MSc Social Policy (Research Methods)

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Key facts

  • Start date: September
  • Study mode and duration: 12 months full-time; 24 months part-time
  • 1st in Scotland for Social Policy (Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023)

Study with us

  • expand your knowledge of contemporary issues facing social welfare and wellbeing and how social policy responds to them
  • develop knowledge and research skills highly valued by public, third and private sector employers
  • acquire postgraduate research training, vital for further study at PhD level
  • offers students the opportunity to develop and extend their knowledge and understanding of key social policy issues together with advanced training in research methods
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Why this course?

The course offers you the opportunity to improve your knowledge and understanding of the factors which shape social needs and the ways in which different societies have responded to these. This will enhance your research skills and enable you to undertake an independent research project on a topic of your choice.

The research training on this MSc has been approved by the ESRC (via the Scottish Graduate School in Social Sciences) as suitable for undertaking a PhD in the social sciences.

Who's it for?

The research methods course is aimed at the following groups:

  • students who have studied social policy at undergraduate level and 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
  • those already in employment who wish to update their existing knowledge and skills before moving onto the next stage of their careers
  • anyone considering applying to undertake a PhD, including those planning to apply for +3 funding from the Scottish Graduate School in Social Sciences

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner

Interested in postgraduate study?

At the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, our friendly and knowledgeable team will be available to provide you with all the information you need to kick-start your postgraduate journey at the University of Strathclyde. Register for upcoming events below:

What you'll study

The course includes a combination of research methods classes, core disciplinary training and optional classes. Classes in research design, quantitative methods and qualitative methods provide a platform to enable you to proceed to the MSc stage of the programme to undertake a research-based dissertation on a topic of your own choosing.

You'll also take compulsory classes in Welfare concepts and ideas and Approaches to welfare: past, present and future and a choice of optional classes which reflect the specialist research interests of our social policy staff.

Alternatively you can choose optional classes from other Masters programme offered across the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

Staff research interests include such issues as:

  • the history of social policy in the UK
  • the mixed economy of welfare
  • citizenship
  • race, ethnicity and social policy
  • migration
  • child poverty
  • technology and welfare

To complete the MSc, you'll undertake a 15,000-work dissertation on a topic of your choice, supervised by a member of staff.


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Course content

Compulsory classes

Perspectives on Social Research

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.

Elective classes

Policy Analysis

This class investigates theories of the policy-making process. After taking this class you'll be able to describe, and perhaps even influence, real-world policy-making.

Inequalities & 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
  • criminal justice

However, for each exemplar inequality, we'll also examine international examples and, where possible, adapt these examples to the geopolitical interests and experiences of those taking the module.

Prisons, Power & Punishment

The aim of this module is for you to develop a critical understanding of the use, impacts and harms of imprisonment. It's designed to equip you with both the knowledge and the theoretical tools to engage in debates surrounding contemporary imprisonment. You'll learn about the diversity, complexity and international breadth of scholarship in the area of punishment and society scholarship. In particular, the module will draw from social theory, political science, critical gender studies, human rights and anthropological and narrative studies.

Co-production & 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.

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.

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).

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.

Elective 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.

Comparative Public Policy

This class revolves around the different aims for conducting comparative policy analysis such as explaining the variation of policy output and outcome across different institutional, economic, social and cultural settings, generalising a given theory of policy process in different geographical contexts and by taking time into consideration, as well as capturing the interdependence of countries. Units of analysis include countries, states/regions, local governments, and international organisations. Students will be introduced to concepts, research design and methods.

International Institutions and Regimes

International organisations (IOs), like the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations, NATO, or the European Union have become common place in how governments govern their international relations. IOs are often seen as the solution to international cooperation problems, be it in areas of conflict, trade, human rights, or the global environment. Whether IOs can live up to this promise and can indeed change national governments' behaviour to solve global cooperation problems will be the central question this course addresses. Specifically, we will examine why IOs differ in their rules and decision-making processes and how this variation translates into different policy outputs and outcomes. The first part of the class builds the theoretical and analytical foundation to address these key questions in a principled manner across different policy domains, while the second part applies these insights to specific IOs. We will discuss prominent IOs, such as the World Bank, IMF, or NATO together with newer forms of transnational governance as well as international courts.

Health Policy from an International Perspective

This module considers pressing health policy challenges comparatively across a range of international health systems. Examples of key topics include debates around healthcare 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.

Contexts of Criminal Justice Research

This class is designed to provide students with relevant knowledge, understanding and skills to critically engage with theory, research and contemporary debates about penal responses to people who offend. This module seeks to encourage students to engage with critical debates in contemporary policies and practices and with more radical approaches to penal change.

Contemporary Issues in Criminology

This module introduces students to the subject of criminology, tracing some of the major themes and topical issues that arise within this discipline. It begins with an overview of the development of criminology and provides an in-depth critique of criminological theory. It follows with three sub-topics, allowing for more detailed focus on three contemporary issues over the course of one semester. These subtopics are:

  • crime, criminal justice & the media
  • punishment & the State
  • gender, sexuality & justice

Contemporary International Relations

This course introduces students to the literature and research agendas related to conflict and cooperation in international relations studies. We will cover a wide array of approaches that relate to interstate and intrastate conflict, cooperation and other contemporary security topics such as peacekeeping operations, terrorism, and human rights violations.

By the end of this course, students should be able to answer questions such as why international (intrastate) conflicts occur, when cooperation between countries emerges, whether peacekeeping missions are effective in reducing violence against civilians and promoting post-conflict peace, how terrorist groups emerge, why some governments torture their citizens and how international institutions might prevent human rights violation.

While we will not have time to comprehensively cover all the important relevant work, we will sample a spectrum of the work from foundational studies to state-of-the-art approaches.


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 and practical sessions

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


Your work will be assessed in a variety of ways. Some classes, including the classes in the Principles of Research Design, Quantitative Methods and 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.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

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

English language requirements

You're required to have a suitable minimum level of competency in the English language if your first language is not English or if you have not been educated wholly or mainly in the medium of English.

For postgraduate studies, the University of Strathclyde requires a minimum overall score of IELTS 6.5 (with no 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 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 Visa and Immigrations (UKVI), please check our English requirements before making your application.

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.

Chat to a student ambassador

If you want to know more about what it’s like to be a Humanities & Social Sciences student at the University of Strathclyde, a selection of our current students are here to help!

Our Unibuddy ambassadors can answer all the questions you might have about courses and studying at Strathclyde, along with offering insight into their experiences of life in Glasgow and Scotland.

Chat to a student ambassador
Katherine Smith
Strathclyde’s Department of Social Work and Social Policy features more than 30 academics, many of whom have experience of working in policy and practice; all of whom are committed to research informed teaching and learning. I hope you will find, like me, that this is a really friendly and welcoming School, where people are keen to engage in ideas and hear about different experiences.
Katherine Smith
Programme leader

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

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
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Fees & funding

All fees quoted are per academic year unless stated otherwise.

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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Scotland, England, Wales & Northern Ireland

Full time - £8,700
Part-time* - £4,350

*Please note, Year 2 fee will be subject to an increase



Available scholarships

Take a look at our scholarships search for funding opportunities.

Visa & immigration

International students may have associated visa and immigration costs. Please see student visa guidance for more information.

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

How can I fund my course?

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Scottish postgraduate students

Scottish postgraduate students may be able to apply for support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). The support is in the form of a tuition fee loan and for eligible students, a living cost loan. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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Students coming from England

Students ordinarily resident in England may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance England. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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Students coming from Wales

Students ordinarily resident in Wales may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance Wales. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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Students coming from Northern Ireland

Postgraduate students who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland may be able to apply for support from Student Finance Northern Ireland. The support is a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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International students

We've a large range of scholarships available to help you fund your studies. Check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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

  • business
  • research and administrative professions
  • welfare and housing associated professions
  • caring and 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.

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

Social Policy (Research Methods)

Start date: Sep 2024

Start date: Sep 2024

Social Policy (Research Methods)

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