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The University of Southampton
Politics and International RelationsPart of Economic, Social and Political SciencePostgraduate study

MSc Governance and Policy (Research)

This innovative programme offers students the opportunity to examine processes of governance and policy-making at a variety of levels, from global to local, utilise ideas about governance to better understand contemporary policy processes in a range of settings, while also gaining rigorous research methods training. Students can explore these issues of governance and policy 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. In addition, it delivers extensive research training particularly suited to those who wish to pursue PhD study or a career where skills in research methodology may be of relevance. This programme is accredited by the ESRC.

Introducing your course

Enhance your understanding of modern governance and the operation of policymaking processes while also developing highly valued skills across a range of research methods. The MSc Governance and Policy (Research) degree at the University of Southampton enables you to develop your interests in the complexities of governance and the challenges of policymaking and public policy delivery, as well as cultivating your abilities in quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, research design, and independent thinking skills.

This rigorous programme of study, and the specific research skills it seeks to develop, means that graduates are well placed for careers not just across a broad range of local, national and international political and policy organizations, but also in areas where independent research skills are at a premium. It is also ideal for those aiming for PhD research in this field.

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 in-depth research methods 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.

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 for this course for 2018/19 entrants

View the programme specification for this course for 2019/20 entrants

Programme Structure

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
  • Knowledge and understanding and experience in the application of the principal methods of data collection and data analysis in social science research
  • Knowledge and understanding and experience in the practice of qualitative methods in social science research
  • The skills necessary to design and complete a dissertation on a specialist topic in the field of governance and policy

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. The taught programme component consists of 30 study weeks divided into two semesters, during which time students study six modules. Students who successfully complete the taught programme component undertake a three-month period of supervised research for a masters dissertation.

MSc Governance & Policy (Research)

Watch our MSc Governance & Policy (Research) video to find out more about what this course can offer you

How to apply

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 in a relevant social science subject (upper second-class or higher) or equivalent.

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.

In the first semester, students take three compulsory modules. In the second semester, students take one compulsory module and two optional modules. Not all modules will run each year. Students will receive guidance from the MSc coordinator in making their selection.

Year 1

In addition to the Core modules listed below, students must also choose two from the following modules:

RESM6005 Survey Design

RESM6006 Qualitative Methods II

RESM6007 Quantitative Methods IIa

Core [?]
A core module is a module which must be taken and passed.
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).

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).

Tuition fees

List of tuition fees for this course and it's variations
NameAwardYear of entryMode of studyUK/EUInternational
Governance and Policy (Research)MSc2020Full-time£9,250£18,812
Governance and Policy (Research)MSc 2020Part-time£4,625£9,406
View the full list of course fees


Scholarships, bursaries, sponsorships or grants may be available to support you through your course. Funding opportunities available to you are linked to your subject area and/or your country of origin. These can be from the University of Southampton or other sources.

Explore funding opportunities

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

Teaching methods

Modules are taught using a variety of methods, which may include lectures, seminars, group work or project work.

Lectures offer an overview of a topic, an explanation of difficult concepts or a discussion of key issues. Lectures presume a certain amount of additional reading, so it is often a good idea to read references before the corresponding lecture.

Seminars provide a forum for a closer examination of particular aspects of each module and are an important part of the learning process. Usually, it is only by discussing and questioning aspects of a subject that their full implications can be understood. Students prepare papers and lead discussions or debates, and so develop their written and presentational skills.

The increasing use of web-based, video-based and PowerPoint-based teaching methods demonstrates our commitment to the effective use of available equipment and resources.

Assessment methods

Each module involves one or two sessions each week spread over the semester. For each module, students are expected to write one or more essays (or equivalent), make presentations or contribute to seminar discussions.

Some modules are assessed by essays, others by exams, and some by a mix of these methods. Exams are held at the end of each semester.

Workshops and course related tasks

In addition to the core and optional modules taken as part of our programmes, all our students also receive additional support and training through our bespoke MSc Workshops. In Semester 1, we run an MSc Coursework Workshop to help students prepare for their various coursework assignments, and in Semester 2 we run an MSc Dissertation Workshop designed to help students produce high quality original dissertations.
Our programmes also comprise modules which feature innovative coursework tasks (as well as the traditional essay and exam formats) such as tailored policy briefings and poster presentations, all designed to hone key skills that are prized by employers.

Study locations

Hartley Library

Highfield campus

Economic, Social and Political Science is based on the main campus of ...Find out more

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