Master Social Policy (MRes)

University of York

Application deadline: as early as possible
Tuition fee:
  • € 4,605 / Year (EEA)
  • € 14,750 / Year (Non-EEA)
Start date: October  2015
Duration full-time: 12 months
  • English
Delivery mode: On Campus
Educational variant: Part-time, Full-time

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This course is designed to provide students with the skills to appreciate, analyse and research contemporary social issues, the nature of social needs and policy responses to them.The emphasis is on research training and on equipping students with the theoretical generic and specialist skills to carry out their own research and to come to judgements about the work of others in the social policy field. A range of quantitative and qualitative approaches to data collection, analysis and interpretation are covered to an advanced level through a combination of taught courses and supervised dissertation work. The dissertation gives students the opportunity to examine by research aspects of social policy in which they have a particular interest. Overall, the aim is that, at the end of the degree, the students will be knowledgeable about the range and scope of the research methods available to social policy researchers and be confident in using these and analysing their outcomes.

The MRes in Social Policy is recognised by the ESRC as an accredited research training programme and is the first part of the 1+3 scheme. However applications from non-ESRC applications are also welcome. Applications for the ESRC 1+3 quota competition awards must be submitted these to the Department by Friday 7th April at the very latest.

The MRes is designed as a full-time course which runs for 12 months from October each year, or part-time over two years.

Aims of the course

* to offer a broadly-based advanced research training programme using a wide range of methodological approaches and research techniques, both quantitative and qualitative
* to equip students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills required to undertake in depth Social Policy research
* to offer rigorous training in preparation for PhD research, a research career or for those who expect to be in employment or related activities where research is part of their brief
* to develop the presentational skills which allow students to communicate the results of their own Social Policy research

The course is designed for those who want to pursue a career in social research, who are potential PhD students or who wish to explore research methods in relation to Social Policy. Most students already have a first degree, usually, but not necessarily, in Social Policy or a related subject such as sociology, politics or other social science. However, the course is also suitable for students from other backgrounds who want to obtain a highly respected specialist qualification.


The MRes in Social Policy consists of a total of 180 credits. Students spend half of their time on the compulsory taught research training elements of the the MRes, worth 100 credits. There are five taught modules: Social Policy Analysis, Introduction to Social Research Methods, Advanced Quantitative Methods, Advanced Qualitative Methods and Graduate Dissertation Workshops. A research-based dissertation of 15,000-20,000 words accounts for the remaining 80 credits of the degree. The social policy topic of this dissertation is chosen after discussion with a supervisor.


Social Policy Analysis

2 x 1 hour lectures + 1 hour seminar each week for 9 weeks.

This module introduces some of the key concepts, techniques and theories employed in policy analysis, applies this knowledge to specific social policy issues and explores some of the key dilemmas and challenges facing the welfare state. By the end of the module students should be able to: understand the role of demographic, economic, political, social and international factors in shaping social policy; identify the complex issues surrounding the formation, implementation and evaluation of social policies; and, appreciate the institutional and organizational contexts which shape the processes by which social policies are made.

Introduction to Social Research Methods

2 hour lecture + 2 hour workshop each week for 9 weeks.

This module introduces some of the basic principles of social research. The module considers broad philosophical debates about knowledge alongside more focused issues concerning how quantitative and qualitative research can be undertaken in practice. It enables students to: understand the principles of social research and related philosophical debates; acquire skills in the use of both quantitative and qualitative techniques of research; judge what methods and techniques are appropriate to particular research problems, and, develop their critical abilities to appraise published research findings in their own substantive areas of study.

Advanced Qualitative Analysis

2 hour lecture + 2 hour workshop each week for 9 weeks.

The aim of this module is to further to develop students´ knowledge of the principles underlying qualitative research design, to enable them to gain an advanced level of understanding of, and expertise in the use of, the key methods of qualitative data generation and to develop skills in qualitative analysis and interpretation. In addition to a more analytical grasp of the issues in relation to these areas, student's skills will also be developed through exploring their use in the context of ongoing and completed research. At the end of this module, students should: be able to distinguish between method and design, data generation, analysis and interpretation; have a comprehensive and in-depth knowledge of the collection and analysis of the principal forms of qualitative methods and the types of data they generate; have an appreciation of the range of research domains and issues to which these methodological techniques apply, including their application to practical research; be able to use the Atlas Ti software package for qualitative data analysis.

Advanced Quantitative Analysis

2 hour lecture + 3 hour workshop each week for 9 weeks.

The module aims to help students to develop quantitative analytical skills and to give them sufficient understanding of statistical theory to enable them to go on themselves to learn more specialised techniques as required in any further research work they undertake. In addition to skills in analysis, students are expected to learn how to interpret critically the results of their work in a social policy context and to be able to present results in a clear and easily understood form. The module includes a weekly hands-on data workshop in which students apply the techniques they learn in the lectures. Consequently, this module gives students a knowledge of both key statistical approaches and how to utilise them in practice using leading computer based packages.

Graduate Dissertation Workshops

During the summer term weekly dissertation workshops are run. These are compulsory but unassessed. Their aim is to deal with topics and issues that will support students in preparing for and researching their dissertations. The workshops also provide a constructive and non-threatening environment within which students can give presentations about their dissertation work.


Each student chooses a dissertation topic which fits in with his or her own interests in Social Policy. During the Autumn Term students think through ideas for their dissertations and discuss these with supervisors and other teaching staff. Topics and supervision arrangements are agreed by the beginning of the Spring Term but during the first part of the MRes course, students are studying taught course modules and work for the dissertation is necessarily part-time. When coursework is complete, however, students usually spend five months working full-time on the dissertation.


Students accepted for the course are normally expected to have at least an upper second class degree or equivalent qualification. However, applicants with relevant work experience and good academic potential will also be considered.

English Language Requirements

IELTS: 6.5, with no less than 6.0 in any element

The University has approved a limited system of admission from English pre-sessional courses for overseas applicants who marginally fail to meet their English language entry requirements. Please note this applies exclusively to applicants who have already achieved an IELTS 6.0 and only need a 0.5 increase to make their offers unconditional.

Admission is through satisfactory completion of the Academic and Research Purposes course (EARP1) and test offered by the Centre for English Language Teaching. After successful completion of the course and upon passing the end-of-course test, students will enter the Department directly, and they do not need to re-take IELTS at the end of August.

English Language Requirements

IELTS band: 6.5
CAE score: (read more)

Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) is part of the Cambridge English suite and is targeted at a high level (IELTS 6.5-8.0). It is an international English language exam set at the right level for academic and professional success. Developed by Cambridge English Language Assessment - part of the University of Cambridge - it helps you stand out from the crowd as a high achiever.

200 (Grade A)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Per 6 April 2015 only the English language tests from IELTS and Trinity College London are accepted for Tier 4 Visa applications to the United Kingdom. Other tests (including TOEFL, TOEIC, Pearson, City & Guilds) are no longer accepted for Tier 4 visa applications to the United Kingdom. The university might still accept these tests to admit you to the university, but if you require a Tier 4 visa to enter the UK and begin your degree programme, these tests will not be sufficient to obtain your Visa. Since the Trinity College London language tests must be taken in one of their exam centres in the UK, IELTS is now the only language test accepted for Tier 4 visas to the UK that can be taken worldwide.

The IELTS test is most widely accepted by universities and is also accepted for Tier 4 visas to the UK- learn more.

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