Social Policy

Find a programme
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time;
seven years part-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Start date Most students will start in September 2018, however other dates can be considered. Please contact the senior postgraduate admissions administrator to discuss the options available.

Programme overview

The School for Policy Studies links theory, policy and practice in a multidisciplinary, research-intensive environment. Our research engages with and influences national and international policy. Our team of policy experts come from a wide variety of backgrounds in social policy research, social work, sociology, poverty, gender violence, disability studies, childhood studies, health and social care, urban studies history, human geography, economics, psychology, physical activity nutrition and health sciences, and family and child welfare, based within seven specialist research centres.

Our research examines policy areas that affect us all in day-to-day life, influences and challenges policies implemented by governments and institutions, and investigates the issues, factors and attitudes underlying the social concerns that make the headlines every day.

The school is an exciting environment for graduate studies; we welcome graduate students from the UK and around the world to join our diverse and highly-rated research team. We particularly welcome applications on topics with direct relevance to national and international policy concerns.

Fees for 2018/19

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2018/19 are as follows:

UK/EU: full-time
UK/EU: part-time
Overseas: full-time
Channel Islands/Isle of Man: full-time

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to a five per cent increase in fees each year. Find out more about tuition fees.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2018/19

The Faculty of Social Sciences and Law has an allocation of 1+3 and +3 ESRC scholarships. Applicants may also apply for funding from the University of Bristol scholarship fund or alumni PhD scholarship fund.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree and a pass at MSc/MA level (or equivalent experience/qualification).

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile C
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Admissions statement

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Admissions statement

Research groups

The school houses seven specialist research centres:

  • Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences
    Staff in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences conduct research focusing on physical activity and nutrition, and their associations with health across the lifespan. The primary areas of focus include biomedical, psychosocial and socio-environmental aspects of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and nutrition.
  • Children and Families Research Centre
    This centre is a hub for research and training in child welfare, family policy, social work and young people's relationships. Our members have backgrounds in social policy, social work, psychology and sociology. We have strong national and international links with child welfare academics, policy makers, practitioners and service users.
  • Centre for Gender and Violence Research
    The centre is a leading site for the study of gender-based violence. Members have a long history of researching violence against women and gender-based violence in different contexts, including theoretical and empirical studies and evaluations of policy and practice locally, nationally and internationally. Our research covers victims/survivors, perpetrators, children, agency approaches and international comparisons using a gendered analysis.
  • Centre for Research in Health and Social Care
    This centre is a focus of both applied and theoretical research around key health issues at national and international level. We currently have around 30 members including staff and postgraduate students who work across a wide spectrum of research areas: inter-professional and inter-agency work, evidence-based care, health inequality, mental health and health issues relating to ageing, children and gender.
  • Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice (including the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research)
    The centre was formed in 1998 to provide a more integrative perspective on existing scholarships in criminal justice, socio-legal studies, poverty and social exclusion. Our members come from a wide range of disciplines and have expertise in a number of policy areas, with particular strengths in data analysis and social statistics. We aim to promote a supportive arena for critical national and international analysis and research into monitoring the nature and extent of poverty, social exclusion and injustice.
  • Centre for Urban and Public Policy Research
    Research at the centre is concerned with governance, housing, citizenship, globalisation and the transformation of social and economic life in cities. Centre members come from the disciplines of economics, social policy, history, geography, social economics and social work. We combine interests in theoretical approaches to social and urban theory with practical involvement in current issues of policy in the UK and across the world. Our staff members have active research links with institutions in east and south-east Asia, the European Union and Europe, particularly the Balkan countries. This results in work with a strong international and comparative dimension, which we see as one of our key strengths.
  • Norah Fry Research Centre
    The Norah Fry Research Centre is a leading international centre specialising in research with and for disabled adults, children and their families. The centre is known for its work to include people with learning disabilities in the research process, as well as the development of accessible, easy-to-understand information and the dissemination of research findings in multiple formats to different audiences.


Studying social policy equips students with a wide range of knowledge and skills across various interests and fields. As a result, studying social policy and developing skills in analysis and research is relevant to vocational or non-vocational work in many different settings and subject areas.

Previous University of Bristol social policy students have gone on to work in higher education, policy-related fields, local government, other public sector bodies and third sector organisations. Careers have included those related to health and welfare, community work, the criminal justice system, higher education, management and consultancy.

Staff profiles

Rob Green D.Ed.Psych (Cardiff), MSc Ed.Psych (Southampton), PGCE (Southampton), BSc Social Psychology and Politics (Loughborough), (Educational Psychologist), Assessment, learning and intervention; dimensions of social and emotional development; multi-agency working; psychological dimensions of interpersonal communication.

Paul Willis BSWHons(Tas), PhD(Tas), (Senior Lecturer in Social Work with Adults), youth sexualities, health and wellbeing sexuality, care and ageing trans ageing and gender identity inclusive care provision for older people and, the needs and interests of LGBT carers

Professor David Abbott, (Professor, Head of School), Disabled children and young people and their families; disabled children in residential settings; multi-agency working; transitions to adulthood.

Dr Nadia Aghtaie, (Lecturer), Forced marriage in the UK' s South Asian community; violence against women in Iran and the UK; violence against women in rural and urban areas in the UK; young people and intimate partner violence.

Dr Sarah Ayres, (Reader), Devolution and decentralisation; economic development; English regionalism; governance; public administration.

Professor David Berridge, (Professor), Adolescence; child and family welfare; children in need; education of children in care; foster and residential care for children; peer violence; special education; teenage relationships.

Ms Ailsa Cameron, (Senior Lecturer), Evaluation of policy programmes; health and social care interface; interprofessional and inter-agency working; new developments in welfare services and professional roles; professional boundaries; research ethics; the housing contribution to community care.

Professor John Carpenter, (Professor), Community mental health and learning disability services; disabled children and families; family therapy and family support services; outcomes of social work and interprofessional education.

Professor Ashley Cooper, (Professor), Active travel; children' s health and fitness; environment and physical activity; measurement of physical activity; Type 2 diabetes.

Mr Kevin Doogan, (Senior Lecturer), EU policymaking; European integration, state and society; job insecurity and the ' new economy' ; mobility, flexibility and industrial relations at different spatial levels from the local economy to the EU.

Dr Sandra Dowling, (Lecturer), Disability studies.

Dr Sebnem Eroglu-Hawksworth, (Lecturer), Measuring poverty from a deprivation perspective; migration, specifically the economic behaviour, success and integration of migrants; poverty and household livelihoods; qualitative and quantitative methods; the macro-economic and policy aspects of poverty reduction.

Dr Eldin Fahmy, (Senior Lecturer), Area-based initiatives, social inclusion and anti-poverty policy; fuel poverty; participation and community governance; poverty and social exclusion; rural poverty; youth, citizenship and exclusion.

Professor Elaine Farmer, (Professor), Child protection; foster care; kinship care; linking and matching in adoption; looking after sexually abused and abusing children away from home; neglect; reunification.

Dr John Franey, (Senior Teaching Fellow), Ethics in professional practice; leadership and management in local authorities; school-based multi-agency group work.

Dr Geetanjali Gangoli, (Senior Lecturer), Domestic violence; feminist responses to violence against women in India; forced marriage and crimes in the name of honour in Black and Ethnic minority communities in the UK; gender and violence; prostitution and trafficking.

Professor Dave Gordon, (Professorial Research Fellow), Area-based anti-poverty measures; child disability; child poverty and human rights; crime and poverty; effects of poverty on ill health; fuel poverty; rural poverty; scientific measurement of poverty and social exclusion; social and distributional justice; social harm.

Dr Julia Gumy, (Lecturer)

Dr Anne Haase, (Senior Lecturer), Body image, self-presentation, eating disorders and obesity; physical activity and mental health; psychology and intergenerational transmission of health behaviours; theory-based behaviour change interventions.

Ms Carmel Hand, (Senior Teaching Fellow, Tutor), Inclusion and participation; special educational needs.

Dr Pauline Heslop, (Reader), Befriending and short-break services; general health-related issues; mental health and related issues; poverty and social disadvantage; short-break services and supports; transition from children' s to adults' services; young people with learning disabilities and transitions.

Professor Marianne Hester, (Chair in Gender, Violence & International Policy), Child contact and domestic violence; comparative and transnational research on gender and violence; domestic violence in same-sex relationships; prostitution and sexual exploitation; violence against women and children in the UK, Denmark and China.

Dr Misa Izuhara, (Reader), Ageing and intergenerational relations; cross-national comparative studies; East-Asian social policy; family change and social policy; housing and urban/social change; housing assets and inheritance.

Professor Russ Jago, (Professor), Determinants of physical activity and eating behaviour; measurement of physical activity and sedentary behaviour; physical activity and obesity interventions in youth.

Dr Laura Johnson, (Lecturer), Nutritional epidemiology; the role of dietary and eating patterns in the prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease as well as understanding the factors that influence food intake and appetite control.

Dr Patricia Kennett, (Reader), Comparative, cross-national social policy; globalisation, governance and public policy; housing and homelessness; welfare systems and citizenship in Europe and East Asia.

Dr Rachel Lart, (Senior Teaching Fellow), Drug misuse policy and services; evidence-based policy and practice; general health and social care policy; mental health and marginalised groups, eg. offenders, drug users.

Dr Noemi Lendvai, (Senior Lecturer), Europeanisation of social inclusion in Central Eastern Europe; post-communist welfare regimes and social policy in new EU Member States; transnationalisation of social policy in South East Europe.

Dr Liz Lloyd, (Reader), Ageing; health and social care policies and practices with older people; health and wellbeing of carers; policies on unpaid care; social aspects of death, dying and bereavement.

Dr Patricia Lucas, (Senior Lecturer), Child disability, poverty and deprivation, and inequalities in health; early childhood development; educational, nutritional and social interventions and outcomes for children.

Professor Alex Marsh, (Professor), Economics, organisation and management in the public sector; housing policy, economics and finance; theorising the policy process.

Dr Shailen Nandy, (Research Fellow), Global child poverty; India; poverty and social exclusion in the UK; poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Angie Page, (Reader), Childhood obesity; clustering of health behaviours, developmental aspects of eating and exercise behaviour; exercise and self-esteem; measurement of physical activity.

Ms Christina Pantazis, (Reader), Poverty, social exclusion and inequality; security and civil liberties; social harm, crime and criminalisation.

Dr Angeliki Papadaki, (Lecturer), Effect of the recession on health and dietary behaviour; nutrition interventions in work settings; nutritional epidemiology, dietary habits and socio-economic and psychological factors affecting dietary behaviour.

Dr Demi Patsios, (Senior Research Fellow), Cross-national comparisons of ageing policy; long-term and community care; poverty and social exclusion of older people and pensioners; the health and social care of older people.

Professor Sarah Payne, (Professor), Gender aspects of health care use and service delivery; gender equity in health, gender mainstreaming; poverty, social exclusion and health, particularly mental health; sex and gender inequalities in health.

Dr Dendy Platt, (Senior Lecturer), Children on the child protection register; social work education; social workers' assessments of children and families; social workers' decision-making working in partnership with families.

Dr Simon Sebire, (Senior Lecturer), Psychological factors that influence the physical activity and health behaviours of children, adolescents and adults; the development and evaluation of health behaviour intervention strategies.

Professor Julie Selwyn, (Professor), Adoption and fostering; permanency policy and practice; sibling relationships; the costs of care.

Ms Ann Singleton, (Senior Research Fellow), International migrants in South West England; international migration, asylum and human rights in the EU; labour migration; the use of migration research and statistics in EU policy; trafficking of human beings.

Dr Jo Staines, (Senior Lecturer), Criminalisation of children and childhood; fostering adolescents; interface between the criminal justice and care systems; restorative justice interventions; youth justice.

Dr David Sweeting, (Senior Lecturer), Citizen engagement and comparative urban governance; local governance; local political leadership.

Dr William Turner, (Senior Lecturer), Gender identity and development in children and young people; practice and outcome evaluation in social policy; psychotherapeutic approaches in working with young people; research synthesis and systematic reviews in child mental health and child welfare programmes.

Dr Danielle Turney, (Senior Lecturer), Child neglect; child welfare and protection; relationship-based practice; theorising anti-oppressive and anti-racist practice in social work.

Dr Debbie Watson, (Reader), childhood identities and diversities, childhood wellbeing and impacts of poverty, adoption, identity and life story approaches, arts based methodologies

Dr Emma Williamson, (Senior Research Fellow), Gender inequality and domestic violence; health professional interventions and state responses to victims and perpetrators of gendered violence; research ethics research methods; violence against women in all its manifestations.

How to apply
Application deadline:

We welcome applications at any time of year; early application is advised.

The closing date for ESRC studentship funding applications for 2018/19 is midday on Tuesday 30 January 2018.

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, applying for a visa and the support we offer to international students.

I chose Bristol because of its outstanding academic reputation. It's reassuring to be taught by people who truly love their subject - their passion becomes contagious.


REF 2014 results

  • 38% of research is world-leading (4 star)
  • 42% of research is internationally excellent (3 star)
  • 18% of research is recognised internationally (2 star)
  • 2% of research is recognised nationally (1 star)

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.

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The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

Get in touch

Senior Postgraduate Admissions Administrator Phone: +44 (0) 117 954 6785 Email:

School for Policy Studies
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