Social Policy

Study with experts recognised for their work with poverty, gender-based violence, housing, migration, and health and social care, whose research has positively impacted people’s lives.

Top reputation

Our social policy courses are in the UK's top 10 (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021).

Excellent prospects

Our sought-after social policy graduates have the interdisciplinary skills to succeed in a diverse range of careers.

World-leading research

Our research makes a big impact on policy and practice, with 80% of the school's research classed as 'world-leading' in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014).

Social Policy at Bristol

Social policy is the interdisciplinary study of how societies conceptualise and respond to 'need' and promote the welfare and wellbeing of their members. Bristol's School for Policy Studies is known for covering a broad range of policy areas and for emphasising the international context of the subject.

As a social policy student, you will learn to think critically about issues such as risk, need, citizenship, inequality and globalisation. You will explore real-world challenges in a global context, drawing on social, political, public policy and economic theories.

Bristol is home to internationally renowned lecturers and researchers from a wide range of disciplines. We provide an ideal environment for you to explore your interests and delve into a specialism.

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

I chose my subject because I love the idea of understanding society and how governments can influence people's lives. The support available at Bristol is amazing. Bristol is the best student city! It has everything you could want.

Lee, BSc Social Policy

Career prospects

A degree in social policy gives you the best of both worlds. The degree can be vocational, leading to careers in a range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations. About one 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 many graduates succeed in fields that do not require specific subject knowledge but rather skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving. Students go on to careers in areas such as journalism, development, advertising, housing, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), finance and PR.

Our graduates also pursue further study and other professional vocations such as law, teaching and social work.

What our students do after graduating

Course structure

Our courses are designed to introduce you to the interdisciplinary study of the subject and to develop your skills and knowledge. As you progress through the degree, you can specialise to suit your interests.

The first year starts with the Critical Skills for Social Scientists unit alongside units covering historical, conceptual, comparative and international perspectives on social policy. Years two and three allow you to develop your own pathway through a wide variety of optional units, including the opportunity to undertake a work placement, depending on your particular interest.

Sample units may include:

  • Climate Emergency
  • Gender-Based Violence
  • Theorising Social Welfare
  • Drugs and Society
  • Migration: the UK, EU and Global Policy Perspectives 

Final-year students undertake a dissertation that lets you choose your own research topic. Students on other joint honours courses may choose a dissertation as an optional unit.

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. Partner locations have included Australia, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the US. Find out more about where you can study abroad.

Q-Step programme

Social policy is a partner in Bristol Q-Step, which is part of a national initiative offering enhanced skills training in the social sciences.

We offer the option of three- and four-year degree courses that combine core disciplinary learning with enhanced quantitative skills training in applied data analysis relevant to research in the social sciences.

Find out more about our 'with Quantitative Research Methods' course offerings.

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?

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 be taught by academics who are leaders in their respective fields and whose research informs their teaching.

You will have an opportunity to gain real-world experience working in 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. For more information about where you can study abroad, visit Global Opportunities

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 small-group seminars where you 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 management, quantitative research methods, or 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?

A degree in social policy gives you the best of both worlds. The degree can be vocational, leading to careers in a range of public, private and voluntary sector services. About one 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 achieve opportunities that do not require specific subject knowledge but rather skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving, in careers such as journalism, development, advertising, housing, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), finance and PR.

Our graduates also pursue further study and professional vocations such as law, teaching and social work.

Find out more about what our students do after graduating.

Disclaimer

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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