Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

Subject area: Social Policy

Why choose Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We have a worldwide reputation for research excellence and our teaching is research-led. This means you will be taught by internationally renowned scholars who are experts in their fields, working at the forefront of their disciplines, and who take part in public debate about a range of questions concerning the future of society.

  • You will benefit from our close relationships with the Scottish Government, UK Government, and European and global institutions. These give you the opportunity to be immersed in a wide variety of contemporary policy developments.

  • A four-year programme allows you to enhance your career prospects by gaining a broad education that is attractive to employers. We offer you a great deal of flexibility to explore your interests, study abroad and acquire skills that will make your CV stand out.

Study abroad

Spending time to deeply think about and discuss controversial and topical issues has allowed me to become more engaged with the world around me.

Noah Dickens 4th year MA (Hons) Social Policy
Noah Dickens 4th year MA (Hons) Social Policy

Social policy is the study of societies and the way they change through policy making.

It looks at the ways in which public policies, social institutions and market forces affect how contemporary societies operate and are affected by debates about social justice.

Social policy is relevant to many areas of every day life, including housing, employment, income, health and education.

These programmes will appeal to students who are interested in current political and social issues that appear in the news as well as longer-term changes in how societies work – whether at local, national, European or global levels.

Year 1

You will take Social Policy & Society, which debates needs, rights and responsibilities, with a focus on the needs and rights of children and the responsibilities of parents.

You will study Politics of the Welfare State, which examines social policy as a political issue in the UK, especially in the fields of health, employment and education.

You can also choose option courses from other academic areas. You will also take the course Fundamentals of Social Policy, which provides the key subject-specific learning skills you’ll use in your further years of study.

Year 2

You will take European Social Policy, which compares different approaches to social policy in various European countries.

You will also take Evidence, Politics and Policy as well as further Fundamentals courses, which will equip you with analytical skills needed to engage with controversial policy issues in public debate.

You will also study other compulsory courses appropriate to your programme and will select an option subject.

Year 3

You can study option courses that cover areas such as children's rights, labour market policies, family policy, social inequalities, criminal justice, health policy and education policy. You will also take at least one course on research methods.

Year 4

You will continue to take social policy courses and will complete an individual research project. This will involve collecting and analysing data and information from sources such as the European Commission, UK Government, Scottish Government, local authorities and voluntary organisations.

Our facilities

Most of the teaching takes place in the University's Central Area. You will also have access to the University's computer facilities and libraries.

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad in Year 3 through the University's international exchange programme, or through the School's Erasmus exchange programmes.

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials/seminars and individual supervision.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed by a combination of exams and coursework, and through a Year 4 research project.

Most social policy graduates move into careers in policy or research within government, voluntary organisations, pressure groups or commercial organisations.

The programme also equips you with skills and knowledge that could be applied to careers in teaching or to the management and delivery of services, whether public or commercial.

Some graduates have gone on to study for professional qualifications in housing management, social work or human resource management.