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MScSocial Policy (Research Methods)

Why this course?

This course offers students the opportunity to develop and extend their knowledge and understanding of key social policy issues together with advanced training in research methods.

The course aims to:

  • improve your knowledge & understanding of the factors which shape social needs & the ways in which different societies have responded to these
  • enhance your research skills
  • enable you to undertake an independent research project on a topic of your choice

The research methods course is aimed at the following people:

  • students who have studied social policy at undergraduate level & who now wish to build on the foundations they have already laid before entering employment or embarking on further study
  • graduates of other disciplines who wish to improve their knowledge and understanding of social & welfare issues whilst also enhancing their research skills
  • people already in employment who wish to update their existing knowledge & skills before moving onto the next stage of their careers

You'll study

The course includes a combination of research methods classes, core disciplinary training and individualised study.

In addition to classes in research design, quantitative methods and qualitative methods, you'll also study substantive classes in ‘Welfare concepts and ideas’ and ‘Approaches to welfare: past, present and future.’

The first of these classes examines some of the most important concepts and ideas which have shaped thinking around social policy issues. The second class examines the historical development of social policy in a range of different countries before moving on to examine some of the major challenges facing policy-makers in the area of social policy today.

Students will also have the opportunity to pursue more individualised courses of study which reflect the specialist research interests of our social policy staff. These include such issues as:

  • the history of social policy in the UK
  • the ‘mixed economy of welfare’
  • citizenship
  • race, ethnicity & social policy
  • migration
  • child poverty
  • contemporary health policy
  • social investment
  • technology & welfare

Following the successful completion of their coursework, students will have the opportunity to complete a research-based dissertation on a topic of their own choosing.

Course content

Semester 1

Compulsory classes

Principles of Research Design

The most important skill students should develop in graduate education is how to design research projects that withstand critical scrutiny. This module is designed to develop this skill at MSc level.

The class introduces students to the theoretical and practical issues they will need to address when designing and conducting research in social and public policy and related areas. During this module students will critically evaluate empirical research, develop an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different research designs, and build a foundation for their research projects and master theses.

Quantitative Methods I

This course introduces students to the use of quantitative methods in social research. Like qualitative methods, quantitative methods are tools in the social scientist’s toolkit. Learning when and how to use them will make you a better social researcher, open new scope for Masters or doctoral dissertation work, and improve your job prospects.

Welfare concepts & ideas

This class introduces students to some of the most important concepts which have shaped our understanding of social policy as an academic discipline, including such concepts as need, citizenship and entitlement, equality and justice, and happiness and wellbeing.

It also looks at issues surrounding the governance and implementation of social policy and the variety of ways in which our needs for welfare provision can be addressed. We also look at some of the main theoretical perspectives which have informed the development of social policy, such as social democracy, liberalism, conservatism, feminism, environmentalism, Marxism and the New Right.

The final part of the class looks at some of the main challenges facing social policy-makers today.

Semester 2

Compulsory classes

Qualitative Methods

This class provides an overview of the ever-expanding field of qualitative methods in social science. This includes the examination of a wide variety of approaches, including case studies, small-N comparisons, ethnographies, historical research, and discourse analysis.

It also includes the study of a range of data collection and data analysis techniques such as observation, document analysis, elite interviews, and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA).

Approaches to welfare: past, present and future

This class examines the ways in which different societies have sought to address welfare needs at different points in time.

It takes a broad view of the ‘field’ of social policy, examining issues associated not only with poverty but also health, housing and education. It explores the ways in which policies in these areas have developed in different countries and under different policy regimes over the last 200 years. It then looks at the varieties of social policy response in contemporary societies and examines the challenges to traditional social policy which are posed by population movements and the development of transnational welfare institutions.

Optional classes

Advanced project module

The aim of this class is to provide students with the opportunity to undertake an individual research project in one of our specialist research areas. Our staff have a wide range of interests, including such topics as:

  • the history of social policy in the UK
  • the mixed economy of welfare
  • long-term changes in health, welfare and the standard of living
  • citizenship & welfare
  • race, ethnicity & social policy
  • welfare & migration
  • child poverty
  • technology and welfare

Students will have the opportunity to review the literature in their chosen area, formulate their own research questions, develop their presentational skills and prepare their own projects.

This class will provide a particularly useful foundation for those students who wish to undertake a dissertation or go on to more advanced research.

Other approved classes

The Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences offers a large number of other MSc programmes, including programmes in Education, Government & Public Policy, History, Journalism, Law, Psychological Sciences & Health, and Social Work. Many of these programmes include classes which are directly relevant to Social Policy. You'll have the opportunity to complete your programme by selecting a class from one of these programmes, subject to availability.


In order to complete the MSc, all students will be required to undertake a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of their choice.

The dissertation will be supervised by a member of staff but is intended to provide students with the opportunity to develop their skills as independent researchers.

Learning & teaching

The majority of classes will be taught in weekly sessions of two hours.  The formats of these sessions will include:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • small-group discussions
  • practical sessions

The Advanced Project module will include a combination of individual and group meetings.


Your work will be assessed in a variety of different ways. Some classes, including the classes in the Principles of Research Design, Quantitative Methods & Qualitative Methods, are assessed by coursework and exams.

Welfare concepts and ideas is assessed by two essays of 2,500 words each.

Approaches to welfare: past, present and future and the Advanced project module will be assessed by means of a single 5,000-word essay.

The Dissertation is 15,000 words in length.

Entry requirements

First or second-class Honours degree, or overseas equivalent, in Social Policy or a related discipline.

For postgraduate studies, the University of Strathclyde requires a minimum overall score of IELTS 6.5 (no individual test score below 6.0) or equivalent. Tests are valid for two years.

Pre-sessional courses in English are available.

If you’re a national of an English speaking country recognised by UK Visa and Immigrations (please check most up-to-date list on the Home Office website) or you have successfully completed an academic qualification (at least equivalent to a UK bachelor's degree) in any of these countries, then you do not need to present any additional evidence.

If you are from a country not recognised as an English speaking country by the United Kingdom Visa and Immigration (UKVI), please check our English requirements before making your application.

Pre-Masters preparation course

The Pre-Masters Programme is a preparation course for international students (non EU/UK) who do not meet the entry requirements for a Masters degree at University of Strathclyde. The Pre-Masters programme provides progression to a number of degree options.

To find out more about the courses and opportunities on offer visit or call today on +44 (0) 1273 339333and discuss your education future. You can also complete the online application form. To ask a question please fill in the enquiry form and talk to one of our multi-lingual Student Enrolment Advisers today.

Fees & funding

All fees quoted are per academic year unless stated otherwise.


  • 2017/18 - £4,800 full-time
  • 2017/18 - £2,400 part-time

Rest of UK

  • 2017/18 - £4,800 full-time
  • 2017/18 - £2,400 part-time


  • 2017/18 - £13,500 full-time
  • 2017/18 - £6,750 part-time

How can I fund my course?

To recognise academic achievement, the Dean's International Excellence Award offers international students a merit-based scholarship of up to £3,000 for entry onto a full-time Masters programme in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

Check our Scholarship Search for more help with fees and funding.

Scottish students

Students living in Scotland can find out more about funding from the Student Awards Agency Scotland.

English students

Students ordinarily resident in England may be eligible to apply for a loan of up to £10,000 to cover their tuition fees and living costs.

Please note

The fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year. Find out more about fees.


Social Policy graduates are employed in a wide range of occupations, including:

  • business
  • research & administrative professions
  • welfare & housing associated professions
  • caring & personal service occupations
  • protective services

The course has been designed to enable you to update and extend your knowledge of a wide range of social and welfare issues while also developing your practical research skills.

It will be particularly well-suited to individuals who wish to develop their methodological expertise in order to undertake research within the social and welfare services or to pursue opportunities for further postgraduate study.

Contact us


Social Policy (Research Methods)

Qualification: MSc, Start date: Sep 2017, Mode of delivery: attendance, part-time

Social Policy (Research Methods)

Qualification: MSc, Start date: Sep 2017, Mode of delivery: attendance, full-time

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