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 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, economics, psychology, physical activity, nutrition and health sciences, 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.

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.

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

Go to admissions statement

If English is not your first language, you will need to reach the requirements outlined in our profile level C.

Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Fees and funding

UK: full-time
£4,758 per year
UK: part-time
£2,379 per year
Overseas: full-time
£20,700 per year

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to an 8% increase in fees each year.

More about tuition fees, living costs and financial support.

Alumni discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2024/25

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

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

Career prospects

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 work in many different policy settings and subject areas.

Previous University of Bristol social policy students have gone on to work in research and teaching 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.

Meet our supervisors

The following list shows potential supervisors for this programme. Visit their profiles for details of their research and expertise.


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. This includes 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 focuses on both applied and theoretical research into key health issues at national and international level. There are currently around 30 staff and postgraduate students working 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 for Urban and Public Policy Research 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.

Contact us


Postgraduate Senior Admissions Administrator

+44 (0) 117 954 6785