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MA Social Policy

Start date
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

2024 - 2025
£10,530 f/t (UK students)
£5,265 p/t (UK students)
£23,310 f/t (International students)
More Fees and funding details.

Find out more about our MA in Social Policy

Social Policy seeks to not only understand the social world, but seeks to change it for the better through practical action.

Human well-being can be delivered through a range of public, private and voluntary institutions.Welfare systems and other public institutions face considerable challenges presented by economic crisis such as an ageing population, increasingly flexible forms of work, migration, and shifting ways of family life. Alongside these fiscal and demographic pressures, rising socio-economic inequality and austerity has begun to reverse a number of key social advancements in terms of health and social mobility, making it a fascinating and critical time to study these issues. 

The MA Social Policy will address a range of social problems, such as poverty, homelessness, crime and health inequalities. You will be encouraged to consider the underlying causes and to formulate policy solutions to address specific social problems. The MA Social Policy programme also examines contemporary and comparative developments within social policy so that you will be able to consider the shifting nature of welfare arrangements in a broader political, economic and social context, from both a UK and global perspective.

Inherent to Social Policy as a field of study is a normative focus that seeks to describe the state of a specific society not only in terms of the fulfilment of human needs, but to consider if our societies should be more effectively and justly organised. A key focus for the MA Social Policy programme will be on the ways in which we might transform our societies to increase human well-being and to promote sustainable forms of living, and to encourage you to evaluate alternative forms of social organisation.  


Unless indicated otherwise the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2024.

Core Modules

  • Philosophies of Welfare: creating new societies? (20 credits)
  • Poverty, Wealth and Inequality (20 credits)
  • Dissertation (60 credits)

Optional Modules* (80 credits from the list below)

  • The Third Sector and Social Policy (20 credits)
  • Migration, Super diversity, Policy and Practice (20 credits)
  • Policy Futures: Theories and Concepts in International Policymaking (20 credits)
  • Globalisation, International Migration & Citizenship (20 credits)
  • Crime and Social Harm (20 credits)
  • Sociology of Race and Racism (20 credits)
  • Applied Qualitative and Quantitative Data Analysis (20 credits)
  • Global Policy Institutions and Networks  (20 credits)
  • Policy Evaluation (20 credits)
  • Transforming Identities (20 credits)
  • Transforming Societies (20 credits)
  • Climate Justice and Social Policy (20 credits)
  • Crime and Justice in a Globalised World (20 credits)

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.


Fees 2024 - 2025

  • Code: 2227 £10,530 full-time (UK students) (MA)
  • Code: 2228 £5,265 part-time (UK students) (MA)
  • Code: 2227 £23,310 full-time (International students) (MA)

Learn more about fees

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

A postgraduate loans system for Masters degrees in the UK will provide up to £12,167 (after August 2023) for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas for UK and EU students (with settled or pre-settled status).

Scholarships and funding

Explore our scholarship and funding database to find a scholarship or funding opportunity that's right for you.

How To Apply

1 June 2024 is the application deadline for international students applying through the student route who wish to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2024 made after this date. The deadline for Home students is 30 August 2024.

Personal Statement

Entry to this programme is highly competitive and as a result your application and personal statement will be closely scrutinised by our Admissions Tutors. Please ensure that you spend some time familiarising yourself with the programme modules and outcomes. Personal Statements should be relevant to the programme and how you believe it will enable you to achieve your career goals.

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

For entry onto this programme you will normally have an undergraduate degree of at least a 2:1. Applicants with a 2:2 degree classification will be considered on a case by case basis, if you have extensive related work experience. International applicants will be required to hold an IELTs 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in each band or equivalent qualification.

Applicants are required to offer a relevant degree subject, and we will consider the following subjects: social policy, sociology, criminology, cultural studies, politics, international relations, generic social science degrees (but excluding Business related degrees), human/social geography, media studies, art history, history and philosophy. 

Learn more about entry requirements.

International Requirements

International Students

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.

The Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology is based in the School of Social Policy. Our mission is not just to ‘understand the world’, but to also ‘change it.’

Our achievements

In turning this mission into practice, we are proud of our many achievements.  Our academics are recognised leaders in their field, working alongside UK government departments and supra-national organisations, such as the European Commission and United Nations to bring about positive social change.  Research in the School of Social Policy was ranked in the top 10 in terms of its rigour, significance and originality in REF 2021, and we have extensive international links with like-minded partners at Harvard, Melbourne, Peking University, Vancouver, Seoul and beyond.

Why choose to study in the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology?

  • Our postgraduate degrees are delivered by experts in each field and offer students a wide range of optional modules, so that you can personalise your degree to your needs and interests.
  • The Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology at the University of Birmingham is an internationally leading centre of research drawing together academic expertise in theory, empirical research and policy.

The Department has over 50 academic staff who contribute to a vibrant research culture. We have experts across 6 departmental research themes:

  • Civil Society and Volunteering
  • Crime & Social Harm
  • Poverty, Wealth & Inequality
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Social Theory and Transformation
  • Migration, Diversity and Religion

The Department also hosts three leading research centres: 

You will be part of a dynamic academic department that hosts a range of external speakers and lunchtime seminars and will have access to a dedicated study space located in the department working alongside the academics who teach you.

In the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology, we believe that our research should inform the delivery of our teaching.  This means that you will be taught by those who are involved in cutting-edge research and who write the publications that you will study.  You will be taught by academics in one of the longest established academic Departments in the UK, that has researched and taught Social Policy for over 60 years. We have academic experts who engage in research across a range of social problems and policy domains, such as poverty, crime, homelessness, substance use, migration, health and social care. 

Teaching and learning takes place across a variety of forms, including traditional lecture, interactive lectures, small group seminars, and computer lab based sessions. We also believe that our teaching should be delivered not only through the classroom but through the social world itself. Being located in the city of Birmingham, one of the most diverse cities in the UK and the youngest city in Europe (largest percentage of the population under 24), the MA in Social Policy offers access to a ‘social laboratory’, that brings the issues that you study to life. We offer extra-curricular field trips to Birmingham City Council and the Houses of Parliament. 

Your degree will predominantly be assessed through a range of coursework, such as traditional essay, policy reports and dissertation; currently two of our modules utilise written examination as a mode of assessment. You will be offered the opportunity across core modules to complete formative assessments and to receive feedback which can be used to develop your writing style, structuring and critical reasoning, without the mark carrying into your degree classification. 

Social policy is an applied social science that will challenge you to formulate your own policy solutions to key social issues. It will equip you with a combination of social research expertise, substantive knowledge of social issues and policy domains, as well as techniques of policy analysis. 

The MA Social Policy programme is designed for those working in various areas of social policy such as health, housing and social services or who are interested in pursuing a career in these and related fields. It is also suitable for students who have studied a relevant social science or humanities programme at undergraduate level and who are now seeking to study social policy for the first time at postgraduate level. 

I decided to study for an MA 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.

Dawn Plimmer, MA Social Policy