Comparative Social Policy Masters courses

We offer two Masters courses in Comparative Social Policy:

  • MSc in Comparative Social Policy (1 year)
  • MPhil in Comparative Social Policy (2 year)

The courses explore welfare systems and policy developments across a range of different countries. The comparative element is a key part of the course, and is one of the features that makes the Oxford course unique. We believe that it is only through understanding the operation of policy systems in a range of countries that it is possible to understand the effectiveness of a particular system.

Students study core papers in Comparative Social Policy and Social Policy Analysis. They are also given rigorous training in social research design and methods, including both qualitative and quantitative research methods. This helps students evaluate existing research evidence and provides the necessary grounding for independent research. A particular feature of our courses is its strong emphasis on research methods training.

In addition, students take one or two specialist courses (depending on whether you are studying the MSc or MPhil) from a list of options focusing on a particular social policy area or the application of evidence-based intervention with specific client groups. Recent options offered include demography, education, family policies, healthcare, the labour market and poverty. Teaching in some options may not be available every year.

Students will write a thesis on a topic agreed with their supervisor.  Assessment of the taught courses is based on project work and two three hour written examination papers.

For an overview of the courses and more information about studying with us and to hear from students on our courses please visit the e-brochure.

More information about what you can expect while studying in the department is available in our Statement of Provision for Graduate Taught Students.

The full course specifications for the MSc and the MPhil degrees are available via the links below:

MSc Course Specification

MPhil Course Specification

Structure of the Comparative Social Policy Masters courses

Course element



Core papers in Comparative Social Policy and in Social Policy Analysis, taught via a series of lectures and classes

Examined through a written exam

Examined through a written exam

Research Design and Methods taught via classes and seminars and hands on workshops

Examined through written submissions

Examined through written submissions

Option papers provide the opportunity to explore a particular policy area in more depth. The options on offer each year depend on the interests and expertise of staff, and might include areas such as education, family policy, the labour market, poverty and social security.

One option taken, examined through a written exam.

Two options taken, examined through a written exam.

Thesis on a topic agreed with your supervisor

Design and write a 10,000 word thesis

Design and write a 30,000 word thesis

Oxford 1+1 MBA Programme

This course is offered as part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. High calibre candidates have the opportunity to apply to both the Comparative Social Policy MSc course and the MBA course offered by the Saïd Business School. For more information, visit the SBS website.

These courses can be part of a 1+3 ESRC University Doctoral Training Centre scholarship. Find out more on the Social Sciences DTC website.