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Social Sciences: Politics & International RelationsPart of Social SciencesPostgraduate study

PG Dip/MSc Governance and Policy

This innovative programme offers students the opportunity to examine processes of governance and policy-making at a variety of levels, from global to local, and utilise ideas about governance to better understand contemporary policy processes in a range of settings. Students can explore these issues in a cross-disciplinary way, making use of insights from politics, international relations, social policy, sociology, demography, gerontology and social statistics. This programme is specifically structured to enable students to shape their degree around their own particular interests in the fields of governance and policy more broadly, and will appeal to those not only from a social science background, but also to those with relevant work experience in the public, private and third sectors and beyond who wish to expand their skills and knowledge portfolio.

Introducing your course

Are you interested in understanding modern governance and how policymaking processes actually work and deliver public services? The MSc Governance and Policy degree at the University of Southampton enables you to study these issues, to explore the complexities of governance systems, and to apply your own particular policy interests to your programme through a broad selection of optional modules exploring a diverse range of contemporary policy issues.

Graduates are well placed for careers in local, national and international political institutions, policy think tanks and advocacy organizations, the civil service, and further research.

Programme Overview

This programme is designed both to equip students to undertake independent research across the social sciences, with specific reference to the fields of governance and policy, and to develop skills that are of relevance to a broad range of careers in the public and private sector. The cross-disciplinary nature of the programme enables students to build their own degree according to their own particular interests and preferences within the broad areas of governance and policy, drawing on the diverse range of relevant modules taught across the disciplines of politics and international relations, sociology, social policy, social statistics, demography and gerontology. The core module of the programme, Governance and Policy, also enables students to develop their policy skills by preparing a policy briefing as part of their assessment, a task designed to enable students to use the knowledge and conceptual insights gained to outline ways to solve ‘real world’ policy problems, thus delivering key skills prized by employers.

  • The aims of the programme are to provide you with:Knowledge and understanding of contemporary theoretical, conceptual and empirical debates in the study of governance and policy
  • Knowledge and understanding of philosophical and methodological debates in the study of social sciences
  • The skills necessary to design and complete a dissertation on a specialist topic in the field of governance and policy
  • All of our MSc programmes endeavour to develop your subject-specific knowledge and understanding, and provide opportunities for you to shape your own degree trajectory through optional module selection. In addition, all our MSc programmes aim to help you gain:
  • Awareness of the changing nature of the contemporary political world, and the complex challenges presented by phenomena such as globalisation
  • Awareness of the basic theoretical concepts common to advanced study in politics and international relations
  • Key research skills, such as the ability to search for and reference sources, and to manage complex empirical or theoretical information
  • The capacity for critical thinking and independent study
  • The ability to work in groups
  • Presentation skills

In addition to the credit-bearing modules you will take as part of your chosen programme, all MSc students participate in our bespoke training workshops, led by the MSc Coordinator, and specifically designed to help you get the best grades you can on during your masters study with us:

MSc Coursework Workshop (Semester 1)
This workshop explains the expectations and demands of coursework in our masters programmes, delineates the critical thinking, research and writing skills required, outlines the processes associated with literature reviews and coursework planning, and the rules about academic integrity. The workshop is designed to give practical support to students as they approach their coursework tasks, help UK/EU students understand the specific expectations we have at masters level, and help overseas students unfamiliar with higher education in this country get a better sense of what is expected.

MSc Dissertation Workshop (Semester 2)
This workshop helps students begin the process of thinking about and planning for their MSc dissertation. It provides guidance on topic selection, generation of research questions, aims of the literature review, the role of primary research, dissertation structure, writing advice, and the role of the supervisor. The workshop also offers practical advice from academics about how to produce an original piece of work, the role of depth over breadth, and how to craft convincing arguments.

View the programme specification document for this course

To Apply

Applications can be submitted at any time, although we would encourage applicants to apply before the end of May. If you are seeking financial support for your postgraduate studies, we recommend that you apply before the end of February so you have time to gather the necessary documentation for your funding body/sponsor.

MSc modules
If applying for one of our MSc programmes, please specify the option modules you intend to take, if known.

For all applications, two academic references are required. Unfortunately, we cannot consider applications until we have received both references.

Further information
For further information, please contact us.

Programme Structure

Each MSc programme endeavours to develop your subject-specific knowledge and understanding, whether that be of global politics, security, citizenship or democracy. In addition, all of our MSc programmes aim to help you gain:

  • awareness of the changing nature of the contemporary political world, and the complex challenges presented by phenomena such as globalisation
  • awareness of the basic theoretical concepts common to advanced study in politics and international relations
  • key research skills, such as the ability to search for and reference sources, and to manage complex empirical or theoretical information
    the capacity for critical thinking and independent study
  • the ability to work in groups
  • presentation skills

Key Facts

In the current employment market, postgraduate qualifications are increasingly popular because of the competitive edge they give to a CV. Many of our students have recently completed bachelors degrees and wish to specialise further with a particular career in mind.

The programme is studied over one year, full-time, or two years, part-time. The taught programme component consists of 30 study weeks divided into two semesters, during which time students study six modules (or to a minimum of 60 ECTS (120 CATS) points). Students who successfully complete the taught programme component undertake a three-month period of supervised research for a masters dissertation (six months for part-time).

Thumbnail photo of Emily McMahon

“The course appealed to me as it is extremely flexible across all the social science areas that interest me.”

Emily McMahon - MSc Governance and Policy

Highfield campus

Social Sciences is based on the main campus of the University in the Murray Building (58). University facilities a...

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Entry Requirements

Typical entry requirements

English Language Requirement

For applicants whose first language is not English, the IELTS requirement will be an overall score of 6.5 with at least 6.5 in writing and at least 6.0 in reading, speaking and listening.

Please visit our international pages to find out about the University's regulations about English language requirements and support here.

Selection process

We welcome applications from students with a good undergraduate degree (upper second-class or higher) or equivalent in a relevant social science subject.

If you have a lower second-class undergraduate degree, you may still be eligible for admission to one of our masters programmes if we are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence of upper second-class quality in your work (judged by the range of your marks, the mark awarded for your dissertation and/or the quality of your references).

Academic background
Entry is not confined to students who have studied politics or international relations before. Each year, we offer places to a number of students from other subject areas in the social sciences and humanities.

We also admit some students from science backgrounds, although we may want to interview such applicants before offering a place on the course.

We also welcome applications from those who have relevant work experience and/or who have been away from education for some time, and such applicants are considered on a case by case basis.

This page contains specific entry requirements for this course. Find out about equivalent entry requirements and qualifications for your country.


Typical course content

The MSc comprises six modules and a dissertation. The core module, Governance and Policy, provides the conceptual underpinnings, critical perspectives and empirical examples in relation to understanding issues of governance and policy-making.

Students pick optional modules from a range which may include the following (although specific options may change from year to year).

Year 1

The programme is studied over one year full time, or two years part time.

Two option modules are taken, as listed below, to the value of 20 ECTS (40 CATS). Students will also be able to access more advanced research methods modules and other relevant social science modules (including economics) where they hold the relevant prerequisites. Not all modules will run each year. Students will receive guidance from the MSc coordinator in making their selection.

The dissertation is undertaken during the summer after semester 2 ends.

Please note: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if s/he takes full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detailed information can be found in the programme handbook (or other appropriate guide or website).

Learning & Assessment


Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

There will also be further costs for the following, not purchasable from the University:

StationeryYou will be expected to provide your own day-to-day stationery items, e.g. pens, pencils, notebooks, etc. Any specialist stationery items will be specified under the Additional Costs tab of the relevant module profile.
EquipmentApproved calculators: If needed, candidates may use calculators in the examination room only as specified by the University and as permitted by the rubric of individual examination papers. The University approved model is Casio FX-570 This may be purchased from any source and no longer needs to carry the University logo.
BooksWhere a module specifies core texts these should generally be available on the reserve list in the library. However due to demand, students may prefer to buy their own copies. These can be purchased from any source. Some modules suggest reading texts as optional background reading. The library may hold copies of such texts, or alternatively you may wish to purchase your own copies. Although not essential reading, you may benefit from the additional reading materials for the module.
Printing and copyingIn the majority of cases, coursework such as essays, projects and dissertations is likely to be submitted on line. However, there are some items where it is not possible to submit on line and students will be asked to provide a printed copy. A list of the University printing costs can be found at: [].
OtherOptional visits (e.g. conferences, museums, galleries): You will normally be expected to cover the cost of travel and admission, unless otherwise specified in the module profile.
OtherIllegible exam scripts: If your examination script is considered illegible, you will be asked to come in to dictate your script so that it can be transcribed. The costs associated with producing the transcript will fall to you and will be charged at £10.00 per hour. If you refuse to attend, you may be awarded a mark of zero (0). The Illegible Examinations Scripts Policy is available at

In some cases you'll be able to choose modules (which may have different costs associated with that module) which will change the overall cost of a programme to you. Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

Study locations

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