Department of Social & Policy Sciences

What is Social Policy?

Social policy is an interdisciplinary and vocational subject. It combines sociology, politics and economics to study how governments and society as a whole address issues of social welfare, individual wellbeing and social justice.

The academic study of social policy followed the establishment of the modern Welfare State by the government after World War Two, as a response to popular demands for a fair, equal and caring society.

Today, social policy is more international in focus and alongside its ‘traditional’ topics of study (such as social security, citizenship, health, education, working conditions, support for families and children) it now explores new topics like gender, race and ethnic inequalities, migration, disability, crime, environmental justice and the impact of globalisation.

Interdisciplinary in its approach, social policy is inspired by fundamental values like protecting social welfare, enhancing human wellbeing and pursuing social justice.

Why Social Policy?

By studying a degree in social policy, you will:

  • gain expertise in the sociology, politics and economics of social welfare in the UK, Europe and internationally
  • learn ways to think creatively about policy problems
  • acquire theoretical, analytical and transferable skills.

Learn state-of-the art theory and apply it

Perspectives and problems

Developed by Creative Media Team, ADDL and Dr Wendy Saunderson, School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at University of Ulster. Video from Social Policy Association.

Although theory sounds difficult and remote, when it is empirically informed, it is a great tool to explore and understand contemporary society.

You will engage with state-of-the-art theories discussing the major challenges that we face as a society, like poverty, inequality, disadvantage, work insecurity, joblessness, violence, racism.

You will engage with exciting debates in social policy such as:

  • are class, gender and race inequalities reproduced by state policies?
  • is migration a threat for the British society and welfare state?
  • how can we understand poverty from a child’s perspective?
  • does education improve social mobility?
  • how is policy making affected by social protesters, the media and powerful lobby groups?
  • is the welfare state too expensive?
  • how does Britain compare to other EU welfare states in reducing poverty?
  • how do the welfare systems of countries in other regions of the world (such as Africa, the Middle East and Latin America) operate and what is the role of global social policies?

Learn how to think creatively and acquire analytical and research skills

By studying social policy you will:
  • develop critical skills as a researcher
  • analyse policy and think creatively about alternatives
  • understand social needs and wellbeing
  • become part of the generation that will rethink the policy of the future.

Studying social policy requires an analytical perspective that understands policy issues in different societies, places and times and combines scientific rigour with the creativity of imagining better futures. You will:

  • receive training in a variety of social research methodologies, including qualitative and quantitative/statistical techniques
  • learn how to apply these techniques to generate and organise evidence to investigate policy problems
  • develop skills to critically analyse public policy and think creatively about alternatives to problems
  • learn comparative research methods skills that will help you engage with social policy analysis from an international perspective.

While studying social policy you will also acquire a variety of skills that are transferable to many other professional fields.

You will practice how to:

  • work in groups and individually to achieve high quality work
  • write concisely and persuasively, backing your arguments with evidence
  • operate advanced programmes of statistical analysis (SPSS)
  • make effective presentations
  • use your time effectively.

Ultimately, by studying social policy you will become part of the generation that will rethink the social policy of the future.

As a graduate, you could pursue a professional career in:

  • government departments, agencies and organisations
  • non-governmental organisations, social enterprises and charities
  • European and International agencies and organisations (such as the EU and UN)
  • regional and local authorities & public services
  • social care, childhood and family services
  • academia and the Higher Education sector
  • social and policy research
  • international development, foreign aid and management of overseas development projects
  • journalism and the media
  • public relations and analysis of public opinion
  • public policy consultancy.

Careers in Social Policy

Developed by Creative Media Team, ADDL and Dr Wendy Saunderson, School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at University of Ulster. Video from Social Policy Association.

Why study with us?

At Bath, you will experience high quality teaching informed by cutting edge high impact research. Our students enjoy high levels of satisfaction and outstanding employability prospects.

Excellent teaching team of internationally renowned experts

You will be taught by our international team of highly committed teachers and researchers. In consecutive national evaluations our Department was ranked among the top in the country for the high quality of our research and teaching.

Our achievements were recognised most recently through the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2011.

Personal learning experience in a top UK campus

We offer a variety of learning experiences, including:


  • one-to-one tutorials
  • informal debates
  • seminars
  • guided reading
  • online discussion groups
  • placements
  • engaging lectures.

While studying you will experience:

Student-centred approach with personal tutoring and placement scheme

As a Bath student you will be able to:

High employability for our graduates

Our Department remains among the top in the country for graduate employability. We achieved this through our unique combination of academic education, research training, transferable skills and the opportunity of a work placement.

Organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors consistently praise our graduates and our placement students for their academic quality and the levels of their skills.

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