The Department of Social Policy and Intervention is the leading social policy department in the UK, and part of Oxford University, one of the top research universities world-wide. It offers two well established Master’s programmes in social policy:
- MSc in Comparative Social Policy (1 year)
- MPhil in Comparative Social Policy (2 years)
Studying social policy enhances students’ understanding of social problems and societal challenges, different available policy options, the politics of reforming policy, and their impact on individual lives, households and societies. We offer graduate social policy education and social research training for students aspiring to be future policy practitioners in public, non-profit or private organizations as well as those pursuing careers in social policy research or subsequent doctoral research.
The two Master’s programmes explore welfare systems and policy developments across a range of different countries, with a focus on advanced economies in Europe and OECD countries. The comparative focus and approach is a defining element of the degree: we believe systematic international comparison is the best way to analyse and understand the nature and effectiveness of a particular welfare system and its social policies. Our approach is multidisciplinary, including demography, economics, political science, social policy and sociology.
A Core Paper in Comparative Social Policy and Social Policy Analysis is foundational to the programme. This, two-part course, taught through lectures, seminars and workshops, provides students with an understanding of the fundamentals of social policy analysis from policy making to its implementation and evaluation as well as knowledge of comparative welfare system analysis and cross-national variations in major social policy areas.
A particular feature of our programme is a strong emphasis on training in comparative research methods and their application in a thesis project. Students are given rigorous methodological training, including in comparative research design and qualitative and quantitative research methods. This helps students evaluate existing research evidence and provides the necessary grounding and skills for independent research.
In addition to the Core Paper and teaching in research design and methods, students take specialist policy courses (two in the MSc/three in the MPhil) from a list. These Option Papers focus on particular social policy areas or the application of evidence-based intervention with specific client groups. Recent Option Papers include education, family and gender, healthcare, labour market, pension policies and poverty.
As a final step, students write a thesis on a social policy topic of their choice. The thesis project is closely guided by regular meetings with a supervisor. MPhil students work on a longer thesis during their two-year programme of study, whereas MSc students complete a shorter thesis within one year.
Students receive regular feedback and advice from their supervisor and course instructors, and are also assigned a college advisor to look after their well-being.
Assessment of the taught courses is based on methods-focused project work and three-hour written examination papers (two for MSc students, three for MPhil students). The thesis makes up the final component of the overall marks.
For an overview of the courses and more information about studying with us see the e-brochure
To hear from students who have taken our programmes please see the videos [Link: meet-our-students].