International Social Welfare and Social Policy MSc

Postgraduate ( full-time, part-time)



Intermediate awards: PG Cert, PG Dip

Course duration: 13 months full-time, 25 months part-time.

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Do you want a career that gets to the heart of society’s problems and changes people’s lives? Gain the skills to identify key social challenges, and analyse and identify policies used to address them on this interdisciplinary Masters course.

Find out more about teaching options and studying during COVID-19 in the Entry requirements section, below.

Full description
"The incredibly broad nature of the curriculum surprised me the most, moving quickly between micro-finance to fast fashion, climate change and research methods, to state but a few..."
Rosie Brand


The skills and knowledge you pick up on this Masters course will prepare you for a career in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (including community organisations, charities, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations), employment in governmental organisations and academic organisations. Our past graduates have gone on to work in education, poverty reduction, charities and NGOs, consultancies, and government bodies both in Britain and overseas.

You might also choose to continue onto a research degree, such as our PhD/MPhil International Relations or PhD/MPhil Sociology.

Modules & assessment

Core modules

  • Here, we will look at comparative issues concerning social policy and social welfare in the international context. Areas such as migration, poverty and social exclusion, youth work, street living and community work will be analysed across a variety of countries and regions. Within the context of specific case studies, you will apply the principles of comparative analysis and critically evaluate methodological issues which arise. Further emphasis will be placed on the critical evaluation of theoretical perspectives of international social welfare and social policy in the context of case studies. You will develop your own comparative analysis regarding issues of international social welfare and social policy, and enhance your skills in the theoretical and methodological evaluation of literature regarding comparative analysis.
  • This module will provide you with the research skills and techniques needed both to critically evaluate the literature you will be using in your Masters course, and to put into practice in your own dissertation. It will explore the methodologies and methods applied in contemporary social science research to enable you to select an appropriate range for your own needs.
  • This module considers the relationship between globalisation and social welfare and policy at a micro, mezzo and macro level. It considers how globalisation impacts on social welfare provision and policy planning in different countries and societal contexts, from a political, social, economic, technological and educational viewpoint. We will evaluate and critically analyse whether there are universal values and a universal knowledge base which can be relied upon to provide a response towards overcoming global problems, or whether they are, or need to be, culturally and locally specific. This module also looks at how individuals, social networks and organisations deal with providing support for those in greatest need and how this can be translated to work within an international arena from both a statutory and voluntary/non-governmental organisation perspective. Finally, we will consider the role of the social welfare and social policy worker within a globalised world, and critically debate universal standards of practice and transferable skills and adaptation.
  • This 60 credit module will support you in the preparation and submission of your Master's Major project and involves a dissertation of 14,000 words or the equivalent. You will be expected to raise significant and meaningful questions in relation to your specialism. The project will involve the ability to develop solutions to ethical dilemmas likely to arise in your research or professional practice. It aims to help you expand or redefine existing knowledge, to develop new approaches to changing workplace situations and / or to contribute to the development of best practice.

Optional modules (subject to availability)

You must complete 30 credits from the following:

  • You will examine the theory and key concepts of international relations and the development of the state, ground them in their historical context, and explore their policy implications. You will begin by examining where the boundaries of the discipline might lie, before looking at debates over the role of theory in explaining International Relations. You will receive detailed explanations of the key competing theories within the discipline, and their development and evolution. Key themes you will explore include the development of Classical Realism from its roots in doctrines of war, Liberalism and the dream of global order, through the tussles between Neorealism and neoliberalism throughout the decades of the Cold War. You will also look at Constructivism and the English School, radical Marxist and Neo-Marxist perspectives, through to Feminism, Post-Colonialism, Postmodernism and cosmopolitanism. You will learn to place the theory firmly in the context of 20th century events, exploring the way in which political and academic ideas are shaped by and in turn influence international affairs. You will also explore other directions in which the study of International Relations might travel in the future. Your assessment will comprise a report of 1,000 words, a presentation, a literature search equivalent to 1,000 words and a longer essay of 3,500 words.
  • The globalisation of contemporary societies means that criminal activity that was once a primarily national concern is increasingly becoming transnational in nature. As a result, policing bodies now have to manage risk and security on a much wider and larger scale. On this module, you will critically examine the nature of risk and security in contemporary society, beginning with an exploration of the concept of the risk society. You will evaluate contemporary forms of policing and security in societies that are built on the notion of risk, its avoidance and quantification. You will also consider risk from the perspective of corruption within organisations tasked with managing cross border crime. In the second part of the module, you will focus on responses to transnational crime, exploring the nature of intelligence-led policing and the role of police as data patrollers and information gatherers. You will examine specific examples of cross border agency responses, such as INTERPOL and EUROPOL, as well as charting the growth of the power of transnational policing through mutual assistance and multinational agreements such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties and Memoranda of Understanding. You will be assessed through a portfolio, a presentation and a reflective commentary.
  • This module will address key debates in contemporary Sociology, through the in-depth exploration of exemplar topics that currently preoccupy sociological scholars, thinkers, and practitioners. You will attend three sets of combined lecture-seminars, each focused on a distinct topic with accompanying assessment. The topics will be chosen to reflect current and cutting edge issues, but will also link to the broader context the discipline of Sociology. You will be assessed through 3 pieces of analytical writing, undertaken through the trimester, covering each topic, and comprising a total word count of 6000 words. Through this, you will be encouraged to engage with module content from the start of the module delivery, and hone your sociological reading, analytical and writing skills.
  • On this module you will explore the history of race, racism and the resistances to racism in modern Britain, starting with early definitions of ‘race’ and the rise of ‘scientific racism’ in the late eighteenth century. You will then examine slavery in the British West Indies, the slave resistances and the British abolitionist movement, which is less known than that of the US. This will be followed by a session on the role of the British Empire and its impact on Britain in terms of racialised ideology, while in subsequent sessions you will address race as constructed, contested and lived in Britain: the black and Asian presence pre-world war 1, interwar and 2nd world war, as well as the influence of ideas about race, sexuality eugenics and anti-Semitism; the Windrush generation, black politics and anti-racism of the 1920s to 1980s, including black feminism, rock against racism, and anti-fascism. You will also consider the history of mixed-race relationships in Britain as well as 'mixed-race' as a 21st century identity, finally scrutinising 'whiteness' as a racial and privileged identity. Your coursework will incorporate research methods by giving you opportunities to visit selected art galleries and museums or employ newspapers in order to search for, decode and decipher representations of race. The module will be delivered by weekly taught sessions and assessed by a research essay and a short presentation report.
  • This module provides a survey of literature from the 20th and 21st centuries. You will analyse fiction within a framework of social and political change. Centring on a number of key developments – the first and second world wars, gendered and sexual change, migration and multiculturalism, the rise of neo-liberalism and 9/11 – you will explore a range of literary and theoretical texts.
  • In this module you will explore the sociology of identity and inequality as it relates to belonging, rootedness, and mobility. You will examine key concepts of nationalism, transnationalism, and diaspora and traces changing debates about their meanings over time. We will consider the varied and changing structures, politics and understandings of self, nation, place, and community. Notions of home and belonging will be investigated at different spatial scales, interlocking identities at the national scale with those of everyday life in families and neighbourhoods. During the module you will be supported to research case studies that allow appreciation of both the specificity of particular settings and also the ways in which these are part of shared, global developments.


Modules are subject to change and availability.

You will be assessed using methods that best allow us to assess your development throughout the course, and that relate to the kind of work you can expect to produce in your future career. These include essays, reports, case studies and debates - there are no exams in this course.

You will also receive plenty of group workshops and individual supervised support for your Major Project.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

At the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, we believe in thinking critically about the past, present and future to challenge perceptions and better understand communities and people.

With expertise from gender issues to literary analysis to exploring how the past has shaped our modern world, all our staff members are active researchers. This is reflected in our teaching, allowing us to support our students with the latest theories and practices, as well as essential employability advice.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Our students come from across the globe including Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, India, Kenya and the UK. Each of them brings their own individual experience in areas as varied as international relations, psychology, social work, social policy, sociology and economics. With lively classroom debates at the top of our agenda, you can be sure that each topic is discussed from multiple perspectives.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK students starting 2022/23 (full-time, per year)


UK students starting 2022/23 (part-time, per year)


International students starting 2022/23 (full-time, per year)


International students starting 2022/23 (part-time, per year)


Important fee notes

The part-time course fee assumes that you're studying at half the rate of a full-time student (50% intensity). Course fees will be different if you study over a longer period. All fees are for guidance purposes only.

How do I pay my fees?

UK students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in instalments – though you won't need to pay until you've accepted an offer to study with us.

International students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in two instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit of £4,000 or a sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Funding for postgraduate students

It’s important to decide how to fund your course before applying. Use our finance guide for postgraduate students to learn more about postgraduate loans and other funding options.

We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships and bursaries, which provide extra financial support while you're at university.

International students

As well as a number of scholarships, we offer an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

You'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting a course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning. Our website also has general information for new students about starting at ARU.

Teaching at ARU

We offer face-to-face campus teaching (with the exception of Distance Learning courses), supported by our established online learning systems, which provide additional support for individual study and engagement. The number of contact hours varies course by course, and you can contact us for further information.

In the event that there are restrictions that are put into place due to the pandemic by the government - we will endeavour to retain face to face teaching as much as possible but will respond accordingly to the restrictions placed on the University.

International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning from September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

Check the standard entry requirements for IELTS requirements for this course.

Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

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Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

Enquire online