Skip to main content

School of Social and Political Science: About


New degree programme launched: Government, Policy and Society

Social Policy is happy to announced the launch of an exiting new degree programme open for first entry in September 2016..

With over 95 years of experience in teaching and research, the Social Policy subject area is excited to announce the launch of a new undergraduate degree programme: MA (Honours) Government, Policy and Society.

Students will be able to enrol for this new programme for the first time in September 2016 (applications will open via UCAS within a few weeks). The new programme has a multidisciplinary focus and will give students the chance to engage with key areas of policy making that pose challenges to contemporary societies (such as health, employment, poverty  and education - amongst many others), but it will also enable students to understand the actual processes and politics behind the making of these policies.

The Government, Policy and Society Programme is specifically designed for students interested in the content of public policy, the process by which policy is made, and its impact on society. If you are fascinated by how politicians and civil servants make decisions; how they are constrained by resource constraints, developments in the global economy, market forces and existing institutions; how crucial areas of social policy, such as health, education, inequality, welfare and employment are shaped; the relationship between government and society; and the ways in which various non-governmental actors try to influence policy, then this is the programme for you.

GPS allows students to engage with core debates that divide political opinion on how to develop societies positively. GPS is committed both to interdisciplinary learning and to understanding the interactions of multiple levels of government in the policy process. Students will be enabled to do so by engaging with core concepts from diverse social science disciplines such as political science, social policy, sociology, economics, and public administration and then be able to specialise in specific policy areas of their interest.

And our expertise covers Scotland, the UK, the European Union, and the international as well as the linkages between these levels of government. Learning about the workings of government and the development of policy in the capital of a powerful sub-state is a highly enriching experience. The University is on the doorstep of one of the most powerful sub-national governments and parliaments in the world and is deeply embedded in a very open and vibrant public policy community.

Our varied forms of assessment, our emphasis on developing critical thinking skills, and our commitment to rigorous methodological training will ensure that GPS graduates are well equipped to enter the world of government, third-sector organisations or business, whether national or international, with the tools necessary to succeed.

Structure of the Programme

YEARS 1 & 2 (Pre-honours)

Core courses

  • Social Policy and Society
  • Understanding Public Policy
  • Evidence, Policy and Society
  • Fundamentals for Government, Policy and Society

Specialisation courses (students pick at least two)

  • Politics of the Welfare State
  • Rethinking the Financial Crisis
  • European Social Policy


Students take seven options from subject areas within the School of Social and Politics Science (such as Sociology, Politics, Social Anthropology, International Relations and Social Work) as well as from other disciplines (such as Economics, Philosophy, History or Psychology amongst many others).

YEARS 3 & 4 (Honours)

Core courses

  • Analytical Perspectives in Social Policy
  • Designing and Doing Social Research
  • Doing Survey Research

Specialisation courses

Students select seven courses from two lists allowing them to specialise in the core fields of their interest

  • Policy-oriented courses, that provide in-depth engagement with specific policy areas (such as health, education, employment amongst many others)
  • Process-oriented courses, in which students learn more about the functioning of policy process, the pressures and influences on policy makers as well as the actual doing of politics (for example through courses focussing on political work or the politics of government budgets)


All students write a 10,000 - 15,000 words dissertation. This is a genuine, original piece of research that students conduct over the period of one year. They receive guidance and mentoring from a member of staff throughout the period. Students can choose to work with quantitative and/or qualitative skills, they can analyse existing data or conduct their own primary research, either in the UK or, which many of our international students do, their home countries.

There is also the possibility for students to combine their dissertation research with external work in placement or volunteering contexts. Students in the past have already combined practical interests with their research work to make their dissertation useful beyond the university. For good dissertations we help enabling students to find ways to disseminate their findings.

Further details on the programme, its courses and information on the application/UCAS codes will be available soon.

“Students in Government, Policy and Society will not only learn about policies, but also how they are shaped politically, taught by staff who are passionate about translating research into real practice to help improve our societies."

Dr Jan Eichhorn, Chancellor's Fellow in Social Policy

white image