in the analysis of cutting edge social issues and debates in areas such as policing, crime and social unrest, gender inequalities, migration and the significance of globalisation and digitalisation, to name just a few. These, and a wide range of related issues, not only have a high profile on political and public agendas in all forms of contemporary media, but also form the focus of the work of a wide range of agencies and professions in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Social Policy is a highly contemporary, dynamic and grounded academic subject and this degree will provide you with a route into a range of careers and professional pathways. We welcome applications from international students.

On this 4-year programme, you will spend a year abroad in your third year at a university in the EU or elsewhere in the world. Read more in our latest UG Social Policy course brochure (PDF).

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.

BA Social Policy is an interdisciplinary degree, drawing on subjects such as sociology, politics, psychology, history, media and cultural studies and so is suitable for students currently studying a range of A level subjects, and who have an interest in highly contemporary social issues and debates. The BA Social Policy is ranked among the top ten  social policy programmes in the country. Social Policy is located in a vibrant research environment and is led by academics who are specialists in their fields.

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

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  initially is upon supporting students in developing their research and analytical skills so that you have the capabilities of both conducting your  own small scale investigations 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. 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. You will continue developing your analytical skills and your understanding of the social and political worlds through modules.

And you can develop specialist knowledge in a range of key social policy topics.  For year abroad students we highly recommend the Comparative Social Policy module.  Early in the academic year student must apply for the year abroad opportunity and information will be provided on how to do this with the appropriate deadlines.

Third year

In your third year, you will spend a year abroad at a university in the EU or elsewhere in the world. There are a wide range of countries and universities from which you can choose. As well as a range of European universities, you may also choose from a range of current partners worldwide. These include countries in which a variety of different languages are spoken, including universities at which courses are taught in English.

Fourth 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 social policy
  • The future prospects and developments within social policy
  • Political histories of the development of social policies
  • 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.

Why study this course

The Department of Social Policy and Social Work is both friendly and supportive and students are encouraged to become involved in the work of the Department and the University more broadly. There is a staff–student committee which provides a forum for regular meetings and discussion between staff and students. We also have an active Social Policy Student Society who arrange events, talks and debates. The Department also organises and funds student events: for example, our student group recently visited London and the Houses of Parliament.  Each student will also meet with their personal tutor on a regular basis to review their academic and broader developmental progress. The Department also provides a welfare tutoring system for students who may have specific support needs.

Your experiences as a student will of course be enhanced by the fact that you will undertake your studies on a beautiful campus, situated in 256 acres of parkland, at a University with outstanding cultural, sporting and social facilities. You will also benefit from studying at a University which is within easy reach of a vibrant, modern City which has so much potential to contribute to your learning experiences as a Social Policy student.

Learn more about our Student Experience activities.

Your year abroad

In your third year, you will spend a year abroad at a university in the EU or elsewhere in the world. There are a wide range of countries and universities from which you can choose. As well as a range of European universities, you may also choose from a range of current partners worldwide. These include countries in which a variety of different languages are spoken, including universities at which courses are taught in English.

Find out more about the benefits of studying abroad.


Modules available within Social Policy will enable you to acquire a range of skills which are valued by employers, for example, analytical skills; problem-solving; team working; presentations and writing policy reports.  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

Your first year is designed to help you find your feet and get up to speed with the subject through the study of some of the main disciplines that 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 develop 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

You will spend your third year in a University abroad who will provide your study programme.  Programmes of study will vary by institution.

Fourth 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:

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

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.  Methods of teaching and learning which you experience during your year abroad will be shaped by the University at which you are place.

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 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 your 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 three weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You will also be given feedback on any exams that you take.

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.

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

Social Policy and employability

Experiences you can gain as a Social Policy student, through placements, internships, working experiences and volunteering, are an excellent way of enriching your CV so that it includes that all important 'experience' that employers so often look for. When interviewed for your first job, you will often find that employers have a keen interest in how far you have developed your appreciation of the connections between your academic subject and the work of their organisations - through experiences of placements, voluntary work, internships, work experience and beyond, Social Policy students are very well placed to respond with confidence and competence.

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 Service.

Social Policy student profiles
Richard Richard, BA Social Policy
Richard works in prisons directly with the residents and is on a fast-track scheme to becoming a prison governor working his way through the operational roles in prison. More..
Naqeeb Ahmed Naqeeb Ahmed, BA Social Policy (2008)
Naqeeb now works for the Citizenship Foundation in London where his work involves coordinating the nationwide Young Muslim Leadership Network, an initiative designed to promote civic engagement amongst young people. More..
Naila Begum Naila Begum, BA Social Policy
Naila successfully completed the Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies (GDLs) at the College of Law, and found that the knowledge gained from studying Social Policy is very relevant to different areas of Law. More..
Caroline Cresswell Caroline Cresswell, BA Social Policy 
"I have recently started my PhD here in Social Policy. The decision to come to University as a mature student has definitely changed the course of my life. There's not much else I would rather be doing!" More..

View more social policy student profiles