About this course
Explore how society works and discover the causes of social inequality on this MSc Sociology and Social Policy master's course. Here at the University of Southampton, you'll learn about issues such as globalisation, gender and class, and understand how they relate to social policy concepts. These include health, social risk and the welfare state. We offer 3 different pathways on this course, allowing you to fit your studies to your interests or career plans.
On this UK master’s course you’ll gain in-depth knowledge of:
- the main themes and debates in sociology and how to use them to analyse social issues
- the main issues in the philosophy of social science
- conceptual debates in social policy
- qualitative and quantitative research methods, and data analysis techniques
- designing and conducting independent research in sociology or social policy
When you apply for this course, we’ll ask you to choose one of the 3 following pathways to reflect your personal interests or career plans. There is some module variation between pathways, but you’ll gain the same overview of key topics whichever pathway you choose.
- Substantive pathway: This focuses on the key concepts of sociology and social policy, and how these relate to contemporary policy issues.
- International social policy pathway: This focuses on understanding global social inequality, policy responses, and governance.
- Research methods pathway: This focuses on quantitative and qualitative research methods.
If you prefer, you can apply to study this course as:
- a part-time master's - study the same course content over 2 or more years
Your modules and fees may vary if you choose a different study option.
Your course leader is Traute Meyer, Professor of Social Policy. Her research contributes to comparative welfare state research in Europe, with a particular focus on the role of private agents as social policy players in European pension regimes. Read Professor Meyer’s staff profile to find out more about her work.
This course is based at Highfield.
This qualification is awarded by the University of Southampton.
Download the Course Description Document
The Course Description Document details your course overview, your course structure and how your course is taught and assessed.
Changes due to COVID-19
Although the COVID-19 situation is improving, any future restrictions could mean we might have to change the way parts of our teaching and learning take place in 2022 to 2023. This means that some of the information on this course page may be subject to change.
Find out more on our COVID advice page.
You’ll need a 2:1 degree in a relevant subject, such as:
- social policy
- social administration
Find the equivalent international qualifications for your country.
English language requirements
If English isn't your first language, you'll need to complete an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to demonstrate your competence in English. You'll need all of the following scores as a minimum:
IELTS score requirements
- overall score
We accept other English language tests. Find out which English language tests we accept.
Got a question?
Please contact us if you're not sure you have the right experience or qualifications to get onto this course.
Tel: +44(0)23 8059 5000
Your studies on the full-time course will last 12 months, from September to the following September.
For the first 8 months (semesters 1 and 2) you'll focus on the taught part of the course.
The modules you study will depend on your choice of pathway. Some modules will be compulsory, other we’ll ask you to choose from a list of options.
For the rest of the course, you’ll work independently on your dissertation. You’ll have one-to-one meetings with your supervisor during this time to discuss your progress.
Want more detail? See all the modules in the course.
The modules listed below currently include all modules for all MSc Sociology and Social Policy pathways.
Your module choices, and what you must study, will vary depending on the pathway you choose.
Download the programme specification in the 'About this course' section for full details.
For entry in Academic Year 2022-23
Year 1 modules
You must study the following modules:
You will undertake independent research on a topic of your choice within the field of Sociology and Social Policy, presenting an account of the research in the form of a dissertation. This will enable you to demonstrate skills and knowledge acquired throu...
International Social Policy
This module will review and discuss the state of the art in research on social welfare and human well-being and the one, and on social policies addressing these issues on the other hand. In the first part students will explore how previously dominant econ...
Philosophy of Social Science Research
This module will look at the dominant traditions in the philosophy of social science and how these have shaped substantive research within the study of the social sciences.
Research Design and Practice
Research Design and Practice involves training and preliminary work for researching in social science. This module deals with the practical challenges of designing and conducting research such as defining research questions, identifying appropriate metho...
This module will explore the concepts of Modern Society and the Welfare State, based on key theories. We will engage with how modernity has been framed by classical and contemporary sociological writings and in that context analyse how individuals, collec...
Understanding Social Change
The module will address technological and demographic changes and related risks, the actors and structures that contribute and respond to social change and how it is theorised in contemporary sociology. Processes as well as impact of social change at the ...
You must also choose from the following modules:
Ageing, Health and Well-being
Students will be introduced to key issues and literature concerning the current structure and workings of the welfare state, focusing on the health and social care for older people.
Comparative Public Administration
This course provides an introduction to comparative public administration by looking at shared theoretical approaches and common problems. It does not provide descriptions of the system of public administration in any single country. The course addresses ...
Criminal Behaviour - Applied Perspectives
This module presents a critical, interdisciplinary analysis of criminal behaviour, requiring students to think beyond official or mainstream understandings of "the problem of crime". The module considers the behavioural, situational, and cultural aspects ...
Criminal Justice: Policy and Practice
This module identifies the central features of the administrative, political and policy-making context of the criminal justice system in England and Wales. It explores contemporary policy debates and perspectives in criminal justice and crime control. Stu...
Critical Issues in Global Health: Concepts and Case Studies
This module provides a comprehensive overview of current issues and challenges in global health. Using relevant case studies, it will discuss trends and determinants of both communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as assessing possible effec...
Demographic Change, Ageing & Globalisation
This module provides you with a foundation of knowledge on demographic change and population ageing in a cross-cultural, global perspective. The module focuses on less economically developed countries (LEDCs), and on linkages between different regions of ...
Perspectives in Gerontology
The module involves lectures and guest lectures from different disciplines. Learning activities include lectures, informal group discussions and independent study. Students are expected to carry out some reading in advance of each session, in order to be ...
Qualitative Methods 1
The syllabus for this 10 CATS module will cover an introduction to qualitative methods and a range of qualitative data collection methods. We will consider the defining characteristics of qualitative research and its epistemological underpinnings. The ...
Qualitative Methods 2
Qualitative Methods II builds upon the material learnt in Qualitative Methods I and addresses a range of specialist qualitative techniques, their underpinning theoretical framework and their practical application.
Quantitative Methods 1
The emphasis will be on the practical application of statistical methods and the interpretation of results using the statistical computer software SPSS. The module will draw on a range of international and UK data sources. One of the pre-requisites ...
Students taking this module will gain first-hand experience in the design and implementation of surveys
Understanding Population Change
This module is an introduction to the substantive concepts of demography, how populations change and grow or shrink, and the transitions that populations make in various stages of their development. An introduction to the past, present and future world po...
Learning and assessment
The learning activities for this course include:
- independent learning (studying on your own)
We’ll assess you through:
- oral presentations
- group projects
- a dissertation
You’ll research and write a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice, to be agreed with your supervisor.
The dissertation is a chance for you to develop your research skills and show your expertise in a particular area of sociology or social policy.
You’ll have regular support meetings with your supervisor throughout the process.
We'll assign you a personal academic tutor, and you'll have access to a senior tutor.
With this degree you’ll be in an ideal position to start a career in social research, public administration or public policy in the public, private or voluntary sector.
You’ll also be well placed to continue your studies at PhD level.
Careers services at Southampton
We're a top 20 UK university for employability (QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2022). Our Careers and Employability Service will support you throughout your time as a student and for up to 5 years after graduation. This support includes:
- work experience schemes
- CV/resume and interview skills workshops
- networking events
- careers fairs attended by top employers
- a wealth of volunteering opportunities
- study abroad and summer school opportunities
We have a thriving entrepreneurship culture. You'll be able to take advantage of:
- our dedicated start-up incubator, Futureworlds
- a wide variety of enterprise events run throughout the year
- our partnership in the world’s number 1 business incubator, SETsquared
Fees, costs and funding
Fees for a year's study:
- UK students pay £9,250.
- EU and international students pay £19,850.
What your fees pay for
Your tuition fee covers the full cost of tuition and any exams.
Find out how to pay your tuition fees.
Accommodation and living costs, such as travel and food, are not included in your tuition fees. Explore:
10% alumni discount
If you’re a graduate of the University of Southampton you get a 10% discount on your postgraduate tuition fees.
Postgraduate Master’s Loans (UK nationals only)
This can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate master's course. Find out if you're eligible.
Southampton Economic, Social and Political Sciences Postgraduate International Scholarship
A scholarship of £3,000 is available to international students studying for a postgraduate master’s in Economic, Social and Political Sciences.
Find out more about the Southampton Economic, Social and Political Sciences International Scholarship, including eligibility and conditions.
Southampton Sociology and Criminology Postgraduate International Scholarship
Two scholarships of £5,000 each are available to international students studying for a postgraduate master’s in Sociology and Criminology.
Find out more about the Southampton Sociology and Criminology International Scholarship, including eligibility, deadlines and how to apply.
Other postgraduate funding options
A variety of additional funding options may be available to help you pay for your master’s study. Both from the University and other organisations.
Funding for EU and international students
Find out about funding you could get as an international student.
How to apply
- Use the 'apply for this course' button on this page to take you to our online application form.
- Search for the course you want to apply for.
- Complete the application form and upload any supporting documents.
- Submit your application.
Places are limited and we allocate them on a continuous basis from 21 September 2022, until all places are filled. We advise you to apply early to avoid disappointment.
We expect to close applications for this course on Friday 7 July 2023 (11:59pm UK time).
This course may stay open after this date if places are still available.
Application assessment fee
We’ll ask you to pay a £50 application assessment fee if you’re applying for a postgraduate taught course.
This is an extra one-off charge which is separate to your tuition fees and is payable per application. It covers the work and time it takes us to assess your application. You’ll be prompted to pay when you submit your application which won’t progress until you've paid.
If you're a current or former University of Southampton student, or if you’re applying for certain scholarships, you will not need to pay the fee. PGCE applications through GOV.UK and Master of Research (MRes) degree applications are also exempt. Find out if you’re exempt on our terms and conditions page.
When you apply you’ll need to submit a personal statement explaining why you want to take the course.
You’ll need to include information about:
- your knowledge of the subject area
- why you want to study a postgraduate qualification in this course
- how you intend to use your qualification
You'll also need to send 2 academic references.
Please include the required paperwork showing your first degree and your IELTS English language test score (if you are a non-native English speaker) with your application. Without these, your application may be delayed.
What happens after you apply
You'll be able to track your application through our online Applicant Record System.
We'll assess your application on the strength of your:
- academic achievements
- relevant professional experience
- personal statement
- academic references
We will aim to send you a decision 6-8 weeks after you have submitted your application.
If we offer you a place, you will need to accept the offer within 30 working days. If you do not meet this deadline, we will offer your place to another applicant.
Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications we receive, we may not be able to give you specific feedback on your application if you are unsuccessful.
Equality and diversity
We treat and select everyone in line with our Equality and Diversity Statement.
Got a question?
Please contact us if you're not sure you have the right experience or qualifications to get onto this course.
Tel: +44(0)23 8059 5000
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