Social Policy MA

The MA Social Policy explores issues and developments in social welfare from both a British and international perspective. The programme examines social policy within the context of broader political, social, economic and demographic developments. The programme will appeal to those who have studied another social science subject at undergraduate level, or who are seeking to study social policy for the first time at postgraduate level. It is also suitable for those who are looking to refresh their understanding of the subject, as well as those who are currently employed in the voluntary or public sectors in areas such as health or housing. The MA Social Policy welcomes applications from international students.

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We can confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who intend to start their studies in 2018 or 2019 will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time (may be subject to annual increases for inflation) for the duration of their course. The Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan will also be available to eligible EU students for the duration of their course. Visit our EU Referendum information page for more information.

The MA Social Policy consists of a range of elective modules (all 20 credits). You will need to take 6 elective modules (120 credits). Those studying for an MA also undertake a 60 credit Dissertation.

Why study this course

The Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology in the School of Social Policy is an internationally renowned centre for teaching and research in social policy. Social Policy at Birmingham was ranked 4th in the 2020 Complete University Guide.


Elective Modules (all 20 credits):

Introduction to Applied Social Research (20 credits)

Current Module Lead: Lisa Goodson

This module introduces students to the theory of social research and the different methodologies in an applied policy and practice setting. The development of a research proposal, choice of methodology and methods, access and ethical considerations and the research process are included and students are expected to undertake a small piece of empirical or policy research as part of their dissertation. 

Policy Futures: Global and local perspectives (20 credits)

This module provides students with the opportunity to identify and discuss the nature and role of policy analysis. This includes examining what are social issues, identifying significant dynamics and trends within the policy process, and identifying opportunities for shaping the future direction of social policy. The module will provide the student with an opportunity to develop and refine a range of transferable skills in policy analysis and communication. Students have the opportunity to examine a range of global and local case studies, in order to identify significant trends and dynamics and trends within the policy process and to develop the knowledge and skills required to analyse complex policy problems, and to communicate such an analysis to a range of audiences.

International Social Policy (20 credits)
Current Module Lead: Nando Sigona

This module introduces students to the comparative study of international social policy and to acquire knowledge bases on social policy within particular regions of the world.

The Third Sector and Social Policy (20 credits)
Current Module Lead: John Mohan

There are currently great expectations that the third sector (sometimes variously known as the voluntary sector, or the non-profit sector), will play a greater role in the delivery of welfare services and in promoting various social policies. However, the claims made for the third sector require close scrutiny. This module provides analyses of the definitions and characteristics of the third sector, the organisations that comprise it, and the people and volunteers that carry out its activities; the funding and organisational base of the sector; the varying organisational components of the sector (including social enterprise, and community-based groups); the role of the sector in delivering public services; and the development of policy towards the voluntary sector.

Globalisation, International Migration and Citizenship (20 credits)
Current Module Lead: Nando Sigona

What factors shape migration flows worldwide? How does international migration transform society both at 'home' and 'abroad'? How can we govern complex societal processes brought about by human mobility? What does immigration policy tell us about citizenship and belonging?

This module provides students with the opportunity to reflect and discuss these timely questions and to critically analyse current debates around immigration in a number of countries around the world.

Other optional modules

Students can choose 40 credits from other postgraduate programmes from within the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, as well as from other University departments. You can discuss your areas of interest and future career ambitions with us to help you choose the most appropriate modules to study.

Approved modules from another Department.

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme are subject to change. As you will appreciate members of staff may leave the University and this may result in the withdrawal of a particular module. If a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as possible so that you can make an alternative choice.

Fees and funding

fees for 2019/20 entry:

Masters (MA)
Code: 2227 £9,250 f/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 2228 £4,625 p/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 2227 £16,995 f/t (International students)

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

A postgraduate loans system for Masters degrees in the UK will provide up to £10,280 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas including part-time and distance learning. More information can be found on the FindAMasters loans page.

Learn more about fees and funding 

Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships may be available, please contact the Department directly. Prospective sutdents can contact the Student Funding Office.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. 

Entry requirements

A good Honours degree or equivalent is normally required. This will often be in the field of social science, although applications from those with degrees in other disciplines are welcome. 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 MA Social Policy students will be allocated a personal tutor. Students will also have access to the Departmental Welfare Tutor and a range of other University wide services and support.

Assessment methods

On successful completion of the taught part of the programme (120 credits), MA Social Policy students undertake a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of their choice. Each student is allocated a supervisor, selected for their experience of both the subject matter and supervision skills.

Our graduates come from the UK and from a wide range of other nations, including Chile, China, Cyprus, Japan, Poland, South Korea and Taiwan. Our graduates have gone on to careers in the public and non-governmental sectors as civil servants, policy analysts, practitioners and social researchers. Others have continued with Doctoral level study. The Department of Social Policy and Social Work also provides seminars, short courses and further opportunities for professional development for postgraduates.

Dawn Plimmer, MA Social Policy

Dawn Plimmer, MA Social Policy'After completing my undergraduate History degree at Birmingham, I decided to study for an MA in 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. Working alongside studying was rewarding as it allowed me to explore topics of interest that emerged from my job. For example, I completed my dissertation on charity experiences of welfare-to-work commissioning processes. As a part time student, I found the course flexible, and the staff supportive. The content of the course was varied and interesting, with modules ranging from the history of British social policy, to commissioning research and evaluation. Students also benefit from an impressive range of staff expertise associated with the School of Social Policy, ranging from social welfare, to migration and criminal justice. My dissertation was supervised by the Director of the university’s Third Sector Research Centre, allowing me to benefit from the latest specialist knowledge in the field. Towards the end of my Masters, I gained a job as a consultant at New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), a charity consultancy and think tank. I enjoy the diverse nature of my role which ranges from helping funders to develop their strategy, conducting primary and secondary research into topical sector issues, and developing tools to help charities to measure their impact. The understanding of social policy debates, the policy process and social research methods which I developed through completing an MA have proven to be highly useful and relevant in my career. I would recommend the course to other recent graduates wishing to pursue a career in public or third sector policy, as well as to professionals who want to better understand policy issues and conduct research in their specialist field.'