Social Research (Social Policy) MA/Diploma

Within the public sector, there is an increasing emphasis on 'evidence-based policy making' and on the critical review of policy making and its impacts. The MA Social Research (Social Policy) will provide you with the skills to make a real difference in this area. We welcome applications from international students.
Find out why our students love living and studying in Birmingham.

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.

This programme is recognised by the ESRC as a research training programme designed to provide participants with a solid foundation in a broad range of social science research methods as well as basic research skills. Students will acquire a general overview of the philosophy of social research, and understand how this informs research design, methods of data collection and analysis. They will also develop an ability to use a range of research methods to communicate research findings effectively and an understanding of the potential use of, and impact of their research, within and beyond academia.

The core elements of this programme are delivered by staff from across the College of Social Sciences, many of them engaged in cutting-edge research in their particular fields.

The MA programme includes assessed core modules and short courses (120 credits) and the completion of a 12,000-word dissertation (60 credits), while the Postgraduate Diploma includes the assessed courses only (120 credits). 

Why study this course

If you are interested in undertaking an academic or research career in the areas of social policy, social work, health and social care or criminal justice fields, this programme could be for you. Normally you will have already done an undergraduate degree in Social Policy, Social Work, or other social sciences. The programme offers students a rigorous and systematic social research training, an opportunity to apply this to their particular areas of policy (or practice) interest and the opportunity to study relevant aspects of policy and practice in more depth.

The Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology at the University of Birmingham is an internationally leading centre for research in social policy. It has developed a reputation for delivering high quality teaching and learning which enables students to develop into reflective and research informed professionals.


Core modules

Philosophy of Social Science Research

The module considers fundamental philosophical debates about what counts as ‘knowledge’ across the social sciences. Teaching addresses (natural) science as a method of obtaining knowledge and the interpretative tradition in the social sciences. Students explore fundamental philosophical debates about what counts as ‘knowledge’ across the social sciences and apply these discussions to their own disciplines and field of study.

Research Design, Practice and Ethics

The module introduces students to social science research designs and ethical issues in research practice. Learning supports students to be able to make strategic choices when developing their own projects, and to assess the design and research ethics decision making in others’ published research work.

Fundamentals in Quantitative Research Methods

Concepts, methods and skills central to quantitative research, including data collection approaches and concept operationalization, are core throughout this module. Building on a grounding in ideas relating to probability sampling, sampling error and statistical inference, coverage of techniques extends from comparisons of means and simple cross-tabular analyses to a discussion of multivariate analysis approaches, focusing on linear and logistic regression. 

Foundations in Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is examined across a range of topics, from different approaches and methods including ethnographic and observational research, discourse and conversation analysis, documentary and archival analysis, participatory research and the use of interviews. Ethics in qualitative research is specifically considered, as is the evaluation of qualitative research.

Dissertation (60 credits)

On completion of the taught modules (120 credits), Masters students undertake a 12,000 word dissertation on a subject of their choice. Each student is allocated a supervisor, selected for their experience of both the subject matter and supervision.

Students can choose from a variety of optional Substructure Modules or Advanced Research Methods Modules, for example:

20 credit modules

  • Sectors and Services in British Social Policy
    Module Lead: Lisa Goodson
  • Third Sector in Social Policy
    Module Lead: John Mohan
  • Migration, Superdiversity, Policy and Practice
    Module Lead: Lisa Goodson
  • International Social Policy
    Module Lead: Kelly Hall
  • Globalisation, International Migration and Citizenship
    Module Lead: Nando Sigona
  • Policy Futures: Global and Local Perspectives
    Module Lead: Rachel HumphrisJohn Mohan

10 credit modules

  • Globalisation, International Migration and Citizenship
  • Policy Futures: Global and Local Perspectives
  • Making Policy
  • Researching Professional Practice

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.

Related staff

Fees and funding

Fees for entry 2019/20:

Masters (MA)
Code: 5078 £9,250 f/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 5314 £4,625 p/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 5078 £17,910 f/t (International students)

Code: 5079 £6,167 f/t (UK/EU students)
Code: 5079 £11,940 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 or contact the Student Funding Office.

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

Entry requirements

A good Honours degree or equivalent is normally required. This will usually be in a social science, although applications from those with degrees in other disciplines will be considered. 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

Making your application

Monday 1 July 2019 is the application deadline for international students (Tier 4) who wish to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2019 made after this date. The deadline for Home/EU (non-Tier 4) students is Monday 30 September 2019. Applications will reopen for 2020 entry in early October 2019.

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 participants on the Social Research (Social Policy) MA will be supported by a personal tutor and will also be able to draw on the support of the School's Postgraduate Taught Programme Director, Welfare Tutors and International Student tutors.

Students will also benefit from access to e-learning resources as well as the University's main library and student services.

Assessment methods

The MA programme includes assessed core modules and short courses (120 credits) and the completion of a 10,000-word dissertation (60 credits), while the Postgraduate Diploma includes the assessed courses only (120 credits).

This course is designed for those considering research as a career. That includes those wanting an academic career, for whom this degree is ideal preparation for undertaking a doctorate (PhD). It also includes those seeking a research career in such areas as central government, local government, charities and in consultancies and market/social research. The degree also provides good transferable skills in evaluation and in analysing data, and the ability to critique published research.

"Alison Kite, MA Social Research (Social Policy),"I chose to study at the University of Birmingham firstly bedcause a friend had done an MA in Social Policy here and recommended it. Secondly, my interest is in the Third Sector and I knew that Birmingham had made a bid to run the Third Sector Research Centre, which was successful. I really benefited from the Social Policy expertise within the department and the friendly and supportive working environment. The whole experience was very positive, the lectures and seminars were stimulating and interaction/group discussion was encouraged. Studying at Birmingham has changed my life in a big way! I am now starting the first year of a PhD ESRC studentship and it was the knowledge I gained at Birmingham that enabled me to go for this opportunity. When I started the Masters, I hadn't intended to do a PhD but the course helped me to see what the possibilities were. As a result I have been able to change direction with my career and am really excited about the next three years."