Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Social Policy and Sociology

UCAS code: LL43

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Social and Political Science

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Social Policy and Sociology

This popular joint degree programme provides a grounding in both social policy and sociology, two subjects which complement and enrich each other.

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 cover a wide range of policy areas, for example:

  • 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 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.


Sociology examines how individual choices are affected by wider social forces and how they can be understood by placing them in their social context.

You will study:

  • the relationship between individuals and groups
  • issues of belonging and identity
  • the social causes of cooperation and conflict
  • the way societies and social institutions are formed and change over time

You will also learn to compare different national contexts and understand contemporary social issues from a global perspective.

Why Edinburgh?

You will be taught by staff members who are passionate about conducting research that has strong applications to the world outside of academia.

We work closely with:

  • governments
  • non-governmental organisations (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.

We will challenge you to re-evaluate how you look at politics, society and the economy with the ability to improve others’ understanding as well.

Our joint honours degrees allow you to gain a disciplinary understanding both in core social policy analyses as well as another subject area.

You will take core courses to understand how social policy affects different parts of society. You will also learn how different systems of social policy can result in very different relationships between the state and other actors.

You will also learn the foundations of sociology in the first two years.

You can gain insights into particular methods of understanding society, but apply those to real-world problems that stretch beyond the reach of those disciplines to understand the impact particular decisions have on different parts of society.

This allows you in Years 3 and 4 to take specialisation courses in both disciplines.

On the social policy side of the degree you will be able to choose from a range of specific social policy courses (between two and four) that cover particular policy areas or processes. You will also choose specific options from your second discipline (between two and four) in addition to the central methods and approaches courses in both disciplines.

You can usually choose in which subject area you want to write your dissertation project.

Year 1

Social policy

You will take Social Policy and Society.

In this course we will introduce key ways to analyse how government policies affect society.

We use a variety of important concepts like power and inequality to make sense of societal structures. This allows us to look at the impact of policy on different groups of people (for example, based on class, gender or race).

You will also take Politics of the Welfare State.

This course examines social policy as a political issue in the UK. It introduces you to the politics of welfare, an area that constitutes one of the largest sets of government expenditures.

You will be confronted with debates about the different ways of delivering welfare and the interplay between the state and the private sector.


We will introduce you to key sociological ideas by studying the relationship between individuals and groups through examining examples such as:

  • social change
  • drug use
  • race
  • ethnicity
  • gender

Optional courses

You can study optional courses from other academic areas.

Year 2

Social policy

You will take Comparative Social Policy: Global Perspectives.

You will compare different approaches to social policy in European and non-European countries.

In addition, you will take two social policy courses, which are likely to focus on research skills and the use of evidence in politics and the economy. Further details are subject to our current review of our pre-honours curriculum for Year 2 students.


You will study how sociologists produce and use theory, and research evidence. You will also study other optional courses.

Year 3

You will select courses that cover a wide variety of policy fields such as:

  • family policy
  • labour market policies
  • social inequalities
  • criminal justice
  • health policy
  • education policy

You will also take courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods, and a course that will enable you to analyse policies from multiple lenses (economic, political and sociological).

Year 4

You will continue to take social policy and sociology courses and will complete an individual research project.

This may involve collecting and analysing data and information from sources such as:

  • the European Commission
  • UK Government
  • Scottish Government
  • local authorities
  • voluntary organisations

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 (2024/25)

Our facilities

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

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at the School of Social and Political Science and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Take a virtual tour of the School of Social and Political Science

Study abroad

You may apply to spend Year 3 abroad in one of many institutions where the University has special links, in locations such as:

  • Europe
  • North America
  • Central and South America
  • Australia
  • Asia

We also have a dedicated European exchange scheme with Leuphana University Lüneburg in Germany.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • individual supervision

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a wide range of methods that will enable you to develop different academic and practical skills.

Our assessment methods include:

  • traditional academic essays and exams
  • policy analyses and briefs
  • policy blogging
  • analyses of political actors
  • project work
  • seminar engagement

Most of our graduates move into careers in policy or research, within areas such as:

  • government
  • voluntary organisations
  • pressure groups
  • commercial organisations

These programmes also equip you with skills and knowledge that could be applied to a career 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
  • human resource management

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAB by end of S5 or AAAA by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA.
  • IB: 37 points with 666 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

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


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
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at 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: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept PTE Academic Online.*

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

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)

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 Policy and Sociology

Additional costs



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