International Social Policy MA


Fact file

MA International Social Policy
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
2.2 (Applicants will normally be graduates with at least a lower second-class Honours degree)
Other requirements
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
January and September
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


This course equips students with the skills needed to understand the new challenges of the increasingly interdependent world in which we live.
Read full overview

Social Policy is concerned with questions such as:

  • How can we create a good society?
  • How much money should we spend on welfare services?
  • Is the current distribution of income and wealth socially just?
  • Should we be charged individually for using welfare services?
  • Should free markets and profit motives play a central role in service delivery?
  • What are the causes and consequences of poverty?

It is no longer possible to study national social policies in isolation. Global interconnections are multiplying and intensifying across a range of fields: economics, politics and the natural environment, among others. The MA International Social Policy provides an introduction to comparative social policy and so to recent developments in welfare reforms from around the world.  

This MA highlights the implications of such developments and equips students with the skills they need to understand the new challenges of the increasingly interdependent world in which we live. The course provides comparisons of the welfare models of 'developed welfare states', such as those found in European countries; and explores the relevance of recent developments and debates for developing countries. The MA also includes subjects that consider the future of social policies and comparative analyses, such as the module 'Climate Change and Social Policy'.

Training in methods allows evaluation of policy outcomes, not only in terms of their effectiveness and efficiency but also extending to consider wider socio-economic and political contexts.

The success of the School of Sociology and Social Policy reflects the diverse intellectual backgrounds and research interests of our staff and our commitment to academic excellence. Social policy draws on insights from across the social sciences and humanities, including sociology, political science and economics.

Nottingham is well placed to offer this multidisciplinary programme as the school is one of the UK's leading centres for teaching and research in the field of social policy, but also sociology, cultural studies, health studies, social work and public policy. Students will be taught by researchers with world-leading reputations in these subjects. The research-led culture of the school therefore allows you to develop your own interests in particular themes and topics.

Key facts

  • A research-led curriculum throws light on how international power centres respond to the conflicting interests of rich and poor countries; and whether their policies produce outcomes that benefit or harm the world's poor
  • Staff possess expertise in a variety of welfare models and aspects of comparative social policy
  • The Research Methods module allows students to develop their expertise, and give particular consideration to their dissertations

Course details

The programme is available full-time over 12 months or part-time over 24 months, and comprises both taught modules taken over the first two semesters and the dissertation over the summer period.

Taught modules are assessed by essays, with 10 credit modules requiring 3,000 words and 20 credits requiring 5,000 words, sometimes divided into two 2,500 word essays. The Research Methods and Research Management module involves a 5,000 word dissertation proposal.

The 15,000 word dissertation affords students the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic of their choice. Each student prepares a dissertation proposal and works closely with a supervisor internationally known for their expertise. 

We hope that our students will stay with us over the summer months; but for those who do leave the UK we will offer online support, including supervisions via Skype wherever possible.

Past dissertation topics include:

  • Illegal immigrants in the UK: The case of African Migrants
  • Can international organisations stop child labour in Turkey?
  • Exploring the role of poor governance in increasing poverty in Pakistan: 2001-2011
  • Has there been a decline of the middle classes in Hong Kong?
  • Forget about love. Let's talk money.
  • The transforming Chinese family law and the implications for urban Chinese women


Core modules

Dissertation in International Social Policy

For the dissertation, each student explores a topic of their choice under the supervision of a designated dissertation group tutor. 

The subject matter must be relevant to the student's Honours subject and approved by the tutor. The study may be entirely based on the analysis of secondary literature; alternatively it may involve the collection and analysis of primary data, including documentary or textual data, on a scale appropriate to the work-load involved.

This module aims to:

  • gives students the opportunity to choose a topic of  particular interest and relevance to themselves, and engage in an in-depth examination of the topic
Dynamics of International Social Policy

This module introduces students to comparative analyses of different welfare state models and approaches to social and public policy; institutions, issues and debates in international social and public policy; and methods of cross-country comparative analysis.

Topics include the origins and development of international social rights and standards; welfare state typologies; welfare in less developed countries; globalisation; international migration; international cooperation, policy learning and policy transfer; comparative research methodology.

Globalisation, Europeanisation and Public Policy

This module provides an applied, critical and informed understanding of the concepts and processes of globalisation and Europeanisation, and the impact of globalisation and Europeanisation upon governance and public policy.

In particular, it examines the impacts of globalisation and Europeanisation upon the governance of and the making of public policy in Britain and other countries.

This module aims to:

  • reflect critically upon the meanings and practices of globalisation and Europeanisation
  • examine the causes and impacts of globalisation and Europeanisation upon governance and public policy
  • examine the processes and structures of governance, and their consequent implications for making public policy
Policy Analysis: Concepts and Theories

This module provides an applied, critical and informed understanding of policy-making and policy analysis in government.

It examines key concepts, models and theories of policy-making and policy analysis, and illustrates them by examining policy-making in Britain and other countries.

This module aims to:

  • reflect critically upon the meanings of public policy
  • understand the interplay of key actors in the processes of making public policy
  • evaluate public policy
  • assess key concepts of policy analysis
  • examine competing theories of public policy in modelling the policy process
Research Methods and Research Management

This module provides a general introduction to a range of key issues in the design and conduct of social research, plus guidance on writing both a dissertation proposal and a dissertation. 

The module combines more formal taught sessions with practical exercises, some of which are group based.

By the end of the module students will be equipped with the methodological and practical skills to carry out independent research using a variety of research designs and methods.

This module aims to:

  • explore some of the major issues (epistemological, practical and ethical) involved with undertaking social research
  • develop an appreciation of the factors to be considered in designing a piece of research
  • examine the pros and cons of key research methods used in social research
  • enhance skills in devising and managing pieces of research
  • outline the major issues associated with undertaking postgraduate dissertation research in the social sciences
Welfare Policy

The module will examine theories of welfare, the funding of the welfare state and key changes in welfare policies, such as the increasing focus on markets and consumer choice, partnerships, the personalisation of service delivery, and the increasing role of the not for profit sector in service delivery.

It will use developments in health service, social care and social security to explore wider issues in the development of welfare services. Although focused on the UK, other countries will be examined as a way of further understanding the developments in the UK and as a form of policy learning for UK reform. It will look at the obstacles and issues associated with these changes.

This module aims to:

  • equip students with the theoretical and conceptual knowledge and practical skills to analyse and critically evaluate contemporary welfare policies and practices
  • provide students with opportunities to examine ongoing debates on welfare reform

Optional modules

Students have to choose a further 40 credits of elective modules. 

They can choose modules from other courses within and outside the School of Sociology and Social Policy with approval from the Programme Director.

The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



UK/EU students

The Graduate School website has information on funding sources. The school also has information on funding.

International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of masters scholarships for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Applications for 2016 entry scholarships will open in late 2015. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your masters course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.



The MA International Social Policy programme draws on carefully selected material to cover the whole area of international social policy: its formulation, implementation and outcomes. 

Thus, the MA in International Social Policy is a course designed to equip its graduates with the skills needed for a variety of careers in:

  • international development organisations including the World Bank; United Nation Development Program; International Labour Office etc
  • departments and ministries concerned with social policy in national governments
  • other public sector organisations including research or managerial roles in health, housing and social services
  • journalism and both academic and non-academic research

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2014, 95% of postgraduates in the School of Sociology and Social Policy who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £21,692 with the highest being £30,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU postgraduates, 2013/14.

Career prospects and employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential.

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.



School of Sociology and Social Policy
The University of Nottingham
University Park
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