Course overview

You only have to look at the headlines to understand that issues with things like food, health, education, and poverty are faced on a daily basis by society. Governments implement public policies to ensure people's needs are met. However, these policies are not always seen to be beneficial to all communities.

On our Public Policy MA course, you'll understand how policies are developed, managed, implemented and evaluated, with examples from all over the world. You'll also be encouraged to challenge existing theories and concepts. You'll be taught by active researchers and influencers in areas of public management, policy analysis and social policy. 

Your knowledge will help you in your career to improve practice and potentially the lives of thousands of people. Some of our graduates have pursued careers in the public and voluntary sectors as managers and policy analysts.

Why choose this course?

Learn from experts

whose research has influenced public and social policy

89% of our research

ranked as world-leading or internationally excellent

Gain real experience

by applying for internships and placements through our faculty placements programme

Course content

Across the autumn and spring semesters, you will take 120 credits of core and optional modules.

You will choose 20 credits of optional modules, subject to approval.


You will also complete a 60-credit 15,000-word dissertation over the summer, and an appropriate dissertation supervisor will oversee your progress.

Previous dissertation topics include:

  • Aid donorship and poverty in Africa
  • Food policies in China
  • Public procurement and corruption in the Philippines
  • Citizenship in Arab Gulf states
  • Improving education in India
  • Evaluating policies for returning students to settle in Hong Kong
  • Policy evaluation: supporting SMEs in Kazakhstan


Core modules

Dynamics of International Social Policy

This module introduces you 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:

  • perspectives of international social policy
  • welfare state typologies and cross-national comparisons
  • international institutions, standards and goals
  • the European Union
  • social policy in less developed countries
  • globalisation and welfare states
  • international migration and the boundaries of welfare
  • discrimination in a multicultural world
  • international cooperation, policy learning and policy transfer
  • comparative research methods
Economics and Policy Analysis

The module will provide an introduction to the application of economic theories and concepts to policy analysis and provide an overview of public sector economics and of current issues in public sector economic analysis.

Topics covered include competition and market failure/externalities, public goods, discount rates and cost benefit analysis. Although focused on the UK, other countries will be discussed as a way of further understanding the ongoing policy developments.

The module is designed for 'non-mathematicians' and does not involve any econometric analyses. No prior knowledge of economics is required.

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.

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.

Public Management and Governance

This module will cover models of management and governance in the public sector. 

It will critically examine comparative and historic trends in managerial practices and theory and contextually relevant ideas about management and governance in the public sector, including specific professional contexts.

This will include critically exploring specific debates about the alleged move from public administration to new public management and new public governance, from hierarchical to networked and marketised forms of organisation, and those involving communities in the design and delivery of public services.

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

Dissertation in Public Policy (MA only)

There is no taught element beyond supervision. You will be allocated a suitable supervisor taking into account your interests and professional experience. You have to produce a dissertation of 15,000 words.

Optional modules

International Organisations and Global Governance

This module will equip you with the knowledge and understanding of the role international governmental organisations (such as the World Bank, World Health Organization, IMF, OECD) play in global governance. You will study how international organisations compete with each other and also cooperate in different fields of public policy to influence the global debate, shift ideas, set the agenda and formulate policy.

You will learn how they prepare, guide, and supervise international treaties on public policy issues and how they direct finance and implement public policy projects. You will learn about the inherent features of the major international organisations and how these determine the approach they take to influence policies. 

Managing People in the Public Sector

This module will examine the concepts, models and practices of managing people in the public sector. It will study the development and approaches of how staff are managed in the public sector in a range of countries (for example, UK and other European countries). The module will also investigate how public sector staff are recruited, rewarded etc and how their performance is measured.

Public Sector Financial Management

The module will study the application of modern financial management techniques in the public sector at governmental, sectoral, organisational and unit levels. It will look at:

  • budgetary cycles
  • financial and budget controls
  • cash and accrual (resource) accounting
  • management of working capital
  • capital budgets and programmes
  • project appraisal
  • cost benefit and cost effectiveness analysis
  • audit of public organisations

The module will look at both theoretical and practical methods, as well common developments in government policies.

State, Business and Civil Society: Policy Decisions in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

This module starts with the following questions:  

  • how do policies change and what is the role of policy actors in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC)?  
  • What is the role of political elites with a focus on state actors, and what is the role of interest groups?
  • Can less powerful groups effect policy change? if so how?  

The module will analyse the role of interest groups and government actors in shaping social/public policy decisions. To achieve this end the module will be divided into two sections.

Section one addresses the state, business sector and civil society. The second section presents detailed case studies about the politics of change in regard to topics such as: climate change, labour market policies, education, health policies, tourism, fiscal, and monetary policies in LMIC. The first part will set the analytical tools for the second part.

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.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Friday 05 April 2024.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Lectures
  • Seminars

How you will be assessed

  • Essay
  • Reports
  • Dissertation

Modules are typically assessed through various forms of coursework.

Contact time and study hours

You will typically have one weekly two-hour lecture, and one weekly hour-long seminar, for each module over a 10-week teaching semester. Most students take three or four modules each semester. Each 10 credits represent approximately 100 hours of work, and for each module, approximately 30 hours will be taught.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent) in any discipline or 2:2 (or international equivalent) in any discipline with one year of working experience in national or local governments, public sector or third/voluntary sector organisations


Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply


Qualification MA
Home / UK £11,850
International £28,600

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) .

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles.


There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

If you have previously studied politics, sociology, law, geography, finance, economics or a science subject, this course enables you to further your knowledge for a career in the broad policy community. It is also suitable if you are already working in the public or not-for-profit sector and wish to enhance your career prospects.

Our postgraduates have pursued careers in the public and voluntary sectors as public sector managers and policy analysts and gone on to work for organisations such as:

  • Stonewall
  • Youth Movement for Reform Judaism and Zionism
  • Nottingham Labour Party
  • Ministry of Justice
  • Mitsubishi
  • Sky
  • Taylor Wessing

Career progression

89.3% of postgraduates from the School of Sociology and Social Policy secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £28,886.

HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" I received valuable lessons on economics, governance and globalisation, which helped me to develop a dissertation on food inflation and social welfare. This helped me to get a project with the World Bank's Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Unit. "
Anuja Kar, MA Public Policy

Related courses

This content was last updated on Friday 05 April 2024. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.