Social Policy

Clearing 2021

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Social policy is a multidisciplinary subject focusing on key social issues and the ways in which societies respond to them. At its heart is an interest in the social processes and institutions that promote wellbeing. As an academic discipline it draws on social, political and economic theory to analyse and explore these issues in a global context.

Why study Social Policy at Bristol?

You will be taught by academics who are leaders in their respective fields and whose research informs their teaching, ensuring that you acquire relevant and up-to-date knowledge.

Social policy is an interdisciplinary subject and we have internationally recognised expertise in sociology, political science, economics, human geography, development studies and migration. We take a global and comparative perspective in many of our units to ensure you receive a broad appreciation of the international dimensions to social policy.

You will have an opportunity to gain real-world experience working in a range of organisations that promote individual and community wellbeing via our work placement unit.

You can study social policy on its own as a single honours degree or in combination with sociology, politics or criminology. Social policy is a partner in Bristol Q-Step, which is part of a national initiative offering enhanced skills training in the social sciences.

There are opportunities to spend time studying abroad in your second year. Alternatively, our four-year Study Abroad degree includes a year of study at one of our partner institutions overseas.

Download the Social Policy leaflet (PDF, 173kB)

What kind of student would this course suit?

Social policy suits those who want to explore and develop frameworks for understanding the forces that shape contemporary societies and the institutions within them.

Social policy involves everything from considering evidence and showing whether a government scheme has worked or not, to examining high-level theories and how they apply to wellbeing. If you are interested in the social sciences, using evidence and logic, applying creativity in problem solving and, above all, making a difference then social policy could be for you.

How is this course taught and assessed?

Teaching is a mixture of lectures and seminars, where you will work in small groups to discuss and explore material and produce presentations. You will also undertake independent research with the support of your personal tutor.

You will be expected to read widely, for example academic texts, government publications and reports from think tanks, to gain a full understanding of the links between theory and practice.

Assessment is varied across the programme and includes portfolios, policy briefs, presentations, critical review of literature, timed essays, essays, and unseen examinations.

Final-year single honours students and those studying social policy with with quantitative research methods or with criminology also write a research-based dissertation. Students on other joint honours courses may choose a dissertation as an optional unit.

What are my career prospects?

When it comes to choosing a career, social policy graduates often have the best of both worlds. The degree can be vocational, leading to careers in a range of public, private and voluntary sector services. About a third of our graduates enter the public sector, including the national management training schemes for the NHS, local government and the civil service.

Social Policy is also a non-vocational degree and our graduates compete successfully for graduate opportunities that do not require specific subject knowledge but rather a set of skills, such as communication, teamwork and problem solving, in careers such as journalism, development, advertising, housing, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), finance and public relations.

Social policy also unlocks many opportunities for further study and our graduates also pursue professional vocations, such as law, teaching and social work.

Find out more about what our students do after graduating.


Important disclaimer information about our courses.

Every day my inbox is flooded with opportunities – internships, research projects, extra-curricular activities – all of which are the University getting students involved. The University is constantly updating its facilities, which reinforces its friendly and inclusive environment.

Alexandra (LLB Law)

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