Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
Open to the world

MA Social Anthropology and Social Policy

UCAS code: LL64

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Social and Political Science

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Social Anthropology and Social Policy

This popular joint degree programme provides a grounding in both Social Anthropology and Social Policy, two subjects which complement and enrich each other.

Social Anthropology

Social anthropology is the study of human conduct and thought. Societies around the world vary enormously socially, culturally and politically.

The study of these variations, and the common humanity that underlies them, is at the heart of social anthropology.

Social Policy

Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh will enable you to engage with confidence in many of the political debates of our time.

We deal with a wide array of areas such as:

  • health
  • welfare
  • labour markets
  • education
  • family and childhood

We discuss how policies affect our civic culture through studying political engagement and citizen participation.

Our programme will equip you with the knowledge to understand how policies affect society and the economy. It will also enable you to critically assess how policies are made and what actors and processes influence the policy making process.

Why Edinburgh?

We work closely with:

  • governments
  • NGOs
  • third sector and interest representation groups
  • international organisations
  • other external actors

International comparative analyses are one of our main strengths. We place a strong emphasis on providing you with empirical research skills, so that you can become a critical researcher yourself.

Programme structure

You will take a broad range of courses in both disciplines in years 1 and 2 and will have the opportunity to specialise in years 3 and 4.

You will spend up to four months on an individual research project that will form the basis of your dissertation. Fieldwork for your project can be done both within and outside the UK.

Year 1

Year 1 provides you with a broad introduction to both subjects.

Social Anthropology

Social Anthropology 1A: The Life Course is intended as an introduction to Social Anthropology. As well as encompassing life crisis moments and rituals of birth, marriage, and death, the course includes such themes as:

  • gender
  • personhood
  • work and making a living
  • the house
  • consumption and exchange
  • health
  • the body

Social Anthropology 1B: Anthropology Matters examines how concepts and ideas that have driven Anthropology help us shed new light on debates that are at the heart of contemporary questions about how our societies work.

Each week will include two sessions exploring a single issue and anthropological contributions to debates relating to that issue. The issues explored will vary from year to year, examples include:

  • climate change
  • hunger
  • well-being
  • body modification
  • human rights

Social Policy

Social Policy & Society: This course revolves around three main themes:

  • social needs
  • social problems
  • social rights

You will also examine how different debates about welfare have been influenced by these themes.

Politics of the Welfare State: This course examines social policy as a political issue in the UK. It introduces you to the politics of the area that constitutes one of the largest sets of government expenditure. You will be confronted with debates about the different ways of delivering welfare and the interplay between the state and the private sector.

You will also choose two option courses.

Year 2

Social Anthropology

Social Anthropology 2: Key Concepts provides a historical overview of anthropological thought. You will be taught through an introduction to keywords that have helped to shape the development of Social Anthropology. The thematic approach is designed to be engaging and stimulating and to help foster critical, conceptual, and theoretical skills. It will highlight the continued significance of key concepts and oppositions over time.

Ethnography: Theory and Practice will introduce you to the theory and practice of ethnographic fieldwork. At the heart of this course is a collaborative project in which you will learn about qualitative methods by putting them to the test in practical group work. Their collective ethnographies will require them to write extensive field notes, which will be assessed, and during which students will learn to write effectively in an academic manner.

Social Policy

European Social Policy: You will compare different approaches to social policy in various European countries.

Evidence, Politics and Policy: You will learn to critically assess how evidence is used or misused by different actors and in the media to influence public opinion.

Optional courses

Additionally, you will choose two further courses, either related to your programme or from another academic area.

Year 3

You will study compulsory courses including:

  • Anthropological Theory
  • Kinship: Structure & Process
  • Ritual & Religion
  • Analytical Perspectives in Social Policy
  • Consumption, Exchange & Technology

You will also choose two courses from a range, such as:

  • Happiness: Cross-cultural Perspectives
  • Urban Anthropology
  • the Anthropology of Africa and Latin American Anthropology

You will also have the opportunity to conduct your own research in the summer break between Years 3 and 4. Your dissertation supervisor will help you to plan and develop your research project which can take place in the UK or overseas.

Year 4

You will study the compulsory course Culture & Power, which introduces a range of anthropological approaches to politics. It provides a detailed examination of both open and hidden forms of power and their workings at the global, state, national, community, and personal level.

You will also use your research findings to complete an honours dissertation, and continue to choose option courses.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2021/22)

Our facilities

Most of the teaching takes place at facilities located within the University's Central Area. You will also have access to the University library and computer facilities.

Study abroad

In addition to your research project, which may be based overseas, there are opportunities to study abroad through the University's international exchange programme.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials, and will receive supervision with your research project.

How will I be assessed?

The course is assessed through exams, coursework, and project work.

Previous graduates have chosen careers in areas such as:

  • social development
  • healthcare
  • journalism
  • film

Others have gained employment as museum curators, or with international organisations such as Oxfam.

A growing number choose to continue with postgraduate study in anthropology. This often leads to careers as anthropological researchers with universities, public bodies such as the NHS, or private sector companies.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAA-AABB by end of S5 or AAAA-AAAB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA - ABB.
  • IB: 36 points with 665 at HL - 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE/IGSCE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate Grade C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA Social Anthropology and Social Policy

Additional costs

If you choose to go overseas to do your dissertation research you will be responsible for all costs. Most students incur no additional costs as they either remain in the UK or do their research while studying abroad in Year 3.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding