Social Policy MA/PGDip/PGCert
- Name: Social Policy
- Qualification: MA in Social Policy; Postgraduate Diploma in Social Policy; Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Social Sciences
- Duration: MA: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time; Diploma: 30 weeks full-time. This programme offers both January and September start.
Social policies are ever changing. This degree programme takes stock of the developments and relates them to social, economic and political factors. Theoretical perspectives and methodological implications are introduced. A range of contemporary social policy issues will be discussed. Policies and practices within and across societies are compared. Ethical dimensions of social policy will be pointed out and specialist research training provided.
Course content is for guidance purposes only and may be subject to change.
The Research Process: This module introduces the main varieties of both quantitative and qualitative research in the social sciences. Principles of research design and issues of data collection and analysis are studied. Data collection and analysis will include:
- How to construct, use and critique questionnaires and interviews
- Interpret measurement error and missing data
- Engage in various kinds of observational research
- Analyse observational data
- Record, transcribe and analyse conversational, textual and visual data
- Conduct archival, documentary and historical research
Key Issues in Social Policy: This module extends and deepens knowledge and understanding of key issues in contemporary social policy. Links between theoretical analysis in welfare and empirical enquiry in social policy are made, and key issues, debates and concepts in social policy analysis and evaluation are explored. Contemporary forms of welfare delivery including issues of participation, user involvement and control in the provision of welfare are critically evaluated. Core debates relating to social change, equality and inequalities, discrimination, risk and dependency, citizenship and rights will be examined. The impact of devolution and local government change on social policy in Wales is reviewed together with national and international comparisons of welfare systems.
Health Policies: This module adopts a comparative approach to the study of health policies in Britain and internationally. Students will consider the politics of health and will develop an understanding of the dynamics of power between professionals, administrators and patients. The role of social policy analysis in evaluating the impact of change, factors associated with good and bad practice, and barriers to implementing new health policies are explored through examples and case studies. The case of the British NHS will be considered in detail examining evidence of attempts to improve the quality of care through funding and organisational change. The module will also examine the implications of devolution for the NHS.
Research Design and Strategy: The module is organized in terms of (a) principles of research design, (b) issues of data collection and (c) data analysis. Topics covered include, e.g., the definition and formulation of research problems and hypotheses, the relationships between and the rationale for using particular research methods, the relationships between empirical research and theory generation and theory testing, different forms of sampling, and potential bias in the interpretation of research findings. Students are taught how to access and use secondary data, construct and critique questionnaires and interviews, how to interpret measurement error and missing data, and how to record data from experimental and quasi-experimental research. Training in the use of SPSS is an integral part of the module and takes place alongside the sessions dealing with surveys, questionnaire design, structured interviews and data analysis.
Research Process and Meaning: The module provides postgraduate level training in the main varieties of qualitative and mixed methods research in the social sciences, including basic literacy in qualitative data analysis. Locating the research process in debates about situated knowledge, reflexivity and subjectivity, show how research design is unavoidably grounded in assumptions about the nature of the phenomena to be investigated and how researchers are implicated in the things they describe.
Students are taught how to generate qualitative data and how to apply a variety of analysis techniques. The use of ‘mixed’ methods is addressed through examples of text analysis, visual interpretation and online social research. Training in the use of NVivo qualitative data analysis software is an integral part of the module and takes place alongside the sessions dealing with analysing conversation, interviews, observations, ethnographic accounts, texts and visuals.
Social Science in Action: This module provides training in social science research with a focus on the specialist degree studied. It draws upon generic social science research skills and knowledge and applies them to an empirical group project. The module begins with a consideration of some general issues underlying social science research in action (including the relation between theories and hypothesis, research ethics, field access). Students specify the topic for a joint research project in which they will develop their skills as empirical researchers. Students engage in hypothesis development, research design, data gathering, data analysis and interpretation of the results.
Students have the option to continue their studies on the related module: Social Science in Action 2, in which the focus is on the use of interviews and questionnaires.
Researching Community: This module examines the developments in the field of community research and related theoretical and policy debates surrounding the application of ideas of ‘community’ to current economic and social changes. The module focuses on four main themes:
- Conceptual issues: the meaning of ‘community’ and its use as a concept in social scientific and popular discourse. This will be considered in relation to different theoretical approaches such as social constructionism, realism, and post-structuralism.
- Empirical applications: an examination of classic and contemporary examples of community research and relevant case studies dealing with different forms of ‘community’.
- Policy issues: relating to contemporary forms of intervention in relation to community development, regeneration, mobilisation, participation, leadership and power. This will be considered in the context of frameworks such as communitarianism, social capital, and the ‘third way’.
- Community methodology: examines how ‘community’ has been researched and the tools and methods available for empirical investigation. These include ethnographic studies, large-scale surveys, ‘community profiling’ and auditing, and action research.
Nationalism and Minorities: This module will examine key issues and debates concerning the growing claims by ethnic and national minorities and indigenous peoples for distinct language, territorial and other minority rights and recognition within nation-states and beyond. The relationships between nationalism, citizenship and minority rights will be considered with reference to empirical examples. Debates and policies concerned with the management of cultural and ethnic diversity by the state will also be considered. The approach is interdisciplinary drawing on sociology, political theory, anthropology, law and education, with case study examples provided from Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania. It aims to provide students with a global and comparative understanding of individual cases, of their historical antecedents, and of the key similarities and differences between them.
Policy Research and Evaluation: Monitoring and evaluation of policy initiatives has become increasingly important. This module aims to develop full complement of skills required to successfully undertake specialist research and robust evaluation that will inform future policy. Evidence-based policy and practice are imperatives of the public, independent and voluntary sector organisations nationally and internationally. Evaluation research is one of the cornerstones of evidence-based practice both locally and nationally and is important right across local government and public and independent sector organisations. The module will provide key skills to enable individuals to understand, conduct or commission evaluative work at a time when it is increasingly important for organisations to consider the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of the services they provide.
Key Issues in International Social Work: The purpose of the International Social Work module is to widen students’ understanding of the differing models, traditions and welfare contexts of social work. On completing the module, students are expected to be able to:
- Critically evaluate social work within the international context
- Critically evaluate and contrast social work in the UK with European and other countries
- Analyse the strengths and weaknesses in the different ways of doing social work within the countries studied
- Discuss in depth the philosophical, historical and theoretical differences between the contexts of social work practice within the welfare frameworks of the different countries
- Develop a sound and broad understanding of the contrasting differences with social work based in African and Asian countries
The dissertation is normally around 20,000 words in length for MA degrees. Students will receive full support from lecturing staff throughout the process, from the planning stage through to the final stages of writing up the final version. Every student is allocated a supervisor who will oversee and provide advice and guidance on research design, methodology, results, drafting and final dissertation submission. Recent MA dissertation topics have included:
- Mental health policy in Japan
- Whose welfare benefits?
- Violence against women in Pakistan
Please note: course content is for guidance purposes only and may be subject to change. Contact us for most up-to-date information.
Normally a 2(ii) in Social Policy or a related academic discipline. Students with relevant professional experience will also be admitted. All applicants in this category will have to provide substantiated evidence in their application and may be interviewed before an offer is made.
If your native language is not English, you must provide satisfactory evidence that you have an adequate knowledge and understanding of written and spoken English:
- IELTS: 6.0 (with no element below 5.5)
- Pearson PTE: a score of 56 (with no element lower than 51)
- Cambridge English Test – Advanced: 169 (with no element lower than 162)
For information and further detailed guidance on entry requirements for International Students, including the minimum English Language entry requirement, please visit the Entry Requirements by Country pages on the International Education Centre section of our website.
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When to apply
The University will accept applications throughout the year, but we would generally advise that you send in your application form by the end of June (for September intake) or the end of October (for January intake) to ensure that you have time to make any funding and/or accommodation arrangements, and for documents such as transcripts and references to be obtained if not submitted with the application. This will also give you more time to meet any conditions we may potentially attach to an offer. If you are making an application for one of our professional courses, which has limited place availability, you are advised to contact the academic school for advice on the final dates for applications.
The welfare and health sectors form the primary field of employment for graduates. Other areas of the public service also attract social policy graduates. A PhD can lead to a career in teaching and research. Apart from this, a social science qualification opens up a multitude of job opportunities related to politics and the media, or for business and social enterprises.
The course has ESRC 1+3 (Research training recognition) and the School of Social Sciences also offers occasional bursaries.