Social policy


Social policy is about understanding and addressing social problems in society. It examines the formation and implementation of policy, and how this affects people’s wellbeing. The subject is diverse and exciting, and plays a crucial role in contemporary politics. 

Have you ever thought about:

  • How we can ensure the wellbeing of ourselves and others?
  • What caused the riots in England in 2011?
  • How we could reduce street homelessness?
  • Who benefits, and who loses from immigration?

All of these questions are aspects of Social Policy. In fact, fields such as: healthcare, education, housing, criminal justice, international development, social security and personal social services are all covered by the subject.

Features of LSE courses

The Department of Social Policy is a vibrant place to study. Many of our staff are leading experts in the field, and continuously involved in policy debate. You may have also come across some of the Department’s research in the national and international media.

The programme aims to develop your ability to critically evaluate the effectiveness of social policy, widening your understanding of social issues and the position of people in society. Across the three years, you will have the opportunity to take a comparative approach, studying policy both in the UK and in other parts of the world. Consideration will also be given to how members of different groups within society, such as those defined by gender, social class and ethnicity, are affected by policies and measures.

You will study policies at local, national and international levels and in many different kinds of organisations ranging from international bodies and central government agencies to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and informal networks of mutual aid. We also examine the making of legislation, such as Acts of Parliament, European Union Directives and international instruments, and the taking of public expenditure decisions.

Degree structure

You may take a single honours degree in social policy or combine your study with another subject as a joint or major/minor degree.

Joint honours and major/minor degree programmes

Although social policy is in itself an inter- and multidisciplinary subject, it can be studied in combination with other social science subjects.

BSc Social Policy and Economics allows students to develop economic technical expertise in a growing area of social policy analysis. This programme draws on the intellectual traditions of both departments in an integrated way.

BSc Social Policy with Government enables students to broaden their understanding of political institutions, processes and theories.

BSc Social Policy and Sociology allows students to focus on the connections between the making and implementation of social policies and contextual aspects of social structure and the key trends in social change.

What the selectors are looking for in an application

Selectors are looking for students who have studied a broad and eclectic mix of subjects. As with all degree programmes at LSE, at least two traditional academic subjects are preferred. A high level of literacy is expected and this can be demonstrated by your choice of post-16 subjects. Applicants for the Social Policy and Economics combined degree programme must have studied, or be studying, Mathematics as one of your A level (or equivalent) subjects. 

Selectors also look for an original and interesting statement, which demonstrates your awareness of and interest in contemporary social problems and their alleviation. We are interested in your views and opinions. You should mention your particular interests in the subject, and how these relate to your current academic programme. You may like to mention any additional reading or other experiences, including information on your extra-curricular activities and any relevant work experience or volunteering. 

For the three combined Social Policy degrees your personal statement should demonstrate a genuine interest in both aspects. 

Personal characteristics and skills that will be useful to students in their study of Social Policy (as a single or combined programme) include the abilities to ask incisive questions; think independently; read widely; show initiative; be creative and adopt a flexible approach. In addition you should possess intellectual curiosity and have the motivation and capacity for hard work.

Please visit for further information on admissions criteria.

Teaching and assessment

Lectures provide a broad overview of a topic, while classes allow you to explore key themes in greater detail in a small group setting. You will have weekly lectures and classes for each course component amounting to a minimum of eight contact hours per week. LSE100 teaching is in addition to this. 

Learning independently through reading, preparing for classes and completing assignments is an important element of the programme. You will be given formative coursework (not assessed), which you will receive feedback on to help you prepare for exams and assessed assignments.

Courses have an examination at the end of the year. The exception to this is your Long Essay (Dissertation). Additionally, some courses include an assessed coursework component. You will also receive feedback in the form of written comments on the essays that you write.

All students are allocated an academic adviser. They are there to guide and assist your learning. They keep a record of progress and monitor your attendance. You are advised to meet your academic adviser at least once a term.

Preliminary reading

If you wish to gain further insight into the subject, we suggest that you look at one or more of the following books:

  • P Alcock, M May and S Wright (eds) The Student's Companion to Social Policy (4th edition, Oxford: Blackwell, 2012)
  • J Baldock, N Manning, S Vickerstaff and L Mitton (eds) Social Policy (4th edition, Oxford University Press, 2011)
  • M Daly Welfare (Polity, 2011)
  • H Dean Social Policy (2nd edition, Polity, 2012)
  • T Newburn Criminology (Willan Publishing, 2007)
  • N Timmins The Five Giants (Revised and updated edition, Harper Collins, 2001)

Graduate destinations

 The skills you will develop by studying social policy are attractive to a range of employers. Our graduates have found work in a variety of industries including; politics and government, education and teaching, banking and finance, NGOs, charities and international development, as well as journalism, media and publishing, advertising marketing and PR, and accounting and auditing. Many students also go on to take our higher level MSc programmes, including Social Policy and Planning, Social Policy and Development, Health Policy, Planning and Financing, and Criminal Justice Policy.