MSc Health & Social Policy

Key facts

  • Start date: Sep 2024
  • Study mode and duration: On campus, full-time 12 months; part-time 24 months.
  • Ranked 3rd in the UK for Social Policy (The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023)

Study with us

  • Take a whole-systems, intersectional approach to exploring how societies are shaped and supported by health and social policies
  • Develop and extend your knowledge of contemporary health policy challenges such as growing health inequalities, declining healthy life expectancy, debates around health system financing, and work to prevent future pandemics
  • Study how these policy areas interact, and how societies influence the development of health and social policies
  • Develop knowledge, research and critical appraisal skills highly valued by public, third and private sector employers
  • Undertake a placement with a public sector, third sector organisation or academic research team working in health and social policy
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Why This Course

This programme offers you the opportunity to develop and extend your knowledge and understanding of how key health and social policies and outcomes intersect, while also providing advanced training in research methods.

It aims to improve your knowledge and understanding of the factors which shape people’s health and wellbeing, and the ways in which different societies and governments have intervened to shape these relationships.

This integrative approach to health and social policy is inspired by recent policy efforts to develop whole-of-government and systems approaches that focus on understanding cross-policy links - efforts that are, in turn, informed by evidence demonstrating such approaches are more cost-effective.

There is strong focus on combining postgraduate level research methods training with study of research challenges from a policy perspective. The programme includes opportunities for students to undertake a placement-based dissertation module, examining advocacy and research challenges in partnership with non-governmental organisations (NGO), policy bodies, or academic research teams.

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner

What you’ll study

The MSc Health & Social Policy is made up of six taught modules (three in each semester) and a dissertation project from Spring-Summer.

The taught modules aim to provide you with a good understanding of health and social policy challenges, the interaction between these challenges and policy areas, and methodological teaching that is grounded in policy challenges. It will include guest lectures and contemporary policy case studies.

Work placement

This programme offers students the opportunity to undertake a placement-based dissertation, with excellent potential to develop and apply highly transferable skills for their future careers.

Placement-based dissertations enable students to undertake small-scale research projects that directly address policy, advocacy and research challenges. For some projects, this will include options to spend time working in relevant third sector and policy organisations. For others it might involve working closely with academics on research projects and gaining an understanding of how large-scale, interdisciplinary research on health policy issues works.

Organisations offering placements for 2023/24 include:
  • NHS Education for Scotland
  • Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland
  • British Heart Foundation

Guest lectures

We regularly feature guest lectures in our teaching, making the most of our extensive policy and research networks. You will hear from people who work in non-governmental organisations (NGO) and policy settings as well as from internationally-renowned academics undertaking innovative health policy research.

Learning & teaching

The majority of our classes will be taught in weekly sessions of two hours. The format of these sessions will include lectures, seminars, small group discussions and practical sessions. The dissertation module includes a combination of group workshops and individual supervision meetings.


We assess substantive topic knowledge, research skills and understanding of policy processes in a range of ways. Current forms of assessment include annotated bibliographies, blogs, essays, policy briefs, presentations and podcasts. Both the standard dissertation and the placement-based dissertation are 15,000 words in length.

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences Scholarships

  • EU Engagement Scholarships are available to EU applicants who would have previously been eligible for Home (Scottish/EU) fee status.
  • EU and International 50% Merit Scholarships available to self-funded, international fee-paying offer-holders (includes those classed as EU fee group). The scholarship entitles the recipient to a discount of 50% on tuition fees.
View all our scholarships
Katherine Smith
Strathclyde will be the only university in the UK to offer an MSc Health & Social Policy so it truly is a unique programme, which builds on the research expertise of Centre for Health Policy members. We are particularly excited about the new placement-based dissertation module.
Katherine Smith
Programme leader

Pre-Masters preparation course

The Pre-Masters Programme is a preparation course held at the University of Strathclyde International Study Centre, for international students (non-UK/Ireland) who do not meet the academic entry requirements for a Masters degree at University of Strathclyde.

Upon successful completion, you'll be able to progress to this degree course at the University of Strathclyde.

Please note: Previous Maths & English qualifications and your undergraduate degree must meet GTCS minimum entry requirements as well as the pre-Masters course and an interview will be conducted before an offer can be made.

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Course content

The MSc Health & Social Policy consists of two core health policy modules, at least one social policy option (with the possibility of doing two) and a module that links across health and social policy (Inequalities and Social Policy).

In addition, students on the programme will take at least one methods module and will have the option to undertake a dissertation in Social Policy or a placement-based dissertation.

Semester one is designed to provide students with a fundamental understanding of the links between social and health policy challenges, including intersectional social inequalities. You will also study processes for developing health policy and practice, and consider options for increasing public participation in decision-making.

The electives on offer this semester will allow you to enhance your understanding of core social policy concepts, better understand the contrasting foundations of distinct methodological approaches to research, and hone the skills necessary to becoming an effective health analyst.

Core modules

Co-Production and Engagement in Health Policy & Practice

This module focuses on understanding how policy can be made in 'co-produced' ways that engage with external stakeholders and unequal publics. This will include some contextual consideration of traditional methods of influencing policymaking, such as consultation, advocacy and lobbying, before progressing to examine more innovative and participatory ways in which stakeholders and members of the public, or particular communities, can be brought into decision-making in health policy and practice.

Inequalities in Social Policy

Explore the crucial ways in which social and health policies interact and the consequences that decisions about social policies have for health outcomes. This module uses intersectionality as a core social science concept.

The module uses the UK, which has particularly high health inequalities and a wide-range of useful data sources, as a core case study. We focus on three exemplar inequalities: health, place and criminal justice inequalities. However, for each exemplar inequality, we will also examine international examples and, where possible, adapt these examples to the geo-political interests and experiences of those taking the module.

Elective modules

Feminism, Gender & Violence

This module will provide you with an understanding of feminist frameworks for understanding, measuring and investigating gendered violence and the ways it intersects with other inequalities. It is an interdisciplinary module taught by staff from Media, Gender Studies, Social Policy, Criminology and Politics.

No Matter How Small: Children's Health Across the British World

This course explores themes and concepts around children’s health across the time and space of the British Empire (1800-2000). Taking a thematic approach, the course uncovers changing concepts of ‘childhood’ and ‘health’, and changing attitudes to state intervention in children’s lives. It considers how adults – parents, teachers, politicians, philanthropists, pharmaceutical companies, medical professionals, government officials, journalists - sought to regulate and discipline children’s bodies with the aim of producing healthy children and healthy citizens for the nation.

It also considers how children experienced childhood, the choices they made and how they shaped ideas about health and health interventions. For each of the themes, you're encouraged to analyse how the idea of what it meant to be an infant, child or teenager and the formulation and implementation of policy were impacted by other socially constructed hierarchies of race, class, caste and gender.

This course was co-created with past postgraduate taught and postgraduate research students, and students will have opportunities to co-create the content of the course and assessment types each year to fit their individual learning needs and interests.

Welfare Concepts & Ideas

We introduce core social policy concepts and ideas, such as human rights and equity, consider how these have shaped social policy scholarship, and how explore how they have been understood and applied in policy settings.

Perspectives on Social Research

We look at the ontological and epistemological foundations of contrasting methodological paradigms, encouraging students to consider the assumptions that underpin widely used quantitative and qualitative methods. We also look at the challenges in bringing qualitative and quantitative data and analysis together. This module is particularly suited to students with interests in research design, evidence synthesis and critical analysis of research.

Food and Health in the West during the 20th Century

Explore how dietary influences on health have been perceived in the West during the 20th century. Nutrition has been and continues to be one of the most controversial areas of health and medicine and one of the goals of this module (based in History) is to examine why this has been the case.

Becoming an Effective Health Analyst

Become familiar with a broad range of tools and techniques from across health analysis, policy, and management scholarship, applying these to real-world problems typical of policy settings. This module will particularly suit students interested in developing analytic skills in policy settings. It is based in the Strathclyde Business School and runs across Semester one and two.

Concepts and Theories of Sustainability

This module offers an introduction to the concepts of sustainability and key frameworks around sustainable development. Students will explore, firstly, the history of the concept of sustainable development and the global challenges that it seeks to address. The UN SDGs framework and 2030 agenda will be presented and the SDG dashboard will be scrutinised to help them understand the type of evidence used to assess global progress against common objectives. Students will develop critical perspective to the concept but also practical skills on researching around sustainable development problems.

Media and Health

Examine the inherent conflicts in health journalism and heath communication. The goal of this class is to examine the potential and limits of the media to accomplish health education of the public. We will examine how both information and entertainment media present and frame various health behaviours and how that affects media consumers. We will look at how theories, models, and assumptions of mass communication relate to public health issues. Topics to be covered include scientific inquiry, the media vs. science, framing illness, body image, stigma, entertainment education, mythologizing doctors, and others.

Semester two is designed to extend your core skills as you learn about health systems and comparative policy analysis.

The modules in this semester will also provide core methodological training, which will serve as a foundation for the summer dissertation project. The electives will allow you to specialise in areas such as health systems performance or the history of gender, medicine and health.

Core modules

Health Policy in an International Context

This module considers pressing health policy challenges comparatively across a range of international health systems. Examples of key topics include debates around health care funding, and the tensions between calls to address acute healthcare concerns and pressure to do more to address commercial and social determinants of health. The module also considers how we can compare the performance of distinctive health systems, noting the limitations of some commonly-used indicators.

Quantitative Methods or Qualitative Methods

Students have the choice between:

  • Quantitative Methods, which uses real-world examples to help bring the insights (and limitations) of quantitative research to life
  • Qualitative Methods, which provided advanced training in documentary analysis, interviews and focus groups.

Both modules have a strong focus on research for policy purposes. Students seeking postgraduate methods training across quantitative and qualitative methods can also choose to take both modules.

Elective modules

Comparative Social Policy & Welfare Systems

The module explores welfare systems and policy developments across a range of countries, with an OECD focus. Gain a thorough comparative understanding of how and why different welfare systems have developed as they have and the consequences of this for key health and social outcomes. You will utilise comparative methods of inquiry to critically evaluate the performance of different welfare systems. This module is likely to appeal to students interested in learning from international comparisons.

Health Systems Performance, Financing & Innovation

Run by Strathclyde Business School, this module provides students with knowledge of:

  • health systems financing
  • medical markets and policy innovation
  • public-private governance objectives and policy levers
  • health system performance assessment and monitoring
  • the role of public financial management
  • health systems needs assessment.

It is likely to appeal to students who are keen to develop analytic policy careers in the health sector.

Gender, Health and Modern Medicine

A Humanities-based module exploring the complex interactions between medicine, gender, health and illness in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is likely to appeal to students who are keen to think about interactions between social issues and health policies over a more historical time-frame.

The final component of the MSc course is a dissertation project, which runs from Spring-Summer.

There are two options for students on the MSc Health & Social Policy:

Social Policy Dissertation

Develop your own research project exploring an issue for which health and social policy intersect, with the support of an individual academic supervisor.

Placement-based dissertation

Lead a research project that will either:

  • contribute to addressing a gap identified by one of our NGO or policy partners, or
  • support a large-scale health policy research project led by Strathclyde academics

Placement-based dissertation opportunities will be competitively-allocated to students who choose this option, based on academic performance in semester one.

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Entry requirements


First or upper second-class Honours degree, or overseas equivalent, in health or social policy or a related discipline.

English language requirements

Please check our English requirements before making your application.

Additional information

If you’re a national of an English speaking country recognised by UK Visas and Immigration (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 Visas and Immigration (UKVI), please check our English requirements before making your application.

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Fees & funding

Fees may be subject to updates to maintain accuracy. Tuition fees will be notified in your offer letter.

All fees are in £ sterling, unless otherwise stated, and may be subject to revision.

Annual revision of fees

Students on programmes of study of more than one year (or studying standalone modules) should be aware that tuition fees are revised annually and may increase in subsequent years of study. Annual increases will generally reflect UK inflation rates and increases to programme delivery costs.

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England, Wales & Northern Ireland




Available scholarships

Tuition fee reduction of 25% for NHS employees

The Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences is offering a fee reduction of up to 25% to employees of NHS partner agencies. Find out more about the 25% tuition fee reduction for NHS employees.

Take a look at our scholarships search for funding opportunities.


International students

We've a thriving international community with students coming here to study from over 140 countries across the world. Find out all you need to know about studying in Glasgow at Strathclyde and hear from students about their experiences.

Visit our international students' section

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The MSc Health & Social Policy is strongly informed by our partnerships with NGOs and policy organisations and is designed to support graduates to develop three potential career paths:

  • Careers within policy organisations concerned with addressing health and social challenges (e.g. local, devolved and national governments, health policy advisory bodies, and international policy organisations such as the World Health Organization and global health charities).
  • Careers in organisations using research to influence the policies that impact on people’s health (e.g. large charities/NGOs/non-profit organisations and health policy think tanks). Recent graduates from our social policy programmes have taken Policy Director and Policy Lead roles on in prominent health NGOs.
  • Research careers, within universities and research consultancies. Graduates can also use this qualification as a platform for undertaking PhD study. The research methods training on the MSc Health & Social Policy is approved by the ESRC via the Scottish Graduate School in Social Sciences.

Glasgow is Scotland's biggest & most cosmopolitan city

Our campus is based right in the very heart of Glasgow. We're in the city centre, next to the Merchant City, both of which are great locations for sightseeing, shopping and socialising alongside your studies.

Life in Glasgow

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Start date: Sep 2024

Health & Social Policy

Start date: Sep 2024

Start date: Sep 2024

Health & Social Policy

Start date: Sep 2024

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Contact us

Prospective student enquiries

Contact a member of our team on LiveChat between 10am and 4pm (GMT)

Telephone: +44 (0) 141 444 8600