In the ‘post truth’, ‘fake news’ era, being able to make intelligent, critical judgements about evidence on social and public policies could not be more important. The research specialism of the International Social and Public Policy programme will equip you with the skills to do just that, in your professional life and as a concerned citizen. Whether you are aiming for a career in a policy or practitioner role where you will need to weigh up the claims made for and against different options, or whether you are expecting to design and lead research of your own in the future, the research specialism will give you the headstart you need, through a set of high-quality, integrated courses taught by leading academics in the field – themselves engaged in impactful research.
The programme combines advanced training in research methods, applications to international social and public policy problems and in-depth investigation of particular policy areas, and it affords you the opportunity to design and carry out your own independent, empirical research. It consists of four units.
The first unit, provided in conjunction with the Department of Methodology, offers hands-on quantitative and qualitative methods training. Students can select from a menu of courses depending on their previous experience to tailor the unit to enhance their skills. For example, those with prior data analysis training can opt for more advanced multivariate analysis and measurement and an introduction to qualitative analysis, while those with a stronger qualitative background may choose a more specialist course for example on ethnography, together with an introduction to quantitative data analysis.
Through the second unit you will explore the relationship between research and social and public policymaking, globally and within regions and countries. We investigate approaches to policy evaluation (including Randomised Controlled Trials), how different kinds of research can inform policy development, and the roles of different actors in the research and policy process – including examples of good and bad practice. We learn directly from lecturers who are themselves involved in informing policy through their research about the opportunities and frustrations of the research/policy interface.
In the third unit, you may study in-depth national or international social and public policy areas of your choice including health, education, housing, criminal justice, poverty, inequality and migration.
The final component of the programme is a 10,000-word dissertation on a topic individually selected by you, prepared with the guidance of a personal supervisor, involving original empirical research. Students often find this one of the most rewarding parts of the programme and some have gone on to develop their dissertations into published work or future extended research, for example through a PhD. Research placements, for example with a non-governmental organisations can be arranged.
The programme aims to:
- provide students with advanced postgraduate education in social & public policy research and the opportunity to apply and develop their research skills to investigate and evaluate policies, inequalities and provisions in their areas of interest
- enable students, including those with professional backgrounds in social & public policy, to engage in new ways of thinking about how best to understand and research issues concerning human needs and increase wellbeing.
- equip students with the research skills they will require for entry to the MPhil/PhD programme
- provide students with the opportunity to plan and begin to map out a research project that they will pursue in the MPhil/PhD programme
- to convey to students the links between practice, policy and research within the broad area of social policy
- equip students to work in social & public policy fields in government, NGOs, international organisations, private sector providers or in academia by enabling them to develop a core understanding of central issues in and methods of social & public policy research
- develop students’ analytical, organisational, and planning skills, and enhance their written and oral communication skills.
The research specialism equips you with transferable and highly marketable research skills and an in-depth understanding of social and public policy, before you move on to evaluate, commission or lead your own research, for example through continuing academic study or employment in an international organisation, government, NGO, public body or the private sector. It combines advanced training in research methods with hands-on experience of policy research.