MA/Diploma Social Research

(Social Policy)

Start date
MA: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time; Diploma: 9 months full-time, 18 months part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

Masters (MA)
£10,530 f/t (UK)
£7,020 p/t (UK)
£24,120 f/t (International)
More Fees and funding details.

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.

Please note that this programme will not be running for 2024 entry.

You will acquire a general overview of the philosophy of social research and understand how this informs research design, methods of data collection and analysis. You 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.  Optional modules will offer you the opportunity to advance your command of specific research methods and techniques, as well as substantive areas of social policy.

This programme is recognised by the ESRC as a research training programme designed to provide you with a solid foundation in a broad range of social science research methods as well as basic research skills. The core elements of this programme will be delivered by staff from across the College of Social Sciences, many of them engaged in cutting-edge research in their particular fields.

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. The programme will offer you a rigorous and systematic social research training, and an opportunity to apply this to your particular area of policy.


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

Core modules

  • Philosophy of Social Science Research (20 credits)
  • Research Design, Practice and Ethics (20 credits)
  • Foundations in Qualitative Research (20 credits)
  • Fundamentals in Quantitative Research Methods (20 credits)
  • Dissertation

Optional Modules* (40 credits from the list below):

  • Transforming Identities (20 credits)
  • Transforming Societies (20 credits)
  • 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)
  • Philosophies of Welfare: creating new societies? (20 credits)
  • Poverty, Wealth and Inequality (20 credits)
  • Climate Justice and Social Policy (20 credits)
  • Crime and Justice in a Globalised World (20 credits)

Advanced Research Methods modules offered within the College of Social Sciences, such as:

  • Multivariate Linear and Logistic Regression (10 credits)
  • Factor Analysis (10 credits)
  • Narrative Research (10 credits)
  • Visual Research Methods (10 credits)
  • Researching Disability (10 credits)
  • Approaches to Research on Discourse (10 credits)
  • Policy Evaluation (10 credits)
  • Advanced Qualitative Data Analysis (10 credits)
  • Secondary Data Analysis in Social Research (10 credits)
  • Using and Producing Research (10 credits)
  • Activity Theory and its Research Applications (10 credits)
  • Ethnographic Methods: Ethics, Politics (10 credits)
  • Practice (10 credits)
  • Introduction to Time Series Regression (10 credits)
  • Introduction to Econometric Software (10 credits)
  • Analysing Hierarchical and Panel Data (10 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

Masters (MA)

Code: 5078 £10,530 f/t (UK students)
Code: 5314 £5,265 p/t (UK students)
Code: 5078 £24,120 f/t (International students)


Code: 5079 £7,020 f/t (UK students)
Code: 5079 £16,080 f/t (International students)
Code: 2574 £5,265 p/t (UK students)

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 UK and EU students (with settled or pre-settled status) for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas including part-time and distance learning.

Scholarships and funding

We offer a variety of scholarships and funding options to support you in your postgraduate studies. Explore our database to find a scholarship or funding opportunity that's right for you.

How To Apply

7 May 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.

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 of 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in each band or equivalent qualification.

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.

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


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.

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