School of Social and Political Science

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Our approach to teaching

We are ranked in Europe’s top four and the world’s top 10 universities for Social Policy in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022.

Social Policy has been taught at the University of Edinburgh since 1918 and now, more than 100 years later, we’re still providing the highest-quality education to new generations of social policy students.

We practice research-led teaching. This means that our courses and lectures are oriented around our research expertise. The span of that expertise - from labour markets to global health policy, from family policy to civic engagement, from the impact of right-wing populist parties on social policy to education and skills policy - allows us to offer a broad and comprehensive curriculum.

In addition to ensuring our students develop substantive and critical knowledge of major policy and governance issues, we are equally committed to ensuring our students develop the analytical and research skills needed to work effectively and creatively in the world of policy. We are deeply involved with the School's Research Training Centre and the University's Q-Step Centre, which trains students in quantitative research skills.

Our curriculum is designed to give students the opportunity to write in a variety of styles - from academic essays to reflective portfolios, from policy briefs to blogs - and we actively encourage and support our students to undertake their own research in their dissertation projects. From statistics to the archives, from focus groups and interviews to discourse analysis, from ethnographies to the analysis of visual material such as photographs and films, we embrace a variety of methods and approaches and encourage our students to do likewise.

We have close relationships with governments at all levels - from local government here in Edinburgh to international organisations such as the World Health Organization and the European Union - as well as with numerous charities, agencies, NGOs, and think tanks. These networks and relationships help to inform our teaching, ensuring it maintains an emphasis on both the theory and the practice of policy.

Our programmes

We offer a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes leading to undergraduate MA (Hons) degrees and MSc and PhD degrees at postgraduate level.

Undergraduate programmes

Our Social Policy undergraduate programme is taken jointly with other subjects and is ideal for students who want to study social policy alongside another academic subject such as politics, sociology, economics, or law.

Our Government, Policy and Society programme is ideal for students who want to focus on aspects of the policy process and government decision-making as well as the content of social policy.

Students can take either our Social Policy or Government, Policy and Society degree with Quantitative Methods with the University's Q-Step Centre.

Further information on each programme can be found via the links below.

Taught postgraduate programmes

Our taught Masters programmes cover a range of issues and topics in Public Policy, with specialisms in either Comparative Public Policy or Global Health Policy.

We also offer a programme in Social Research, which provides students with the intellectual and applied skills to conduct social research that aims to solve complex policy and governance problems. 

Further information on each programme can be found via the links below.

Research postgraduate programmes

We offer postgraduate research degrees at the Masters level as well as running PhD programmes in both Social Policy and Global Health Policy.

Further information on each programme can be found via the links below.